What happens when you die?

Jay Dee

What happens when you die?

Apr 12, 2020

Question from a reader:
So, I was listening to one of your podcasts, I don’t remember which one but you were talking about souls and what happens after death. You said that nothing happens after death until Jesus comes back. But I want to know what you think about the story Jesus tells in Luke 6:19-31, it’s the story of the rich man and the beggar. After the beggar Lazarus dies, he was carried away in Abraham’s bosom. According to this story, when you die, your soul goes paradise (I believe).

What happens when you die?  Do you go straight to heaven?

I received this question the other day from our anonymous Have A Question page, and thought I’d tackle it in it’s own post.  For one, we’re living in a time when everyone feels a bit uncertain about life. We’re facing the first world-wide pandemic in our lifetime, that is killing thousands per day, even while we are self-isolating.

So, why not tackle a question about what happens when we die?  Because, for me, knowing a piece of God’s plan for us helps bring hope and comfort in a time where we don’t have a lot of that.

Here’s the question:

Hi Jay!

So, I was listening to one of your podcasts, I don’t remember which one but you were talking about souls and what happens after death. You said that nothing happens after death until Jesus comes back. But I want to know what you think about the story Jesus tells in Luke 6:19-31, it’s the story of the rich man and the beggar. After the beggar Lazarus dies, he was carried away in Abraham’s bosom. According to this story, when you die, your soul goes paradise (I believe).

I want to know what you think.

Also, I really love your podcast because your opinions are black or white and I really appreciate when Christians know exactly where they stand. I wanted to compliment you on that.

So, yes, there is a question about the Abraham’s Bosom parable, but I want to hit the fundamentals first, because we shouldn’t create a theology out of one passage, especially when there are so many others that talk about it.  

But, I promise we’ll get back to it.  For now though, let’s lay some groundwork using the Bible, because that’s really the only place to get eschatological information from.

Es-chat-o-logi-cal – relating to death, judgement, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind.

And to be honest, I struggle with how to tackle for two reasons: 

The first is that what I believe is going to be severely at odds with what most of you have been taught, and if you’re a pastor, teacher or parent, like different than what you have taught others.

If that’s you, this may offend you.  Consider this your warning.  If you do not like others challenging your beliefs – this is the time to walk away.  I want to put that out there, because this topic really upsets some people. Others will be fascinated, excited, feel hope and joy from it, and some will get really angry.  

So, if you’re still reading (or listening to the podcast), consider yourself warned.  I’m more than up for a spirited discussion in the comments, over email, or in the forum, but I hope you’ll be respectful and Christ-like in your responses.

The second reason it’s hard to tackle the subject is because it’s so vast.  So, if this seems to meander a bit, my apologies. I’m going to try and tackle the subject, any related material that is foundational to it, and handle as many objections as I can up front.

So, I think the easiest way to start is to ask:

When does our resurrection happen?

All of our media would tell us that resurrection happens individually.  We have jokes, books, movies and tv-shows telling us about people showing up at the gates of heaven with Peter already there, ready to admit us.  There are Saturday Night Live skits about people waking up in hell with other people already there, and more to come.

However, the Bible tells us that there are two resurrections that are global events.  

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. - Revelation 20:6

The first resurrection is the resurrection of the righteous – that is, those that believe in Christ and accept him as our Saviour.  

When does that happen?

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. - 1 Thessalonians 4:16

So, the first resurrection, the resurrection of the righteous (the believers) happens after Christ returns – in other words, after the second coming.

This is corroborated:

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 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. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. - John 14:1-3

Christ has gone to prepare a place for us, He will come back and then we’ll meet Him.

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. - John 5:28-29

And again, John tells us that if you are dead – you are dead, in the grave.  Not in heaven, not in some purgatory. You are in the grave. You will be resurrected when Christ returns – when we hear His voice.  Another verse says it will sound like the call of the trumpet. You’re not going to miss it.

There is no secret rapture.  This is not a quiet popping out.  It’s not individual as you die. This is going to be a massive global event that no one is going to miss.  Every eye shall see it.

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. - 1 Corinthians 15:51-53

If you are a believer and are still alive – you will go up to meet Christ as He returns.  If you have already died – you will be resurrected and you will go up to meet Christ as He returns.  Believers will, at this point, become immortal. Up until that point, we are not. More on that in a bit.

What if you don’t believe?

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. - Matthew 25:31

Well, if you don’t believe, this event instead of being awesome and joyful is absolutely terrifying and causes death.  You realize – too late – that there is a God, and you have turned your back on Him. And because of that, you don’t gain immortality, and the sheer glory of God destroys your mortal being.  

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. - 2 Thessalonians 2:8

In short, if you aren’t already dead, you are now.

So, the believers (the remnant of a remnant) are caught up with Christ, and the unbelievers are all dead.  There’s no one left to even bury them.

And at that day the slain of the Lord shall be from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall become refuse on the ground. - Jeremiah 25:33

And they stay there for a while.  

But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. - Revelation 20:5

For 1000 years, there is peace, but this isn’t the new Heaven and Earth yet.  All the believers are alive, immortal, with Christ, and we’re free from sin having been changed.  

