What Happens After You Die?


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This morning I decided to do a bit of biblical research on what happens to your soul and physical body after you die.  In my search, I came across a few verses that seemed to contradict one of my previously held beliefs.  While reading John 5:25-28 and Colassians 3:4 it seemed as though there might be a waiting period where the dead are unconscious before they ascend into heaven.  I noticed the muscles in my stomach were tensing up a bit.  I found myself holding my breath as I contemplated the exact meaning of this verse. 

When my mind became aware of the negative reaction building up inside my body, I stopped all my contemplating for a moment to analyze what was going on.  I tucked my highlighter into the fold of my Bible and placed it on the arm of my recliner.  I cracked my neck in that awful way that I do by leaning my head first to the left and then quickly to the right.  I then relaxed my shoulders, slowly closed my eyes and asked God to reveal to me where the source of this anxiety was coming from.

See, I had always figured that when you die, you have only 2 options:  You go directly to heaven. Do not pass go.  Do not collect 200 hundred dollars.  Or, you go straight to hell and therefore obviously you don’t collect a darn thing.  But see, after reading this verse, it became abundantly clear that my previously held belief might be incorrect. My brain was letting my body know that we might be wrong, and my body was letting my brain know that we don’t like to be wrongActually, sometimes we’ll even fight to be right.  Even if that means denying the Truth when it’s revealed to us. 

One of the things that always brought me comfort after my dad passed away was the image of him in heaven.  I pictured him standing in front of God’s throne, smiling down on me with approval.  Now, if I find out that my father did not go directly to heaven, but instead, he’s patiently waitin’ in the dirt for the second coming, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.  It makes it more difficult for me when dealing with his death knowing he’s not “in a better place.”  See because if that’s true and the bodies are in an unconscious waiting period; he’s not in a better place.  He’s in the dirt.  And that’s not a good place at all, unless of course you’re an earthworm.

So, I haven’t come to a conclusion on what I think happens to your soul after you die but I have decided on something else today.  And this might be even more important than the state of the dead.   I decided that I am going to try my best to allow the Holy Spirit to lead me into all truth. I decided that I shouldn’t adopt a belief just because many other people think it’s true or because I can’t stand the idea of being wrong.  

I decided that God probably has a better plan for me and my dad than I do, therefore, I shouldn’t hold a death grip (pun intended) on what I want to be true.  I can guarantee one thing: If my dad isn’t skipping around streets of gold in heaven, or causing the thunder by bowling with the angels, it’s probably because God has something richer in mind.  So if in my search I see that God’s truth somehow contradicts my own, I need to learn to embrace being wrong, and allow God to be right. 






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  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett June 23, 2010

    jessica, good call on allowing the Spirit to lead you into all truth—and in trusting the word of God to be just that.

    and just something to think about:  as far as your studies on the afterlife… i would challenge you to look further into the entire premise on which you seem to be basing your thoughts.  that is,  that the soul and the body are (or even can be) separated.

    i would argue paul’s words in 1 corinthians 15 at (the very) least call this into question.  i’d also argue much of our “christian” thought on the subject finds its beginnings in pagan mythology and the like.

    i’m enjoying your blog.  thanks for writing, and especially for your honesty with the word.

  • Jessica

    Jessica June 24, 2010

    James, I am SO glad you commented on this post as I’m really struggling to understand some things and would LOVE your input.

    See, in 1 Corinth 15, it definitely says that the dead are resurrected (to which I totally agree) but my question is, when?  In 1 Corinth 15:23 it says, “But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”

    Does that not allude to the fact that the order for resurrection is Christ first, then the dead at the second coming, meaning they’re not raised until then?  If not, what is “at his coming” referring to?

  • Scott

    Scott June 24, 2010

    I would recommend reading all of 2 Corinthians, especially chapter 5.

    2 Corinthians 5:6-8 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst 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, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

    Consider also Luke 16 with the rich man and Lazarus, that immediately upon death, the rich man opened his eyes in hell. There is no delay, or “soul sleep” as is taught by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  • Jessica

    Jessica June 24, 2010

    Hi Scott,

    Thank you SO much for your comment.  I am really trying to get to the bottom of some of these things with Scripture so I appreciate the references and will certainly check them out!  I’ll let you know what I come up with.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett June 24, 2010

    jess (can i call you that),

    i don’t know that i have any answers.  i just know that the subject is a whole lot more complicated than most of us christians think.  we’ve been told things since we were kids—and a lot of them don’t come primarily from the bible (but mythology).  i haven’t done just a ton of study on eschatology, just what we covered in theology classes in school.  so i’m definitely no expert.  i do, however, try to look at things as objectively as possible as i let the bible speak.

    one of the problems with finding a theology of our resurrection is that it can’t be fully informed unless we understand the book of revelation well.  i’m not sure that i do; but i know it brings up a lot of issues.

    for instance:

    -rev 4 - 7, john enters the throne room of God, and it’s already full.  there’s some debate over whether these are christian martyrs only, or all who have died in the Lord.  hebrews might support it being all those who have been made perfect by faith, as we are “surrounded” by them.  i think there is definitely a sense that when we worship, we are doing so together with all these who are already present in God’s throne room.  but i can’t get the idea that these are ALL who died in faith to mesh with paul’s views of the end times.

    - rev 20, then you’ve got all the thousand years talk to decide on.  these martyrs (and possibly others?) reign with God and were part of a “first resurrection.”  judgment day would then be the second resurrection (who is raised on that day would depend on your reading of so many texts—i’m most likely to say everyone except the martyrs, but i say so very unsurely).

