What happens when you die?

I firmly believe that the Rapture is coming very soon. Longtime readers know that I was fairly certain that it would come during 2018; today, we’re less than two months from the end of the year, and we’re still here. The Rapture IS still coming, but it’s going to come on God’s terms, when HE decides that we’ve squeezed every last Believer out of our population that we can. 

And even if it DOES come soon, there are still a large population of folks who have died or will die soon, before that Rapture arrives for the Believers. What happens when they – when WE die?

There are two possibilities.

You know where I’m going with this already, don’t you?

The Bible is the inerrant Word of God, every word of it inspired by the Holy Spirit and kept in harmony with the truth of God through every translation BY the Holy Spirit. Through the Scripture, He tells us plainly that there is one question that decides which fate you are destined for. 

It is NOT whether you were a “good” person or not – you aren’t. NO ONE is good, not one, or at least not good enough for God, which would be “perfect”. No human is perfect, except the Son of Man, the Son of God, the example we were given to follow.

It is NOT whether we tithed enough, or said the right words, or went to church regularly, or any of that “window dressing” that so many faux-Christians seem to believe. None of the superficial stuff matters.

What matters is that we are believers in Christ, and not just “believers” but DISCIPLES of Christ, men and women who not only SAY that Christ is Lord, but DO what He commands, day by day, in everything we do and believe and say.

If you’re only a Christian on Sundays, you’re not going to Heaven.

You must live like you say you live – you must not only LIVE for Christ, but LIVE like you understand what happens to people if THEY don’t become real Christians as well!

So, what DOES happen to us when we die? Assuming you’re a Christian, then when you die, you immediately go into the presence of God. There is no “limbo” or “purgatory” – it’s either the up elevator or the down. The part that’s unclear to me, at least, is what you have for a body when you die. First Corinthians 15 is where Paul discusses the post-mortal life, and his analogy in verses 35-44 is unbeatable: think of our fleshly bodies as a seed, just as a tree comes from a seed. That seed must “die” as a seed so it can be transformed into something new, something much bigger and better than that original seed. But it’s the same creature as the seed was – just in its perfected form!

So it is with our lives – we must die to this fleshly world, and our seed will become a tree that is our “glorified body” in Heaven. But Paul tells us that this glorified, imperishable body comes at the last trumpet – this is 1st Cor 15: 51:53 → 

51 Behold! I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

“We shall all be changed” when? “The trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed”. That’s when we get our “tree” bodies, the bodies that we think of as our “heavenly”, perfect forms. That’s the Rapture.

But if we die before the Rapture, there’s a period of time in between that we no longer have our earthly bodies (which lie in coffins or cremation urns), and we don’t yet have our imperishable bodies (which come at the Rapture). What are we in between?

I think the answer comes in the post-crucifixion segments of the Gospels. Consider Luke 24:36-43, when Jesus was finished messing with the two travelers on the road to Emmaus and appeared to the disciples:

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Touch Me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and He took it and ate before them.

Jesus’ fleshly body was gone. He had not yet attained His imperishable body, which we’ll see in Revelation as He appeared to John at Patmos…

“…clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around His chest. 14 The hairs of His head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 His feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and His voice was like the roar of many waters.” (Rev 1:13-15)

No, this was His “intermediate” body, as He explained to Mary in John 20:17 – “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to My brothers, and say to them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” As he famously demonstrated to “doubting” Thomas in verse 27, He still had the holes from the crucifixion in His hands, which His resurrected body in Revelation did not have.

So it seems reasonable to assume that OUR mid-form bodies will be similar – improved versions of ourselves, but not yet completely, imperishably perfect. In my own case, I think that it would mean a non-diseased form of the body I have now, probably not quite as heavy as I am now but unmistakably me, even if I don’t look exactly like I did at death. 

One of the things that many fail to pick up in the Gospels is that Jesus is almost unrecognizable even to His disciples after His resurrection – in every case, there seems reason for the living to wonder at the appearance of Christ. Consider the following examples: 

  • John 20:14 – “Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.”
  • John 20:19-20 – “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’. When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side., THEN the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”
  • Luke 24:30-31 – “When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. And He vanished from their sight.”
  • Luke 24:36-37 – “As they were talking about these things, Jesus Himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’. But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.”

What next? As Believers we get our mid-form bodies and appear in Heaven, right? So then what?

Well, the implication is that we are spending our time in Heaven between our death and the Rapture, at which point ““the dead will be raised imperishable” (1st Cor 15:52). Therefore, somehow, we move from Heaven back to meet our bodies, which are made imperishable for us. (Don’t ask me how this works. I don’t know.) If we’re still here when the Rapture happens, we’ll see the graves open, the cremated remains reassemble, all sorts of bizarre actions taking place as God reconstructs the dead Believer bodies somehow into a new form, a perfect form, and then He does the same to us while we’re alive. THAT might be an amazing feeling! For those already deceased, they might be reunited with a body that is infinitely improved from the one they remember, but for us who are transformed at the last trumpet, it’s going to happen while we’re IN the body!

We will spend the next seven years in Heaven while those who remain on earth will go through the Great Tribulation, the “final seven” spoken of in Daniel 9:24-27, the prophesied events we’ve talked of before when the Holy Spirit has been withdrawn from the earth and – literally – all hell breaks loose. The Anti-Christ will reign for the first half of the seven years, and life won’t seem so bad as long as you don’t understand Christianity or its ideals. The last half, however, when God lets loose on the earth and Satan takes over the reins himself on earth, will be disastrous for even the most heathen people remaining, and literally unsurvivable for anyone who loves God. 

Yes, we’ll know what’s going on down there. It’s clear from Revelation 6:10, when “the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”, that they are not only in Heaven but are aware of what’s going on down there.  

Our next action happens at the Second Coming. NO, that’s NOT what the Rapture was. In fact, I don’t think anyone on earth will SEE Jesus that time ’round – we’re taken up, but except for His appearance in the skies (see Matthew 24:30-31 for that). No, the thing we call the “Second Coming” comes at the END of the Tribulation. Here’s Revelation 19:11 and 14 →

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 

14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses.

Just who do you think the “armies of Heaven” are? That’s right – US. I’m sure the angels are around somewhere, probably fighting the fallen angels on a spiritual realm. But our job is to back up The Faithful and True One, Jesus Christ – which will be the easiest job in history! Verse 20 tells of how the Beast and his False Prophet are both captured and “thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.”. and verse 21 tells us how little there is for us to do –

21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of Him Who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

Great! We’ll cheer Him on!

(That’s about all we have to do there. No worries.) There’s a thousand years of peace and Heavenly life with Jesus Christ as center of our universe – immaculate life with no death, no sin, no conflict, and no troubles.

What about all those people who aren’t going to Heaven?

Ah, that’s not such a nice story.

At the end of that millennium, Rev 20:11-15 reveals the final fate for both groups of people.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done (That means “which side did you choose?” Did you live the life that got you saved, or did you live the life that showed you preferred life without God involved in it.) 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Which is usually called “Hell”. The Book of Life, which contains the names of every person throughout history who gave their lives to Christ, to God, and not just gave lip-service to the idea. That’s the roster of Heaven. Everyone else goes into the lake of fire for eternity. 

if you know that everyone either goes to Heaven forever, or goes into the lake of fire forever, wouldn’t you want to convince as many people as possible to choose CHRIST?

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