Death will reveal so much about a person's true soul. Many people in this world have forfeited their faith and honor to prevent their own death, or the death of another. Some have forsaken their faith over the death of a loved one. Some live in constant fear and dread of death. Some are in a hurry to get there, because they think it will stop the pain or torment they are experiencing in this life. How we face death, how we feel about death truly reveals what we believe about God and His Word. "How we deal with death, is at least as important as how we deal with life, wouldn't you say?" (Captain James Tiberius Kirk)
Have you ever been present at a death, or sat at a funeral and wondered, "What must they be seeing and experiencing right now?" We've talked about what we will happen to us if we live to hear the Trumpet call us home in the Rapture. but, what if we don't make it until that day? What happens at that moment of death? What happens to nonbelievers at death?
Is there a chance after death to still be saved? How Scriptures answer these questions will change your life forever.
One question that we must answer first is simply, "Do we sleep after death until Christ comes, or are we somehow conscious?" It is not uncommon in several cults, and even valid Christian denominations to hear that we, "soul sleep" after death, awaiting the Return of Christ to wake us again. This is derived from several passages that talk about those who are, “asleep in Christ”, awaiting the Lords Return. When you read these verses, understand that the writer is simply referring to the physical appearance here on earth to what has happened to the physical body as it awaits resurrection. By no means is it speaking of what state the spirit and consciousness of the person is in after death. We should take into consideration the harmony of all Scriptures together, when studying a given topic. Paul very clearly explains what he means by, "Asleep in Christ" in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. This addresses the misconception very clearly, by using the term, "Fallen asleep" in conjunction with already being in His Presence! In addition, we must consider the very same author speaks multiple times concerning our conscious state after death: Philippians 1:21-24. Paul says to depart right now, and be with Christ is far better, but that he is still needed here. Obviously, Paul would not be hard pressed with a desire to leave this earth prematurely if it simply meant sleeping until Christ returns. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8: to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. He even says death is the, "preferred" state for the believer. He could not mean that, if we are sleeping happily in expectation of seeing God again later, because to be consciously aware of Him, even here, would be far better than being unaware of His Presence. There are many verses which proclaim we will never see a moment of death, if we truly have accepted Christ: John 8:51, John 11:25-26. Even if you object by saying these verses simply mean that, "To be away from God's Presence" is what Paul would consider death, not the physical; to consciously cease to exist for a time would be, "away from God's presence" And lastly, Jesus Himself, said this to the thief who would die beside Him on the cross: Luke 23:42-43. Where was that man's body, on that day? Still on the cross! And from there, to the grave. But did Jesus promise, on that day, he would be with Him in Paradise? How? In spirit and consciousness—instantly upon death. So, first realize this with assurance- you will never again have a time when you simply cease to exist, or slip away into a state of unconsciousness.
So our next questions, and maybe the biggest questions people often have concerning death: "What do we see as soon as we pass away?" "Who is there on the other side to meet us?" "Where do we wake up?" I was holding my mother's hand, and staring into her eyes when she peacefully stopped talking to me and stepped over to the other side. She had told us she was going home (to Heaven) that day, even though she was physically fine. And as they worked to bring her back, I could not help but wonder, "Where is she now?" "What is she experiencing right this moment?” What we see at that moment, is directly decided by how we have chosen to love, and Whom we have chosen to live for in this life— Have we accepted Christ’s Gift? Because the very purpose of this life has been to love and glorify our God, and to serve Him and others. I honestly do not know how those who don't know Christ, and have no faith or hope in life after this world, can even make it through the loss of a loved one. Christians should view the passing of a loved one, or their own passing with such a different mindset. Obviously, there are many reasons we do not want to leave this world, but, this is what we need to realize about that moment of death: it will not be a sad, lonely, or fearful time to the believer—it will be one of the most incredible moments of our eternal lives! It will be the exact moment that we discover a completely new, and unfathomable world—the beginning of the greatest adventure imaginable. When we close our eyes on this side, we will not miss one moment consciously. Scriptures seem to be very clear about what will happen at that moment—we will not wake up in Heaven, or at the Pearly Gates, we will still physically be right where we were when we died, but we will be greeted by a number of Heavenly Hosts—angels present and ready to escort us to our new Home in Christ. Luke 16:22: “Into Abraham's bosom”, simply refers to the Hebrew custom of how they would eat a meal together—with the guest of honor to the right of the head of the table, lounging