    (getting long, starting a new post to make conversation easier)

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett June 24, 2010

    this list is by no means a complete one, but here are a few other texts that we have to look at:

    1 thes 3-4, Jesus will come “with all his holy ones” at the resurrection.  then the dead will rise first.  then those who are alive will go up into the air to meet God.  [i think i take the “holy ones,” also referred to as “those who have fallen asleep,” to be the martyrs (maybe?).  then the dead rise from their graves.  then the living.  so three groups.]

    phil 3, Jesus will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body.  this is similar language to 1 cor 15.  paul seems to stress that our physical bodies will actually be transformed into spiritual bodies.  he’s the reason i have trouble with this idea of a soul leaving one body and entering into another.  that thought (i think) is never found in scripture.  but he goes to great measures to talk of a transformation.  i see this transformation as finishing the transformation that has already begun in us.

    whatever way we look at it all, i think we know that no one will experience the kingdom in its fullness until the second resurrection.  it seems those in the throne room are in a perpetual state of worship, but are not experiencing yet the kingdom in full.  (my opinion).  that would make that time some kind of waiting period.  either in the throne room or in the ground, dead.

    also opinion, i might read revelation 19 and 20 to say that those who are horrible persecutors of God’s people go straight to some type of hell waiting area, if not hell itself?  and that would mesh well with those who had been martyred going to some type of throne room to await the second coming of Christ.

    2 cor 5, in my opinion doesn’t offer a great deal of insight to our resurrection, because it could mesh well with several readings.  we know paul believes our bodies will be transformed (not our souls leave them and go to a new body), so we remove that possible reading.  i think his main point there is simply to say that we shouldn’t be too comfortable living on this earth and in these bodies, because neither are where we truly belong or how we will truly experience life.  even if you took (which i don’t) “would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” to mean that we’d prefer our souls to leave a body and go be in heaven, paul never suggests such is possible.  actually verse 1-5 would seem to say otherwise—that there will be a more permanent housing for our bodies, a better change of clothes.  and the Spirit transforms us to make us ever more like that final body.

    anyway, i want to be clear that most of this is just my best reading of the passages and nothing more.  i don’t at all think i’ve got it all right.  the only thing i know i have right is that this is more complicated than people often admit.  if someone says they have it all figured out, they’re probably mistaken.

  • Scott

    Scott June 24, 2010

    New Testament reasons for believing that death is a departure of the spirit from the body to another conscious realm of existence.

    First, it is the body that dies (Jam. 2:26).

    Second, Paul testified that death is a journey. See 2 Corinthians 5:6-7; Philippians 1:23-24; and 2 Timothy 4:6.

    Third, Jesus’ promise to the thief on the cross shows that death is a departure. “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Lk. 23:43).  The Lord Jesus Christ promised the repentant thief that he would be with him in paradise that very day.

    Fourth, the story of Lazarus and the rich man shows that death is a departure. The proper names (Lazarus, Abraham) Jesus used in this story prove that He was speaking about an historical scene, rather than giving a parable. The Lord’s parables did not contain such details. Yet even if it this was a parable, it would still teach literal truth. “... the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments…” (Lk. 16:22-23). This passage teaches that death is a journey of the soul either to Heaven or to Hell.

    I copied and pasted this from wayoflife.org because I do not have much time before I have to leave for work. Jessica, look in the OT as well. In the NT, note how the word “sleep” is used (and who it refers to), and how the word (and its variants) “dead” is used.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett June 24, 2010

    i hesitate to comment, scott, because you seem very sure of your position, and i don’t really want a debate.  i’m merely suggesting, though, that it’s not as cut and dry as you, or wayoflife.org, are making it.

    the verses they’ve listed can indeed lend themselves to an interpretation of the removal of a soul that immediately goes to heaven or hell.  but there are other verses that cannot—nor was that the intention of any of these verses.  we’re using a writer’s words to explain something he wasn’t teaching.  it’s just not as simple as it seems we want to make it.

    take james 2:26 for instance:  faith without works is dead, just like a body without the spirit.  my first problem is that this isn’t a passage in which james is teaching on death, resurrection, judgment, or end times.  he’s teaching on faith and works—it’s an analogy only.  secondly, though, there’s no mention of the ability to have (or the certainty of) separation of a body and a soul.  actually, my reading of james tells me that faith without works is not indeed faith, rather it is belief only.  if the analogy is perfect (though most aren’t in biblical literature), then a body without a spirit is indeed not a body.  in addition to all that, even if this verse was intended to teach about the separation of soul and body, it says nothing about how or when that would happen.

    another example:  you said of the story of the rich man and lazarus, “This passage teaches that death is a journey of the soul either to Heaven or to Hell.”  this passage is also not nearly as cut and dry as wayoflife would make it.  but the one thing we should all agree on is that this passage does not in any way exist in order to teach “that death is a journey of the soul to heaven or hell.”  if that were Jesus’ intention, he went about it in the most foolish of ways.  no matter what the intended meaning of the text*—whether parable or true story—this cannot be what Jesus is teaching.

    [*personally, i think the story is a parable (that happens to be different than other parables).  i think the reason proper names are given is because lazarus means something like “one who God helps” and abraham is the father of the jewish nation.  i think (don’t know, but think) we have a parable about the jewish rejection of Jesus, while God helps the gentiles into his kingdom, which also contains a prophesy of Jesus rising from the dead and the jews still not being convinced.]

    so most of my difficulties with calling it easy to understand is that it requires the use of verses that are not indeed teaching on the resurrection or judgment.  to my knowledge (limited), the clearest teaching that is actually on such subject is 2 cor 15—and it speaks of the transformation of our bodies from flesh and physical to spiritual and glorified.

    none of the texts given above are teaching on the resurrection body or the judgment.  so i would assume they carry less weight on the subject.  if we don’t read scripture this way, then 1 cor 15 also teaches we can be baptized for dead people and ephesians 5 teaches it’s wrong to have instruments in worship.

    all of this i say, though, not because i’m sure of my stance (i don’t really have much of one)—but because i think it causes a lot of trouble when one group claims to have a solid grasp of the text’s meaning, and even suggests that it’s plain and simple.  especially when they may be using passages that aren’t and weren’t intended to teach on that given subject.  i grew up in a tradition that did this often, and i think it comes across as both arrogant and irresponsible with scripture.  scott, i have no problems with your interpretations—they may be correct.  it’s the certainty with which you state them that disturbs me.  and if i’ve misunderstood you, i apologize in advance.

