Dr. David Jeremiah's Heaven Academy

What Happens When We Die?

What Happens When We Die?

By David Jeremiah

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Disneyland has been dubbed “the happiest place on earth.” And for most children, it probably is. If you’ve ever taken a child to one of the Disney resorts, you’ve probably enjoyed the anxious anticipation almost as much as the actual theme park. On the way to the Magic Kingdom, choruses of Are we there yet? resound from the backseat. As they become seasoned experts, children find landmarks to gauge how much longer the drive will take. They often enter the park with mental lists of which rides they want to go on and a shorter list of rides they hope to avoid. It’s wonderful to watch their excitement.

For God’s people, something far greater than a theme park awaits us after death. The home Jesus has prepared for us in heaven exceeds anything we can imagine. But there are no videos or colorful brochures to fuel our anticipation. The only way to prepare for eternity is to study God’s Word. It contains all the details we need to know about heaven.

As we anticipate heaven, let’s look at biblical answers to four common questions about the journey from this life to the next.

What Happens If I Die Before the Rapture?

When a believer dies, his body goes in the grave and “falls asleep.” But his soul does not sleep; his soul goes to Paradise (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; Luke 23:43).

In Scripture, “falling asleep” is a softened term for the believer’s death. For instance, when Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers, he said: “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Paul wasn’t talking about falling asleep like we fall asleep at night. He was describing the death of Christians.

In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “to fall asleep” is koimao, which means “to recline.” This same word was also used to describe someone who slept in a hotel for one night and the next day would get up and continue his or her journey. This is a beautiful image of what happens to believers’ bodies when they die. Their body goes to sleep, awaiting the resurrection at the Rapture—while their soul goes to be with the Lord in heaven.

What If My Body Is Cremated?

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes, “And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body” (v. 37–38).

Paul is using an illustration here. If you put a kernel of corn into the ground and let it grow, the green stalk that comes out of the ground is not the kernel. It’s part of the kernel; it represents the kernel, but it’s not the same as the original kernel. In other words, the body that comes out of the grave on the day of resurrection is different from the body that went into the grave.

Whether we have a body in a grave to be resurrected or our body is to be destroyed by fire or some other disaster, an incorruptible body will be resurrected to join with Christ in the air on that great day. Cremation does not, in any way, prevent us from experiencing the fullness of heaven.

Can I Lose My Salvation?

There is an age–old saying about blood being thicker than water. It points to the strength of family bonds as something more enduring than bonds of friendship. This is certainly true in the case of God’s family. When we are united by faith with Jesus Christ, we are adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:15–17). We become “joint heirs with Christ”; we inherit the promise of heaven and eternal life. Because God raised Jesus from the dead to reign in heaven forever, we inherit the same future as co–heirs with Christ of God’s promises. And those promises are founded on the most well–known verses in the Bible: John 3:16–17. Here is the promise: All who believe in Christ will not perish but will live eternally in heaven. How secure is that promise? Jesus said nobody can snatch those who are His out of His hand (John 10:28).

Have you believed in Jesus as Lord and Savior? If so, then you are destined to spend eternity with Him in the glory of heaven.

Does Everyone Go to Heaven When They Die?

One of the defining aspects of heaven is the opportunity to spend eternity with the Man who created us and gave His life to rescue us from the consequences of sin. If we do not know Jesus in this life, we will not know Him in the next. We will have no part in the new heaven, the new earth, or the city of New Jerusalem. Not everyone will be admitted to the heavenly city.

The only people allowed in heaven are those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. There are no exceptions. You won’t be able to argue your way into that city, con your way in, sneak in, or bribe your way in. If you have not accepted God’s plan for your life and received His forgiveness for your sin when the moment comes, you will be denied entrance into heaven and into the city we have described.

I don’t want that to happen to you! To learn more about reconciling your relationship with God, be sure to read “Am I Going to Heaven?”

This article is largely excerpted from David Jeremiah’s Answers to Questions About Heaven.

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