What Happens When I Die?

Death is a certainty. What comes next? Let's search for an answer to "What Happens When I Die?"

Spirit In The Sky  Norman Greenbaum

What Happens When I Die?

It’s been a few years now since Tim McGraw song: Live Like You Were Dying, hit public consumption. I was so impressed with Tim’s message that a four-part sermon series was the result. The titles to those messages are One Certainty, Speak Sweeter, Love Deeper, and Give Forgiveness, that first message, One Certainty, is a great companion teaching to the one today. You can find it posted on hbcc.life.

If you’re not familiar with the song, an early 40-year-old gets a bad diagnosis, bad news, what do you do with that? Tim sings

"I was finally the husband
That most of the time I wasn't
And I became a friend a friend would like to have
And all of a sudden going fishin'
Wasn't such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad
I finally read the Good Book, and I
Took a good, long, hard look
At what I'd do if I could do it all again
And then
I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying"
Live your life to the full, today and every day. Live like this day may be your last.

Jesus said:
I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:9-10 (MSG)

You’ll cut down on regrets if you live like you were dying if you live your life to the full. Jesus empowers you to do exactly that.

Today we’re going to consider what happens when you as a believer dies. It’s a topic most of us would like to avoid. Folks tend not to give it much thought because while death is a certainty, what comes after isn’t. We tend to shy away from the unknowns.

Death is an eventuality. Humanity is pretty close to a 100% mortality rate. What happens when living in a right relationship to God you die?

We’re briefly going to consider what a physicist might say about what happens when you die, then briefly mention some ideas from various religions, landing in Scripture to get a glimpse of what the Bible reveals happens when we those who are in Christ die.

As a pastor part of your duties is to preside over funerals and memorial services. If you do the job well you comfort the surviving loved ones in their grief. If a physicist delivers the message the homily might go something like this:

I want to remind you today of the first law of thermodynamics, that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. Your energy, every vibration, every BTU of heat, every wave of every particle that was your beloved, remains in this universe. That energy will go on forever. All the photon’s that bounced off your beloved’s face, and collected in those particle detectors we call eyes, still move throughout the space-time continuum. All the particles whose paths were interrupted by their smile, by their touch, have been changed even as those encounters changed you. The warmth that flowed through your beloved’s life is still present and still warms your life right now. Science has measured precisely the conversation of energy and found what I have said to be accurate, the science is sound, your loved one is still here with you, but now just less organized, they are not gone just less orderly. Amen.

Atheism can say little about what happens after we die if there is an afterlife because the existence of an afterlife is so far untestable, unmeasurable, unrepeatable and unverifiable. From carbon we come to carbon we go.
According to Tibetan Buddhism, the spirit of the departed goes through a process lasting forty-nine days that is divided into three stages called "bardos." At the conclusion of the bardo, the person either enters nirvana or returns to earth for rebirth. Victor J Zammit http://www.victorzammit.com/articles/religions3.html
One reincarnates until one can free themselves from all desire and enter into Nirvana where there are no desires, no cravings, and become one with the universe.

In the belief system of Hinduism karma is the driving force of the universe. I don’t want someone to think I am disrespectful of this belief as I summarise Karma as basically the idea that what comes around goes around. This universe gives you what you deserve. When you die you are then reincarnated to try to get it right this time. You get it right by being a good person, by learning the proper knowledge and the proper performance of certain rituals, in order to free one’s self from the cycle of death and rebirth, and like Buddhism become one with the universe.

Spiritualism teaches that love raises the level of our energy when we die the consciousness survives and still maintains the ability to interact with the physical world. The more we’re loved, and the more we loved, the higher we find ourselves in the spiritual plane, advancing to the Realms of Light.

According to the tenets of the Muslim faith, death is the complete end of physical life and the beginning of a period of rest until the day of resurrection when Allah judges the living and the dead. The soul remains in a kind of "soul sleep" until Judgment Day. When the Day of Judgment arrives, everyone is judged according to their deeds in life. http://www.victorzammit.com/articles/religions3.html

What happens when we die is a matter of faith. Faith is holding a belief without evidence. Without evidence does not mean without reason. Each one of these faiths has a system of belief which makes their conclusions concerning the afterlife logical. Even atheists have faith in their atheism.

One thing all those faiths agree on is that one day your physical body ceases to function. Life as you have known it ends. We can call that death. What does the scripture say about what happens when a believer dies?

I have speculated on this topic often. Yet instead of going off into my own personal metaphysics we are going to delve into what the New Testament hints at. The reason why I say hint, is because this topic of life after death doesn’t unfold for us with great detail. It’s as if God is saying to us that all you need to know is that there is a continuance of yourself after physical death.

The Apostle Paul is writing from prison, he is faced with the possibility of his imminent death and he writes to the gathering of the faithful in Philippi:

Philippians 1:22-24 (MSG)
As long as I'm alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I'd choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better.

Paul is of the opinion that if he dies he will be with Christ in a new way. What that way will be like he doesn’t say. He only affirms that when his physical body ceases to function he will be with Christ.

To the called out ones in Corinth Paul writes

2 Corinthians 5:6-8 (NIV)
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Paul is of the opinion that when his body dies, he is headed home with the Lord. He doesn’t speculate as to what that home will be like, he is content in the knowledge that in death he does not end, but continues on with Christ.