I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void;
And the heavens, they had no light.
I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled,
And all the hills moved back and forth.
I beheld, and indeed there was no man,
And all the birds of the heavens had fled.
I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness,
And all its cities were broken down
At the presence of the Lord,
By His fierce anger.
- Jeremiah 4:23-26

During the 1000 years, all the creations of man fall apart – the earth takes back the cities, the roads, the fields, everything.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. - Revelation 20:1-3

Satan is still alive, but with the believers changed, made perfect and immortal, and the non-believers all dead – he has no one to tempt.  He is essentially in prison – no one to corrupt, no one to turn to his side.

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. - Revelation 20:4

During this 1000 years, we judge the world.

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? - 1 Corinthians 6:2-3

God has already judged us as believers and the others as non-believers, but during this time the books are opened – we can see everyone’s lives – see the decisions they made, what led them to choose God or turn away from God.  While it says we’re judging the world, in truth, we’re judging God. This is God allowing Himself to be held accountable to us. So that we will never have a doubt again about Him. This is our chance to ask all the questions about “why isn’t my friend here who seemed so righteous, and why is this other person here who didn’t seem worthy of immortality?”

We will see the choices they made, that they made the decision to live with God, or die without Him.

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. - John 5:28-29

After the 1000 years, then there is a second resurrection.

Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. - Revelation 20:7-8

This is the resurrection of the non-believers.  Satan is loosed from his prison and convinces everyone who is left to follow Him.   

They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. - Revelation 20:9

As final proof that the non-believers can never coexist with the believers, they attack the camp of the saints, and God, in His mercy, destroys them.

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. - Revelation 20:14-15

And they’re dead at that point.  There is no third resurrection. They aren’t immortal, having never received immortality like the saints did.  They are dead – gone. They no longer exist.

With them, God destroys the very concept of death and the grave.  Noone will ever die again. The idea of a dead person will not exist.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. - Revelation 21:1

He burns everything away – the non-believers, Satan, the fallen angels, even the old heaven and earth.  It’s all gone. Cleansed by fire in the same way the earth was cleansed by water in Noah’s time.  

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. - John 3:16

This is the ultimate fate of those who do not follow God.  That is why Christ came to save us. That is why He died and rose again (look, Easter theme after all).

Without Christ – you will die – worse, you will ultimately no longer exist, without the chance of any sort of resurrection again.

But what about the people in hell?

The short answer is – there are no people in hell.  Hell is an event, not a place. Hell is that fire that consumed everything – the non-believers, Satan his demons, the very earth and even heaven.

If hell was a place where people are tortured forever, we need to accept a few things that you will see in the Bible:

  1. God is not loving – He cannot be if He created a world where the vast majority of people will be sentenced to everlasting pain.  This makes God a sadist.
  2. God is not just – an eternity of suffering in exchange for a sinful life – that is not just – the punishment doesn’t suit the crime.
  3. All humans are inherently immortal – they have to be if their going to be tortured for eternity as well
  4. Satan is immortal – he has to be if he’s going to be tortured for eternity

Points 1 & 2 are a bit harder to argue – it’s mostly just philosophy, so I’ll leave those as they stand.  Pulling verses saying God is loving and just I don’t think would be productive. 

Let’s take a look at points 3 & 4 instead.  

Are humans immortal?

For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the Lord,
They shall inherit the earth.
For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
But it shall be no more. 
- Psalm 37:9-10

David tells us that the non-believers will be cut-off, that the wicked shall be no more.  That even if you look for where they are, you will not find them.

But the wicked shall perish;
And the enemies of the Lord,
Like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish.
Into smoke they shall vanish away.
- Psalm 37:20

He goes on to say that they will vanish away like smoke.  That sounds like the all-consuming fire we saw in Revelation.

“For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“That will leave them neither root nor branch.
But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
You shall trample the wicked,
For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
On the day that I do this,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
- Malachi 4:1-3

Malachi quotes God as saying the wicked will be burned up, that they will turn to ashes.

This is very different from the message we get of people burning in hell.  They won’t be burning for long it seems – they will be consumed.

Is Satan Immortal?

What about Satan?  Surely he will be tortured forever, won’t he?  Well, he gets “tortured” in a way for the 1000 years we mentioned before, when there is no one to torment, no one to tempt, no one to convert.  But what about after that?

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. - Hebrews 2:14-15

Hebrews tell us the God will destroy the devil, not keep him around for eternity.

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. - Revelation 21:8

Satan and all the non-believers were thrown into this lake of fire – they experience the second death, from which there is no return.

“You defiled your sanctuaries
By the multitude of your iniquities,
By the iniquity of your trading;
Therefore I brought fire from your midst;
It devoured you,
And I turned you to ashes upon the earth
In the sight of all who saw you.
All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you;
You have become a horror,
And shall be no more forever.”
- Ezekiel 28:18-19

Ezekiel quotes God as saying that He will turn Satan to ashes and that he will be no more, forever.

And this is the message of the Bible.  This is the judgement – if you do not believe in God, then the God that continues to support our existence will remove Himself from you.  You will cease to be.  

That is how a loving God operates – not follow me or be tortured, but follow me, or don’t, it’s your choice.  Just be aware, that without me, there is nothing.

