Many atheists and agnostics assume death is the end. Many believers assume those who never heard Christ's name or teachings will go to Hell at death. Your Bible reveals the encouraging truth that we all need to know!
We mourn at the death of loved ones. Thousands of young men and women have lost their lives in military service, some even before they reach the age of 20. Others have fallen victim to accidents or disease. As we mourn, one of life's greatest mysteries is the question: "What will happen when we die?"
In recent years, atheists and agnostics have attacked the Bible and the reality of God Himself. One such author calls life after death an "illusion." In his article titled "Hope, Despair, Dread, and Religion," author Ronald A. Lindsay asserts that "religious promises of immortality offer only a false hope" (Free Inquiry, April-May 2010, p. 12).
Lindsay goes on to make this sad admission: "We cannot wish away the finality of death or other irretrievable losses. Nor can we provide acceptable answers to those who demand wish fulfillment. But if we have achieved the understanding that religion and belief in immortality are illusions, we can resist the temptation to yield to wishful thinking at times of crisis. With our gaze firmly fixed on the facts of reality, we can appreciate what life can and cannot offer" (ibid.).
To Lindsay, like many other atheists, the only "hope" is a kind of despairing acceptance of a sad and empty future. But is that really what awaits us? Or will there be a time of reward and punishment, when "good people" go to Heaven and bad people burn forever in Hell?
The good news is that the very Giver of life, the Creator God, has a glorious plan for all human beings that includes the inheritance of the earth, and the inheritance of the universe. Our Father in heaven has given us awesome evidence that we can have victory over the greatest enemy of all, the enemy of death. You can have that victory!
Over the past several thousand years, billions, yes, billions of people have lived and died. Were their lives of no value? We all have lost loved ones to death, some at a very young age, and some who lived long lives. Some died as practicing sinners and paid the penalty of their actions and behaviors. Others were victims of accidents. Many millions have died in the hundreds of wars around the world over the past several thousand years. Millions have lost their lives in the holocaust and in other genocidal horrors. Is there hope for these millions, many of whom never converted to Christianity?
The answer is: "Yes!" There is a future hope for millions and billions of human beings who died without having any opportunity for salvation. God reveals that there is a resurrection from the dead for those who were blinded to the truth. That resurrection takes place after the Millennium in what is called The White Throne Judgment described in Revelation 20. The Bible describes death as an "enemy." But God will give a great victory over death to those throughout all history, who in the future will repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ as the Apostle Peter made plain in Acts 2:38. The Apostle Paul described the ultimate great victory over death in 1 Corinthians 15:54–57: "So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?' The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
You can have victory over death in the great resurrection. Your Bible gives the inspiring hope for the future.
There is hope for the thousands of disaster victims whose lives were cut short. There is hope for your deceased loved ones.
What happens when you die? Many scientists, atheists, and agnostics believe that life permanently ends at death. On the other hand, many religious people believe that when the body dies, the soul goes straight to heaven or hell. Can you imagine the false teaching that billions of people who never heard the name of Jesus Christ are now burning in hell? Is God that unfair? Of course not! Acts 4:12 states that only through the Savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ can anyone be saved, that "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Yet, since billions of people throughout history have never even heard the true gospel, how could they have even had an opportunity for salvation? Does God have a plan for them? Some religions wrongly teach that the vast majority of them are tormented in hell even to this day. Is that what your Bible teaches? What is the truth?
What does the Bible reveal about life after death for human beings? At one time, the Apostle Paul was being judged and examined by the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. Paul made the resurrection from the dead the major issue. He spoke to the assembly of both Pharisees and Sadducees: "But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, 'Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!'" (Acts 23:6).
Was Paul saying that he would go to Heaven when he died? Absolutely not! Paul was looking forward to the resurrection from the dead at the return of Christ! Read it in your own Bible! In the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote of his faith in Christ and his future goal of the resurrection. Paul strongly desired to "know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:10–11).
Your Bible teaches that the dead remain dead until the resurrection. Death is an enemy, but God will give us a great victory over death, if we are faithful to Him through Jesus Christ. Many professing Christians assume that when a person dies, he or she goes immediately to heaven, hell, or purgatory, but is that what Jesus Himself taught? Remember the miraculous revival of Jesus' friend Lazarus? When Lazarus died, did he go to heaven? Lazarus had been in the tomb four days, and Jesus brought him back to life! Jesus resurrected Lazarus from the dead to live out his natural, physical life! Our Savior proclaimed, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:25–26).
