What happens when you die? It’s a question that has crossed everyone’s mind, because death happens to everyone, regardless of age, race, gender, religion, or status. It is the unconquerable foe that has taken over the likes of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. Postulates or theories by minds like Einstein or Stephen Hawking can never be proved upon this subject. So what does the Bible say?
One of Jesus’ most significant miracles recorded in the Bible was the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead (John 11). There are other instances of people who had been raised from the dead, but unlike those mentioned before in the Bible, Lazarus had been dead for an entire period of four days. When Lazarus died, Jesus said, “ ‘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, NKJV).
What does the Bible say about death?
The Bible compares death to sleep more than fifty times. After death we are asleep, we are unconscious; we are not aware of the passing of time or of what is going on around us. That is what death is like as well. The Bible says, “for the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing… their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, NKJV, see also Psalm 146:4; 115:17). It makes sense that after Lazarus was raised from the dead, he doesn’t share what he saw or experienced. He didn’t have anything to tell, except that once he was dead, and now he is alive! He didn’t experience hell or heaven. He was simply “sleeping” in his tomb. Peter on the Day of Pentecost said the same of King David. “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day…For David did not ascend into the heavens…(Acts 2:29, 34).
What happens to your soul when you die?
Many Christians think of the soul as an immortal entity within us that goes on living after death. What does the Bible say? Describing the creation of human beings in the beginning, the Bible says, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, KJV). Other Bible translations say, “. . . and man became a living being” (NKJV; NIV). God did not put a soul into man. He formed the body from the dust of the ground, and then He breathed His life-giving spirit into the lifeless body—and the result was a soul, or a living being. When a person dies, the reverse takes place. The breath of life departs from the body, and the soul no longer exists. That’s what the Bible says. “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7, NIV). At the resurrection, God reunites the body and His life-giving spirit—and the person lives again.
If souls existed as separate entities that lived on after we died, that would mean we have immortality. However, the Bible says human beings do not have immortality. Only God is immortal (see 1 Timothy 6:15, 16). Paul says that the righteous “seek for glory, honor, and immortality” (Romans 2:7). If we had immortal souls, why would the righteous seek after something they already have?