near his breast, meaning the beggar was carried to a place of celebration and close fellowship in Paradise—as an honored guest. Try to imagine the power, majesty, and beauty of these angelic creatures in Scripture, considering the fact that almost all who have seen an angel immediately, and instinctively react with fear and even worship until they are told not to show such reverence. It will be an incredible, and overwhelming moment; not unlike the picture described by some who have claimed to pass and returned. Another of the most open and obvious realizations that angels will be here to escort us, and carry us to Heaven comes from an account of multiple witnesses: Acts 1:9-11 (Speaking of Jesus’ ascension); Luke 24:51-52. Even Jesus was warmly escorted Home when He left this earth. Another big question: Will any of those who have passed before you be there to meet and escort you as well? Here is where we leave the concrete of Scriptures, and step into conjecture. Scriptures never show redeemed men primarily acting as messengers and servants to those still alive, as the angels. It is not our purpose or design—we do not become someone's Guardian angel. We are Blood-bought, redeemed Children of the Most High--but, Scriptures do have examples of those who have gone to Heaven before us as being recognizable, and active in God's will on earth: 2 Samuel 12:23: Samuel appears to King Saul. Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration (Matt 17:1-8), appear with Jesus before Peter, James and John. The Two Prophets in the Tribulation (Rev 11), appear before the whole world to proclaim the Repentance and the Kingdom of God. And we will meet with those who have passed before us in the clouds, when Jesus comes at the Sound of the Trump to get His own in the Rapture. God has taught us by Word and example to serve, love and comfort one another here on earth. Is there a possibility that loved ones may be present to assist in greeting and escorting someone Home? Absolutely possible, but, not Scripturally verified either way. Another question: Why escorted? Well, I believe for a couple of very real and practical reasons: 1) Because we are treasured and loved, and we are going to be welcomed into the New World with all the love and excitement of a new child. The Scripture about the beggar being carried into Abraham's bosom shows warmth, love, and care. 2) We are stepping into an entirely new world, in wonder and ignorance. We know nothing about it, nor where to go.
Heaven is a real place, with a real location; this is why Jesus departed to return there—we need to know the way. 3) We are living in a spiritual world (full of good and bad) and we are now located in the middle of enemy territory, where the prince of the power of the air rules, and dark principalities and powers govern areas and places, so, we have our, “Heavenly Escorts” through this world and into our Heavenly Home. I would love to see the scene, when a believer in Christ is about to pass away: Psalm 116:15: God sends out His magnificent warriors to gather around this saint of God as they draw closer to that moment of crossing over—no doubt, there is an awesome display of God's Glory and Might surrounding the death bed of a dying saint, returning home. If we could see in the realm of the spirit world, we would surely see a gathering of mighty warriors standing in places where saints were about to meet an unexpected appointment—no demon dare get into the way of an escort for a Blood-bought bride of Christ! These Heavenly Escorts meet a wonder-struck, overwhelmed soul with love and cheers and take him or her on a journey of a lifetime.
What might this greeting be like? What might we be feeling, when we see the reality of everything we have hoped and lived for all these years, now truly before our eyes? What will this real and wondrous journey to Heaven be like? Another question: Do I believe we can know and understand the events here on earth when we pass? Absolutely! Do I believe we remember, or are interested in our loved ones after we go Home to Heaven? Absolutely! Why?: Luke 16:27-28: If a lost sinner, awaiting judgment after death is still consciously aware, and deeply concerned for loved ones left behind—how much more, the sweet souls that have made it into heaven? It would seem to me, Scripturally and practically, that it is clear—our loved ones are very much, still loving and caring about us in Heaven. Hebrews 12:1. Another question: Where will we be taken? Obviously, no one knows where Heaven is located, but Jesus did promise the disciples that He was going to prepare a place for us, so that where He went, we could be. That place was obviously, the New City of Jerusalem, which will soon be brought to earth, as our Home is made here with Jesus. Until then, I am sure those who pass will see this City in all its splendor, finished or not. We will reunite with all those gone before. 1 Corinthians 13:12: We will finally see His smile, hear His Voice, feel His touch, smell His scent, and worship Him as we witness His power and righteousness. As we understand the pureness, passion, and tenderness of His love for us, we will see the fierceness with which He defends us and prepares for what is ahead, as Satan continues to accuse and wreak havoc. We will feel the complete acceptance of our Lord, Savior, King, Protector, Beloved. We will talk of, prepare for, and await the moment we hear that Trumpet sound, and we are on our way back to anxiously meet those Raptured Saints on their journey Home. There will be no time of cold unconsciousness at death, but a warm, breathtaking homecoming, an angelic escort on a spectacular journey Home, as we meet Him, see our future City and watch and wait for loved ones to join us.