  • Jessica

    Jessica June 24, 2010

    Thank you both for your thoughtfulness on the subject. 

    The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man seemed at first to be the most convincing that we go to straight to heaven or hell, however, I think with further study, it is actually a parable because if it is literal, there are a couple of hiccups here that I can’t seem to explain.  For instance,  it implies that Heaven and hell would be within a physical distance of one another allowing the two souls to speak to each other. Which would also imply that people in heaven are able to view their loved ones (who died not believing in Christ) in Hell while they’re being tormented.  (I shutter at the thought!) I also have to wonder why Abraham is referenced here at all? Why is the beggar calling out for him in Hades to “save him”, when did Abraham get such authority to help out people in hell?  Does this imply that we’re all going to be in heaven while people in Hell beg us for water?  Gosh I hope not!  And do we have fingers and tongues like these souls apparently do? Does that mean we get thirsty in heaven and hell? 

    I think 2 Corinthians 5 is talking about our physical bodies perishing and putting on transformed bodies but it doesnt’ say when that will happen.  But if we look in 1 corinthians 15:51-54, it indicates that it’ll happen when the last trumpet sounds which would actually indicate that the dead are “asleep”.

    51Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

    52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

    53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

    54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

    Jesus’ promise to the thief on the cross shows that death is a departure. “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Lk. 23:43). —The only flaw with this is that Jesus didn’t seem to ascend to heaven on that very day. (John 20:17)
    James (and yes, call me Jess) I think (and like you, I’m no expert) that the your reference to “all the holy ones” in Thessalonians 3 is referring to holy angels, and not people. I only say this because Jesus references his second coming with holy ngels many times in Rev. and also we see in Matthew 25:31 the reference to Christ coming back with the angels and he calls them “holy angels” in the KJV.

  • Scott

    Scott June 27, 2010

    The story Jesus Christ taught in Luke 16:19-31 is of an actual event, not a parable. Norman Geisler explains, “Since this story uses an actual name, most Bible teachers distinguish this from a parable and believe it refers to people who really lived. (746)” Dr. Shelton Smith expresses that “none of the rules that determine the character of parables is applicable to this passage (4).” Dr. McGee also believed that this event was from real life, because Jesus Christ used illustrations that drew from circumstances that were familiar to the people to whom He spoke. “He uses the name of one of the individuals involved in this parable; the Lord would not have given the name of someone who did not exist”, wrote McGee (320). Clearly, Jesus Christ ensures that all understand that this story of the certain rich man and Lazarus is a true event in history.
    When God finished His creation of heaven and earth on the sixth day, He looked and saw that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Therefore, Hell was not part of his original creation, and in fact, Matthew 25:41 states that Hell was designed for the devil and his angels. Further, it is seen in that verse, that Hell is now also reserved for those who have rejected Jesus Christ as Saviour, as a place of eternal torment. According to Luke 16:19-31, the following may be seen about Hell: the rich man appears to be alone in Hell and he feels pain and thirsts for water. Hell is a place of unquenchable flames (Mark 9:43-48) and everlasting torment. There is no yesterday in hell, there is no tomorrow –  it is always today, for eternity has no ending. The Scriptures demonstrate that the rich man is still able to feel even though he is not yet reunited with his resurrected body (Rev. 20:11-15). He thirsts and yet no amount of water will be able to quench his parched tongue.

  • Scott

    Scott June 27, 2010

    I am sorry that my writing with a degree of confidence bothers you, I only wish that you would hold me to the same standard that you choose to hold others.

    I do not claim special revelation or extra knowledge, only a love for the Bible and a desire to see others know God’s Word better. As much as I have learned about the Bible, I also know that I have a great deal more to learn and I realize that I will not ever fully understand it this side of Heaven.

  • Scott

    Scott June 27, 2010

    God is no respecter of persons (Job 34:19). He judges the rich and the poor the same way. God accepts only those who have called upon Him for repentance and have looked to His Son, in faith, for salvation. A person cannot buy his way into heaven, a person cannot perform good deeds to earn salvation, and they cannot plunk themselves into a baptismal fount and declare themselves saved.

    Two things are needed: repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). The denomination a person is in will not save them and being a part of a nation of people does not guarantee salvation. The rich man was a Jew (Abraham called the rich man, “Son”), but being a Jew does not guarantee salvation; just as being a Caucasian does not guarantee salvation, being an American does not guarantee salvation, and being a Baptist does not guarantee salvation. The rich man worked very hard to receive his rewards during his time on earth. Lazarus received few, if any, rewards while on earth.

    “There is a great gulf fixed…” Abraham essentially tells the certain rich man that the rich man is forever separated from God. A gulf is a wide gap, a chasm, complete separation, and not only that, Abraham states that the gulf is fixed. “A great gulf fixed” means that the gulf’s size will never change –  it is fixed into one spot, never to be moved. This gulf is eternal, just as the lost person’s separation from God is eternal. There will be no changing of God’s mind, because once a person is in hell, they will stay there. Once a person is in heaven, they will stay there with Jesus Christ.

