What happens to us when we die?
Many people have a mistaken idea about what happens to us when we die. They think that when our body dies there is a part of us called the soul which lives on and goes to be with God in heaven. That is the picture many Christians have of life after death. Disembodied souls floating around on clouds with the angels.
But that is not our Christian hope. Our Christian hope is much more wonderful than that! We believe in the resurrection of the dead.
Our hope of heaven is the hope of resurrection- that one day just as Christ was raised from the dead so we will be raised from the dead.
1 Cor 15:47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
We will bear the likeness of the man from heaven. We will have resurrection bodies just like Christ’s resurrection body!
PHILIPPIANS 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 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.
Christ’s resurrection body:-
Think about Christ’s NEW resurrection body – Physical – can touch and be touched – eating and drinking
Not limited by time and space, physical but not limited by physical – entering rooms through locked doors. In the resurrection WE will have bodies like that!
Remember reading from Good Friday
Matthew 27:50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. 52 The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
Those saints were brought back to life. Like Lazarus. Like the widow’s son. But they returned in the bodies they had died in. That was not resurrection. That was just resuscitation. Resurrection is different. Resurrection is being born anew to eternal life – with eternal bodies like Christ’s resurrection body.
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
Just as Christ was raised from the dead, the new life we receive from him is like HIS new life.
35 But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendour of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendour of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendour, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendour.
So we will each be raised in a new kind of body which will be perfectly suited to the new earth where we will live.
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
The new body will be free of the limitations of this earthly body. No tears. No suffering. No pain. No death. No decay.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
So God will remake us in the image of Christ in His glorious resurrection body. Like we are now – but free of our limitations and imperfections. Free from the consequences of sin.
50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
How can this be? How will this work? We only have picture language. One story appeals to me because in a former life I was a chemistry teacher. A story is told about the assistant of the great chemist, Faraday. One day he knocked a little silver cup into a jar of acid. It disappeared, being eaten by the acid. The great chemist came in and put some chemical into the jar, and in a moment every particle of silver precipitated to the bottom. He sifted it out as a shapeless mass, sent it to a silversmith, and the cup was restored, shining even brighter than before.
If Faraday could precipitate that silver and recover his cup God can certainly restore our sleeping and scattered dust. The miracles of God are so much greater than the works of men.
My other picture of resurrection comes from science fiction and the world of Star Trek amongst others. It is the picture of teleportation. In that fictional universe, objects and people can be moved from one place to another using what Star Trek calls a transporter beam. The object or person is scanned and the pattern and arrangement of all their atoms is converted into energy. That pattern is sent somewhere else and is then converted back into matter again so that all their memories and even their thoughts are preserved. But the transporter beam is also able to make subtle changes, for example removing infection or contamination during the process. Assuming that fictional process could actually happen? Is the person who materializes the same as the person who de-materialised? That is the kind of question philosophers love to debate. Mostly they would have to say yes. Same body, same memories, same thoughts. Even though there was a finite time when that person no longer existed, but had been converted into a stream of energy. When the person materialized again, they certainly believed they were the same person, just in a different place.
That is a picture, and only a picture, for us of the resurrection of the dead. We die and our bodies may decay. But one day, God will raise us back to life. Same memories, same thoughts, bodies similar in many ways but actually more glorious bodies, transformed to be more like Christ. And to us in our new bodies, we will not be aware of time having passed. It will be as if we have blinked at the end of this life, and when we open our eyes we will be in God’s presence, in glory, on the new earth God has promised to create.
New bodies in a new earth
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
A new earth – a heavenly city where God walks among his people
22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
A new city with a river of God’s blessing running through it, lit by the presence of God Himself. Picture language – but a glorious picture of God in the midst of his people, where they can see him face to face.
THIS is our Christian hope – the hope of the resurrection of our bodies to eternal life. Our new bodies will be more like our present bodies than most of us imagine. And life in glory will actually be MORE SIMILAR to life in this world now than most of us expect!
Poet John Donne- I shall rise from the dead, from the prostration of death, and never miss the sun, which shall be put out, for I shall see the Son of God, the Sun of Glory, and shine myself as that sun shines. I shall rise from the grave, and never miss this city, which shall be nowhere, for I shall see the city of God, the new Jerusalem. I shall look up and never wonder when it shall be day, for the angel will tell me that time shall be no more, and I shall see and see cheerfully that last day of judgment, which shall have no night, never end, and be united to the Ancient of Days, to God Himself, who had no morning, never began.
In a cemetery in Hanover, Germany, is a grave on which were placed huge slabs of granite and marble cemented together and fastened with heavy steel clasps. It belongs to a woman who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Yet strangely, she directed in her will that her grave be made so secure that if there were a resurrection, it could not reach her. On the marker were inscribed these words: “This burial place must never be opened.” In time, a seed, covered over by the stones, began to grow. Slowly it pushed its way through the soil and out from beneath them. As the trunk enlarged, the great slabs were gradually shifted so that the steel clasps were wrenched from their sockets. A tiny seed had become a tree that had pushed aside the stones.
The dynamic life force contained in that little seed is a faint reflection of the tremendous power of God’s creative word that someday will call to life the bodies of all who are in their graves. He will also bring back every person drowned at sea, cremated, or destroyed in some other way. This is no problem to the One who made something out of nothing when He spoke the universe into existence. Unbelief cannot deter the resurrection. But faith in the risen Christ opens the door to blessings that His resurrection guarantees — a glorious new spiritual body and a home in heaven. In new bodies we will be reunited with saved loved ones to live with Jesus throughout all eternity.
This is our Christian hope. Not to drift around for eternity as disembodied souls. But to be raised from the dead in new resurrection bodies. We have lived like Adam with the likeness of the man from earth – one day we will be transformed to share the likeness of the man from heaven. THIS is our Christian hope!
It was this blessed hope of unending bliss that rendered D. L.Moody triumphant in life and all-glorious in death. Before his home-going, he said, “Some day you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody is dead. Don’t you believe it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all. I was born of the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die, but that which is born of the Spirit will live