What does the Bible say about what happens when we die

By Douglas M. Williams Sr.

Death is a subject about which we do not like to think, and especially our own. We know, as the Bible teaches, that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Thus, we need to consider death seriously to make preparation for it. Amos 4:12 tells us to “prepare to meet thy God.”

I’m sure there are questions that all of us have about this subject that are not answered in the Bible. Even though we would like to have answers, God has not thought it necessary to reveal some things to us. The Bible says, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children (Deuteronomy 29:29). However, the Bible does tell us some things about this subject that we can know and so we study them in this article.

God created us and gave us a soul (spirit) that will live eternally (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7). Death is a separation of the physical body and spiritual soul (James 2:26). When we die our physical body returns to the dust from which it was made, and our soul returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Our soul is the most valuable thing we possess. Jesus said it is worth more than all the world, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul” (Matthew 16:26)?

We must make preparation for eternity in this life by obeying the teachings of Jesus in becoming a Christian by faith, repentance, confession, baptism, and living a faithful life for the Lord (Revelation 2:10).

Earlier we noted the statement from James 2:26, “…the body without the spirit is dead…” Thus the Bible teaches that the departure of the spirit (soul) is regarded as the occasion of death. The following examples illustrate this fact:

  1. Genesis 35:18 – “And it came to pass, as her soul was departing (for she died).”
  2. Acts 7:59 – “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
  3. See also Genesis 25:8; 1 Kings 17:22; Psalms 90:10.

From the above examples we learn that the departing of Rachel’s soul from her body resulted in her death; the martyr Stephen expired when his spirit left his bruised and broken body from the stoning; in giving up the ghost (spirit) Abraham died; and the child for whom the prophet prayed was dead and revived only when the soul returned to its body.

The Bible teaches that the spirit, or soul, survives apart from the body and continues to live after death. In 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, the Bible tells us when we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord; but it is better to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord.

Acts 9:36-43 records the death of Dorcas and by the power of God Peter prayed and raised her from death. Verse 39 shows that she was no longer with them because her soul (the real Dorcas) had departed from her body at death. Here we are told that people were weeping and showing garments she had made “while she was with them.” This shows that even though her body was in their presence, and soon to be restored to life, that Dorcas was not with them.

After death we face the judgment and eternity, so it behooves us to realize this life may be compared to a practice workout before the real game and we should make preparation. We ought to live each day as if it were our last, because it could be.

Bible scholar and commentator Matthew Henry said, “It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our final day.”


#afterlife, #bible-study, #death, #judgement, #soul