Your situation in death depends on the choices you’ve made in life.
All religions agree on one thing. What happens when you die depends on the choices you make when you’re living.
Christianity is no different. It teaches that the purpose of being alive is for a man or a woman to decide whether or not they want to have a relationship with the Creator that made them. That Creator could easily have ‘hard wired’ human beings to automatically love and serve Him but that would mean nothing. He wants us to choose to do it – to love Him.
If we choose against that relationship, we choose to be where God isn’t when we die – the place the Bible calls ‘Hell’ – simply a place where ‘God is not’ – where there’s no restraining force of peace and love. If we look at times in the history of humanity when such a restraining force seems not to have been present – the Holocaust for example – then we can get just a taste of what ‘Hell’ might be like.
In contrast, ‘Heaven’ is, quite simply, ‘where God is’. We don’t know exactly what it will be like but we do know that it’s where our Creator created us to be – to live – once we’ve decided that we want to live in relationship with Him.
- The Bible teaches very clearly that there is no ‘third option’: our destiny is one place or the other.
- It also teaches that our decision for God or against Him must be made while we are living
- It teaches that not making a decision either way is the same as choosing against Him
- And it teaches that whatever good works we do in our lives are as ‘filthy rags’ in God’s sight if they are not supported by a decision to base your life on Him and believe in Christ
There are of course many in the world who never get – or have had – a chance to hear this message – babies dying in childbirth, people in third world nations and so on. Fortunately, we serve an all-knowing God who knows the end from the beginning, knows their hearts, knows the choices they would have made if they’d be able to and judges accordingly.
So assume you’ve made a decision for Christ. What would happen when you die?
The best way for us to understand what happens in death is through the metaphor the Biblical scriptures use – that of sleep. When referring to the biological death of a believer, the Bible always uses this term – ‘Lazarus is asleep’, ‘the little girl is asleep’, Paul saying ‘do not be overly grieved for those who are asleep’ – and so on.
When you go to sleep, your consciousness enters into a different sphere or realm. You’re unconscious of events of time and space – so for example, when you sleep you can dream of future things that have yet to transpire and you can dream of past events as if they’re happening again. Past, present and future are all the same when you dream. So too, when we enter eternity, past present and future will be all the same.
There are two Greek words for ‘time’ in the Bible’s New Testament. ‘Chronos’ and ‘Kairos’. ‘Chronos’ is where we get the word for Chronology – an order of events. ‘Kairos’ is like a clock or a watch. Eternity will have no ‘Kairos’ – it’s not a clock that keeps going: there’ll be no clocks, watches or time at all. But there will be ‘Chronos’, there will be an order of events. It’s the same when you dream, there’s an order of events, but they take place outside of time. Well that’s what happens when you die having made a decision for faith in Christ.
By definition, when you go to sleep, it’s a temporary thing – at some point, you wake up again. At this point, having made a decision for Christ, you will be with Christ. He’ll come for you, just as in the book of Acts in the New Testament, the martyr Stephen saw ‘the Lord’ coming for him to take him. All this time, we will not be conscious of events taking place in time or space but we will certainly be conscious of events taking place in Eternity.
And unbelieving family and friends? Unfortunately, it’s absolutely clear in the Bible that only those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour will be in Heaven. That leaves the question of whether you could be really happy being there but knowing that some or all of your loved ones can’t be with you. This issue is addressed in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. This tells us that the memory of unbelievers will be ‘removed’ – obliterated. In other words there will be no recollection of them. It will be to us as if they never existed. There will be no more pain: the Lord will take away every tear.