Where do we go when we die?
Question: I have many questions that I don't seem to get
answers for. I have a cousin who is born again and has read and studied
the Bible. He believes that when we die, we stay in our bodies until
Christ comes back for us. I have read the same bible but don't see where
he gets that from. Is what he says true?
Bible Answer: “To be absent
from the body, [is] to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8, KJV). A
Christian goes to be with the Lord when he dies.
I understand where
your cousin is coming from, but he is incorrect. Let me explain where
your cousin gets his ideas about “staying in his body” until Christ
returns. He believes in what is call “soul sleeping.” He and others get
this belief by misinterpreting the passages about those who "sleep" in
death. Let’s look at three main scriptures that speak of sleep.
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake:
some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt"
(Dan 12:2). The apostle Paul used the term "sleep" to speak of the death
of the saints, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the
firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Cor 15:20). Finally
Jesus speaks of Lazarus being asleep when he died, "After he had said
this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep;
but I am going there to wake him up" (John 11:11). Your cousin gets
his bad theology by incorrectly interpreting these passages.
thing we must recognize when someone dies is that they look asleep.
Therefore the Bible uses this term to signify death. However a more
important reason for the term "sleep" is to show that death is not the
end. When a person sleeps, we expect them to wake up. And so Jesus uses
this term to indicate that Lazarus was going to wake up—in other words,
previous three scripture verses the term “sleep” was always used in
connection with the resurrection. Never is the term used to refer to the
"soul" sleeping. This is what your cousin is doing—he is using the term
sleep to refer to the soul, when the passages are referring to the body
awaiting the resurrection. In other words, it is the “body” that sleeps
in the dust, not the soul.
fact made a statement soon after He mentioned Lazaraus being a sleep,
and the statement totally contradicts the belief of soul sleep. “Whoever
lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:26). If you took
this verse to refer to the body, then it does not make sense. Jesus was
referring to the soul that never dies. So the believer never really
dies—that is his soul continues to live.
The apostle Paul never believed in soul sleeping. Consider the following
passages that he wrote in Philippians 1:21-23, “For to me, to live is
Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this
will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!
I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which
is better by far.”
Paul considered death for the Christian as “gain.” How could it
be gain if one’s soul is asleep? Second Paul clearly says that death
means “to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” When a Christian dies his soul “departs” to be with Christ; but his body
“sleeps in the dust” until the resurrection. The resurrection reunites
man’s eternal soul with a new body. A Christian goes to heaven with
Christ when he dies.
Other related article:
What happens to the soul and spirit after death?
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