If eternal torture was the punishment, then that wouldn’t be love, that would be coersion.  Instead, we have a lot of non-believers who believe that when they die, they will be dead – that there is nothing else.  And, frankly, they’re right, for them. They will get what they want, eventually. They will get a chance to know the truth, but none will accept it.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23

That is why the Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death – it’s not death from this life – we’re all going to experience that, whether we believe or not.  If we believe, then our sins aren’t counted against us. That doesn’t mean we won’t die – it just means that death won’t be permanent.

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. - 1 John 5:11

That eternal life can only be gained through Christ.  The non-believers and Satan don’t have it. It would be cruel for God to bestow it on them.

What happens when you die?

What happens when you die?
Do you go to heaven right away?
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
Some to everlasting life,
Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
- Daniel 12:2

Nothing. You die.  You await the second coming.  Doesn’t matter if you’re a believer or not.  If you die, that is the end of your consciousness until He comes again and resurrects you.

The next thing you know will be Jesus returning.

But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days. - Daniel 12:13
Daniel knew this full well, because God told it to him in a vision.  That when he died, he would sleep and when he arose, it would be to his inheritance - to everlasting life.
I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. - 1 Timothy 6:13-16

Our souls are not immortal – only God has immortality.  

These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up. - John 11:11

Rather, our souls “sleep”.  That’s the term the Bible uses over and over again – dreamless, consciousnessless sleep.  We “Rest In Peace” as the tombstones say.

For in death there is no remembrance of You;
In the grave who will give You thanks?
- Psalm 6:5

We will not remember God, we will not give Him thanks.

For the living know that they will die;
But the dead know nothing,
And they have no more reward,
For the memory of them is forgotten.
- Ecclesiastes 9:5

We won’t even think.  We will know nothing.

I think that is a blessing.  Because we know from scripture that this world is going to get worse and worse.  I for one, do not want to be here to see it. I would much rather be resting in peace.

But if you’ve ever been to a funeral, we hear a lot of different stories, often from the same pastor, about where the person is right now.

They will say, often in the same sermon, that they are in the grave, awaiting Christ’s return.  That they are in Heaven, enjoying their inheritance. That they are watching down on us. That they are always with us.  

By the end, it becomes very clear that the person speaking has no idea where this person is, or what they are doing.

And I know why they do it.  They’re trying to offer comfort to their loved ones.  But our comfort should be based in biblical truth. Paul tells us how to comfort one another:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

The comfort is knowing that they rest from all their pains and struggles in this life, and the next thing they will see is Christ’s return, and when that happens, both the dead, who have just risen, and those that were already living, will put on immortality.  They will never die again (1 Corinthians 15:51-54), and after the wicked are destroyed, there will be no more death ever, for anyone. No more sorrow, crying, or pain. It will all be a thing of the past (Revelation 21:4).

He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. - Philippians 3:21

Instead we will have new bodies, perfectly created, just like Christ’s resurrected body was, flesh and bone (Luke 24:36-42), the breath of God in a perfect body, in a new creation, just like at the first creation. 

Except this time, we will know what the effects of sin are and will never choose it again.

Confusing passages from the Bible

What about all the passages you were taught that tell you you’re going straight to heaven?  Let’s take a look at a couple of them, including the one from the question.

The thief on the cross

And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:43

It seems as though Jesus is saying that the thief will be in heaven today.  However, I think this is simply a grammatical error. If you move the comma, then this verse falls in line with scripture:

And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:43

Now Jesus is telling the thief emphatically that he will be in Paradise.  Not, that he will be there today.  

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” – John 20:17

After all, Jesus didn’t go to Heaven when He died, so how could He meet the thief there?

Of course, someone will say “but you can’t just move a comma!  Not one jot or title should be changed.” However, in the original language, there were no commas.  They were inserted during translation, and sometimes improperly, and sometimes they don’t when they should.  For example:

So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them. – Acts 19:12

In this passage, the way it’s written, the handkerchiefs and aprons are sick, not the people.  

The Rich Man and Lazarus

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’
- Luke 16:19-31

So, first off, this is a parable – a fictional story. In Jesus’ time, rabbis often taught in parables to illustrate a point.  Pastors still do it. I have a book of 3000 illustrative stories for sermons.

The point is, the story is a medium for illustrating a point, not to be taken literally.  We’ll get to the point in a minute.

Let’s say we take the story as fact – or as a real illustration of heaven and hell.  Then we have a problem.

Heaven is within sight of hell – and within earshot.  This means that despite the Bible telling us there will be no more tears, grieving, pain, sorry, etc. in heaven, we’re all going to have front-row seats to people being tortured.  This looks again like a sadistic God with sadistic followers.

Not to mention then we have serious problems with all the timelines laid out above in the post.  Everyone shows up when they die. There is no second coming, no resurrection, no opening of the books, no 1000 years, no new heaven or earth.

Luckily, Jesus tells what the purpose is of this story:

If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.

I hear from people all the time -”I would believe in God if He showed up in front of me – why doesn’t He just come here and let us know He exists?”

But they wouldn’t believe it.  And I ask them, if they saw Jesus returning – would they believe, or would they be looking for the wires and special effects?  Everyone one says they would still probably not believe.  