Paul’s mentee Timothy is told:

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NIV)
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Paul is of the opinion that when he dies since he kept the faith Christ himself will reward him. This speaks again to a continuance of sentient existence.

Paul speaks for the belief that there is another existence, another type of being alive, conscious, aware, remembering, choosing, that exists when our mortal bodies die.

Jesus said something very similar when he spoke on various occasion about eternal life.

John 11:25-26 (NIV)
 "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

We’ve already made the point that believers die. So what is Jesus revealing to us when He teaches His disciples never die? The simplest answer is that what makes us what we are, continues to exist after the body dies.

Two ghost stories I thought were exceptionally good, The Sixth Sense and The Others. I don’t think such things as the ghost portrayed in those films exist. Sorry to spoil your Halloween fun whatever makes you-you—soul, spirit, essence, energy, consciousness, whatever doesn’t stick around to haunt someplace. That would be a position of Spiritism. The New Testament does not reveal to us where we go, only that believers are with the Christ when they die.

Where is Christ physicality? When Jesus is being executed, He says to the repentant thief on hanging next to Him:

Luke 23:43 (NIV)
"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

Very cryptic this Paradise Jesus speaks of. The word has Persian roots which literally translates to “a walled garden.” We can safely infer that this would be a good place to be. The scripture does not reveal the whereabouts of this Paradise, nor the conditions one will find in Paradise, the only thing revealed is that believers are in Paradise with Christ.

In the Revelation, there appears to be another place in which those who died for their faith wait for the Kingdom to Come in all its fullness.  There is a difference between dying in the faith and dying for the faith. The first is you keep on and then died. The second is you were executed because of your refusal to renounce the faith in the face of death.

Revelation  6:9-11 (NIV)
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.

This under the altar is a place of privilege and reward for those who sacrificed their lives for Christ.

What these souls are told to do is to wait for something rather special. They are waiting for what the scripture calls the last day.

John 6:39-40 (NIV)
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

When the last day comes, there is a resurrection. (Mark 13:32, John 6:40)

This expectation of resurrection features prominently in the New Testament. There is a selection in your note sheets for your consideration.
Matthew 22:29-32; John 5:28-29; 1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 20:12-13.

When you die, your right relationship with God continues. You are with Christ. You are with Christ in Paradise. I dare to infer that you will also be with other believers. It is with Christ in Paradise that you wait for the “last day.” When the last day arrives, there is a resurrection.

We commonly think of resurrection as rising from the dead. Scripture indicates a transformation takes place.

Philippians 3:20-21 (NIV)
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

The believer will be transformed. Jesus tells us that with the last day there is a renewal of all things (palingenesis), a recreation of the world (Mattew 19:28). The proclamation of God in Revelation 21:5 is that all things are made new. Made new doesn’t mean newly made, it means made as intended, not replaced but, how does this sound, “Newified?” In your thinking connect restoration to resurrection. Resurrection means restoration into the life that God always intended for you to have.

In Tolkien's The Lord of The Rings, Sam Gamgee comes face to face with his friend Gandalf whom he thought died in the Caves of Mordor, Sam in his exuberance says, “I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself! Is everything sad going to come untrue?” With the resurrection “everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost” (Timothy Keller, The Reasons for God, p 56).

You might think that you dressed in your new glorious body is going to be in heaven. But the Bible doesn’t reveal that we are taken out of this world and set down in heaven but rather heaven coming down to earth, restoring the material world (Rev 21). “Jesus insisted that his return will be with such power that the very material world will be purged of all decay and brokenness. All will be healed and all might-have-beens will be” (Timothy Keller, The Reasons for God, p 56).

When you die, your right relationship with God continues. You are with Christ. You are with Christ in Paradise. I dare to infer that you will also be with other believers. It is with Christ in Paradise that you wait for the “last day.” When the last day arrives, there is a resurrection and an inhabitation of a world made new.

After the resurrection Christ rewards believer’s for their faithfulness (2 Corinthians 5:10, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Revelation 20:11-15, 22:12, ). “While salvation is a gift, the greatest of gifts, there are also rewards given for faithfulness during your earthly life. A believer’s service, diligence, and sacrifices are recognized. All that has gone unnoticed in living out your life of love, will be acknowledged by Christ.

Elijah--Rich Mullins 

The teaching today has been limited to what happens to a believer when his or her body ceases to function when a disciple dies. It takes faith, belief without evidence, but belief not without reason, to hold as truth that when you die, your right relationship to God continues. You are with Christ. You are with Christ in Paradise. I dare to infer that you will also be with other believers. It is with Christ in Paradise that you wait for the “last day.” When the last day arrives, there is a resurrection. The love you poured out of your life will be acknowledged and rewarded. Then the faithful will inhabit the renewed earth.

If this faith is something you would like for your own, ask God. It’s His will that you experience this reality after your body dies. The scripture declares

Romans 10:8-10 (MSG)
It's the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—"Jesus is my Master"—embracing, body and soul, God's work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That's it. You're not "doing" anything; you're simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That's salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: "God has set everything right between him and me!"

I Can Only Imagine  Mercy Me


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