    Lazarus could not and still cannot go over that gulf to dip his finger in water to attempt to relieve the rich man’s torment. Even if Lazarus wanted to try and help the rich man, he still could not cross the gulf. The rich man chose to be separated from God in his earthly life, and God continues to grant that desire in the afterlife. Abraham tells the rich man that no man can cross the gulf from hell to Abraham’s bosom and interestingly enough, the rich man does not ask for prayer, a bridge, or an indulgence.

  • Scott

    Scott June 27, 2010

    Dr John Rice wrote:
    Infidels love to say that they, weak, sinful men would
    not send their children to a place like Hell, and if God
    loves His children he would not condemn them to go
    to Hell. (19)

    What nonbelievers cannot understand is that they are not children of God until after they repent of their sin toward God and place their faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). Nor can they understand spiritual things until they are saved (1 Cor. 2:14). Each man born on earth is born a sinner (Ps. 51:5) and is a child of the devil (John 8:44), and nothing they do is righteous (Rom. 3:10) until they are saved by the one who makes men righteous: Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:19). As a child of the devil, each nonbeliever has a reserved seat waiting for them in Hell (Jude 13) and every unredeemed false teacher has a special place set aside for them (2 Pe. 2:17).

    Does God send good people to Hell? The answer to that question lies in the definition of “good.” According to the world’s definition, “good” is whatever is perceived as “good” by the majority or by those in power to enforce “good.” Thus “good” can mean different things in different societies and cultures and is dependent upon man’s determinations.

    Therefore, to the world, the answer is “Yes, God does send good people to Hell” because of their definition of what is “good”, however, the Biblical definition of “good” does not change and is always absolute. 

    In Matthew 19:16-22, a young man, who was a ruler (Luke 18:18), went before Jesus Christ and asked what he must do to have eternal life. The ruler called Christ, “Good Master”, an appellation often given to Jewish teachers during Christ’s time. The “good” refers to Christ’s ability to teach, rather than assigning any moral qualities to Him. Jesus Christ questions why the ruler calls Him “good”, because Christ knew that the ruler perceived Him as only a man, and not as the Messiah, and that being the case, the ruler should not have referred to Jesus Christ as “good”, because that is a title that should only be reserved for God (Matt. 19:17). Christ does not deny that He is good, but He clearly teaches that God alone is good, not man, because no man, in and of himself alone can do good (Rom. 3:12; 7:18). Because no man can do good on his own, only a man led by the Holy Spirit of God can do good (Rom. 8:3-8). A lost person does not have the spirit of God (Matt. 10:28; Ti. 3:5) and until they are saved, they can do nothing good according to God’s standards. For the believer, there is no condemnation to those who are in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:1). As long as they are walking in the Spirit, they will do good actions, even if those actions may seem contrary to the natural world (1 Cor. 1:25; 2:14).

    Does God send good people to Hell? The answer is “no” when the Biblical definition of “good” is correctly applied to the individual. What does condemn a person to Hell, is dependent upon their position in Jesus Christ. If they have confessed their sin to God, and truly asked Jesus Christ to be their Saviour, then they are forever His and will not be condemned to Hell (John 3:17-19). If the individual rejects Jesus Christ as Saviour and chooses to walk in darkness, then upon their physical death, they will suffer an eternity of torments in Hell (John 3:18-20). Man makes the choice: accept Jesus Christ and repent of their sin, or reject Jesus Christ, and God abides by that decision. If a person wishes to be separated from God during his life on earth, then God continues the choice after death. God’s goodness is not compromised and His justice and righteousness is upheld, when He casts those who have rejected Him into the lake of fire.

    Charles Spurgeon expressed:
    Some have staggered over the doctrine of eternal punishment, because they could not see how that could be
    consistent with God’s goodness. I have only one question to ask concerning that: Does God reveal it in the
    Scriptures? Then I believe it, and leave to him the vindication of his own consistency. If we do not see it to
    be so, it will be nonetheless so because we are blind. (99)

    Individuals that are condemned to eternal punishment are not there because of what they did or did not do on earth. They are cast into the outer darkness of unquenchable flames because of what they were: rebels against God’s mercy and they refused to partake of God’s benevolent grace. Therefore, their names are not written into the Book of Life, and they will be eternally separated from God.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett June 27, 2010


    i definitely understand the arguments for the story of the rich man and lazarus being a true story.  i just personally don’t think they are as good as the arguments for it being a parable—or at least an allegory of some sort, explaining the rejection of Christ by the jews, and his acceptance by the gentiles.  i think there are lots of reasons to view the story as a parable, but i don’t want to get into them—because that wasn’t the topic of conversation.

    because whatever position you take on that story, it is not (and cannot be) a story that teaches, as you said, that “death is a journey of the soul either to Heaven or to Hell.”  that cannot be a primary, secondary, or even tertiary teaching of the story.  you’re pulling a meaning out of a text that’s not teaching on the subject you’re learning.  you’re forcing a meaning onto a text that wasn’t intended. 

    there is no way someone could objectively look at the story of the rich man and lazarus and decide that Jesus’ point was to explain how death is a journey of a soul, separated from a physical body, going to either heaven or hell.  and you especially can’t get that meaning if you consider the context.  it is proof texting, and nothing more.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett June 27, 2010

    scott, you wrote:

    “I am sorry that my writing with a degree of confidence bothers you, I only wish that you would hold me to the same standard that you choose to hold others.”

    i’m not sure what you meant by this.  i apologize if i was rude.  i really didn’t intend to be so.  and i’m not sure what standard you mean (that i’ve held others to).  i think i generally hold most people teaching or explaining the bible to the same standards:

    - is the bible their authority?
    - are they interpreting scripture responsibly and objectively as possible?  do they allow texts to teach what they teach, without reading into them alternate and other meanings?
    - are they making scripture serve their own purposes?
    - do they consider context?
    - if they seek to gain from a text that which is not its intended purpose and meaning, are they honest enough to say such, and with great humility because they know they’re trying to pull something out of a text that wasn’t the author’s goal in writing or speaking?
    - do they allow passages that are on a given subject to weigh more heavily on that very subject?
    - etc.  i probably have a few more, but that’s what comes to mind.

    so, scott, my difficulty is that you’re claiming you know for sure that the soul separates from the body at death and goes immediately to heaven or hell— yet all the verses you’ve given (up to the point where i’ve read, which is the comment about me holding you to the same standard) are not actually teaching on that subject.  you’re forming a theology of eschatology from verses in which the judgment or afterlife are mere mentions and asides.  i don’t mind people being confident in what they believe (as long as they do so humbly) IF they’re using scripture responsibly.

    you mentioned in another stream of comments that it’s important to find a church teaching directly from the bible.  and i agree with you 100%.  but it’s even more important to find a group teaching directly from the bible—but not doing so only to prove their predetermined doctrines.  you’re forcing passages to address subjects they were never intended to address.  and correct me if i’m wrong, but the only reasons to do that are 1) because one doesn’t know any better, or 2) in order to prove a point which one has already settled on.

    both of these are irresponsible uses of God’s word, but the first bothers me less, because it’s able to reshaped with education.

  • Scott

    Scott June 27, 2010

    The tale told by Jesus Christ about the certain rich man and Lazarus served two purposes. First, He showed the future destiny of all who do not come to Him for salvation; and second, the previous verses of Luke 16 detail covetous sins, especially about money.

    Christ’s teachings begin in Luke 14:1 when he went to a chief Pharisee’s house to eat. During this time, He taught on various topics building toward His teaching about Lazarus and the rich man, and then ending in Luke 17:10. The topics centered around the need for people to have the correct relationship with God the Father, improper motivations, the evils of self-exaltation, and God’s grace toward sinners.

    The lessons taught by Jesus Christ were mainly directed toward the Pharisees, for they delighted in showing their piety and their self-perceived importance (for example Luke 18:10-14).

    When telling the story of the certain rich man and Lazarus, Christ showed the Pharisees and all who were listening that God does not look upon the earthly treasures an individual may have or their position in life, rather that God justly judges each man on their position in Christ. It does not matter if an individual is poor or rich, powerful or lowly, popular or unpopular, their final destination is determined by whether or not their name appears in the Book of Life (Rev. 20:15).
    Hell is just punishment for the wicked and ungodly. The wicked sometimes seem to do very well, physically, financially and in status here on earth, and they may even claim that God is blessing them, while the believer may struggle to make ends meet and may never prosper. Being saved is no guarantee of a way to gain earthly treasures (nor should it be), and the wicked do make gains in life, as Asaph wrote in Psalm 73. However, he does declare what will happen to the wicked in the end: they will be cast into destruction and desolation, and will be “utterly consumed with terrors (Ps. 73:19).” This all happens in but a moment. Justice is not always accomplished here on earth, therefore Hell’s existence is necessary as a place of punishment for the wicked and ungodly. Dr. Norman Geisler wrote: “Surely, there would be no real justice were there no place of punishment for the demented souls of Stalin and Hitler, who initiated the merciless slaughter of multimillions (311).” This is assuming that Stalin and Hitler did not truly repent of their sins and turn to Jesus Christ as their Saviour before their deaths. If they did, God’s grace is sufficient to forgive them and accept them into Heaven. Whatever justice that is not met here on earth, will be meted out in Hell, as the wicked will be judged by their works (Rev. 20:12).
    Habakkuk 1:13 declares that God cannot “behold evil” and “canst not look on iniquity.” Hell is the just location for the ungodly. As seen in Luke 16:19-31, there are no deeds that can bring a man to Heaven, and the are no riches that can keep a man out of Hell. Man cannot justify himself before God, because man is inherently wicked (Rom. 3:10, 12). As seen in the ensamples of Abraham and David, they believed on God, and it was Him that justified them, and not their works, for only God can justify the ungodly (Rom. 4:1-7).

  • Scott

    Scott June 28, 2010

    James, you said:
    because whatever position you take on that story, it is not (and cannot be) a story that teaches, as you said, that “death is a journey of the soul either to Heaven or to Hell.”  that cannot be a primary, secondary, or even tertiary teaching of the story.  you’re pulling a meaning out of a text that’s not teaching on the subject you’re learning.  you’re forcing a meaning onto a text that wasn’t intended. there is no way someone could objectively look at the story of the rich man and lazarus and decide that Jesus’ point was to explain how death is a journey of a soul, separated from a physical body, going to either heaven or hell.

    This is a topic that I have studied out and I did not do it with preconceptions. Please fully explain to me how this story is not at least showing the reality of hell and the disposition of the soul upon death. Looking at the story literally, comparing Scripture with Scripture, I do not see how it is an allegory about the Jews and their rejection of Christ and the acceptance of Him by the Gentiles. Is it the only statement about Hell and its reality? Of course not. But it does provide another bit of evidence for the full picture.

    What was Jesus Christ’s intention in telling this story? What was His first, second, and third teaching from this story? Looking at the last post of mine, I covered the context of the passage fairly well, if somewhat abbreviated. I hope the last post cleared some things up for you.

    I am willing to learn. What are you teaching the Tanzanians about this passage?

  • Jessica

    Jessica June 28, 2010


    This sounds like a silly question but I’m wondering how much of this scripture do you think is literal and what you can see as being symbolic..