Someone returning from the dead – even Christ – will not make most people believe.  They will believe from our testimony, or they won’t.  

That’s the choice afforded to all mankind – believe and be saved.  Don’t believe, and you will get exactly what you believe in – nothing.  No coercion, no punishment, no controlling. Love the God of love. Or love yourself.  The choice is yours. Just know that you can’t save yourself.

I hope that helps answer your question.

Looking for help?

35 thoughts on “What happens when you die?”

  1. Ron Jones says:

    Jay, this may offend you (consider this your warning). Your thoughts on Hell are not in line with Jesus’ words. He spoke about Hell more than anyone else in the Bible, by word count. If those destined for Hell were just going to burn up in an instant, then why would he spend so much time warning us about it? The story of the rich man and Lazarus was given by Jesus. Why would he share it as he did without explaining the “errors” in it, if it is as you say? Jesus’ parables did not give actual names, as this story did.

    We were created in God’s image, as eternal souls. Annihilation is not an option.

    Be careful about creating God in your own image, trying to explain away what Jesus clearly taught. That reminds me of what Oprah Winfrey did a few years ago, saying that she couldn’t believe in a “jealous god”. She subsequently departed from the faith.

    Francis Chan had issue with the traditional view of Hell, for some of the reasons you gave. However, his study of what the Bible actually says about Hell led him to eventually corroborate the traditional, orthodox view in a book:

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Not offended in the least. Glad you choose to participate in the discussion.

      Would love to see the verses you are pulling for your stance in regards to Jesus’ words. Feel free to share them.

      Likewise with the statement “We were created in God’s image, as eternal souls.” Do you have a verse that says we have eternal souls? I shared at least one above that says no one is immortal except God, and that the believers only gain immortality upon Christ’s second coming. Your statement seems to be in conflict with scripture as I see it.

      As for the parable, I don’t think one of the characters in it has a name is enough evidence that it was a real story. It’s quite possible Jesus named him Lazarus simply to illustrate a point – the name Lazarus means “God is my help”. Considering the entire book of Luke is focused on one topic – repentance – it seems likely Luke included this story as an illustration that repentance – relying on God (“God is my help”) – is more valuable to you than all the riches of the rich man, who likely relied on himself.

      It’s seems more likely than this one passage contradicting the rest of scripture.

  2. Nick says:

    To be absent from the body is to be in the presence of the Lord. So yes when we die our souls do ascend to heaven if we are believers. I’m sorry but you are completely wrong in saying it doesn’t.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Philippians 1:23. Good question.

      Someone asked about that verse in our support forum, a year ago when were talking about souls. Here’s what I wrote:

      Paul’s writings are often confused around this. Let’s look at the context:

      For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

      Paul often uses this word “flesh”, not to describe his body, but rather our sinful existence, our trying to save ourselves, our working towards self-justification. After all, Paul also tells us in his other writings that we will still have bodies when Jesus returns, resurrects us and makes us immortal.

      In Philippians 3, Paul also uses this same concept to say previously (while he was known as Saul, a Pharisee), he had more right than anyone to be “put confidence in the flesh” because he was a Hebrew among Hebrews, circumcised on the eighth day, followed the law perfectly, etc, etc… He’s not saying that this was all about his body, after all, following the law is not a body thing. But rather, that he was trying to save himself through his works, this war between “flesh and spirit”, which, again, isn’t about body and soul, but rather the words he uses to depict the two sides of the war “self vs Christ”.

      So, then this verse isn’t about heaven at all, but rather about salvation through faith vs salvation through works. He’s talking about dying to self, not the death of oneself, if you catch my meaning.

      1. Jim says:

        What is your church background in other words what church do you regularly attend? This helps to know why you believe this way.

        1. Jay Dee says:

          I grew up in the Christian Reformed Church (similar to Dutch Reformed if that helps). Had lots of questions about this sort of stuff, and never got any decent answers. A lot of half-answers, “you just have to have faith”, “we’ll never know until we get to heaven” and other such canned answers. So, by the time we were 24, my wife and I left. We were fed up. We spent some years away from churches, and then finally found one that used the Bible to answer our questions. I spent a year challenging them, asking for proof for every doctrine they pulled out, and they kept throwing verse after verse back at me in response. In the end, it was that and the logical consistency that caused me to stay.

          So, my background is Christian Reformed, but the church I regularly attend is a Seventh Day Adventist church. I still don’t quite hold to everything they believe, but it’s the closest I’ve found to the truth as far as I can tell.

          Ultimately though, I believe this way due to study of the Bible, and I attend the church I do because of that belief. Not the other way around.

