06 May 2011

Question of the Week:
Where Do We Go After Death?

by Anne Lang Bundy

Photo credit: Oscar Burriel

How can we have eternal life and die? (I know some believe that when they die they go into the ground until Christ's return.)
~ Anonymous

Last week's post described that the Bible speaks of the body housing the soul as a "tent." When we die, the soul enters spiritual realms while the body remains behind. On a day in the future, the bodies of both righteous and condemned are resurrected and reunited with the soul for judgment. (John 5:28-29)

Innumerable people have reported credible experiences of dying and leaving their bodies, briefly glimpsing the spiritual world, and then being revived. Among the common elements many people describe is visiting a place of inexplicable beauty and profound peace, where they meet angels and / or loved ones who have already died.

A few people report a place not of beauty and loved ones, but of great torment. Jesus likewise describes such a place when He tells of Lazarus and the rich man. (Unlike other stories Jesus told, this account in Luke 16:19-31 is not called a parable, and appears to be an actual event.)

For the condemned soul, the Bible mentions the following places of torment in spiritual realms:

• Hades (Greek name; called Sheol in Hebrew) –
the place of torment before final judgment; the OT sometimes speaks euphemistically of suffering with the word Sheol, in the same way we might describe our circumstances as "going through Hell"

• Gehenna (possibly the same as the "lake of fire" mentioned in Revelation and the Hebrew Abaddon) –
the place of everlasting fire and punishment for the condemned, in their resurrected bodies after the judgment, where "their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43-48)

• Tartarus (Greek tartaroō); appears to be the same as "the abyss" (Greek abussos, also called "bottomless pit") –
deepest abyss of Hades; a place for demons

• Great Chasm (Greek megas chasma) –
impassable gulf separating Hades and Paradise mentioned in Luke 16:26

These places are only spoken of as a destination for the condemned. Those souls who trust in the Lord and obtain forgiveness of sins through Christ's blood experience no torment after the body dies.

The dying thief on the cross expressed faith in Jesus, and Jesus assured the man he would be in Paradise the same day. Paul was among those who glimpsed Paradise (perhaps after he was stoned and left for dead). He explained that after Christians die, "we shall always be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

The soul given to Jesus does not experience death (John 11:25-26).

The soul given to Jesus knows no separation from God's love:

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~ Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV)

Next week: Pursue this world or the next?

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What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.

© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.


  1. I haven't encountered specifics like this before. Thanks for explaining.
    ~ Wendy

  2. there's one part of this where i'm getting hung up on and that is where the souls are "rejoined" to their bodies for judgement. so is this "judgement day" for when Christ returns? and those of us that are already with Him returned to our bodies for a second judgement? and the fate of the ones in Hades get the same?

    quote: On a day in the future, the bodies of both the righteous and condemned are resurrected and reunited tith the soul for judgement.

    on the one hand, our sins are already covered and for us we have been judged. but on the other hand....we still face a second judgement then, yes?

    this is where we meet Refiner's fire then? which would explain the absolute need for short accounts!

  3. Oh, I pray that I can be a light in the darkness to show the way to Christ, so many need Him. I feel like far too many times I let my fear get in the way.....Thank you for reminding me of what is important. Lori

  4. Wendy ~

    I'm glad to know you appreciated the details.

  5. Bud ~

    I'll make it a point to provide some more detail in next week's post, about our purpose on Earth. Yes, the condemned are also resurrected, as Jesus explains very clearly if you read John 5:21:30. And yes, Christians also face judgment, as Jesus explains in a number of parables, most notably the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-30.

  6. Lori ~

    You clearly identify the importance of this information. Hell is a very real place, with more info in the Bible about it than I personally want to know. I've somewhere heard a quote that the most conclusive proof of Hell's existence is looking at how far God the Father and Jesus went in order to keep us out of it.