But a believer did not always get carried away to Heaven at death in times past—our acceptance into Heaven is based upon
the Blood of Christ—until Jesus Christ had shed that Blood and that price had been paid, those who died in faith and love of God, were awaiting the Redemption of their souls in "Abraham's Bosom." "Abraham's Bosom", was one of two parts, in a place many have misunderstood to mean hell in Scriptures—the second part was simply called, "A Place of Torment." In the Old Testament, when someone passed to the other side, they were said to have gone to a place, in the Hebrew called, "Sheol"--this same place, in the New Testament, was called, "Hades”. Look at the same verse written by David in Hebrew, and repeated by Paul, in Greek: Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27. These words are basically defined as, "the place of the dead"; they do not mean the physical grave, nor are they just, “other names” for the final destination of the damned, meaning hell itself—Sheol, or Hades, is where the soul went to await one of two things—Judgment or Redemption. Luke 16:19-23 gives us Jesus' own account of when both happen at once: the rich man went to a place of pain and torment, but not into hell itself, and he waits there for final judgment (to this day)—but notice that Lazarus was not carried to God, or to Heaven, but to Abraham's bosom—a place of comfort and blessing, but not Heaven—because he was awaiting Christ's redemption (Who had not died yet). And listen to what Jesus said to the thief who would die beside Him on the cross: Luke 23:42-43: paradise (paradeisos). Every other time Jesus described Heaven, as in our final destination, He used the word ouranos. Why? Most conservative scholars understand Scriptures to say that Jesus went down to Sheol, Hades, Paradise in the three days that He was in the grave, to proclaim freedom to those awaiting Redemption on the Paradise side of this place of the dead. (Ephesians 4:8-10).
What happens in those first moments of death if the person passing away has not accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior? We have looked at all of this, to reveal a very real place which most of us do not even realize exists: Hades—a temporary dwelling set aside for those joyfully awaiting Christ's Redemption. [And has now had its doors ripped off by Christ himself after the crucifixion], and a temporary dwelling set aside for those awaiting final judgment from God [Who are still there today, awaiting the day it is emptied as well]. Luke 16:22-23: Notice that Jesus is clear about who met the beggar at the moment of death: Angels, but He is silent about how the rich man arrived at his destination. We must read between the lines with logic: We are met by Angels (Servants of God), to be welcomed and literally led to our destination at death; if we are not destined for Heaven, would we know any better how to get to our alternate destination? No, therefore would we possibly, also need a guide, or in this case an enforcer, to assure that we reach that destination? And if Angels are God's Servants who meet us, and demons are Satan's servants (fallen angels)—whom would it seem logical, will be there to meet a lost soul at death? The idea of an "angel of death", appears in many ancient writings. The Babylonian angel of death was called Mot. The Islamic angel of death is named Azrael. But Scriptures are silent about whether angels, good or fallen, meet unbelievers at death as they do believers. What we do know will happen at the moment of death for a nonbeliever is that there will be no warm embrace, congratulations, or welcomes; no fellowship with friends or family; no intimate Savior to meet you—whether met by fallen angels as escorts to this dreadful place, or whether you simply awaken there, you will be taken to a place that Scripturally, is as literal as Heaven—a place that currently is located somewhere in the, “lower regions of earth”. What do you suppose your very soul will feel as it slips from this world into something so cold and destitute of love? This place of Sheol, or Hades, will not be your final destination; it is a place of temporary imprisonment, as you wait to be raised for a literal Judgment at a later time: John 5:27-29. But until that day, see how Jesus describes this holding place: Luke 16:22-31. There are a number of things to realize from this passage: They are isolated from Heaven and anyone in this world; they are fully conscious of where they are; there is no returning, it is a sealed fate (no amount of, “proof” would make them follow Christ if they were hard-hearted, there are always reasons to deny). They will have time to playback every sin, every selfish decision that has put them here (that may have contributed to condemning others they love; things that will soon be openly revealed before an Awesome God) Luke 12:2-5: They will be in complete anguish and hopelessness there. We can’t fathom true, complete hopelessness. There is a realization that no one will ever love you again. No one is coming for you. There will be no more good times, no more fellowship, no more love; the only thing to look forward to, is when you hear Jesus call you out to stand before Him in final judgement. Just