          1. Jim says:

            That’s sort of what l thought. I used to live next door to a seventh day Adventist. He rejected eternal security. Would not work on Saturday but had no problem camping as long as he got enough gas on Friday night to get him back home and work on Monday. He ate meat but his wife was a vegetarian and followed the teaching of Ellen White. They didn’t believe in hell either but l believe that’s were they are today. I lived next door to them and we road and worked for the same company so we had a lot of discussion about God and eternal things. There is no hope for them as your not sure about eternity. I hate to live not knowing where l going when l die. That would be living on the edge. Jesus died to set us FREE. I would be real careful about telling God what he can and cannot do as in regard to what he be by sending sinful foks to hell. The 1000 years just shows that putting man in a pardise he is still sinful. Just to bad you bad have not receive some good basic Bible teaching otherwise your not giving folks much help. Why not go to Answer in Genesis on the internet to help you get greater understanding of God’s plan for you and your family. If you really want truth. You very life depends on it! By the way l am free and know the moment I did l will be with my savior. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

            1. Jay Dee says:

              I’m sorry you had a bad experience with a Seventh Day Adventist.
              I’m not exactly what you mean by “eternal security”. I mean, I feel secure in my salvation. Is that what you mean? But, I don’t think feeling safe in your salvation is what will ensure you go to heaven. I think lots of people think they are going to heaven, but aren’t. The Bible is quite clear that Satan will deceive most of the church. It’s only remnant of a remnant that will make it. So, maybe that creates a bit of a paradox – if you think you’re going to heaven, maybe that means there’s a good chance you’re being deceived. I don’t know. All I can do is act in accordance with my convictions. I don’t think we can do anything else. Otherwise you’re just trying to buy your way into heaven, and that I’m quite sure won’t work.

              Now, you mentioned Answers in Genesis, but didn’t point me to anything in particular. I’m not going to search the entire site. I’m afraid I just don’t have that much free time on my hands.

              But, if you have an issue with a particular thing I said, I invite you to share what you believe, back it with scripture and we can have a discussion about it. If not, then I think we’re just arguing my interpretation of scripture with your feeling based on your church background, and that doesn’t sound fruitful. More than willing to discuss actual scripture though. And I would be curious to know what your church background is and how you feel that’s shaped the lens you filter scripture through.

              But, I agree with you that I feel free as well, and I know the moment I will be with my saviour too – I shared it above. I just don’t think it will be as soon as I die, because that’s not what my saviour told me would happen. Oh, and I addressed the “to be absent the body is to be present with the Lord” in another comment if you’re curious.

              1. Jim says:

                I will give you a simple verse to see if you understand it. John 3:16 For God so loved thee world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoesover believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Having a bad experience with my neighbor no l didn’t we had good relationships he just tried ( like you was trusting in the law and his good works to get himself into heave). The law is a schoolmaster to show us how fall short we are. It’s only the blood of Christ that can cleans ones of their sins. I question your salvation as to if you are truly born again. I trust Christ as my personal Savior when l was about 12 year’s old. When did you personal ask Christ to forgive you of your sins and be your personal Savior? If l understand you your not sure you are saved, my neighbor wasn’t. What makes us humans different than all of what God created is He breath into man the breath of life (Genesis 2:7) That’s because he was going to have fellowship with man. God didn’t breath life into animals they don’t pray or read, etc. I can send you a list of verses that show you you are eternally secure in Christ l just need an email address. Pray you are open minded and don’t think you have arrived. I have seen what seventh day Adventist offer and there’s no hope for me or could say false hope. Have l arrived not till l arrive in heaven the moment I die.

                1. Jay Dee says:

                  I’m not quite sure why you keep saying I believe in salvation through works. I don’t. I thought I was quite clear on that.
                  Thus my apology for your bad experience with your neighbour – if he believed in salvation through works rather than through grace, then he didn’t not grasp the teachings of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

                  When did I ask Christ to forgive me of my sins and be my personal saviour? I grew up doing so. I honestly don’t recall the first experience. I don’t think naming the date is important, but rather having a habit of acknowledging that constantly during your life. We should submit to Christ daily (if not more often).

                  And no, you misunderstand. I am sure I’m saved. All I’m saying is being sure isn’t surety 🙂 I don’t think you can prove otherwise, unless you are taking the approach that anyone who believes they’re saved is saved, but then we have an issue because there are many people who don’t believe in Jesus who believe they are going to heaven. Are they all right? If so, are you? How do you know? I short, we can’t know. We have hope. We have belief. We have faith.

                  And it seems you understand this, because your sign off hints that you won’t actually know the truth until you get to heaven (or don’t). That is the point I was trying to make. So, do I have security in my salvation? Absolutely. Will that actually get me into heaven? No, because salvation is not through works. And belief is a work.

                  In the same way, we Adventists keep God’s Law. Not because it will get us into heaven – that would be salvation through works, but rather because we believe we are already saved, and how can someone who is saved not strive to follow God’s laws? We do it out of gratitude, out of respect, out of love, and frankly, out of selfish-ambition. I mean, why would you not listen to the Creator’s suggestions on how to live? My life is better for having followed them. We don’t follow them to get into heaven. We follow because we are going to heaven. Or so we believe 🙂

                  Anyways, my email address is jay@uncoveringintimacy.com. Feel free to email whatever you like, but I’d appreciate you not accusing me of believing things I don’t believe in. It’s a waste of both of our time.

  3. DE says:

    I agree with much of this, such as the fact that people are not tormented in hell forever. However, Psalm 37:11,29 tell us that the meek and righteous will inherit the earth and live on it forever. Isaiah 65 talks about the conditions on the earth at that point, as well. There is a lot of evidence that after Armageddon, as referenced in Revelation, humans will go back to God’s original purpose of filling the earth and making it a paradise. Malachi 3:6 tells us God does not change. He wouldn’t have abandoned his purpose because we bungled things.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Yes, the meek (believers) will inherit the earth forever – the new earth of course. This one has to be destroyed. It’s corrupt. Revelation 21:1 is quite clear that the old heaven and earth will “pass away”.