    1.  Are Heaven and Hell in literal speaking distance, do people have physical thirst in hell, and can we view our loved ones while they’re tormented? Or, can we assume that some of this is an allegory but you take most of it as literal?


  • Jessica

    Jessica June 28, 2010

    I don’t see why the meaning of this verse can’t just be that you have to believe in Jesus, otherwise, they’ll be “hell to pay”?  I don’t see why there is need to get more from it than this.  I know that sounds simple, but maybe it is.

    I feel like using this verse as proof that we go straight to heaven upon death is kinda reaching.

  • Scott

    Scott June 28, 2010

    Number One: your questions are not silly and are completely valid. I do see the entire passage as literal.

    Hell is a literal place and people have some sort of literal bodies while there. The rich man is experiencing pain then and is still today. This not the only passage that speaks of the people in Hell being in torment and wailing and gnashing their teeth. Can I fully explain the resurrection and second death in Revelation 20? No, but both passages present themselves in a literal fashion.

    There is not a “need” for me to see this passage as literal. But this passage should spur a believer to tell others that they need to repent and accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour.

    I am not how it is a reach to see what happens to us when we die from this passage:

    Luke 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
    Luke 16:23 And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

    Lazarus dies and is carried to Abraham’s bosom—there is no mention of a time lag. The rich man dies and opens his eyes in Hell—no time lag.

    Can I explain everything in this passage and everything about Heaven and Hell—no, but this is a subject I have studied out.

  • Jessica

    Jessica June 28, 2010

    Thank you, Scott.

    There is no doubt that you have proven with Scripture that there is a literal heaven and hell and those who do not repent and have faith in Christ will not see the Kingdom of Heaven. To this I couldn’t agree more.

    But I can’t base my beliefs on the afterlife on what the Scriptures don’t say (eg. “no time lag”) only on what they do.  So while you may be correct that this story is not a parable, since I am on the fence on this particular scripture, maybe your perspective on other verses is what I need to understand this more fully.

    How would you explain these 3 verses?  They sound to me like they support the judgment of souls being at the Second coming.

    John 5:28-30 Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

    Daniel 12:2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

    Job 14:10-13 As water disappears from the sea or a riverbed becomes parched and dry, so man lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, men will not awake or be roused from their sleep.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett June 28, 2010

    scott, you asked what i thought Jesus purposes were in telling this story.  i’ve gone back and read through it and am prepared to give you a few of my thoughts.  but first i want to repost what you said were the purposes for the story:

    “The tale told by Jesus Christ about the certain rich man and Lazarus served two purposes. First, He showed the future destiny of all who do not come to Him for salvation; and second, the previous verses of Luke 16 detail covetous sins, especially about money.”

    i don’t know that we’ll agree on which purposes are first and second, but i can definitely get behind pulling the ideas you’ve presented here from the text.  because the story (parable or not) is speaking to those issues in some way or another.

    what i can’t accept is that we read “the beggar died and the angels carried him to abraham’s side,” suggesting Jesus’ purpose was to teach us about the time lapse (or lack of it) between death and heaven and/or hell.  the story isn’t about that.  and nor is the purpose of the story involved in that.  it is a mere aside, background to a story.  if Christ’s intent was to teach us about how the judgment works and how long it takes, etc, i believe he would have done a much better job.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett June 28, 2010

    now my thoughts on the rich man and lazarus passage.  i don’t claim necessarily to be right about all these.  this is just my best reading of the text:

    lazarus, the beggar (whose name was picked because it means “God helps” or something like it), represents gentiles who have not been the people of God. they are waiting on what the jews will reject, yet we find them (or some/one, all the same) at abraham’s side.  abraham’s name is mentioned instead of heaven, because Jesus is telling the story based on what the jews already know and/or believe about the afterlife.  their ancestry is of utmost importance—they are children of father abraham.  and at death they go to a place with abraham set aside for the people of God.

    the rich man is the jewish nation (possibly the pharisees, teachers of the law, and sadducees more than others), who have lived it up as the children of God, abusing their positions in God and thinking their relationship to abraham (and their “goodness”) solved all their problems.  notice, the rich man keeps calling abraham, “father.”

    the rich man wants his family (the jews) to be warned, so they’ll change their lives and not end up separated from God (in hell).  abraham reminds the rich man that his jewish family and people have had (and still have in scripture) moses and all the prophets to convince them.  [of what do they need to be convinced?  well, that Jesus is Lord, is my assumption.  because they’re rejecting him now and will over and over again, despite all the prophets’ words of a messiah to come—and his actual presence at the time of this story.  (there may also need to be some convincing that the gentiles will be accepted by God—the rich man does ask that lazarus himself be sent.)]

    in a major turn of irony, the rich man explains that the prophets aren’t good enough, and his people (the jews) just need someone to come back from the dead, that’s all.  Jesus then predicts his own death and resurrection by explaining that those jews will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.

    so i’d say the first 3 or 4 teachings Jesus intends to give are these.  there will be some overlap, but i think that lets us know we’re on the right track to understanding the passage correctly:

    1. rejection of Jesus ends poorly.  one will not be with abraham or in heaven if he rejects Jesus as the messiah.

    2. no relationship, race, ethnic group, or ancestry can change this.  being a jew means nothing compared to accepting Jesus Christ as Lord.

    3. there will be many (the gentiles)—who have not been blessed (as were the jews) with moses and the law and prophets, etc, to lead them to Christ—who will still accept Christ and “become” jews, living with abraham in heaven.

