What happens when I die?
“I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Revelation 1:18)
In this present world, the general observation when an individual dies, is that the body quits breathing, it begins to cool off, and the process of decay begins to speed up rapidly. At the tomb of Lazarus, after four days, the smell of corruption would already be lurking in the air. Martha said, “by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.” (John 11:39) Of course there are many factors that will affect the decay rate, such as, exposure to oxygen, temperature, scavengers, embalming of the body, etc. Flesh can be consumed rather rapidly, and the bones and teeth will take a little longer, but eventually, they “return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Genesis 3:19) The molecules of the body, in the end, disintegrate back into their basic elements.
Now, that is what happens to the body, what we see on the outside. No one denies this reality whether one is an atheist or people of faith, all are in agreement on this fact.
Some will believe that death is the cessation of being. That's it. It is all over. No reincarnation, no rebirth. No continuation on another plain. No heaven or hell. No life after death. The soul just goes for an eternal sleep and the individual is now just a memory of those who loved them.
You could be dead tomorrow, so “Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow you die” is the philosophy of many today. However, many have not considered that life is more than biology. It is more than a body. It is more than flesh and blood. There is something that moves the body, that commands or operates the body. Like a computer, it needs a director or an operator. So it is with the body. It cannot act on its own, and doesn't. It is controlled and operated by something that is not physical. The mind or spirit of man is not at all physical, however it somehow dwells in this tent of flesh. The body is just a clay vessel, subject to the elements of decay, but the mind, it cannot die in the physical sense, for it is not biological. Yet it commands the body.
Some of the body functions are automated such as breathing, digestion, heartbeat, etc, but without the spirit of man, the body dies. In fact, after a set amount of time, even though the body is still alive, the decay process begins to overtake the rate of rejuvenation of the cells in our body.
Although the mind can be as sharp as a pencil, even at 100 years old, death eventually gets the body. A dear elderly friend in her 90's once told me, “I feel like I am 20 years old, mentally speaking, but when I look in the mirror, I see a wrinkled old prune”. And my, she did have wrinkles, and she is now over 100 years old, but death will get her sooner than later, it gets us all. The Bible tells us that death is our enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26) and it affects the whole of creation. The Bible tells us that the whole creation is under the “bondage of corruption” and that it “groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” (Romans 8:22-23) There is nothing that escapes the curse of death in the whole realm of biology. Every living organism runs its course and dies.
There is no comfort in death, as it brings pain, sorrow and crying. This “bondage of decay” affects everything, and is expressed in the Second Law of Thermodynamics called the Law of Entropy. This law is the measure of the rate of disorder, deterioration or decay. Every system has a tendency to decline into a state of disorder. A tendency to move down in quantity and quality. In physics, this Law is the thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of heat energy to be turned into mechanical energy. In any system there are always losses which are translated as its efficiency which is expressed as a percentage rate.
Entropy means in-turning. It comes from the Greek word en-trope, “en” which means “in”, and “trope”, which means “turning”. In biology it can be understood as follows. Our body is kept at a certain temperature and needs fuel to keep the fire warm. We have livestock, and where we live it gets very cold in the winter and the animals loose more heat to the environment. When it gets real cold, the animals do not leave the feed trough and eat a lot more in order to keep their body temperature up. Extra fuel can be stored as fat to be used at a later time. But when their energy supply is cut off, that being their food, their body “turns in” and begins to use up its fat reserves, and when that is exhausted, it will begin to feed the fire off of muscle and organ tissue. If no fuel is introduced from outside, the body is slowly consumed resulting eventually in death.
Now as we get old, our bodies become less and less efficient, as the rate of entropy increases. This increasing rate of decay, eventually affects our organs ability to function as they should, and the end result is death. Due to the accelerated rate of decay, and the body's reduced rate of cell reproduction, the body “turns in” and begins to feed on itself and consume its mass in order to survive. In an adult, between 50 and 70 billion cells die each day. In a child approximately 20-30 billion cells die each day. These each need to be replaced. But there comes a time in life when the cells do not replicate as fast as they die and there is a net decrease or decline in the number of cells in the body, and this continues until there is a catastrophic failure resulting in death.
