God has blessed me with the opportunity and calling to intensely study His Word, in the process shattering some of my previously firmly held beliefs, which had been based on false teachings of men. Where we go when we die is clearly taught in the Bible. The false teachings of many, even dedicated Christian church leaders, has opened the door for Satan to lead many into the occult. Hear and believe what God tells us, not what man says.
One of Jesus’ most significant miracles recorded in the Bible was the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead (John 11). There are other instances of people who had been raised from the dead, but unlike those mentioned before in the Bible, Lazarus had been dead for an entire period of four days. When Lazarus died, Jesus said, ‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.’ Then His disciples said, ‘Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.’ However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead.’” (John 11:11-14).
The Bible compares death to sleep more than fifty times. After death we are asleep, we are unconscious; we are not aware of the passing of time or of what is going on around us. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 9:5 “for the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing… their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished”, Psalm 146:4 “His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish.” and Psalm 115:17 “The dead do not praise the Lord, Nor any who go down into silence.”
It makes sense that after Lazarus was raised from the dead, he doesn’t share what he saw or experienced. He didn’t have anything to tell, except that once he was dead, and now he is alive! He didn’t experience hell or heaven. He was simply “sleeping” in his tomb. Peter on the Day of Pentecost said the same of King David. “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day…For David did not ascend into the heavens…” (Acts 2:29, 34).
What happens to your soul when you die?
Many Christians think of the soul as an immortal entity within us that goes on living after death. In fact it is unconscious and aware of nothing. At the resurrection, our corruptible body is replaced with an incorruptible glorified one, and our soul is resurrected and lives again. The Bible says that Jesus “was put to death in the flesh but made alive [resurrected] in the spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18; Acts 13:34; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 2 Corinthians 5:16).
Jesus’ own words showed that he would not be resurrected with his flesh-and-blood body. He said that he would give his “flesh in behalf of the life of the world,” as a ransom for mankind. (John 6:51; Matthew 20:28) If he had taken back his flesh when he was resurrected, he would have canceled that ransom sacrifice. This could not have happened, though, for the Bible says that he sacrificed his flesh and blood “once for all time.” Hebrews 9:11, 12.
If souls existed as separate entities that lived on after we died, that would mean we have immortality. However, the Bible says human beings do not have immortality. Only God is immortal (see 1 Timothy 6:15,16). Paul says that the righteous “seek for glory, honor, and immortality” (Romans 2:7). If we had immortal souls, why would the righteous seek after something they already have?
Is there life after death?
Though we may die, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25). Those in Christ will receive immortality when He comes again. 1 Corinthians 15:51-54: “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. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’” The Bible says that all those who have died—both righteous and wicked—will be raised to life in one of two resurrections. The righteous will be raised to life at Jesus’ second coming. “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). According to this verse, the righteous do not to go heaven when they die. They remain asleep in the grave until Jesus returns and raises them to immortal life.
The wicked are raised to life in a separate resurrection—the resurrection of condemnation. Jesus said, “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).
The prophets never mention in the Bible that the righteous immediately go to heaven or the wicked go to hell when they die. Nor did Jesus and His apostles teach it. When Jesus was about to leave His disciples, He did not tell them they would soon come to Him. “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). Christians often point to Luke 23:43 as their proof that the dead immediately go to heaven or hell: “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto you today, you shall be with me in paradise.” A misplaced comma can completely change the meaning of a statement. Since all the other verses throughout the Bible that make it clear that the dead sleep, it is obvious that the comma belongs after today, not before. He is telling the thief that day, as they hang side by side on crosses, that he will be with Jesus in paradise, but not that day. This is further proved by the fact that Jesus did not ascend to the Father that day. In John 20:17, He tells Mary, two days later on the day of His resurrection: “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” The Bible is the inspired Word of God; punctuation is of man.
When He returns, our loved ones asleep in Christ will awake from their tombs. No matter how long the time has passed, be it long or short, will seem but a moment to them. By the voice of Jesus, they are called forth from their deep slumber, awakening to a glorious immortality.
“For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible…So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:
‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’”
The last sensation was the pang of death, the last thought, that they were falling beneath the power of the grave, but then, imagine, when they arise from the tomb, to the shout,
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
“Why then do You not pardon my transgression And take away my iniquity? For now I will lie down in the dust; And You will seek me, but I will not be.”
