So what happens to people who believe in Jesus Christ, when they die?

 

Where do believers in Jesus Christ go when they die?  We get a glimpse when we read accounts by those who saw a bright light when their heart stopped beating for a few moments, or how they felt compelled first to go towards this light then turned back.  An account like this is in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 says "I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know... but I know that this man was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell."  Was Paul talking about himself here or someone else? Philippians 1:21&23 (Maybe it was Paul, because here Paul says:) "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose! But I am hard pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. And convinced of this, I know I shall remain and continue with you..."

2 Corinthians 5:8 "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord..."

When a believer dies, their spirit goes to paradise - 'heaven', in other words.  (Do you remember the scripture where Paul talks about those believers who have already died are watching us & in effect cheering us on? I think this is where they are!)  Here's what the Bible says: as Christ is crucified, there are two other fellows crucified at the same time, one on either side of him.  One fellow jeers at Christ, but the other tells him to hush up, that they deserve this punishment but that Christ has done nothing wrong. 

From Luke 23:43, here is Christ's response to that guy: "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise..."

Notice Jesus does NOT say: 'after you get thru with purgatory, I'll see you in heaven' - or 'you weren't absolved of your sins by a priest so too bad, no heaven for you'...

Don't you think if it was more complicated Christ would have said so right here?? To me this is the strongest statement in the Bible about what happens to a believer when they die.

 

The Bible says that Jesus will return to earth again, at what is called  the Second Coming.  Dead believers go and get their resurrected body.  Psalm 16 (This is David talking here) "No wonder my heart is filled with joy, and my mouth shouts His praises! My body rests in safety.  For You will not leave my soul among the dead ('sheol') or allow your godly one to rot in the grave [It's Jesus he's referring to here]. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with You forever!"

1 Thess. 4:13-17 "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who 'fall asleep'... We believe that Jesus died & rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have 'fallen asleep' with him... For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel & with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first! After that, we who are still alive and are left on earth will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever!" (Just typing this gives me shivers - what a sight & experience that will be!)

There are some Old Testament references to this too:

Daniel 12:2 "Many of those whose bodies lie dead will rise up.." and in v. 13, "As for you, go your way until the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise again to receive the inheritance set aside for you."

Isaiah 26:19 "Yet we have this assurance, those who belong to God will live; their bodies will rise again! Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy! For God's light of life will fall like dew on his people in the place of the dead!"

Job 19:26 "And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God!" (Strong words from a man who had his faith tested to the max... read the book of Job sometime, its amazing.)

 

After this Second Coming, (during the Tribulation time for people left on earth), believers will go to the Judgement to receive rewards or have them taken from you.  2 Corinthians 5:10 (v.1) "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in (the body) is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven. (v.10) For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. {1 Cor. 3:13 also mentions man's works revealed}

Hebrews 9:27 Just as man is destined to die once and after that to face judgement, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people & he will appear a second time not to bear sin but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."

Romans 2:6-11 "God will give to each person according to what he has done... There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil... but glory, honor, and praise for everyone who does good: first for the Jew then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism."

Matthew 16:27 "For the Son of Man (Jesus) is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels and then he will reward each person according to what he has done."

In the little book of Jude - its so small, it has one chapter! - Enoch is quoted as saying "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against God."

Believers will wait in heaven (paradise) for the end of the judgements on earth - and the renovation of earth by fire.  2 Peter 3:7-11 "The present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men. The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar, and the earth & everything in it will be laid bare... Look forward to the day of God and speed its coming! That day will being about the destruction of the heavens by fire... But in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of the righteous."

(Okay, to me it's depressing to think of this lovely earth being laid to waste; but what will come next is awesome beyond contemplation! And a side note for all my fellow animal lovers: See the bit about 'a new earth'? Well what would a new earth be without animals?? What will a heavenly horse be like...)

Ecclesiastes 12:14 "For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing whether it is good or evil."

 

Check out Revelations, chapter 20.  Now this chapter is chock full of references to a bound Satan, a 1,000 year period of time after which Satan is turned loose... it's hard to understand, but in verse 12 there is a vivid image of the dead standing before a throne where books are opened, the dead are judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books... it sounds like the judgement scene Paul and Christ himself have talked about before. In verse 14, Christ on the throne pronounces a frightening doom for the wicked: "The cowardly, unbelieving, the vile, murderers, sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all liars - there place will be in the fiery lake of burning suffer." I'm glad that's not the end in store for believers!

Believers will be with Christ forever in the presence of God.

Rev. 21: 3-7 The apostle John has seen visions of the end times, and now he sees a vision of a new heaven & a new earth. He hears Christ himself say these words: "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God! He will wipe every tear from their eye..." He who was seated on the throne said "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true... It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning & the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of water of life."