What happens at death?

I have an email account associated with my Contradict Movement url.  It’s andy@contradictmovement.org. 

I have only received one email since I’ve had this address.  It read:

I saw a bumper sticker on my way home from work… checked out your video, and you mentioned something that piqued my interest… You said that christians believe that after they die they will be raised when Jesus returns… most christians i’ve talked to believe that when they die they don’t *really* die, but instead go to heaven (either the soul, or the entire body)… thoughts?



The following was my response to Dave:

I do have some thoughts on your question. 

I believe that at death the soul will go to heaven or hell.  At Christ’s return, the soul is reunited with our raised bodies, and then the soul together with the body goes to heaven or hell.  Everyone alive at the time of Christ’s return goes bodily with soul to heaven or hell. 

Passages in the Bible to support this view are Daniel 12:1-3 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  The Daniel passage makes it clear that the dead will ALL be raised then judged.  That’s how Jesus makes it sound in Matthew 24-25 also.  The 1 Thessalonians passage is harder to interpret this way, because Paul talks about those who are alive at Christ’s return not preceding those who have already died.  They expected Christ to return at any moment, as I think we should also expect, so with that in mind, being the first generation after Christ they were concerned that those who died before Christ’s return would miss the boat all together.  That’s simply not the case.  In fact, they are with Christ now in spirit, but we will all go with Christ in body together. 

I think Jesus telling the thief on the cross that he’d be with him TODAY in paradise points to the fact that the spirit goes to heaven at death.  Paul’s letters also indicate that he thought that when he died he’d be with Christ right then!  He struggled being in prison and persecuted – he knew that if just died he’d be with God, but that if he kept living, he could share the Gospel more and more to bring others to salvation, which was worth it despite his momentary pain.  Also, in Revelation there is indication of souls who had already departed being in heaven. 

There is a view that soul’s sleep until the return of Christ, at which point they are awoken and their bodies are raised.  This view never has the soul leaving the body.  However, Scripture describes death as when the soul is separated from the body (I need to look up this passage), which adds more weight to the teaching that the soul doesn’t sleep but goes to heaven or hell.  1 Peter 3 has a verse that references the spirits in prison, which indicates that souls are in hell NOW. 

I think all Christians should believe in a bodily resurrection of ALL people before a final judgment though, regardless of their view on the spirit’s existence from death to Christ’s return!  Christ’s resurrection points to our resurrection (Romans 5 and 1 Cor. 15 to name a few). 

I hope that helps. 

Peace in Christ,
Andy Wrasman

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Andy Wrasman

I live in Lilburn, GA, with my wife and two young kids. I am a pastor at Oak Road Lutheran Church. I've written a book called, Contradict - They Can't All Be True. Be sure to visit my other website: https://www.contradictmovement.org.

One thought on “What happens at death?

  1. Tough question because the answer can either be shallow and theological almost like when we debate eschatology. Or the answer can be convicting toward salvation. Again similar to eschatology in that at the end of my eschatological discussions everyone agrees that we all need to always be ready and have oil in our lamps. I think you answered well.

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