    4.  the new “race” or people of God are so by faith in Christ.  the true children of abraham are those who put their faith in Christ.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett June 28, 2010

    i’m sure there are some other things we might can learn from the story, but i don’t think we can be as sure of them.  AND because this story was not intended for the purpose of speaking to these issues, we should be careful to see if the ideas we pull out are taught elsewhere (and merely supported here) or possibly even taught against elsewhere.  lastly, we should be humble when talking about these, because it’s difficult to be sure of them—from this text, at least.  here are a few possibilities, none of which i’m saying is necessarily true.  the next step would be to check them against other times in which the issues involved were actually addressed:

    - physical wealth and material possessions may be a hindrance to accepting Christ.
    - having little money may make it easier to accept Christ.
    - the judgment is final.
    - part of torment in hell might be seeing those in heaven.
    - abraham is some kind of spokesperson in heaven.
    - those who mourn and have hard lives will be comforted.
    - those who are rich and get all good things in life will mourn.
    - that upon death some go directly to heaven
    - that upon death others are buried and later go to hell
    - that angels physically carry people to heaven after death
    - there are many more, but i’ve given enough examples

    as far as context of the story, i think you did a pretty good job and won’t go deep into that.  i’ll only reiterate that Jesus was speaking with jews, particularly pharisees it seems.  he also spoke the issue of money for a bit.  and he mentioned the law and prophets being proclaimed until john, and now the kingdom of God is preached.  i think this story goes really well with the end of luke 15, the story of the prodigal son and his (jewish and jealous) older brother.  lastly, i have no idea what the one sentence about divorce and adultery is doing in there.

  • Jessica

    Jessica June 28, 2010

    I think it’s interesting that the name Lazarus is used to describe the beggar.  Manly because I think it’s a parable which makes me wonder why this name was given.  Lazarus was raised from the dead and still didn’t believe in God.  I wonder if this somehow fits into the message about how we only have “one chance”, while we’re alive to accept or reject Christ?

  • Scott

    Scott June 29, 2010

    What Scripture are you basing your statement that Lazarus from John 11 did not believe in God?

  • Jessica

    Jessica June 29, 2010

    Sorry. My mistake. I left out the word “they”.  Not that He (being Lazarus) did not believe but they (some of the Jews in vs 46) did not believe.

  • jamesBrett

    jamesBrett June 29, 2010

    jess, what’s most sad (and kind of funny) to me is that after a raucous is raised because of Jesus raising lazarus from the dead, there’s a big group of these guys trying to determine what they should do about it.

    one of them decides the answer is to kill lazarus and Jesus to bury the story.  that’s just funny to me.

  • Scott

    Scott June 30, 2010

    John 5:28-29 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,  (29)  And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

    This is looking ahead to the coming judgments: The Great White Throne judgment for the lost and the Judgment Seat of Christ for the saved. But it is just the bodies that are in the graves—the souls have already gone over to Heaven or Hell. The soul and body will be reunited for at least the Great White Throne Judgment. Can I explain why there is a body for the person in Hell before the resurrection happens in Rev. 20? No, but that is what the Bible is showing.

    As for the soul separating, consider Psalm 16:10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
    A Messianic Psalm that points to the time between Christ death and resurrection.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett July 01, 2010

    “But it is just the bodies that are in the graves—the souls have already gone over to Heaven or Hell. The soul and body will be reunited for at least the Great White Throne Judgment.”

    scott, i hesitate to respond and bring it up again, but where did you get this from?  why can the souls not still be in the bodies?

  • Jessica

    Jessica July 01, 2010

    If we’re all judged at the Great Throne of Judgment, how was it determined who would get into heaven or hell upon death?

    And are there then 2 judgments for those who died?

  • Scott

    Scott July 02, 2010

    There are two judgments: one for the saved, and one for the lost. For the saved, there is the Judgment Seat of Christ; for the lost there is the Great White Throne judgment.

    The determination of who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell is based on whether or not the individual repented of their sin and believed upon Jesus Christ as their Saviour.

  • Scott

    Scott July 02, 2010

    James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
    I realize that this verse is primarily teaching about the fact that faith without works is dead, however, it is also stating that the body without the spirit is dead. Think of it this way: the news today reported, “The New York Yankees today traded Derek Jeter to the Boston Red Sox for a box of popcorn.” The primary part of the report is that Jeter was traded, but we can also take from it that the Yankees are in New York. Obviously we have to, then, look at more to get the fuller meaning.

    Genesis 35:18-19 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.  (19)  And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.

    Here the Bible is stating that Rachel died and her soul departed.

    Philippians 1:21-26 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  (22)  But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.  (23)  For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:  (24)  Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.  (25)  And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;  (26)  That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.

    Verse 23. Paul declares that he has a desire to depart and remain in the ground. No, Paul says that he has a desire to depart from this world and be with Jesus Christ. Paul realizes that the Philippians need him and as much as Paul desires to be with Jesus Christ, he is content to stay here to serve.

    Revelation 6:9-10 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:  (10)  And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

    Where are the souls of these martyrs according Revelation?

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett July 02, 2010

    concerning james 2:26:  faith without works is dead, just like a body without the spirit.  my first problem was that in this passage james is not teaching on death, resurrection, judgment, or end times.  he’s teaching on faith and works—it’s an analogy only.  but my second problem (that you’ve not mentioned) is that there’s no mention of the ability to have (or the certainty of) separation of a body and a soul in this verse.  actually, my reading of james tells me that faith without works is not indeed faith, rather it is belief only.  if the analogy is perfect (though most aren’t in biblical literature), then a body without a spirit is indeed not a body.  in addition to all that, even if this verse was intended to teach about the separation of soul and body, it says nothing about how or when that would happen.

    but rather than go into all these verses and passages, i want to remind you that i wasn’t arguing (and still am not) that the soul doesn’t depart from the body—only that it’s not as simple as some make it out to be.  because for every verse you give me for that separation, there are others against.  and i think (but am not sure) the only texts that are actually teaching on the issues of judgment and afterlife teach what sounds more in opposition to the idea.

    honestly, i care very little which of these is true.  and that’s one reason i’ve never studied it in detail.  my concern is less with what happens with the soul and body and when—and more with whether or not we’re honoring the book and allowing it to say what it says without reading into it our own interpretations.

