A Look into the Future – Part 7 (Video)

This is the seventh in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the New Heaven and New Earth.

The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com.  Other digital images are used with permission from Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing (www.FreeBibleimages.org) and GoodSalt (www.goodsalt.com). The music and video scenes in this video are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

How do I share the gospel with a religious person? Part 2

“Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.” John 3:11

After Jesus confronts Nicodemus about his need to have two births, both physical and spiritual (John 3:1-8), Nicodemus is still confused. Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’” (John 3:9). Nicodemus wants to know how this spiritual transformation takes place. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’” (John  3:10). Jesus says, “Nicodemus, you are one of the main guys. You have given your life to the study of the Scriptures, and yet, you can’t wrap your mind around this very basic spiritual truth? You don’t know what it means to be born from above?”

Jesus continues, “Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.” (John 3:11).Nicodemus had begun his conversation with Jesus by humbly referring to himself as one of many authoritative figures who believed that Jesus had come from God when he said, “we know.” (John 3:2). Now Jesus describes Himself as one of several authoritative Figures who was speaking the truth, when He says, “We know.” (John 3:11). Jesus states that His teaching about new birth can be relied upon because it is based upon what He knows and has seen with His Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven. Jesus claimed to be speaking the truth as an Eyewitness along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, but Nicodemus was rejecting Their witness at this time (“you do not receive Our witness”).

John’s purpose in this gospel, similarly, was that his readers would accept his witness that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31). Nicodemus had rejected this witness at this time, and Jesus saw him as representing many other Jewish religious leaders who also did as the word “you” in John 3:11 is plural. Nicodemus had failed to understand (John 3:9), but his more serious error was his refusal to believe Jesus’ testimony at this time about the new birth. It reflected a refusal to acknowledge who Jesus really was, the Christ and the Son of God, which His signs and insight into Scripture revealed (John 20:30-31).

What about you? Do you receive Jesus’ witness about your need to be born from above spiritually? Or do you think your own goodness and religiosity is enough to get you to heaven? Please do not make the same mistake that Nicodemus did at this time. You will regret it for eternity.

Jesus goes on to say, “I should not be shocked, Nicodemus…” If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12). In other words, it should come as no surprise that your sinful mind does not grasp this spiritual truth. Only the one born from above can understand God’s truth.

Jesus had authority to teach about heavenly things because He lived in heaven. He said to Nicodemus, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:13). Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus why He could speak authoritatively about heavenly things. No human teacher had “ascended into heaven” bodily and returned to teach about heavenly things.

The reason no human had ascended to heaven was because believers did not ascend to heaven until Jesus ascended to heaven after His resurrection (Ephesians 4:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21-23; Revelation 4:1-4; 19:7-9, 14). Before Jesus’ ascension to heaven, believers went to Paradise or Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22; 23:43). They could not ascend to heaven until Jesus’ blood was shed and removed their sins forever (John 1:29; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9-10).

In John 3:13, Christ was referring to being personally present in heaven since, obviously, many prophets had received visions of heaven (e.g. Isaiah 6; cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2-4; Revelation 1:10-20). However, the “Son of Man . . . descended from heaven” so He could teach about heavenly things. The apostle John is contrasting no human who could have ascended bodily into heaven, with the God-man who really did descend from heaven. Jesus claims to be the Messianic “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13-14) who had come “from heaven” to reveal God to humankind (cf. John 1:18, 51). Throughout this his gospel, the apostle John insists on Jesus’ heavenly origin. This is one way in which he brings out his point that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31). Here, His heavenly origin marks Jesus off from the rest of humanity as the Messiah-God.

Because Jesus is from heaven, He alone can get those who believe in Him to heaven (John 14:2-3, 6). When sharing the gospel with a religious unsaved person, we need to confront them with the truth of their need for two birthdays (John 3:1-8) both physical and spiritual – and confront them with the truth about Jesus’ heavenly origin (John 3:9-13). Jesus is God who descended from heaven to share with us how to get to heaven. Next time, we will focus on what Jesus says we must do to get to heaven.

From Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, we learn the following:

Being born again is not about human efforts. If anyone “deserved” eternal life, it would appear that Nicodemus had all of the right qualifications. He was a “Pharisee” (John 3:1), who was extremely devoted to studying and applying the Scriptures to his life. He seems worthy of eternal life. But this conversation reminds us that salvation is not about human effort or merit. We are also reminded that:

Position does not get you to heaven. Nicodemus was “a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1), one of the seventy-one who comprised the Sanhedrin – the Jewish Supreme Court. He was a part of the religious elite. He had a distinguished religious position. But a certain position does not get you to heaven. Being a pastor, a Sunday School teacher, a member of the board at a non-profit organization, an imam, a priest, or a monk does not save you. Being born again is not about human efforts. It is not about positions.