“But man dies and lies prostrate Man expires, and where is he? “As water evaporates from the sea, And a river becomes parched and dried up, So man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens are no longer, He will not
“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.
He said, “Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.” And they began laughing at Him.
And entering in, He said to them, “Why make a commotion and weep? The child has not died, but is asleep.”
Now they were all weeping and lamenting for her; but He said, “Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep.” And they began laughing at Him, knowing that she had died.
Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David.
And Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of his father David, and his son Rehoboam reigned in his place.
So Jehoash slept with his fathers and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel; and Jeroboam his son became king in his place.
And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.
After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;
“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt”.
The Bible often refers to the state of death as “sleep.” This is because the dead will actually be “awakened” (resurrected) at the end of time, some, as Gabriel says, “to everlasting life, others to everlasting contempt.”
Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion forever in any thing that is done under the sun.
The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.
What does Jesus say about the dead?
Jesus “said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.’ Then His disciples said, ‘Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.’ However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead.'” (John 11:11-14 NKJV).
He also said, “This is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:39).
Jesus says the dead really are dead. They are not yet in heaven, nor are they yet in hell. They are “asleep,” awaiting the resurrection “at the last day.”
Why is it important that you know the truth about the dead?
Satan’s first lie was, “Ye shall not surely die.”
Since then, he has convinced many, even sincere Christians, that when you die, you aren’t really dead. If Satan can convince you that the dead are living and are able to communicate with you, he can then begin to use that belief to deceive you out of your eternal inheritance, just like he deceived Adam and Eve out of their garden paradise.
For instance, you might believe that your dead grandmother is visiting you and telling you that your pastor is evil, that any religion is acceptable to God, or whatever else that could turn you from your loving Father, His truth, and His kingdom.
You must know the Word of God and the God of the Word. Diligently read the Scriptures every day and pray regularly so that your connection with heaven remains secure and your knowledge of God increases.
If the dead don’t immediately go to heaven, how did Moses and Elijah appear at the transfiguration?
“As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah.”
One of the most powerful stories in the Gospels is that of Christ’s transfiguration. In the sight of Peter, James, and John, Jesus temporarily shed His earthly form and allowed them to see His divinity. The Father’s voice then pierced the sky, saying He was well pleased with Jesus, His son. The experience was so powerful to those who saw it that Peter affirms its validity in his epistle, 2 Peter 1:16–18 “16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.”
The text might be troubling, however, to those who otherwise understand that people go to sleep at death to await a bodily resurrection at Christ’s return. How can Moses and Elijah have been present at the transfiguration if they are waiting for the resurrection?
To make sense of this, we must first understand two important principles. The first is that, while the general resurrection of God’s people will happen at the end of time, there have been individual resurrections recorded in the Bible. Christ’s resurrection, for instance, was not part of the general one. Neither were those of the saints who came forth from the grave after Christ’s resurrection (see Matthew 27:52–53). The prophets Elijah and Elisha both performed resurrections during their ministries (see 1 Kings 17:17–22 and 2 Kings 4:32–35). Individual resurrections throughout history do not invalidate the general resurrection when Christ returns.
The second principle to understand is that some people have left the earth without dying, and therefore are not in need of a resurrection.
Moses and Elijah each fit one of these two categories.
The story recorded in 2 Kings 2 tells us unmistakably that Elijah was taken to heaven without first dying. Verse 11, specifically, says he was caught in a heavenly whirlwind and taken to heaven in sight of Elisha, his successor. Appearing with Christ at the transfiguration would not have posed a problem for Elijah; he had already spent much time with Jesus in heaven before His human birth in Bethlehem.
Moses, on the other hand, died in the wilderness before the Israelite people entered into the Promised Land. The story of his death, as recorded in Deuteronomy 34:5–6, reveals something extraordinary. The Bible says that God Himself buried Moses, and that none of the Israelites were ever aware of his gravesite. This is the first biblical hint that something special awaited Moses after death.