Do we really believe His words? Lazarus was dead. Did Lazarus go to the glories of Heaven, only to have Jesus force him back into a physical body upon resurrection? Of course not! Lazarus did not go to Heaven or to a burning hell-fire when he died. Lazarus simply died and had no consciousness! Jesus said very plainly, "Lazarus sleeps… Lazarus is dead" (John 11:11, 14).
Lazarus had been in the tomb four days before Jesus brought him back to natural, physical life. But the resurrection of deceased faithful Christians will be to eternal, immortal life. That will take place at Christ's return: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first" (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
The resurrection is the hope of a Christian. If one already went to heaven at death, there would be no need for a resurrection. Human beings are not born with immortality, or eternal life. Believe it or not, the Bible teaches that a soul can die. The soul is not immortal! Read it for yourself: "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). The Hebrew word for "soul" is nephesh, which indicates physical or natural life. Rather, we learn that at the resurrection, immortality begins, when "this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:53).
Yes, you and I right now are mortal, but faithful Christians will receive the gift of immortality at the resurrection! This resurrection of faithful Christians is also mentioned in Revelation 20:4, "And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years." But notice the very next verse, which reveals that there will be a second general resurrection: "But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished" (v. 5).
Who will be in that second general resurrection? It may include friends or relatives of yours, whom you thought were lost forever. Is this hard for you to believe? Just ask yourself—what will happen to all those billions of people who will not be in the first resurrection? Consider the history of the world. In the past six thousand years, billions of people all around the world have lived and died. The vast majority have never even heard the name of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Yet the Apostle Peter plainly stated, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). So, what will happen to the billions of people who never even heard His name?
The prophet Ezekiel had a vision described as the Valley of Dry Bones. You can read it for yourself in Ezekiel 37. It describes what will take place at the second resurrection. Billions of people will be resurrected to physical life. The Book of Life will be opened to them, and they will have their first opportunity to learn the truth about Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation. This is not a "second chance" as some would like to dismiss it. Rather, it will be the first opportunity for countless billions to see their sins, repent of those sins, accept Jesus Christ as Savior and live His Way. It is God's purpose to give everyone who has ever lived a genuine, fair opportunity to become part of His divine Family for all eternity. He has made that purpose plain: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
We need to study what the Bible plainly teaches. Are billions who never heard the name of our Savior lost forever? Is God that unfair? Throughout the history of the world, there have been billions of people who never even heard the actual teachings of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Is God so unfair as to condemn them to suffer in hellfire forever? Of course not! The "rest of the dead"—mentioned in Revelation 20:5—will be in the second general resurrection. They will face the judgment. But it will be a judgment in which they will have an opportunity to repent and be baptized. That may include some of your friends and relatives.
There are three general resurrections. The first general resurrection from the dead is the resurrection in which Christians from this present age will be given immortal life as members of the Family of God. The second general resurrection from the dead will occur after the Millennium at the start of what is called the White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:12), when the billions of so-called "unsaved" human beings will have their one true opportunity to learn God's ways and to face judgment. As Scripture tells us, "it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).
Sadly, some will reject God's grace and salvation. They will refuse to repent of their sins and will reject the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God will destroy these incorrigibly wicked people in the lake of fire. The third general resurrection will consist of these rebellious sinners being punished by receiving eternal death in the lake of fire. Though God is merciful, He is also just. We read: "'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Hebrews 10:30). Those who reject salvation will be tormented as they stand before the lake of fire, then they and all the other wicked souls will be cast into the lake of fire and burned up, as it tells us in Revelation 21:8. They will live no longer. This is the second death, from which there is no resurrection. As we read: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
Yes, faithful Christians can have victory over death. Be sure to read in your Bible the resurrection chapters, 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4. We all need to prepare for the return of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We need to look forward to the resurrection of faithful Christians at Christ's return when the last trumpet sounds. As it tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:52, "For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
No, life after death is not an "illusion" as atheists will say. When doubting Thomas placed his hand into the spear wound of the resurrected Christ, this was no illusion (John 20:24–28). The 500 witnesses who testified to Christ's resurrection were under no illusion (1 Corinthians 15:5–6).
Truly, God has an awesome plan for all humanity. There is hope for the billions of dead people around the world who never had a genuine opportunity for salvation. Yes, there is a wonderful hope for genocide victims, and for the spiritually blinded billions. That hope is the second general resurrection in the White Throne Judgment we read about in Revelation 20:11. As for today's Christians, we need to pray as Jesus taught us "Your Kingdom come!" Look forward to the return of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and our great victory over death! Let us all be able to say, "thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).