Popularity does not get you to heaven. The name “Nicodemus”  means “a conqueror or victor of the people”. Nicodemus was well liked or popular. Here was a man who won the approval of the people. He was well known and respected in the community. He was popular. He was recognized as a spiritual leader. Mothers pointed to Nicodemus and told their children, “There is a good man. You grow up to be like Nicodemus.” He was extremely popular. But popularity does not save you. Being recognized as a “Christian” person or as a spiritual leader does not save you. Being born again is not about popularity.

Prestige does not get you to heaven. Jesus identified Nicodemus as “the teacher of Israel” (3:10).  He was the one to whom people turned for spiritual answers. He was recognized as the spiritual adviser, the religious guru, the one who spent his life studying the Scriptures, but he did not possess eternal life. He knew the Scriptures, but he did not know the Author of the Scriptures. Nicodemus was “the” man when it came to religious matters but he was not saved. He was not born from above because prestige does not save you.

Piety does not get you to heaven. Nicodemus possessed great religious knowledge. As a member of the Pharisees, he knew and lived what was considered right and wrong. His first words to Jesus, “we know” (3:2) express a certain level of spiritual knowledge. Yet the reality is that Nicodemus did not know Jesus personally nor did he possess eternal life. He was ignorant of spiritual truth, yet he was religious to the core. The Pharisees went to drastic measures to make sure they obeyed the letter of the law. They fasted and prayed and studied the Scriptures. They lived spiritually disciplined lives, but they were lost. Why? Because piety does not save. You can go to church, to a mosque or to a temple, and practice spiritual disciplines daily and still be without Christ. Piety does not save. Why?

Because all of us have disobeyed God with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. The Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Regardless of how good we are, we have still sinned against God. You may not agree with this, but God is the One we must answer to and His Word says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6a). Each of us has gone astray from God and His Word. We have all chosen our own way instead of God’s way.

Even though we have rebelled against God, He still loves us and paid the penalty for all of our sins when He died on the cross. “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6b).  Three days after Jesus died on the cross, He rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:4-6) and He is alive today. Jesus invites you right now to trust Him alone to save you. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47).

So being born again is not about human efforts. It is not about position, popularity, prestige, or piety. It is about recognizing your own sinfulness and inability to save yourself and then believing in Christ alone who died for your sins and rose from the dead to give you everlasting life and a future home in heaven. If you just trusted in Jesus for His free gift of everlasting life, you may tell Him this in prayer.

“Dear Jesus, I realize that I have sinned against You in so many ways. I did not want to admit it before because I thought I was good enough to get to heaven on my own. My human efforts, my position, my popularity, my prestige, and my piety do not change the fact that I am a sinner who needs a Savior. Lord Jesus, I believe You died for me and rose from the dead. I am now trusting You alone, Jesus (not my human efforts, position, popularity, prestige or piety), to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You, Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have and the future home I will have in heaven. I want to thank You by living for You now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please explore www.seeyouinheaven.life or www.knowing-Jesus.com or www.evantell.org.

Jesus does not want you to keep this good news of new birth to yourself. He wants you to “testify” or share what you have “seen” and now “know” (John 3:11) with others who do not know Jesus as the only Giver of everlasting life. So if you found this article to be helpful, please share it with those you want to see in heaven. Thank You and may Jesus richly bless you as you make Him known to others.

What you will and will not find in heaven

The last two chapters of the Bible reveal many details of what you will and will not find in heaven. Focusing on these things can dramatically impact our lives in the weeks and months ahead.

I. WHAT YOU WILL FIND IN HEAVEN

“Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” Revelation 21:5

According to Revelation 21-22, here are five things you will find in Heaven:

1. A REMARKABLE CITY. “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” (Rev. 21:10). Heaven will consist of a beautiful city that is illuminated by Christ Himself (Rev. 21:11). Jesus’ presence will make this city look like a gigantic, glistening diamond. Instead of there being one pearly gate, there will be twelve pearly gates – three gates per wall. Look at the shape and size of this city (Rev. 21:12-13, 21a). This will be a square-shaped city that is fifteen hundred miles long, fifteen hundred miles wide, and fifteen hundred miles high (Rev. 21:16). This goes well beyond Earth’s atmosphere and into space. If a building in the city is this high and has a generous twelve feet per story, the building would be over six hundred sixty-six thousand stories! The New Jerusalem will appear to shine as a mass of pure gold with streets of gold (Rev. 21:18, 21b). The foundation of this remarkable city consists of twelve layers of precious jewels, making up the colors of the rainbow (Rev. 21:19-20).

