What happens when we die?

Some people don’t believe we can know the answer to this question. To know what happens when we die (they assert) would require speaking with someone who has already died, and that is impossible. To this point, I agree. We can’t know what happens after death unless we’re told by someone who has the answer. This is what Christians call revelation. God does know what happens after a human being dies, and He has graciously revealed that truth in His Word.

There are only two destinations after death—Heaven or Hell. All of us, the moment we take our last breath, will enter into the presence of God to be judged. The Bible says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). We are given one life, and when it’s over, we will stand before almighty God to be sentenced. Once He has examined our lives, He will cast the final verdict—guilty or righteous.

Those who have sinned against God “will go away into eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46). This is what the Bible calls Hell. It is a place of suffering and torment; away from the presence of the Lord. Jesus said Hell is “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). Hell is the just judgment of God against sinful human beings. We were made for God’s glory, but we chose to live for ourselves instead. We loved unrighteousness and sin, not God. Therefore, everyone who has sinned against God and lived for self will go to Hell upon their death.

The only other eternal destination is Heaven. This is for the righteous. Heaven will be perfect bliss. There, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). It is so wonderful that Jesus described it as “paradise” (Luke 23:43). Heaven is the exact opposite of Hell. Instead of torment and suffering, there is unending joy, peace, and pleasure. Instead of being cutoff from God, we will enjoy His presence forever.

I would assume that you who are reading this article believe in the realities of Heaven and Hell. Most likely, you believe that when you die, you will go to one of these eternal destinations. In fact, the Bible tells me that you have some kind of understanding of these things, because God has placed eternity in man’s heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Everyone knows that we will live forever, but not everyone knows how to get to Heaven and avoid Hell.

The fact of the matter is that everyone deserves Hell. No one deserves Heaven. Only the righteous go to Heaven. And the Bible says “none are righteous, no not one” and that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23).

Therefore, we need a Savior. We need someone who can forgive our sins. We need to be able to stand before God and receive a verdict of righteous, not guilty. This is only possible if you repent of your sins and put your trust in Jesus Christ the righteous one. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Despite what most people seem to believe, we are not justified before God automatically when we die. If we die in our sins, having never trusted Jesus, we will perish in Hell forever. But if we die to self, pick up our cross and follow Christ, we will enter into God’s presence with confidence and enjoy the glories of Heaven forever because of the saving graces of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.