What Happens When Someone Dies?

Bible Basics

by Bob Burridge ©2011, 2021
Lesson 12: What Happens When Someone Dies?

The primary meaning of death in the Bible is “separation”. When a person dies his soul is separated from his no longer functioning body. The soul part of the person continues to function and is aware of things.

Death happens to all humans because of sin. It’s not just each person’s own sins that bring about that penalty. When Adam sinned the whole human race was condemned to die because Adam represented all who would descend from him. Our own sins continue to confirm that we have earned that well deserved penalty. In Romans5:12 it says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned”

But there are two kinds of death in the Bible:
Physical Death: the body stops working and the soul is separated from it
Spiritual Death: a person is separated from fellowship with God

When Adam sinned he didn’t die physically right away, but he immediately died spiritually. He experienced that tragic separation from fellowship with his Creator. This is the condition from which we need to be delivered before physical death ends our time in this world where we now live and are called to live for God’s glory.

When we are born as new babies we are already spiritually dead because of that sin of Adam. He represented all of us in Eden. The guilt of Adam’s sin, and our own guilt when we sin, offends God. It becomes a barrier that keeps us from enjoying his comfort and promises. If we die physically when we are still dead spiritually we cannot go to Heaven and be with God forever.

The Gospel is that good message that those who are transformed by God’s grace are restored to fellowship with their Creator. When Jesus died he paid the penalty of sin in the repentant sinner’s place. All who sincerely trust in that saving work of Jesus Christ have the spiritual barrier removed. The separation ends. Romans 6:23 tells us that spiritual death can be overcome, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When someone who trusts in Jesus as his Redeemer dies, his soul goes immediately to be with the Savior. He will enjoy God’s blessings forever.

When people who trust in Jesus die, their soul goes immediately to be with their Savior. He paid the penalty of sin for his people. He died in their place. They will enjoy God’s blessings forever.

Resurrection is the rejoining of things separated in physical death. After Jesus died on the cross his body was laid in a tomb while his human soul went to that spiritual dimension where all go as they await the great day of resurrection. But Jesus was resurrected three days later on that Resurrection Sunday. At that time his human body was changed into a glorified form and re-joined with his human soul again.

When the end of our present world comes, Jesus will come again and the bodies of all his people will be resurrected too. Their glorified bodies will be joined again with their souls in Heaven. There they will live forever with God and all the other believers. This is physical resurrection.

There is also a spiritual resurrection when a person separated from God is re-joined in fellowship with their Creator. This is the Christian life we can enjoy here on earth while we are still alive. Jesus removed the barrier of our guilt so that we will enjoy fellowship with God again, and we will enjoy his blessings while we live here.

When we trust in Jesus as our Savior, we are raised up from spiritual death and are alive in a new way. Romans 6:4 explains that this is what Baptism represents, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

Those who are made alive by the Gospel should live as those who are again made right with God. Their lives should show how thankful they are for God’s mercy and love.

The sad part of this is that those who are not changed by faith in Jesus Christ are left in their spiritual death. They have no spiritual resurrection as they struggle here on Earth. In the final day of judgment they will suffer tragic un-ending agony with no hope of deliverance. They are forever separated from the God they offended.

Those who are spiritually alive have the privilege of taking the Gospel to those still lost. Some will come to love the one true God who makes them alive too. It’s a wonderful thing to be used by God to bring life to those who are spiritually dead. When they sincerely trust in what Jesus did, God promises that they will be with him and all of us believers forever in glory.

(Bible verses are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible)
Index of all our lessons on Bible Basics

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About Bob Burridge

I've taught Science, Bible, Math, Computer Programming and served 25 years as Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Pinellas Park, Florida. I'm now Executive Director of the ministry of the Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies

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