2. REUNION with Other BELIEVERS. “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:9-10a).  Note the connection between the New Jerusalem and the Church (bride of Christ). Jesus promised the apostles of the Church, “I go to prepare a place for you…that where I am there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). This remarkable city is being carefully prepared by God’s Son for His bride, the Church (cf. I Cor. 11:2; Ephes. 5:22-24).

The New Jerusalem will have twelve gates. “Also, she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel” (Rev. 21:12-13). Gates in ancient cities were often named with reference to where they led. For example, in ancient Jerusalem, the Benjamin gate led to the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. The names of the twelve apostles, whom Jesus promised would rule over the twelve tribes of Israel, are on the twelve foundations of the city (Rev. 21:14). What this suggests, is that King Jesus and the Church will rule Israel and the entire new earth from this city. So, every believer in Jesus during this Church age will live in the New Jerusalem and all other believers before and after the Church Age will live outside the City on the new earth. But these other believers will have access to the New Jerusalem: “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Rev. 21:27b). How do you get your name written in the Lamb’s book of life? By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

3. RESPONSIBILITIES.“And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” (Rev. 22:3). The Bible says you will have the responsibility of serving the Lord in heaven. And there will be many different jobs. For example, Isaiah 65 tells us: “17 For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. [bad memories will be erased] … 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.” (Isaiah 65:17, 21). There will be construction work in heaven and gardening. I believe the greatest inventions will be made in eternity. If people can put men on the moon and build skyscrapers in their fallen state, think of what they will be able to do in their perfect resurrection bodies!

Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992
www.revelationillustrated.com

4. REWARDS. There is so much teaching on this in the New Testament, but for now we’ll just look at one verse. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” (Rev. 22:14). Believers whose lives are characterized by obedience to God’s commands now will enjoy access to the tree of life in the New Jerusalem and the privilege of being able to enter the city through its twelve main gates. The tree of life was in the original Paradise, the Garden of Eden, and it will flourish in God’s eternal kingdom, providing a different fruit each month and enhancing the lives of those who eat it. In the Middle East today, some cities have special VIP entrances into the city. The New Jerusalem will have twelve such gates. While all believers will be able to enter the city, only faithful believers will enter by the twelve gates of pearl. In the Old Testament to be “in the gates” was an honor reserved for the elders of the city. To enter New Jerusalem through one of its twelve gates of pearl, will be a great honor reserved only for those Christians who overcame in this life.

5. REJOICING. What I mean by this is we are going to worship in heaven. We will honor the Lord Jesus Christ forever in Heaven. We will celebrate who He is and what He has done throughout eternity! “And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.” (Rev. 21:24). In heaven, there will be different nations perhaps much like today. The leaders of these nations (overcomers) will reenact what the wise men did almost two thousand years ago, when they brought their gifts to baby Jesus. In eternity, the kings of the earth are going to bring their glory (treasures) to King Jesus year after year in the New Jerusalem to worship and glorify Christ. This new earth is going to be a glorious place where everyone brings glory to God. All the curses that came as a result of the fall in the Garden of Eden are going to be removed. There will be no more pollution… no animals that we need to fear… no people we need to fear – no criminals because no one will sin on the new earth. It will be like the Garden of Eden revisited. It will be paradise on the new earth, not in heaven. So, contrary to what many people think – we are not going to spend eternity floating on some cloud playing a harp in a colorless place. Instead we will spend eternity on the Garden of Eden revisited – the new earth.

Knowing what heaven will be like can motivate Christians to prepare for this wonderful place. While all believers in Jesus Christ will enter or occupy the new earth (Kingdom of God) through childlike faith alone in Christ alone for His free gift of eternal life (Matt. 18:3; Mark 10:14-15; Luke 18:16-17; John 3:5-16; Rev. 21:6), only those who faithfully trust and obey Christ until the end of their life on earth will inherit (Matt. 5:3; Rom. 8:17b; 2 Tim. 2:12; James 2:5; Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21; 20:4, 6; cf. Exodus 12:48-49; Numbers 18:20-24; 36:7-9; Deuteronomy 21:15-17; I Cor. 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephes. 5:5-6) or possess all that is promised to the overcomer in Revelation including wearing special white garments (Rev. 3:4-5), ruling with Christ (Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21; cf. 2 Tim. 2:12), eating the fruit of the tree of life (Rev. 2:7), eating hidden manna (Rev. 2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (Rev. 2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:7a; cf. 22:14).  

II. WHAT YOU WILL NOT FIND IN HEAVEN

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Here are five things you will not find in heaven according to Revelation 21:

1. No SADNESS.  “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 21:4a). No more broken hearts … rejection… loneliness… grief. No more heartache. That is heaven. God will wipe away every tear from your eyes. You will not have sadness or grief again. Those of you who are grieving the loss of a loved one or maybe you’ve been going through a period of depression, one of the things that does in our lives is it just makes heaven seem a little bit closer. We want to go to heaven when we are in pain. Why? Because there is none there.