    * and as for the revelation text, you’ll see that i commented on it in one of my first posts in this string.  i’m not sure that i understand it, but it looks as if there might be a “first resurrection” of martyrs and a second resurrection of others.  because if you take rev 6, to prove your point, you certainly need to speak to rev 20 as well.

  • Dee

    Dee October 18, 2010


    Please get the book “Life After Life.”  It’s a true story account of people that have died and come back to tell of their experiences.  Have you not felt your father’s presence since his passing?  People don’t go to “sleep” Jessica when they die.  Our purpose of believing in Jesus Christ is to have everlasting life with Him and certainly, sleeping isn’t part of the experience.  It’s made up by a religion that determined by skewing the Bible, that was their truth.  You can debate all you want as I’ve seen the posts in this blog entry and right now my mind is completely boggled.  Anyone can be well versed in the Bible but that doesn’t make them right.  Get the book.  It’s excellent and I think it will answer many questions you might have.  It’s for anyone, any religion.

  • Jessica

    Jessica October 18, 2010

    Hi Dee,

    I will definitely check the book out.  It sounds like a good read.  Thanks so much for your suggestion. 

    As far as feeling my father’s presence, I can’t say that I have.  Not to mention, I firmly believe that the Bible does not support that we would have our dead ones spirits active or present in our lives regardless of whether we slept in our graves or went directly to heaven to be with Jesus after we die.

    And I know this topic is a hard subject for many to talk about, and I always encourage any biblical support you may have for not believing this is the case.  However, while I look forward to reading the book, I don’t get my views on eschatology from other peoples near death experiences.  I tackle this subject with Scripture only.  And I couldn’t agree more than knowing the Bible doesn’t make one “right.”  That’s a great point to note!  Thanks for the comments, Dee.  I hope to hear more from you.

  • Eliseu

    Eliseu January 04, 2011

    Very interesting subject/conversations. Right off the bat, let me confess that I am not a so diligent student of the Bible, which I should be. But by faith I trust everything it reveals to mankind is the Word of God, to give us understanding and purpose in life. My question is: does the Bible unequivocally defines what soul is? Appreciate your comments.

  • Jessica

    Jessica January 04, 2011

    Hi Eliseu,

    So nice to hear from you.  Right off the bat let me give you a similar disclaimer….I’m not a Bible scholar myself smile  But this is a topic that intrigues me.  And I think you ask a great question because I believe there is a common misconception about the biblical definition of the word soul. 

    In the Old Testament the word for SOUL in Hebrew is nephesh. In the New Testament the word for SOUL is psuche in the Greek language. I think Scripture shows that it is defined as a person/being, not an immortal spirit.  It can be a dead person or a living person.  The word soul can even be an animal. (Gen 1:20, 24, 30 (“life “is the word nephesh here in these verses). Take a look at Genesis 2:7 (Nephesh is the same word used for animal in Gen 1:20)

      Here are a few verses to consider….  Hope this helps.  Hope you study it out for yourself.  It’s an interesting topic, I think. 

        Num. 31:28: “Levy a tribute ... one SOUL (nephesh) of 500, both of the persons, of the beeves, Of the asses…”

      Prov. 12:10: “A righteous man regardeth the life (nephesh/SOUL) of his beast; but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”

      Prov. 6:30: “Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul (nephesh) when he is hungry.”

      Isa. 29:8: “A hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul (nephesh) is empty thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh, but he awaketh, and his soul (nephesh) hath appetite.”

      Lev. 17:10-11: “I will even set my face against that soul (nephesh) that eateth blood ... For the life (nephesh/soul) of the flesh is In the blood…”

      Deuteronomy. 12:20-23: “Thy soul (nephesh) longeth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul (nephesh) lusteth after… , the blood Is the life (nephesh/soul); and thou mayest not eat the life - (nephesh/soul)

      Psa. 22:20: “Deliver my soul (nephesh) from the sword..”

      Jer. 38:17: “If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the King of Babylon’s princes, then thy soul (nephesh) shall live…”

      1 Sam. 19:11: “If thou save not thy life (nephesh/soul) tonight, tomorrow thou shalt be slain.”

      I Kings 19:10: “...they seek my life (nephesh) to take it.”

      Esther 7:7: “Haman stood up to make request for his life (nephesh).”

      Psa. 22:29: “...none can keep alive his own soul (nephesh).”

      “Hear, and your soul (nephesh) shall live” (Isa. 55:3).

      Josh. 10:28: “Joshua took Makkedah, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof he utterly destroyed, and all the souls (nephesh) that were therein…”

      Deuteronomy. 27:25: “Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person (nephesh/soul).”

      Num. 6:6: “... he shall come at no dead body (nephesh).

      Lev. 21:11: “Neither shall he go in to any dead body (nephesh)...”

      Rev. 16:3: .,every living soul (psuche) died in the sea.”

      “...Take no thought for your life (psuche/soul), what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink…”

        Acts 20:24: ... neither count I my life (psuche) dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy…”

        John 10:15: “...I lay down my life (psuche) for the sheep.”

      And Phil. 2:30: “...for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life (psuche)...”

        Matt. 10:28: “...fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”

        Mark 3:4 “...is it lawful ... on the Sabbath ...to save life (psuche), or to kill? ... “

      Rom. 11:3 quotes OT “...I am left alone, and they seek my life (psuche).”

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