as Jesus emptied out the, "Paradise" side of Hades when He shed His Blood as Atonement, Hades will be emptied out as well. This will occur at a very specific time in history, [after Jesus comes for His own in the Rapture, after Seven years of Tribulation on Earth is over, after the Final Return of Christ with His Saints occurs, after the earth enjoys a 1000yrs with Jesus as King, in the Millennium, and Satan is released a short time at the end of the 1000yrs, only to be finally defeated and thrown into hell forever—just after Satan, the Beast, and the False Prophet are thrown into the lake of fire]—that is the moment when hades will be emptied out for judgment: Revelation 20:11-13. The Book of your life will literally be reviewed before you. This means everything you've done will have to be accounted for as well, because you did not accept the Gift of forgiveness from Christ, Who loved you so very much, and that lost Love of Jesus will be all too real and painful at this moment. Do you truly think that anything—any sin you have denied Christ for, will amount to any value at all in this moment? Anything you selfishly wanted more than the awesome love of Jesus Christ, Who gave up everything for you, will be pointless, meaningless, a vapor gone in the wind. As you see before your eyes, the truth: an eternity of complete love, acceptance, and every desire you could fathom, forever passed from you, because of your selfishness here. That feeling, is what we see expressed here, in this scripture: Luke 13:27-28. And after your sentence has been passed, you will have your last look for all eternity at the face of Jesus Christ—the One who died horrifically to save you from this moment. God didn't send you there; God didn't want you there. God did everything He possibly could to keep you from there, including letting His own Son die horribly, and you didn't want any part of His love because you wanted your own way, your own life, your own sin, more than a love that passes understanding. That sinful attitude which Satan used to tear Heaven apart in the beginning could not be allowed in Heaven ever again. The terrible, lost, tormented feeling you have at that moment, is what Jesus literally experienced for you on the cross, so that you would never have to feel it (though you and I deserve it): 2 Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 27:45-46. All who have stood before Christ's Great White Throne of Judgment, will be cast into the pit (this is the real hell (Gehenna)): Matthew 10:28. [It is a reference to a valley just to the south of Jerusalem, where ancient Israelites actually sacrificed their own children to the Canaanite god, Molech. It was later so accursed, and unclean because of this, that it was only used for burning all of the unwanted trash from Jerusalem. The fire of Gehenna never went out, as the unwanted things were burned up there, day and night.] Revelation 20:14-15; 2 Thessalonians 1:9.
How could God let a few short years determine such a long sentence? Seems like such a fair and righteous question until you think it through honestly—the real question is "If you wanted no part in Jesus' Gift of Salvation; if you couldn't live for Him and others over self even for just these few short years, how could you be trusted to love selflessly, with the privilege of eternity?": Luke 16:10. No amount of money, skill, talent, education, or works of kindness will get you into Heaven, and no amount of terrible deeds done in your life will keep you out. The sins that we commit are not what send us to this terrible place. Every one of those sins you've committed have already been paid for in full by Jesus Christ in His crazy love for you, and His desire to have you with Him. The only thing that will send you to this place, that was not even made for you and me is to deny the fact that God Himself, Jesus Christ, died naked and embarrassed on a cross, was physically tortured unimaginably, was emotionally and spiritually rejected and crushed so we could be accepted, to have that kind of love from God Himself, and say you don't want it--that is what will send you to this place forever. Only those who love Jesus, and want His Gift, who want Him more than this life, will be in Heaven with Him. Vastly more will reject Him than live for, and accept Him—what about you? Revelation 1:17-18.
There is no indication whatsoever, that we have another opportunity to accept Jesus’ Gift on the other side: Hebrews 9:27: Whatever your thoughts about the other side, there is only one Truth that you will see clearly, one second after arriving there, and then the door is locked behind you; there is absolutely no reversing where you are. [How horrific to realize what you have given up—what you have lost at that moment, if you've lived your whole life for yourself]
If you know a Him, never again fear that most glorious moment when your eternal adventure begins. If you’ve seen a loved one go home early, know they are in wonder, amazement, and unspeakable joy; know they are very interested in your life; know they are anxiously awaiting the reunion. If you don’t know Him, are you willing to risk eternity one more day? 1 Corinthians 15:54-55.
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