What happens when we die?
“There are only two things that are certain in life: death and taxes.”
Whilst many people use this phrase light-heartedly, it is indeed an unavoidable truth that death is something we cannot escape, whatever our background or circumstances. Countless philosophers throughout history have sought to answer the age-old question of “What happens when we die?” with popular speculation largely revolving around the idea of an ‘immortal soul’, whether this be reincarnated as another creature or sent to heaven or hell.
But is this really one of life’s great mysteries, or is there a source of truth where we can find the answer?
The Bible’s truth
The authority of the Bible as the word of God makes it the one place we can go to find the divine answer which is both consistent and credible. Because God made man, He knows what man is, and because He controls the future, He knows what man will become.
The creation account tells us that:
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and the word soul in the above verse should be more accurately translated as ‘creature’, referring to a living, breathing being. Unfortunate translations such as this have led many to believe that humans have an immortal soul, however, Bible teaching is quite different as the following verses show:
It is true that the Bible does refer to both heaven and hell, but it is important to study scripture in order to understand what is really meant by these concepts. We learn that heaven is the dwelling place of God through quotes such as Solomon’s prayer in which he says:
But God himself states plainly that,
It is obvious then that the Son of man (Jesus Christ) is the only person to dwell in heaven alongside God, and we therefore cannot hope to ascend there at death. This principle is illustrated in The New Testament by Paul the apostle, who said:
The related idea of hell as a place of eternal fiery torment for the unrighteous is another concept invented by man. Both the original Hebrew word ‘sheol’ and the equivalent Greek word (from which the New Testament is translated), ‘hades’ literally mean ‘the grave’.
Dust to dust
This scriptural statement teaches us unmistakably of about the origins of man and later, after his sinful fall in the Garden of Eden, God cursed the whole of humankind by saying,
The message is simple: at death the creation process is reversed. Man’s ultimate fate is described in this way throughout scripture, for example in Ecclesiastes:
It is unreasonable to argue that an inanimate substance like dust can think or know, so man in death must therefore have absolutely no awareness or consciousness. Our reasoning is supported by the Bible:
This complete loss of mental activity is reiterated throughout scripture, and perfectly summed up once more in the book of Ecclesiastes:
Life, the apostle James says, is a
Even faithful men, such as King David already mentioned, are shown to meet this same end:
Both of these quotes show that the New Testament is of course in complete harmony with the Old Testament.
Is there any hope?
Despite advances in science, it is still impossible for mankind to bring a decayed body to life again. However, God has revealed that there is hope for those that believe in Him. This hope is offered to us through Jesus, His son, as we read in the gospel of John:
We find then that God has offered us an escape from eternity in the grave - but only if we do His will. To understand what He requires of us we must read His word - all of it. We will discover that Jesus has promised to return to the earth to set up a kingdom for God, and that he will raise from the dead to eternal life those who have been faithful to him, as we read:
However, for the ‘wicked’ and those that do not believe, the Psalmist writes that,
Our source of hope, therefore, is to follow God’s word in the Bible, for,