      I’m not sure about going back to filling the earth. We have a few clues that it will be different.
      For one – no marriage (Matthew 22:30). So, that’s quite different right off the bat.

      And I don’t think God made a mistake in the plan. If we were to go back, that sounds like He messed up, fixed it and then reset. I don’t think that’s the case. I think this world was always going to get corrupted, so that we could see how awful sin is. I don’t think God could find a way to have free-will and eternal life without going through this painful period.

      I think this was the best possible plan to have people who would eternally be loving towards each other.

      1. DE says:

        I am familiar with that scripture as well. There is evidence that Jesus was referring to the 144,000 chosen ones with whom he had made a covenant for the kingdom. In heaven, no one would be given in marriage. The majority of that 144,000 was made up of those alive in Jesus’s time and after, until the apostasy came.

        Isaiah 45:18 states that, “For this is what Jehovah says, the Creator of the heavens, the true God, the One who formed the earth, its Maker who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for nothing, but formed it to be inhabited: ‘I am Jehovah, and there is no one else.'”

        Yes, free will is a beautiful gift, but there would, of course, be some who tried to abuse it. We were given this time to prove if we could truly govern ourselves independent of God’s rule. Clearly, we are making a disaster of it.

        Proverbs 2:21,22 tells us, “For only the upright will reside in the earth, and the blameless will remain in it. As for the wicked, they will be cut off from the earth, and the treacherous will be torn away from it.”

        If we are meant to remain on the earth, how can we all go to heaven? It makes sense that this would be happening at the same time that the wicked are removed from the earth, as the next scripture goes on to say.

        This especially contradicts 1 Thessalonians 4:17, which says, “Afterward we the living who are surviving will, together with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord.”

        They could not go to be with the Lord forever AND remain on the earth forever. This makes sense if there are two groups of faithful servants, as Jesus explained at John 10:16, “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those too I must bring in, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.”

        Revelation 7:9 tells us, “After this I saw, and look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands.”

        This is apparently a crowd that cannot be numbered, but just prior to this, we are told that there IS a numbered crowd at Revelation 7:4, “And I heard the number of those who were sealed, 144,000, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel.”

        Revelation 14:1,3 goes on to explain, “Then I saw, and look! the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who have his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads… And they are singing what seems to be a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders, and no one was able to master that song except the 144,000, who have been bought from the earth.”

        The evidence that those followers of Jesus’ day were part of the smaller group of 144,000 because Jesus explained at Luke 12:32: “Have no fear, little flock, for your Father has approved of giving you the Kingdom.”

        I appreciate the fact that you are sharing this Bible based information and standing firm for the truth you have found in the Bible. I really believe that hell is a terrible scare tactic used to control people, but it only serves to push people away from the true God.

        1. Jay Dee says:

          I’m trying to figure out if the Bible actually says we’ll go to “Heaven”. It says we’ll go to the kingdom of heaven / God, but Jesus also says that’s not a place, but here in the midst of us (Luke 17:20-10), and Jesus says the kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15, Matthew 4:17).

          So, I don’t think there is anyone who is “going to heaven” as a place. Rather, I think the Earth will be remade, and the Kingdom of Heaven / God will be here on Earth (remade).

          As you quoted, Proverbs says the upright will reside in the earth. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says we meet the Lord in the air, but, that’s only for as long as it takes to cleanse the earth. We’ll go up, meet Christ (as the wicked are destroyed as you said), and then come back down to the new Earth. But from the point we meet Him, we’ll always be with Him.

          So, yes, we can remain with the Lord forever and remain on the earth forever. It’s just that He’ll be here. Revelation 22 describes Christ sitting on a Throne in the city that comes down from Heaven and settles on earth.

          As for the 144,000, this seems to be clearly a symbolic number. 12 is used often in the Bible to describe God’s people (12 Tribes in the Old Testament, 12 Disciples in the New), and 1000 is often used as well in prophecy simply to show “many”. I don’t think the 1000 years is going to be a literal 1000. I think it will be as long as it needs to be. Anything else leads to issues, like God being more interested in numbers than in people getting their chance to see the truth.

          So, we have 12 x 12, which I think could simply be a symbol for those believers who came before Christ, and those that came afterwards. 144 would seem too small, so 144,000 to show it’s a lot of people (but not compared to the entirety of mankind). But in all honesty, we don’t know. This revelation is apocalyptic. I don’t think we’re going to know until it comes to pass, and it hasn’t yet.

          Personally, I think the 144,000 is simply a representative number of the totality of believers, not a special sub-group.

          Point is though, I don’t think we’re going to be separated. I think we’ll all be here on the new Earth, with Jesus, in the Kingdom of Heaven / God.

  4. Angie says:

    Thank you Jay for your answer to this question. As a member of the same denomination as you, I have tried to.share this belief of death and the second coming with friends and just ended confusing them. I plan on sharing this post with them, and hopefully they will check out some of your marriage posts and become regular readers as well!