The New Testament, however, gives us more information. In Jude 9, we’re told that the archangel Michael contended with Satan over the body of Moses. In other words, Satan claimed Moses as his own, worthy of death just like everyone else. Michael, however, thought differently. As the archangel, He has the power to resurrect God’s people. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16; the voice of the archangel raises the dead in Christ at Christ’s return.) Moses was not meant to stay dead. Indeed, he was resurrected from the dead and has been living in heaven since that time. Truly, he has already experienced life after death.
Therefore, the presence of Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration does not answer the question “What is death?,” because neither one was dead! Elijah never tasted death at all, and Moses was given a new life at his resurrection, just like Christ’s people will receive at His return.
While the transfiguration doesn’t directly give us information on the state of the dead, it retains theological significance nonetheless. When Peter recounted his experience in 2 Peter 1:16–18, he writes that he witnessed Christ’s coming at that time. In other words, he understood the experience to represent the return of Jesus Christ. Moses and Elijah represent the two classes of God’s people who will be present at that miraculous event: Moses represents the “dead in Christ” who rise to new life, and Elijah represents “those who are alive and remain” who will be translated to heaven and eternal life without ever experiencing death in the first place (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Understanding that the transfiguration is a representation of the second coming of Christ also helps us understand Christ’s promise that “some standing here … shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God,” spoken a few days before the transfiguration (Luke 9:27).
When we understand the profound significance of this event in light of what Moses and Elijah represent, we can gain an understanding of the nature of death as a result. There would be no need of a bodily resurrection if everyone immediately went to heaven to live in Christ’s presence at death; similarly, translation to heaven would have no special significance because everyone would go to heaven immediately upon death. Moses and Elijah act as evidence that death brings a sleep of unconsciousness while the sleeping saints await the return of Jesus Christ.
When John describes Heaven in Revelation 4, he speaks of the 24 elders seated round the throne of God clad in white garments wearing crowns of gold. I believe, which seems to be a fairly common belief, that these 24 are made up of the twelve apostles (I personally think excluding Mattias, who we hear so little of, and including Paul). We also know there were Old Testament saints who were resurrected with Jesus. We are told in Matthew 27:51-53 “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” We know Elijah (and also Enoch) never tasted death, so were not included. We have good reason to believe Moses was given a special resurrection treatment by God, so he was also not there. We can only make assumptions as to the identity of the saints that were resurrected with Jesus, but they make up the remaining twelve elders presently seated on thrones round the throne of God.
God warns us repeatedly about necromancy (communing with the dead), diving spirits, mediums, divination, spiritists and the like, which are defiling and detestable to Him. In these latter times, Satan will be using evil spirits to convince people that the Antichrist is Christ. 1 Timothy 4:1 “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,” and Paul warns us in Ephesians 6:11 “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” The false teaching by church leaders that the dead in Christ are presently with Jesus may be done with the best of intentions to comfort a grieving family, but it is false teaching that opens the door for Satan.
When they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?
“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. “For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you.
Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a woman who is a medium at En-dor.”
or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.
‘I have not eaten of it while mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor offered any of it to the dead. I have listened to the voice of the LORD my God; I have done according to all that You have commanded me.
Then you will be brought low; From the earth you will speak, And from the dust where you are prostrate Your words will come. Your voice will also be like that of a spirit from the ground, And your speech will whisper from the dust.
‘Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
He made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD provoking Him to anger.
‘As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.
“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,
‘Now a man or a woman who is a medium or a spiritist shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones, their bloodguiltiness is upon them.'”
No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a woman who is a medium at En-dor.” Then Saul disguised himself by putting on other clothes, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night; and he said, “Conjure up for me, please, and bring up for me whom I shall name to you.” But the woman said to him, “Behold, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who are mediums and spiritists from the land. Why are you then laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?” read more.
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,
So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the LORD, because of the word of the LORD which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it,
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
“Then the spirit of the Egyptians will be demoralized within them; And I will confound their strategy, So that they will resort to idols and ghosts of the dead And to mediums and spiritists.
Daniel answered before the king and said, “As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king.
“Then the magicians, the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners came in and I related the dream to them, but they could not make its interpretation known to me.
Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;
It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling.
Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts.
“You shall not allow a sorceress to live.
The magicians did the same with their secret arts, making frogs come up on the land of Egypt.
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;