Q&A: What Happens When We Die?

There’s are two ways that we can look at this question: as an affirmative or as its negation.

Let’s start with the negation. We can definitely say what will not happen to us when we die.

There is a popular ideology today called Religious Pluralism, which simply states that all religions are basically the same; either in that the similarities among different religions are what is essentially right, or in that they are all completely wrong. However, there are issues with both views.

The similarities usually boil down to some form of “do unto others”. The problem is that a majority of religions don’t focus on morality, but on the manipulation of deities. On the other hand, to be able to say that all of the religions are wrong, you are claiming to have comprehensive knowledge of all religions, you know what is actually right, and that you can judge them all wrong.

All religions being wrong is a valid option, but lets assume for the sake of this discussion, that Christianity is correct. Because of the fundamental differences among religions, the possibility of any one of them being right automatically invalidates any others that differ from it.

On the topic of death, the options depend on the correct religion. Christianity says you go to heaven or hell, some say you disappear into the void, some say you reincarnate, some say you go to astral plains, etc… The thing is, you can’t do them all! If one is right, the others are wrong by definition.

So what about the affirmative answer? The Bible is actually vague on the details. When you read through the scriptures, you find a number of different “places” that are discussed. What we find, when we examine all of the pertinent scriptures, is that there are two different deaths, each with their own places for good and bad souls.

Hell/Lake of Fire/Gehenna are synonymous. This is the place where Satan, fallen angels, and all those who reject God will go for eternity after the final judgment:

  • everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:41, 46)
  • the second death (Revelation 2:11 cf. 20:6,14; 21:8)
  • the unsaved nations  (Mat. 25:31-32,41-46)
  • they will be cast alive into a lake of burning fire (Rev. 19:19-20)

Gehenna was a deep narrow ravine south of Jerusalem where Hebrews had sacrificed their children to Molech (the Ammonite god) in the Old Testament  (II Kin. 16;3; II Chron. 28:1-3; cf. Lev. 18:21; I Kin. 11:5,7,33). Jesus used this valley, which in his time was a perpetually burning waste dump, as a graphic description of Hell.

Sheol/Hades is the Old/New Testament term used to describe the place of torment where souls of sinful people go prior to the final judgment depicted in Revelation.

Abraham’s Bosom/Paradise is where the saints (redeemed) go when they die. After Christ’s resurrection, we have the term Heaven used synonymously with Paradise.

So, after we die, one of two things happen:

  • If we trust Jesus as savior, we go to heaven until the final judgment
  • If we reject Jesus, we go to Hades until the final judgment
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