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Oh, I’m glad you felt it was an accurate summation of the topic. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Timm says:

      Can I ask which denomination? This is all interesting.

  5. Scott says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write this post. This would have to be one of the most interesting articles I’ve ever read – particularly the thoughts about eternal torture.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  6. Tory says:

    As Jesus was dying on the cross, he said to the thief next to him, “THIS DAY you shall be with me in Paradise.” I do not think Jesus was speaking metaphorically.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I addressed that passage in the post – near the end. Maybe read it over again. More than willing to answer any followup questions.

      1. Anonymous says:

        And which translation, exactly, are you pulling from?

        1. Jay Dee says:

          Me? I think I pulled most of my verses from the NKJV, however you’ll find that comma in most translations.
          As for Tory, the closest I could find was Webster’s Bible Translation or Weymouth New Testament.

  7. Art says:

    I am impressed with how much you understand. However, I am of the belief that there are 3 resurrections. 1. The saints at Christ’s return. 2. The rest of the dead after the millennium–Note Israel, and the attack on God’s temple Ezek. 37-39. Then # 3. Those who are raised to be judged for life or the lake of fire. Rev. 20 shows these three and Mat. 25:31-41 shows the 3rd.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Would you mind clarifying that?
      1) The saints at Christ’s return (believers)
      2) The rest of the dead (non-believers)

      Who is left for the 3rd? You says to be judged, but they were already judged, that’s how they got into 1 & 2.
      I feel like I’m missing something. I would consider Matthew 25:31-41 to be more of an overview, saying they will all be judged and separated. But, I think that separation is shown in detail in Revelation 20.

  8. RDH says:

    Would not Hebrews 12:1 contradict your philosophy? Hebrews 12:1, which immediately follows a lengthy list of “saints” in chapter 11, says that we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. As the verse is obviously related to chapter11 and the saints/witnesses mentioned therein, would not that mean that the dead are with the Lord immediately after death! Combined with Jesus’ statement to the thief on the cross, I think NT authors (and Jesus himself) believed that the time between death and glory is nonexistent.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Great question!

      Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

      And I 100% agree, the witnesses are the saints that have come before.
      However, the problem is that the word is ambiguous. I don’t think it means they are watching us, but rather that they were witnesses of faith in their lives, which is sort of the point of the previous chapter. Another word that this “witnesses” that’s used gets translated to is martyrs.

      In other words, let us continue to run the race, just as they witnessed to us. Not that they are still watching us, but that we saw the faith in their lives, we witnessed their witnessing. Then it falls in line with the rest of scripture.

      Because if Jesus believed people go straight to heaven after they die, He would have never resurrected Lazarus. It would have cruel and unusual torture to pull someone out of heaven back here to Earth.

  9. Porky Soprano says:

    Hi Jay you’ve mentioned this before and I agreed, it’s not something I had ever considered before but reading the word proves you right so my question is purely to hear your opinion: what do you think of books like divine revelation of hell and 23 minutes in hell? Are the people not telling the truth about their visions/experiences in your opinion?
    My opinion on this subject is that we are all agreed that Jesus saves so if someone finds comfort in believing their loved ones are with Jesus in heaven, I say let them have it. I am not going to argue with someone who is grieving I think it’s important to be a comfort to the grieving ultimately it doesn’t really matter what anyone believes about the departed once they’re gone but I agree with your stance on this although I did before think people were in heaven and in eternal damnation etc but Re-reading the word has shifted my view.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I’ve never heard of divine revelation or 23 minutes in hell. I prefer to take my beliefs from the Bible rather than humans.

      However, I’m about a minute into a talk Bill Wiese gave and he has already made a misstep in his assumptions as I see it.
      He says that the Bible says that hell is everlasting hellfire because the Bible says the punishment is eternal. However, that can be taken two ways – could it be that the fire persists forever? Sure, but then you’re at odds with the rest of the Bible. It could also mean that the result is eternal – that is, when you are destroyed, you are no more, and will never be again. The punishment (destruction) lasts forever.

      We see this other times in the Bible. For example, Sodom and Gomorrah were to burn forever – are they still burning? No. You cannot go to the Middle East, and still find a section of the land, multiple towns large, consumed with a fire that won’t go out. Rather, it burned for the existence of the thing – until it was consumed. I’m going to argue that hellfire is going to consume you pretty quickly, because we have a loving merciful God. And if you say “well, the people are burning in hell still”, then we have a problem with a bunch of other parts of the Bible – timing of the resurrections being number one. Even if you believe in an eternal hellfire – it’s not happening now, because Jesus hasn’t returned and Judgement Day has not happened.

      Then he bases his reason for why we should believe in hell on the fact that we should leave in fear. This is again contrary to the message of the Bible – we should strive towards heaven, towards loving God, not away from hell, away from fearing God. This changes God into a control freak who uses torture to keep his minions in line rather than a loving Father who invites us to live with Him forever.

      So, what actually happened to him? Who knows.
      Dream, delusion, vision from Satan to trick him?
      Like he said, he’d never studied the topic of hell before, so when something came along that seemed real – he had no basis to refute it.

