What Happens When You Die?
June 1, 2003 - The April death of NBC journalist David Bloom in Iraq was a jolt for many American television viewers. Here was a man who often visited our living rooms from the set of the "Today" show or from the White House. He reported to us from Bosnia, Somalia, Israel, Kuwait, Pakistan and New York's Ground Zero. At Bloom's funeral, his best friends and co-workers said he brought adventure, humor and kindness to television. Now he was suddenly gone.
A Message by Billy Graham
It would've been difficult enough for us to believe that Bloom was fallen by a stray bullet or a war-related accident. But instead, this 39-year-old reporter with boundless energy and boyish enthusiasm died of a blood clot—something that could just as easily happen to us in our own homes. We were reminded that we, too, are just a heartbeat away from departing our own earthly bodies.
David Bloom's death has prompted many to ask the age-old question: What exactly happens to us when we die? Many today have come to believe that their existence will terminate at death. This conviction helps to account for the immorality that has characterized the past generations, for our mounting crime wave, for our racial strife, and even for our wars. Our attitudes stem from the belief that when we're dead, we're dead, and that there is nothing beyond the grave.
But the Bible teaches that we are eternal and that there is a dimension to life called eternity. I find, however, a shocking silence upon this subject on the part of modern religious writers. If a person believed that this life is a "dressing room for eternity," I am convinced that he would live differently. A person is not really prepared to live until he is prepared to die. To live correctly before God, we need a proper attitude toward death and eternity.
Reason and Conscience Speak
Two clear earthly voices are lifted up on behalf of immortality and eternity. One of them, the voice of reason, tells us that it is unwise to believe in the indestructibility of energy as established by science, and then to reject the possibility that the human spirit is clothed in immortality. It is inconceivable that a Creator would conserve energy in the physical world as indestructible, and then allow His highest creation, human personality, to become extinct at death.
The other voice we hear is the voice of conscience. Even in the rock-hewn tombs of the ancient Pharaohs alongside the River Nile have been found the words, "The dead shall live again." The early Greeks and Romans believed in a future life. The Norsemen had a "Valhalla" where the souls of slain heroes lived in the afterlife. The Hindus and the Muslims have at least one belief in common—faith in the future existence of man.
Such universal agreement of belief, and such harmony of opinion in people so varied culturally, is in itself convincing evidence of the truth of our immortality. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Our dissatisfaction with any other solution is the blazing evidence of immortality."
What Are the Eternal Things?
Who has stood on the brink of a grave at the funeral of a deceased friend, has heard the minister speak the words, "I am the resurrection, and the life" (John 11:25, KJV), and has not sensed that we are created in the image and the likeness of the eternal God?
Our earthly existence is measured by time. Watches and clocks compute the minutes and the hours; calendars measure our days, weeks and years. They remind us that our days on earth are numbered and that eventually "man goeth to his long home" (Ecclesiastes 12:5, KJV).
What, then, are the eternal things? And who shall abide forever? Oddly enough, the things to which we are most bound are not eternal. The Bible calls riches the "gold that perisheth" (1 Peter 1:7, KJV). Fame, fortune and pleasure are called "vanity and vexation of spirit" (Ecclesiastes 1:14, 2:11, 2:17, KJV). This physical earth will not endure the ravages of time and eternity; the earth and its works "shall be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10, KJV). What things, then, are eternal? Who and what will live forever?
First, the Bible says that God is eternal: "From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God"(Psalm 90:2, KJV). And in Psalm 135:13: "Thy name, O Lord, endureth for ever; and thy memorial, O Lord, throughout all generations"(KJV). When the world has crumbled, when the heavens have fallen, when the stars have moved out of their orbits, God will still be living. He is eternal.
The Bible teaches that God's holiness is everlasting, His Kingdom is everlasting, His mercy is everlasting, His love is everlasting, His judgments are everlasting. All of these are as endless as eternity itself.
Second, the Bible says that the Word of God is eternal. It has stood unchanged for many thousands of years, and by its own statement, it will survive the ceaseless eons of eternity: "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever" (Isaiah 40:8, KJV).
It was the Bible that gave fire and soul to Western civilization and made it a leader in the exploitation of science and the achievement of human freedom. It was the Bible that turned meaningless ritual into a living faith and gave the Church life and breath and strength. The world has no other word to shear men of their proud passions, no other cure for the ills and miseries of the human race, no other trumpet to rally souls who are in conflict with themselves. This Book alone breathes immortality, enabling the dead to walk in newness of life. It will live on after the strongest, most formidable nations have fallen. It will be remembered and respected when the world's greatest heroes have been forgotten.
Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35, KJV). That is one reason why it is so important to memorize the Scriptures, to study them and to hide them in our hearts—because His Word is eternal.
Had our nations' leaders been studying the Bible over the past few years, had they accepted its diagnosis of the world's illness and its therapy as provided in Jesus Christ, we would not be in trouble all over the world as we are today. We have been blinded by Satan to the real cause of the disease of the human race. So we continue to rush here and there, putting out brush fires that are breaking out all over the world. In the eternal Word of God is the answer to the problems that we face.
Third, the Bible teaches that the soul of man is eternal. We whose moral bulwarks have been destroyed by a tidal wave of materialism, who no longer believe that we are accountable to the righteous God for the deeds done in the flesh, let us listen to what the Bible has to say about our eternity: "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2, KJV).
You have a body with eyes and ears and hands and feet, but your body is temporary. It will go to the grave. But your personality, your intelligence, your conscience, your memory—these live on forever. This is your spirit, and according to the Bible, our spirit will never die.
You may try to end it all today. You may be sick, discouraged, despondent, frustrated, almost ready to give up because of the pressing problems that beset you. You may have been thinking of taking your life. But you can kill only the body; you cannot kill the soul. You will live forever, whether or not you like it. The Bible says that your soul is eternal.
Fourth, the Bible teaches that salvation is eternal: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16, KJV). When you come to Jesus Christ, you become a partaker of eternal life. God is from everlasting to everlasting; and the moment that you receive Christ as Savior, you become a partaker of the eternal life of God. That means that those who are in Christ will live forever with Him.
What a Joyful Christian!
I expect to be living with God a thousand years from today. One million years from now, I expect to be more alive than I am today. Why? Because I have become a partaker of His eternal life. I deserve death and hell because I am a sinner; but by the grace of God through Christ who died on the cross for my sins, I have eternal life today. I know that my sins are forgiven, and I am on my way to heaven to spend eternity with Him.
In "Morning and Evening" Charles H. Spurgeon wrote, "Do you believe that your sins are forgiven, and that Christ has made a full atonement for them? Then what a joyful Christian you ought to be! How you should live above the common trials and troubles of the world! Since sin is forgiven, can it matter what happens to you now?"
In response you may say, "Send affliction, poverty, losses, persecution, crosses—send whatever You will, Lord; You have forgiven me. My sins are forever and eternally forgiven!" This should be the attitude of every believer. The most glorious message that any person can possibly hear this side of eternity is: "Thy sins are forgiven" (Luke 5:20, 7:48, KJV).
I would be unfair to you if I did not mention a fifth thing that lasts forever: the fate of the unbeliever. This, too, is eternal. You cannot die; you cannot kill yourself. The unbeliever will live for eternity, separated from God. However, the Bible says that you do have a choice today, a choice as to where you will spend eternity. We have read that journalist David Bloom made that choice himself when he received the salvation of Christ and began his own eternal peace with God. His greatest adventure is now just beginning. The choice is yours. What you do with Jesus Christ makes all the difference.