Now death can be delayed, but not prevented. As we get older, more frequent visits to the doctor, operations, medicine, etc. are required. We can even replace defunct organs, such as a new heart, liver, and lungs, etc, that can ward off total failure of the body for a time, but this comes at a tremendous cost. We can cut off certain cancerous parts. Nevertheless the body eventually “turns in” as outside resources can no longer sustain it.
But with God, we are told there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) With God there is no variableness, there is no variation or change. God has told us in the Bible, “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:16) Because there is no change in God, the sons of Jacob are not consumed, and able to be preserved.
Concerning Jesus we are told, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Light is the most basic form of energy. Without light there can be no life. We are told, “God is Light” (1 John 1:5). Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world”. He also said, “I am... the Life”. He says “because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). He is the source of Light and all Life in the world and He changes not, therefore, death could not have the dominion over Him.
There is no variableness with God, there is also no “shadow of turning”. The word “turning” is from the Greek word “trope”. With God there is no entropy, not even a shadow of turning. He is the eternal Creator. He is the Self existent One and does not require resources from without to sustain Him, rather He gives to all, life and breath and all things. He is the great provider of all our needs, even eternal life.
There is none that really understands why man dies. Why does he not just continue to live? Why does he age and die? The Bible tells us, “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). The soul that sinneth, it shall die. That is the wages of sin.
But concerning God, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) God is holy. There is no sin in God. Concerning His Son, Jesus Christ, we are told, “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.” (1 John 3:5) In Jesus there is no sin, so He could bare our sins and take them away. This is what Light does to the darkness, He “hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). And today, He ever liveth to make intercession for us. He is alive forevermore, having dealt with death. He conquered it, and destroyed it.
But back to the question, What happens when I die?
Job asked several poignant questions? “But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?” And, “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:10, 14)
We have seen what happens to the body when we die, but, what about the spirit within man? Where does it go. What happens to you, the person that dwells in the body? The Bible tells us, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7) The spirit does not die. The spirit was sent by God into the body to begin with, He is the Father of spirits, and so all spirits are still under His control. Before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are told what happen in the Old Testament to the spirit of man. You can read the whole account in Luke 16:19-31, but herein, we find that the spirits of men descended down to Hades, in the “heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). And this, was divided into two compartments, a “place of torment” and “thirst” “in this flame” and a place of “comfort” in “Abraham's bosom”. Both of these compartments were separated by a great gulf that prevented travel one to another. When man died in the Old Testament, his spirit departed to Hades, to one or the other compartments.
The “place of torment” was the prison where the souls of lost men awaited the Day of Judgment. The place of “comfort” was the place where the souls of the redeemed were waiting, not for their judgment, but for the One who would bear their judgment, the Lamb of God who would take away their sin, the One who would bear their sins in His own body on the tree. The One who would be accursed of God in their stead, and so able to acquit them, having paid the price for their sin which is death. And so these, having received Him as their Saviour, was able to wash them clean, to cleanse them of every defilement, making them white as snow, imputed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that they could be son's of God and children of Light.
He alone was able to set the prisoners free having the keys of “hell (Gr. Hades; Heb. Sheol) and death”. When Christ died for our sins, “he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth” (Ephesians 4:9). Here “he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient” (1 Peter 3:19-20). He descended down to Hades, not as a prisoner, but as a Liberator who would set the captives free. And this is what He preached while on the earth. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18)
Having paid the price of sin, having satisfied the justice of God, the grave could not hold Him down. The Psalmist said, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (Heb. Sheol, Gr. Hades); neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:27) His Spirit was then reunited with His body in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea, and He rose from the dead, along with a great company of saints whose “graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Matthew 27:52-53)
He then ascended into heaven. “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” (John 3:13) He first came down from heaven to be born of a virgin, He died for our sins and rose again from the dead. After showing Himself alive by many infallible proofs, being seen of them 40 days, He ascended up to heaven, even to the right hand of God, His Father and ours, “far above all heavens” (Ephesians 4:10), up to the “third heaven” called “paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4), but not by Himself. “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive” (Ephesians 4:8). Abraham's bosom, the place of comfort of the saints who were waiting for their redemption, was emptied out, so that Hades now only contains the lost who would not receive God's pardon and forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Abraham's bosom has been emptied out, the captives brought to heaven with Christ, so when the saints die today, they do not descend down to Hades and await for Christ to die for their sins and come release them from their prison out from Hades, No! Not at all. They have already been vindicated, for Christ “hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). He hath “by Himself purged our sins”, putting “away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). He was offered “once for all”, so there is now “no more offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:10, 18).