      All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

      That is one of the reasons we need to be regularly studying our Bible, so we will not be deceived. So we can reproof and correct when things are taught that are wrong.

      As for arguing with someone who is grieving – there is a time and a place. I will not pick a fight with someone in the middle of a funeral of course, it’s not the time nor the place. But I also won’t tell them I agree that their loved one is in heaven. If they push for agreement, then I will share what I believe and how that gives me comfort.

      1. Porky Soprano says:

        Thanks Jay, just one other question please (appreciate the response), if in the end we just “die” and there no eternal punishment does that not make our lives here a bit meaningless? If someone knows that after they have lived a life of sin they die and that’s it then why does it matter to live righteously? At the end of the day people won’t know they’re dead so for me there is a sense of “getting away with it” is there no punishment for our sins then? Sure God is merciful but not to the wicked!
        Again not arguing, just seeking to further my understanding as it’s not an angle I’ve fully thought about.

        1. Jay Dee says:

          Meaningless? By no means. This is the test – for ourselves. To see if we want to live an eternal life submissive to God. Most don’t. Most would rather continue being the god of their own life and would keep on the with pain of this sinful existence forever. But that would be cruel to impose on them, so God, in his mercy (yes, even to the wicked), destroys them.

          This concept of bad people needing to be punished for hurting others is not biblical. Wanting to hurt people for hurting us is not Christ-like.

          Are there people punished in the Bible? Absolutely, but look at the reasons
          – they are either removed from existence because their continued existence is causing so much pain and suffering, it would be better if they were dead (Sodom and Gomorrah)
          – they are removed so that they can’t interfere with the plan of salvation (enemies of Israel)
          – they are removed to teach others a lesson (guys who hid silver under their tent)

          But, who is left to teach a lesson at the end of this world? Everyone who has chosen God has already done so and gotten their reward. All that choose themselves will not change their minds and will be destroyed. There’s no need to protect, or warn or teach, and the plan of salvation is fulfilled. Everything is wrapped up.

          He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. – Revelation 21:4

          Everything is going to change. We will not recognize life anymore I don’t think. This existence, the concept of pain and suffering will be … alien to us. We’ll know it enough to know we never want that again – that’s what will keep us on the right path for eternity. That’s the purpose of this life I think – to show us how bad sin is. I don’t think God could find another way to have people live forever and not sin – we had to experience it. If we didn’t, well, then the angels would have never fallen.

          Freewill had to be there, and so a choice had to be there, and we need to fully understand the choice if we’re going to continue to make the same one each and every moment of an eternal existence.

          So, this is our way to experience it, to know we don’t want it, so we can live forever and never be tempted by sin again.

  10. Belle Tunstall says:

    This sounds a lot like what I and my denomination believe- with the exception of a supernatural devil 🙂 Always super interesting to find what are the similarities and differences between groups and which beliefs stand the test of time from the OT and apostles to the present day (as opposed to many beliefs which were applied by the gnostics/greek philosophers and the Nicene Council until today, for example). Your journey from a teaching of scripture that didn’t make sense to one that seems to be more justified and closer to the truth is a familiar story to me, one I’ve heard from my father and grandfather among others! I attend a Christadelphian ecclesia, for context. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and rationale with us and being quite patient.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Hi Belle!
      I’m only vaguely aware of the Christadelphians. My mother spent some time studying with a group, but I can’t recall any of the specific beliefs. I’m afraid I don’t know much about your doctrine. The idea that Satan isn’t a being I struggle to square away from what I see in the Bible.

      Job in particular seems fairly evident:

      One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Job 1:6-7

      He then proceeds to torment Job with God’s acquiescence.

      I’d love to understand your perspective of those verses.

  11. Amy Cochran says:

    Hey Jay, I know I’m about a year late to this discussion but I was wondering what your thoughts are about Elijah going straight to Heaven. Wouldn’t this be evidence that Heaven is a place and that we will go there after death?

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Never too late to join the discussion on a blog post.

      The first question would be – what do you mean by heaven? Do you mean “the heavens” as in, anything outside of the earth. Or do you mean heaven where God exists – outside of space & time. Or do you mean heaven – where the angels are, which seem to be confined to time at least. Or do you mean the new heaven (often called Paradise), which is what will be re-created once sin is destroyed for good? Or maybe something else that we’re not really sure what it is. The Bible is a little vague about which one it’s talking about most of the time.

      Now, I’d argue it can’t be Paradise, because it hasn’t been recreated yet. Revelation is clear that will happen after the 2nd coming (Revelation 21:1) when Heaven and Earth are destroyed.

      So, where did Elijah go? I’d say probably that place where the angels are – whatever that is. Also, Elijah is a special case – he didn’t die and get resurrected – he was translated without dying. All in all, he’s an odd exception that sort of breaks all the rules – similar to Moses who did die, but the Bible makes it clear was under very unusual circumstances and seems to have been resurrected prior to the general resurrection. Elijah and Moses were also the only two individuals at the transfiguration showing again that they’re special cases, I think.

      Not sure if that helps clear that up, other than to say I think Elijah is certainly an odd exception but doesn’t violate the biblical stance of the resurrection occurring after Jesus’ 2nd coming.

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