What happens when you die?

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What happens when you die?

July 28, 2022 - Dr. Jim Denison

© Syda Productions /stock.adobe.com

© Syda Productions /stock.adobe.com

In this article


You’re familiar with recycling, of course. Most of us have a blue or green trashcan or something similar in which we put our paper products and other waste that can be recycled.

What if your body could do the same thing?

Edible products are now a trend. Edible straws in a variety of flavors, edible spoons and sporks made from a mix of wheat, oats, corn, chickpeas, and brown rice, and edible coffee cups are all available. Some are being used by major retailers as a novelty and to boost their environmental credibility.

Then, when your body dies, water cremation could be the way it is “buried.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu requested alkaline hydrolysis, also known as aquamation or water cremation, as an eco-friendly final disposition of his body. His decision made this process much more widely known.

Here’s how it works (and this could be considered graphic to some): Your body is sealed in a long, stainless-steel chamber while a heated solution of 95 percent water and 5 percent sodium hydroxide passes over it. The process dissolves the bonds in your body’s tissues and eventually yields a liquid combination that is disposed of down the drain at the alkaline hydrolysis facility. Your body’s bones are then ground to a fine powder and returned to your survivors, just as the bones remaining after a flame cremation are returned to families as ash.

This is just one of many ways our bodies can be “buried” these days. But when that day comes, what happens to us?

What happens in the moment when we die? When death comes to someone we care about? How are we to be ready? Let’s organize our issues into three questions.

Will you die?

First, will death come for you? Can you escape it? Is there any way out?

W. C. Fields on his deathbed was seen thumbing through a Bible. Someone asked why. His answer: “Looking for loopholes.” But he didn’t find any. The death rate is still 100 percent.

In fact, you and I are one day closer to death and eternity than we have ever been before. God’s word warns us: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Death comes for us all. Neither wisdom nor wealth can prevent it: “Even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others” (Psalm 49:10).

We all face the same end, unless Jesus returns first: “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

These words are on a tombstone in Sevenoaks, Kent, England:

Grim death took me without any warning
I was well at night, and dead in the morning. 

It can happen that way for any of us.

Why will you die?

Why does death exist? If God were all-loving, he’d want to destroy death, we assume. If he were all-powerful, he could. But he doesn’t. Why?

Here’s the simple answer: because of sin. The thief on the cross said, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve” (Luke 23:41 NIV). The Bible agrees: “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). This wasn’t God’s intention. He created a perfect world for his children. But when sin entered, death stayed. Death exists, not because God doesn’t love us or isn’t powerful, but because of sin.

Sometimes we die because of our own sin, as with the thief at Jesus’ side. Sometimes we die because of the sins of others, as when a drunk driver kills a child. Sometimes we die because of the sin of humanity, for this is the lot of life. But we all die.

God doesn’t stop death so that we’ll not live forever in our fallen world and bodies. In Genesis 3, God knew that if Adam and Eve ate from the tree of life after their sin, they would live forever in their fallen, sinful condition. So in his merciful grace, he barred the way. Now when we die, we are ushered into eternity with him.

God’s word is clear: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50). Physical death frees us to live forever in glorified bodies with God in his heaven. Then one day, death will be destroyed forever: “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14). God’s word promises: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4 NIV).

What happens when you die?

Now we come to our last question: What happens in the moment when you die?

First, you are with Christ, if Jesus is your Lord.

Jesus told the thief at his side, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). “Paradise” was a Persian word for the walled garden of the king. Not only would the thief receive eternal life, but he would also spend it with the King himself.

Jesus taught us that the moment we die, the angels carry us to God’s side (Luke 16:22). When you close your eyes here you open them there. You will never die (John 11:26; Philippians 1:23). You are forever and always with Jesus.

Second, you’re home.

Paul testified, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Imagine a small boy who falls asleep in the back seat of the car. When the family gets home, his father picks him up and carries him into the house. When he wakes up, he’s home. That’s exactly what happens for God’s children.

Third, death is glory.

It is paradise, as Jesus said. Paul said, “to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21), for “blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” (Revelation 14:13). We will gain imperishable, glorified, spiritual bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42–44) and be like Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:49). We will know God and each other as we are known (1 Corinthians 13.12). And we will eat of the tree of life and live forever (Revelation 22).

However, remember a fourth fact: Death is eternal punishment for nonbelievers.

As a result, we must be ready now. The Lord said to King Hezekiah, “Set your house in order, for you shall die” (2 Kings 20:1). If you are prepared, there is nothing to fear in death, for it is but the next step to life.

Conclusion

Dwight Moody, on his deathbed, said, “If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. Dwight! Irene! I see the children’s faces. God is calling me. I must go. Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me.”

If Jesus is your Lord, when you die you won’t. Instead, you’ll see God. And you’ll be safely home.

NOTE: If you’re not sure whether you have trusted in Christ as your Lord, I invite you to read my website article, “Why Jesus?” and respond to its section, “How can you meet Jesus personally?”

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