2.  No DEATH. “There shall be no more death.” (Rev. 21:4b). There will be no funerals in heaven… no more cemeteries. Why? Because in that heavenly city no one ever dies. You won’t ever have to be concerned about losing a loved one because death will be gone forever!

3. No SUFFERING. “There shall be no more pain” (Rev. 21:4c). No more bad hair days ladies and gentlemen. Everything about us will be perfect. This will be a glorious time. We will have glorified bodies. There will be no eyeglasses, no braces, no wheelchairs, no hearing aids, and no crutches. There will be no more hospitals, no ambulances, no CPR. COVID-19 will not exist, aspirin will be gone, accidents over, heart attacks banished, AIDS a distant memory, cancer done away with. No more chronic pain.

4. No SHADOWS. “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” (Rev. 21:23). There will be no need for the sun, moon or stars in heaven because the glory of Jesus will be its light. This will be the heavenly version of “the city that never sleeps.” We will not need to sleep because we will have glorified bodies that never grow tired. No need for caffeinated coffee! No sadness, no death, no suffering, no shadows…

5. No SIN. “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Rev. 21:27). Nothing that is sinful or leads to sin will ever be a part of the New Jerusalem. Unbelieving people and their evil ways will be confined to the Lake of Fire (21:8). I’m looking forward to the moment that I no longer have any temptations or sin in my life. No more hang-ups. Think about it – no more fears. Can you imagine what it’ll be like to live with no fear, no guilt, no shame, no resentment, no worry, no bitterness, no envy, no jealousy, no loneliness. But you’re still going to be you. You will still have your personality only without any weaknesses.

Heaven is going to be an incredible place! God loves you so much that He wants you to live with Him there for eternity. To do so, you must receive His free gift of eternal life. Why? Because the Bible says we are born with sinful hearts – “Surely, I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5). From the moment of conception, we possess a sinful nature that causes us to break God’s rules. Because all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23), we deserve to be separated from God forever in the Lake of Fire (Romans 6:23a; Rev. 20:15). But God’s love for those who don’t possess eternal life is so great that in the final two chapters of the Bible He offers eternal life (“the water of life”) as a free gift (Revelation 21:6; 22:17). “The water of life” is eternal life and Jesus offers it “freely” to those who believe in Him. You don’t work for eternal life because it has already been paid for when Jesus died on the Cross for our sins and rose from the dead.  Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47).

What is Jesus asking you to do that is hard for you to trust Him with? Is He asking you to trust Him for eternal life, but it’s hard for you to let go of your works and trust Him alone? It’s so simple that children get it and adults miss it. None of us are promised tomorrow. If you were to drop dead in the next minute are you absolutely certain you are going to heaven? If you are not, you can make sure right now. Why would anybody put it off? You need to settle this issue right now and you need to put your trust in Jesus for eternal life. When you trust Him, He gives you everlasting life (John 6:47), He forgives all your sins (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14), He places you in God’s family forever (John 1:12; 6:37), and He comes to live inside of you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:39a; Galatians 4:6). He guarantees that you will live with Him forever in Heaven when you die or are removed from the earth through the Rapture of the Church, whichever occurs first (John 3:16; I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11; I John 5:13).

If you just believed or trusted in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life, you can tell Jesus this through prayer. But praying this prayer is not what gets you to heaven. Only trusting in Christ alone gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son.

“Dear Jesus, I come to you now as a sinner who cannot save himself. I believe You died in my place on the cross for all of my sins and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion) to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have and the future home I will have in heaven. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

When you believed in Jesus, He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He forgave all of your sins (Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14) and placed you in His family forever (John 1:12; 6:37). Christ’s Spirit now lives inside of you to comfort, guide, and teach you how to follow Jesus as you read and apply the Bible (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, please visit www.seeyouinheaven.life or www.knowing-Jesus.com or www.evantell.org.

If you found this article to be helpful, please share it with those you want to see in heaven. Thank you and may Jesus reveal more of Himself to you as you learn to follow Him.

*Note: The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com.

What happens to your spirit and soul at death?

SPIRIT, SOUL, AND BODY

The Bible clearly tells us that every human being is comprised of three parts: spirit, soul, and body. The apostle Paul is writing to Christians, and he says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:23). The spirit and soul are the immaterial or invisible part of human beings and the body, of course, is the physical part of us. God wants to “sanctify” or transform our spirit, soul, and body into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18). But this transformation starts with our “spirit,” not our soul or body. Our spirit is the inner most part of us.

THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN SPIRIT AND SOUL

The Bible makes a distinction between the spirit and soul. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit…” (Hebrew 4:12). What is the difference between our spirit and soul? Our spirit is the inner most part of our being. This is why the spirit is mentioned first in I Thessalonians 5:23. Our spirit connects with God Who is Spirit (John 4:23-24; cf. Romans 1:9; I Corinthians 6:17, 20; 14:14-15; Galatians 6:18; Ephesians 4:23; 2 Timothy 4:22; Philemon 1:25). God, who is Spirit, transforms our spirit. Our spirit is what animates our physical body. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). When our spirit leaves our physical body, our body dies (cf. Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:45; John 19:30; Acts 7:59-60). Our soul also departs from our body at death (cf. Genesis 35:18; I Kings 17:21-22).

According to I Thessalonians 5:23, our spirit has been implanted in our soul, and our soul has been implanted in our physical body. The Greek word for “soul” in the New Testament is psychḗ which is where we get our English words “psyche” or “psychology.” It has to do with a person’s distinct identity or life. The soul is actually one’s self. Your soul is conscious of self. As God’s Spirit communicates with our spirit, our spirit then communicates what God’s Spirit said to our soul or self. Then our soul communicates this to our body. Then our body communicates this to our environment and the people who are aound us.

WHERE DO OUR SPIRIT AND SOUL GO AFTER DEATH?

When physical death occurs, the spirit and soul are separated from the physical body. According to the Old Testament the spirit of believers returns to the Lord at death. “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The physical body is buried in the ground (“the dust will return to the earth”), but the spirit of the believer “returns to God who gave it.” When Rachel died, the Bible says, “And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni” (Genesis 35:18). Based on other verses in the Bible, the departing of Rachel’s soul implies her soul (and spirit) departed to go be with the Lord in Abraham’s bosom or Paradise (Luke 16:22; 23:43).

Just before Jesus died on the cross, He cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Then “He breathed His last’ (Luke 23:46). John writes, “bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). Jesus’ spirit went to His Father in heaven when He died, and so does a believer’s spirit after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For example, while he was being stoned in Acts 7, Stephen prayed, “ ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Now Saul was consenting to his death.” (Acts 7:59-8:1). It is clear that when Stephen died, he understood that his spirit would go to be with the Lord.

When the Bible says Stephen “fell asleep” (Acts 7:60), it is referring to Stephen’s “death” (Acts 8:1). The words “asleep” or “sleep” are common metaphors for death of the physical body in distinction from the spirit or soul (Acts 7:60; cf. John 11:11-13; I Thess. 4:14-16). John 11:11-13 makes this very clear. Jesus tells His disciples, “ ‘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.” John 11:11-13. Death is not a state of unconsciousness as some teach. A dead body appears to look like a person who is sleeping.

Similarly, in I Thessalonians 4:13-17, the apostle Paul writes about the sudden removal of the church from the earth called the Rapture which could take place at any moment. 13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 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 by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 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. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (I Thessalonians 4:13-17). When Paul speaks of “those who have fallen asleep” he is referring to Christians who have died. Their physical bodies are asleep in the grave (cf. John 11:11-14), but their spirit and soul have gone to be with the Lord Jesus in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21-24; Revelation 6:9; 20:4; cf. Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 19:30).  

This is why Paul writes, 6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:6-8. Paul refers to death as his spirit and soul being “absent from the body” and “present with the Lord” in heaven (5:8). There is no intermediate existence. We are either “at home in the body” (5:6) or “present with the Lord” (5:8). There is no mention of some other kind of existence in between being at home in the body or present with the Lord.

In Philippians 1:21-24, Paul writes, 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” For Paul, death “is gain” because he (his spirit/soul) will “depart and be with Christ, which is far better” than living “on in the flesh.” Where is Christ right now? He is in heaven at the right hand of God the Father (Acts 5:31; 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrew 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; I Peter 3:22).

We also see that the souls of believers also go to heaven. “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.” Revelation 6:9. When Jesus opened the fifth seal judgment, the apostle John says he saw under the altar in heaven the “souls” of believers who were martyred during the Tribulation on earth.

At the beginning of the Millennium, the thousand year reign of Christ on earth, the apostle John writes, “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Revelation 20:4. The “souls” of martyred believers from the Tribulation are seen reigning with Christ during His Millennial Kingdom on earth.

A DETAILED ACCOUNT OF WHAT HAPPENS AFTER DEATH IN LUKE 16:19-31

We are going to look at a factual account that Jesus shared in Luke 16:19-31 to discover more details about what happens when we die. Some people believe this is a parable – (a made up story to illustrate spiritual truth) because they do not like what it teaches about the afterlife. But here are some compelling reasons why Luke 16:19-31 is not a parable:

1. It would be the only parable in the Bible that describes certain things that are outside of the realm of human experience. All the other parables talk about things that we are familiar with such as birds, seed, fields, pearls, wheat, barns, leaven, fish, etc. (see Matthew 13, etc.). This passage is different because it talks about what happens to two men after death, and this is a realm where none of us have had any personal experience. A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly or spiritual significance, but Luke 16 transcends the realm of the earthly.

