What Happens After Death?

Text: Job 14:14

Is there life after death? Many say ‘no’ – they believe that our existence here is all there is. But we say ‘yes’ – there is life after death. But what happens after death? In this lesson, we will consider some various theories people have about the afterlife and will compare these theories with what the Bible teaches.

Different Theories

  • Nothing after death – view held by those who do not believe in God or spiritual things; in denying God, they reject clear evidence for God (Romans 1:20); they ignore the fact that eternity is set in man’s heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11); God has placed this within us that we might seek for Him (Acts 17:27)
  • The wicked are annihilated (no eternal punishment) – view held by Jehovah’s Witnesses and others; they claim the Scriptures teach this (Ecclesiastes 9:5), but they ignore the context (Ecclesiastes 9:6)
  • Some will go to purgatory – view held by Catholics; the idea is that those who died in grace go here to receive final purification from sins; Jesus made purification possible in His death (Hebrews 1:3); we must be purified in this life, not after this life (Titus 2:14)
  • All will go to heaven – popular view because it comforts the grieving and the sinner; but it is not true (Matthew 25:46)
  • The faithful will go to heaven immediately – no Hades as described in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:23); the idea is that the righteous dead are already with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:14); again, remember the context (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
  • Martyrs will go to heaven immediately – supposedly taught in Revelation (6:9-11); but remember that Revelation is highly symbolic; also, the martyrs did not have to actually be in heaven for John to see a vision about them or for the Lord to hear their request (1 Peter 3:12; Proverbs 15:3)

What Does the Bible Say?

  • Our spirits will be separated from our bodies (James 2:26) – this separation is death
  • Our spirits will return to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7; 3:21) – this does not necessarily mean that the righteous go straight to heaven; it simply means that we have no control over our fate after death
  • Our spirits will go to Hades, the realm of departed spirits (Luke 16:22-23) – the story of the rich man and Lazarus was not a parable (even if it was only hypothetical, it still describes an actual place); two sections (paradise and torments, Luke 16:24-26); it will exist until the time of judgment (John 5:27-29; Revelation 20:12-14)
  • The Lord will return in judgment (Hebrews 9:27-28; Matthew 16:27)
  • We will then go to our eternal home – only two options (Matthew 25:46)
  • Heaven – God’s presence (1 Thessalonians 4:17); rest (Hebrews 4:9-11); comfort (Revelation 21:4)
  • Hell – eternal punishment away from God’s presence (2 Thessalonians 1:9); prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41)


  • The word of God tells us what awaits us after death – we need to be prepared
  • Death is certain (Hebrews 9:27) – but the timing of it is uncertain (James 4:14)
  • So we must be ready at all times – if you are not ready, now is the time to get ready

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