What happens to our soul when we die
To investigate the Biblical teaching regarding what happens to our Soul at our Death.
The question “What happens to our Soul when we die”? We believe that we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever but we would like to understand more about it however this is unknowable at the human level. The old Gospel song states it well in part with “we’ll understand it all by and by.
The Bible tells us in Hebrew 9:27 "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." And again 2 Corinthians 5:10 (KJV) "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
I guess the question that remains is “when” does this judgment occur? Immediately upon death or at some time in the future?
Paul tell us in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (KJV) "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
Another important revelation made by Jesus to the Jews was also very emphatic. In John 5: 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
The common belief held by the Disciples at the time of Paul's writing to the Thessalonians was that Jesus would return during their lifetime. The phrase "them also which sleep with Jesus will God bring with him" could very well mean that all those who had died in the service of God and those believing in Christ would ascend into Heaven along with Jesus at his resurrection.
At the second coming of Christ, Those having died after the resurrection of Jesus (those asleep) would rise first and then the living would rise to meet Jesus in the air. The same scenario would apply whether that time would be a thousand or ten thousand years away. This would apply to us today.
The timing of the events Paul described is uncertain because no man nor angel knew when the second coming of Jesus would be.
After the Crucifixion, Matthew 27:52-53 And the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose (53) and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. This account sounds like the reappearance of Jesus after his resurrection. The point is that this passage supports Paul’s understanding of the term "them also which sleep with Jesus will God bring with him" Note that many (not all?) bodies of only the Saints arose and appeared unto many.
Some definition is in order from this text. The term ‘asleep” means those who have died. Those who sleep with Jesus are those who were saved when they died. Others which have no hope are those who died in their sins and will be condemned. Those who were saved but dead will rise from the Grave and meet Jesus in the air. Those who are alive and are saved will also then be caught up to meet Jesus in the air. All who died while either serving God before Jesus was crucified or were saved by the crucifixion of Jesus or are still alive at the coming of Jesus will be caught up to meet him in the air. They will then forever be with Jesus.
Let’s consider what “asleep” means in this context. Time is lost to the conscious mind from the time we go to sleep until we wake. We only remember going to sleep and waking up and nothing in between. It fact, it would probably be true that the Soul could sleep for thousands of years and not be aware until it is awakened. Consider those whose human bodies have been drowned at sea or consumed by burning or even the body in the grave that returns to the Earth from which it came. The question is, where are these Souls kept until the coming of Jesus.
There is a belief in the “sleeping soul”. It is strongly argued against by many religions and supported by many. Death of the human body is often referred to in the Bible as “asleep”. There is no such reference to directly define the “sleeping soul” in the Bible.
The human form they had was totally destroyed so any resurrection of the body to its original form is not feasible or practical. We readily admit that God can do anything and if it is ordained that we will have our earthly form then we will. The Bible tells us that this is not the plan.
1 Corinthians 15:44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [was made] a quickening spirit. 46 Howbeit that [was] not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual 47 The first man [is] of the earth, earthy: the second man [is] the Lord from heaven. 48 As [is] the earthy, such [are] they also that are earthy: and as [is] the heavenly, such [are] they also that are heavenly 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality.
The timing of the return of Jesus which we know as the second Coming is unknown to any human or Angel in Heaven, only God the Father. The following text in Matthew is very explicit about that time.
Matthew 24:36-44 (KJV) "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (37) But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (38) For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, (39) And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (40) Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (41) Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (42) Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. (43) But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. (44) Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh."
This text is a clear warning that we must always be ready to meet Jesus whether after we die or while we are still alive. Since there is no way to know, then we must always be ready.
The Book of Revelation is difficult to understand but the following text is fairly clear as to its meaning. Note the comments about the dead, small and great standing before God. No respecter of persons after death. Note also the comments about the Sea giving 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.
Also note that the underlined text would indicate that Earth and its physical heaven was gone and there was no place for them in the presence of God.