All the the Old Testament saints were set free and taken up on high, the price of redemption having been paid in full. God being satisfied that justice had been served, raised Christ from the dead. Having paid the debt in full, Christ “dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” (Romans 6:9) Christ has paid our debt in full, and God hath given us great assurance, in that He raised Him from the dead.
So where do the saints go today when they die? The apostle Paul said, “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord”. Right now our home is in our body, but Paul went on to say, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6, 8). When we leave this body of death, this mortal body of flesh, we go to be with the Lord. Because Christ died for our sins, Paul could confidently say, “to die is gain”, and therefore was “in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:21-24).
Since Calvary, there has not been one saint who has made his descent down to Hades. None of the church, which is Christ's body has ever been there. We were all at “sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Colossians 1:21-22).
Christ told Peter before His death and resurrection, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The Holy Spirit had revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, and upon this glorious truth He would build His Church. The Church would never have to face hell because of Calvary. Furthermore, Jesus said to Peter, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:13-19). Without this key, the “glorious gospel of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4), “the gospel of his Son” (Romans 1:9), none could enter heaven.
Peter had opportunity to preach the gospel to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost (Read Acts 2:21-36), and to be the first to open the door to the Gentiles, even the whole house of Cornelius, preaching “the Christ, the Son of the living God”, whom “they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raise up the third day, and shewed Him openly... To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:39-40, 43) and they, believing, were saved and added to the Church.
But these keys were not given to Peter only, but to all, who by God's grace and mercy have also had their eyes opened by the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the gospel. They too are to take the key of heaven, namely Jesus Christ, and preach that same gospel, Jesus Christ crucified for sinners and risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) to the ends of the world.
All who believe the gospel and receive Christ as their Saviour, if they die before Christ returns to earth to set up His kingdom, they immediately pass through that river of death into the very presence of the Lord in heaven. But that is not where all go when they die. For those who have rejected the love of God in Christ Jesus, there is for them no hope or promise of heaven. Those who have trampled underfoot the Son of God, and counted His precious shed blood as an unholy thing, who choose to “sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26-27) These shall all descend down to the prison of Hades with all the lost to await the Day of Judgment, where they shall stand in the just court of heaven to be tried for all their unlawful deeds. The Bible tells us, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)
Just as sure as it is appointed unto men once to die, God has also “appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained” (Acts 17:31). On that day, “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). It brings no pleasure to bring this to light, but understand this, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Peter 2:9). And again, “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7)
In the book of the Revelation we can read of that dreadful day. “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15)
The “Day of Judgment” is the Day when God will judge the ungodly for their sins. They would not receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ, they would not receive the pardon and forgiveness of sins so graciously offered to them, and so “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). God has done everything possible to keep them from destruction, and to keep them from judgment, but they resisted the Holy Ghost and would not repent but refused the Light given them in conscience and Word.
God has given opportunity to all men to repent. Jesus said, as He was steadfastly looking to Calvary, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.” (John 12:31-33). The world was judged when Christ was lifted up. He would draw all men, but not all would chose to come.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:14-21)
Jesus is the Light of the world. The question is, do you love Him? Will you come to Him now for pardon and cleansing of sin?
1. Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty
2. By God's Word at last my sin I learned;
Then I trembled at the law I'd spurned,
Till my guilty soul imploring turned
3. Now I've giv'n to Jesus everything,
Now I gladly own Him as my King,
Now my raptured soul can only sing
4. Oh, the love that drew salvation's plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
After the saints rose from the grave what was the need for them to go to the Holy city .
I do not think there is a specific answer, other than it was Jerusalem where our Lord was crucified for sinners and rose again. Matthew is the only one who mentions this specific event. Many of the saints were also buried in Jerusalem and that was where the earthquake was that opened the sepulchers. This would have been the group of Old Testament saints, who were raised "after his resurrection" for Christ must "become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20). This would have been that company who ascended to heaven with Christ when he led captivity captive (Ephesians 4:8-10). Perhaps it was here, in the city of the Great King, that "he made a shew of them openly" (Colossians 2:13-15), like one who has won a great battle and in a great victory parade is showing the bountiful spoils of war.