2. It would be the only parable in the Bible that uses a proper name (“Lazarus”).

3. It would be the only parable in the Bible that makes mention repeatedly of an historical person – “Abraham.” Moreover, this historical person actually carries on a dialogue with the rich man! Indeed, mention is also made in this parable of “Moses,” another historical character.  What other parable speaks of real, historical persons? 

4. It would be the only parable in the Bible that describes the places where the dead go (“Torments in Hades,” and “Abraham’s bosom”).

5. It would be the only parable in the Bible that makes mention of angels. Compare Matthew 13 verses 24-30, 36-43, 47-49 where angels are mentioned in the explanation of the parable but not in the parable itself.

6. If Hades is not really a place of torment then this would be the only parable in the Bible where the Lord Jesus taught error instead of truth. This is not possible because Jesus is “the truth” (John 14:6). This passage is factual, not fictional.

Before we go any further, I want to clarify one more thing. This passage is not talking about the final destination of people. The place of unbelievers we will consider in Luke 16 is not the Lake of Fire (Revelation 14:10; 20:10-15) or the everlasting fire of Hell (Matthew 10:28; 23:33; 25:41, 46b; Mark 9:42-48; Luke 12:5; Revelation 14:10; 20:10, 15). The Lake of Fire or Hell is where people who don’t believe in Jesus will go for eternity after the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:10-15). The place in Luke 16:22b-26 is “Torments in Hades” where lost people go when they die. It is a temporary holding area of torment and suffering for the Old and New Testament unbeliever. But it is not purgatory.

Before Jesus died on the cross, believers in Jesus went to a place called “Paradise” or “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22; 23:43) and unbelievers went to a place called “Torments” in Hades (Luke 16:23). When Jesus died on the cross, He released the souls and spirits of believers in Abraham’s bosom (Ephesians 4:8-10) to go to God’s home in the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4; cf. John 14:2).

Prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, Old Testament believers could not go to the third heaven because Jesus’ blood had not removed all their sins yet. The Old Testament sacrifices had only covered their sins, not removed their sins (cf. Hebrews 9:9-10; 10:1-4, 11). Only the blood of the Lamb of God could take away their sins forever (John 1:29; Ephesians 1:7; 2:13-18; Hebrews 9:11-15; 10:10-22). After Christ’s death and resurrection, when a believer in Jesus dies, his spirit and soul go to the third heaven to be with Jesus while his physical body sleeps in the grave (cf. John 11:11-13; I Thessalonians 4:14, 16). 

But when an unbeliever dies, his or her spirit and soul go straight to Torments in Hades where they stay until they are called out to face God at the Great White Throne Judgment where they are judged according to their works to determine their degree of punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-14). Then they will be confined to the Lake of Fire or Hell forever with Satan and his fallen angels (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10, 15)!

Back to Luke 16. There are two main characters in Jesus’ factual account. The “rich man” (Luke 16:19) who represents unbelievers and a poor man named “Lazarus” (Luke 16:20) who represents believers. Let’s look at what happened to them when they died.

How was Lazarus greeted at death? Even though Lazarus had been alone much of his life, he “was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” or “Paradise” (Luke 16:22a; cf. Luke 23:43) where he would enjoy fellowship with Old Testament believers such as “Abraham” who were there. So God’s angels received Lazarus and took him to dwell in Paradise with the Lord. Lazarus did not die alone. He died in the presence of God. Lazarus’ spirit and soul did not linger on earth for a period of days or weeks. His spirit and soul were taken immediately to Paradise to be with the Lord. There was no unconscious sleep as some religious groups teach.

Lazarus’ experience after death was the opposite of his experience on earth. In Abraham’s bosom or Paradise, Lazarus experienced intimate fellowship with Abraham – “Lazarus” was “in his bosom” or close to him (Luke 16:23). But on earth Lazarus was all alone (Luke 16:20-21). On earth he received “evil things,” but in Paradise he was “comforted” (Luke 16:25b).

How was the rich man greeted at death? “The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:22b-23). The rich man was alone at death – no family or friends. When he died, his spirit and soul went immediately to “torments in Hades.” Let’s look at his experiences there after death.

