This is blog #5 in the “Death Swallowed Up in Victory!” series that covers frequently asked questions about what happens at the death of a believer. In the first blog, we looked at why death is part of our world and what God did to free us from its bondage. In the second blog, we explored various unbiblical views about what happens to the soul after death. The third blog covered the concept of purgatory: its history, the logical consequences of such teaching, and the biblical truth that counters this false teaching. In the fourth blog, we tried to answer some frequently asked question about those who are dead. This blog will answer the question, “What happens to the soul of a dead Christian?”
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At death, we go to be with the Lord.
At death, the body decays and reunites with the earth (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Luke 8:55). The soul leaves this “earthly tent” and is immediately perfected by God so that we enter heaven without any sin at all. The soul is who we are inside—our intellect, emotions, and will. This is where sin dwells within us—what the Bible calls the “flesh” or the “sinful nature.” The sinful nature attached to this mortal life is gone. Death is part of God’s grace because we are released from this bondage to sin.
The Bible teaches that the soul of a believer goes directly to the presence of the Lord after the body dies. That’s confirmed in many places but especially in these two verses:
“I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;” (Philippians 1:23)
“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)
The soul of a believer goes to heaven—the spiritual realm in which the glory of God’s presence is manifest. Also in heaven, the angels of God dwell as well as all believers who have departed this world. Heaven is a place that human words are inadequate to fully describe. We don’t know everything, but we do know what God has revealed to us through His Word.
You can use a concordance to find verses describing heaven. We also cover some of it in the Perspective Bible Study of 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
Jesus is preparing a place for us so we can be with Him. Jesus wants us to be with Him in glory!
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3)
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (John 17:24)
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write in 1 Thessalonians,
“We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14)
The Bible teaches that believers who die in Christ have “fallen asleep in Him.” Those who have fallen asleep in Him are Christians who have died. Their bodies are asleep in the earth (graves, ashes, etc.). Their souls are with Jesus in heaven. Every single one of them. That’s our inheritance. Our promise from God. We who belong to Christ can know for sure that heaven is our immediate destination after death. And while there, we will enjoy His presence and all that He has planned for us. We get heaven.
We say when a Christian loved one dies, “I lost my mother, brother, etc.” We didn’t lose them. We know just where they are. And death is gain, not loss. We need to change our terminology. Some use the phrase “they passed” rather than passed away. The believer just passed from here into the presence of the Lord.
Do we get a temporary body? The Bible doesn’t say. We are promised the enjoyment of heaven. So, we as believers in God’s promises may rest assured that God, who so wondrously created the soul for the body, is able to take care of it also while it is outside of the physical body. One thing is for sure. We are released from the struggle with sin.
But, there’s more.
We get new bodies when Jesus returns for His own.
Continuing in that passage from 1 Thessalonians,
“We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left 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. (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17)
Jesus brings the souls of those who have died with Him when He comes to gather His own. So, they must be with Him first. Every Christian who has died since Pentecost will be coming with Jesus to be reunited with a newly fashioned resurrected body. Christ’s resurrection guaranteed our resurrection. “Resurrection” is a word only used for the body, not the soul.
Graves will be opened. For every dead Christian, God will fashion new immortal bodies to be inhabited once again by their souls—joining together in the air with the Lord. Hooray! Celebration for sure!
The hope of heaven
The hope of heaven transforms our perspective on death. The Scriptures nowhere teach that as believers we are immune to grief or should deny the sorrow that death can bring. But in Christ, we share in His victory over death! We grieve, but we grieve not as those who have no hope, rather as those who are certain of our reunion with loved ones who have gone before, of receiving a glorious body that will never weaken or decay, of entering a wonderful new life beyond our fondest dreams, and of forever being with the Lord!
If you have not trusted the Lord Jesus Christ, being separated from Him forever is the punishment for sin. Why should you be separated when that penalty was paid for you? All you have to do is recognize that you are a sinner and worthy of the punishment then believe that Jesus Christ took that punishment for you and accept Him as your Savior. A pardon cannot be forced on anyone. A pardon must be accepted.
Remember what Jesus promised,
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned. He has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)
Isn’t that wonderful? The way to heaven is a one-way street. There is no going back. Eternal life would not be eternal if it did not last. Because our God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, the sting of death has been removed. It has no power to enslave us any longer.
I invite you, if you have never trusted the Lord, to do so today, right now. Pray this prayer with me,
Thank you, God, for loving me and for sending Your Son Jesus to die for my sins. I trust in Jesus Christ to be my personal Savior and turn my entire life over to You. Amen.
If you did that, tell someone today. And, know with certainty that whether dead or alive when Jesus comes, you will spend eternity with Him.
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
- The Biblical Perspective on Death
- What Doesn’t Happen to the Soul at Death?
- Why the Soul Does Not Go to Purgatory for Purification
- Some Frequently Asked Questions about the Dead
- What Happens to the Soul of a Dead Christian?
- Angels, feathers, and needing comfort for grief
- Perspective Bible Study (1 & 2 Thessalonians)
- The Gospel: God’s Cure for Our Fatal Sin Disease (blog series)
- Satisfied Series 13 Podcasts (1 & 2 Thessalonians)
- Satisfied Series 12 Podcasts (The Gospel series)
- God Makes Ugly Beautiful (the crucifixion)
- Karma, Grace, and the Kingdom of God
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