Revelation 20:11-13 (KJV) "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. (12) 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. (13) 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 whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Sometimes in Bible Study it is hard to keep from fragmenting a subject. We started out to study where the Soul goes after death. Does it go directly to Heaven for judgment or does it wait somewhere for the second coming of Jesus and the judgment to follow? The problem is that we are dealing with an unanswerable question at the human level. We just read in Revelations that the Soul is not in one place but in many. Death and Hell would indicate the Grave. The Sea would be the Sea. At the human level, these two places would account for all the dead.
The Old Testament speaks about Abrahams Bosom as being the resting place of the dead who were living for God. (Luke 16:22) And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: Apparently those who would not go to Heaven were judged and sent to Hell instantly. This is part of the parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus.
The fact is that the majority of the Bible deals with this very subject. The Christian religion is the only one that has the offer of a life after death because of the sacrifice of one person. If there is no Christ and no Crucifixion and no Resurrection, then there is no Christian religion. If there is a Christ, Crucifixion and Resurrection, then we do have the offer of salvation from eternity in Hell. The Soul of man then takes on a different value.
If there is only death and nothing beyond, there is no need for a Soul.
There is also the perplexing event at the Crucifixion when the one thief asked to be remembered when Jesus came into his Kingdom. Jesus said to the thief that “today shalt thou be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:39-43). This would indicate that the Soul of the thief would go to Paradise when he died. Does that mean all Souls go to Paradise when they die to await the second coming of Jesus? That is the question, where does the Soul go when it leaves the body?
Our Soul is an invisible spirit living in a human body of flesh and bone. At the moment of death, the invisible spirit leaves the human body and moves into the Spiritual world beyond space and time. Time and space no longer exist. While in our human form, we would like to apply human thinking as to the resting place of the Soul. I have heard very knowledgeable people talk about riding on clouds, playing a harp or some such nonsense. A “resting place” is nonsensical. We will not take anything human or Earthly with us. Paradise is most likely an escape from this limited world into one without time and space limits. In that place there is no pain, suffering or any other human sensation.
Since there is no time or space how can the time or the place of judgment even be determined. A decision made as to the destination of the Soul could be made in the first nano second or in thousands of years because there is no awareness of time. This is why the Bible refers to a day is as a thousand years to God.
Trying to simplify this subject as much as possible, I will state my personal belief. When my Soul leaves my body, it will go to a place indescribable to the human mind. I will bring with me the record of the life I have lived while on Earth and be judged on the good and the bad I have done. My intercessor; Jesus, will look in his Book of Life and see if my name is recorded there. If it is, I will inherit Heaven. If not, I will be turned away.
If I am found worthy, I will be reunited with my loved ones and will know them as they will know me. On the contrary, I will not remember any I knew who are not in Heaven. There will be no marriages or other Earthly commitments there. Loved ones will be known by who they are and not only how they were related on Earth. We must remember that every Soul is personally responsible for themselves and have their own special identity. It would not be Heaven if we would grieve over those who were not in Heaven with us.
As to what I would do in Heaven. I have no idea. It may be like a very pleasant dream where there is no cold nor heat, no pain nor sickness, no worry nor anxiety and it would last forever. Dreams usually last only seconds but they seem to span over long periods of time and distance. There has even been the sensation of flying which we know to be impossible in the human body. Sounds like Paradise to me.
A good idea of Heaven is when Jesus told us in John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also.
The old Jewish belief was that the deserving dead rested in Abrahams Bosom. Abraham being the father of the Jewish nation was perceived as the resting place for the righteous. It is probably synonymous with the grave.
When Jesus was crucified, the Jewish law was replaced with God’s law of Grace. Upon his resurrection from the grave, he returned to Heaven. At the same time, all those who had died previously and judged worthy were resurrected along with Jesus. They would now reside in Heaven.
From the time of the crucifixion of Jesus everyone came under the law of Grace. Those who have died since that time are waiting for the second coming of Jesus. At the second coming of Jesus, all those who are judged worthy will be called from their graves to meet him in the sky to be taken into Heaven. Time is not a consideration since time will not exist. It is not knowable if these scenarios are accurate. At best, they are an educated guess based on considerable Biblical references on the subject.
John 5: 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
This study is very complicated and conclusions are controversial. They are intended more to raise questions than to answer them. The dialogue presented is at best one man’s understanding and opinion of Scripture dealing with this subject. It should be treated as an exploration of an unknowable question.