1. He experiences sensation. “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:23). The rich man is not unconscious. He  can see (“he lifted up his eyes and saw…”), he can hear as shown in his conversation with Abraham, he can speak (“he cried and said…” – Luke 16:24a), he can feel (“I am tormented in this flame” – Luke 16:24b). The rich man still has desires, he still has needs, and he still has the ability to think and express himself. He was able to see into Paradise and realize what he was missing out on. Did he feel pain? “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame’” (Luke 16:24). Yes, he begged for relief from the torment of the flames. People will not party in torments, they will cry out for relief from their pain. Even though his body is in the grave in which it was buried, this man has some sort of a spiritual form that allows him to continue to live in this place called torments in Hades.

2. He experiences separation. We also notice that the rich man found himself separated from Lazarus and Abraham by a great gulf. Abraham said to the rich man, “between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us” (Luke 16:26). The Bible says that this gulf is “fixed.” That is, it will never be taken away. This separation from God and unbelievers is eternal! The rich man found himself separated from everything that Lazarus enjoyed. Could he cross over this gulf or could anyone come visit him? No. Once you go to torments, no one can get you out. There is no second chance after death. The Bible makes this clear. “Everyone must die once, and after that be judged by God.” Hebrews 9:27 [GNT]. So there is no halfway house between heaven and torments. There is no intermediate state. There is no limbo. There is no purgatory. Purgatory is a theory that was created during the Middle Ages. It is not found in the Bible.

In torments you will be all alone without family, friends, and worst of all – you will be without  God. Torments or Hell is total separation from God. If you go through all of life saying, “I don’t want God in my life” He will give you that wish forever in torments and the Lake of Fire. Second Thessalonians 1:9 says, “These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” Torments and the Lake of Fire are the exact opposite of everything God is.

Since “God is love” (I John 4:8b), without God, Hell is a terrifying and lonely place. You are all alone! So there’s no love there. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment” (I John 4:18). The opposite of love is fear. You know what it means to live without love in your life? It means you are scared to death all the time. That is hell. It means you are lonely all the time. That is hell. One of the big myths about hell is that in hell it is just going to be a big party for all the people who like to party. Friends, no one will see anybody else in hell. It is total separation from God and everybody else. There are no relationships in hell. There are no friends in hell. It is total aloneness.

Since God is light (I John 1:5), hell is complete darkness (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 1:13). Since God is good (Psalm 34:8), there will be absolutely nothing good in hell. Since God is eternal life (John 1:1, 4, 14; 14:6; I John 5:20), that means hell will be eternal death. Since God is gracious (Psalm 145:8), that means there is no place for grace in Hell.

3. He experiences intense suffering. The noun torments (basanos) means to be tested or examined by means of torture (Luke 16:23). The rich man is in a place of extreme pain and torture. The verb tormented” (odynáō) is in the present tense (Luke 16:24) and means to cause intense pain. This teaches us that the intense pain and suffering in this dreadful place do not cease. People do not simply burn up and no longer exist as some false religions teach, but they endure this intense pain and torture forever. The rich man wants to die or at least lose consciousness, but he cannot.

Of all the agonies of torments, perhaps the worst one of all is described in verse 25. “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented’ ” (Luke 16:25).  The word “remember” tells us that people in torments have the capacity to remember the events of this life and that they are forced to deal with those memories eternally. They will remember every gospel message they heard and rejected. They will remember how God manifested Himself in thousands of ways to draw them to Himself. They will remember and they will know that they have no one to blame for their situation but themselves!

If you have never trusted in Jesus as your Savior to give you everlasting life, I wonder what you will remember when you arrive in torments? Will you remember this message? Will you remember all the Christians who witnessed to you and prayed for you? Will you remember how you wasted your life on temporary things and condemned your own spirit and soul to the torment and torture of hell forever? Will you remember how good and gracious God was to you and how you rejected His great love for you?

The rich man said to Abraham, I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment (Luke 16:27-28). The rich man wanted Lazarus to be sent back to his family to warn them of the terrible suffering of torments. Nobody in torments wants their family and friends to join them there because the suffering and pain is so great. In fact, those in torments want to do all they can to warn those they care about not to join them there. Yet there is nothing they can do about it! This, too, is a form of suffering in torments.

4. He experiences stubbornness. Amazingly torments is filled with stubborn people. Abraham said to the rich man regarding his family, 29 They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:29-31).  Jesus us is teaching us that people have all the truth they need in the Bible (“Moses and the prophets”) to avoid going to hell, so sending someone back from the dead would be useless. Even in torments, the rich man still hasn’t figured out what it takes to keep a man from that awful place. He stubbornly begs for the salvation of his family, and won’t hear the truth that they must hear God’s word and “repent” which means to change their mind about whatever is keeping them from trusting in Christ, and then trust in Him to take them to heaven. Even in torments, the rich man is totally unchanged. There is still no willingness to do things necessary to leave – the rich man does not even ask to get out. These verses tell us that even when people find themselves in the pain and suffering of hell, they are still lost and they still have no room for God in their lives.

SPIRIT AND SOUL REUNITED WITH THE BODY AT THE RESURRECTION

Old and New Testament unbelievers’ souls and spirits will re-enter their resurrected bodies at the end of the thousand years reign of Christ on earth to stand before the Great White Throne Judgment. 11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:11-15. 

The apostle John “saw the [unbelieving] dead [of all ages], small and great, standing before God [in their resurrection bodies which are eternal], and the books [containing all their works] were opened” so they could be “judged according to their works” to determined their degree of punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12; cf. Matt. 11:20-24; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47). Those like the Devil, the Beast of Revelation, the False Prophet, and other false teachers will no doubt experience greater punishment for misleading people away from God (Revelation 20:10; cf. Matthew 11:20-24; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47; 2 Peter 2:1-17; Jude 1:2-13).

“The sea … Death and Hades [temporary holding place of the spirits and souls of dead unbelievers until the great white throne judgment] delivered up [resurrected] from the dead [unbelievers] who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works” before the great white throne (20:13). Notice that whether their bodies are decomposed in the sea or in the ground or cremated or vaporized, God will raise up their bodies to stand before His Great White Throne.

As a result of this Great White Throne judgment, all the unsaved dead [“Death”] and “Hades” will be “cast into the lake of fire” which “is the second death” (20:14). Everyone who dies without believing in Christ alone for everlasting life is “not found written in the Book of Life” and will “be cast into the lake of fire” where they will be tormented forever along with Satan and all his fallen angels (Revelation 20:15; cf. 20:10; Matthew 25:41).

The resurrection of Old and New Testament believers in Jesus Christ will take place at different times. The first time, will be at the Rapture or sudden removal of the church at any moment when the spirits and souls of Christians who have died will return with Jesus from heaven in the air to re-enter their resurrected bodies permanently. The apostle Paul writes, 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 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 by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 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.” I Thessalonians 4:14-16.

Christians who are alive at the time of the Rapture will receive their glorified bodies as the are reunited in the air with Jesus. “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” I Thessalonians 4:17. Paul alludes to this in I Corinthians 15. 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.” I Corinthians 15:52-53. The phrase “we will be changed” refers to living Christians at the time of the Rapture who will receive their glorified bodies.

The next time when believers’ spirits and souls are reunited with their resurrection bodies will be at the beginning of the Millennium, the thousand year reign of Christ on the earth after the Tribulation period (Revelation 20:4-6). At the beginning of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom, all who possess eternal life through faith in Christ are all resurrected by this time including Old Testament believers (Daniel 11:45-12:2) and Tribulation believers who died (Revelation 20:4). In Matthew 25:31-46 we are told that when Christ returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation period, He will judge the Gentile nations. In this judgment, those believers who survived the Tribulation, will enter the Christ’s Millennial Kingdom in their mortal bodies (Matthew 25:34-40, 46b).

Conclusion:

Where will you live after you die? The Bible tells us that all people will live forever after death in one of two places: either in Heaven with Jesus Christ (John 14:2-3) or in the Lake of Fire (Hell) separated from Jesus forever (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:15). Do you want to live forever in Heaven with Jesus? If so, you need to realize the Bible says you have a problem called sin (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is death or separation from God forever in a terrible place of agonizing suffering called the Lake of Fire or Hell (Matthew 10:28; 23:33; 25:41, 46b; Mark 9:42-48; Luke 12:5; Revelation 14:10; 20:10, 15).

Please understand that God loves you and He does not want you to suffer forever in Hell (John 3:16; I Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9). This is why He sent His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to die in your place on a cross and rise from the dead, proving that He is God (Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:3-8). Jesus is alive today and He offers you everlasting life as a free gift (Romans 6:23b). Christ invites you to “believe in Him” to “have everlasting life” both now and forever (John 3:16; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26).

Jesus promises that the moment you “hear” and “believe” His promise of everlasting life, you now have “everlasting life” and “shall not come into judgement” for your sins because you have “passed from death into life” (John 5:24). Christ also guarantees that when you die, your soul and spirit will go immediately to heaven to live with Him forever (John 14:2-3; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21, 23) and eventually be reunited with your resurrection body when Jesus returns for His Church (I Corinthians 15:35-57; I Thessalonians 4:14-17).

The person who never believes in Jesus “is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). God’s wrath abides on him now and forever. “He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). When the unbeliever dies, his soul and spirit go to torments in Hades (Luke 16:23) until he is resurrected to stand before the Great White Throne Judgment where he will be judged according to his works to determine the degree of his punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). And then he (spirit, soul, and body) will be confined to the Lake of Fire where he will be tormented forever (Matthew 10:28; 23:33; 25:41, 46b; Mark 9:42-48; Luke 12:5; Revelation 14:10; 20:10, 15).