Writings on Christianity

What does the Bible Teach about the Afterlife?

The Bible teaches that it is possible to know what will happen to humans after physical death. This is not a knowledge that can be learned through human reasoning or scientific inquiry or even through mere experience (our experience or the experience of others). Our knowledge about the afterlife of humans is a knowledge given to us by God through propositional revelation found in the Bible (God’s inspired revelation of Himself graciously given to humanity). This knowledge is true, trustworthy, and authoritative because it comes from God Himself. Here, we learn the truth about what happens to human person after physical death.

The Bible contends that there is life for humans after their physical death. We do not cease to exist, nor are we reincarnated, nor are we absorbed into some kind of collective consciousness, nor do we freely decide what will happen to us. We are God’s creation and God determines what will happen to us, and His choices are good and just. God intends us to continue to exist as conscious individuals; He upholds the dignity of humans by allowing them not to cease to exist, nor be reincarnated into some other species, nor to be simply absorbed into the universe. God views their actions and lives to have significance and worth that will carry on pass this temporary life. On day, God will fairly judge all for their actions and intentions of their hearts and bring about justice. And after this, God is leading his people to a future existence where there will no longer be death, but everlasting life.

From a biblical standpoint, the question is not whether we continue to exist after we die, but what kind of experience this existence will be. Every human will have a continued conscious personal existence, but not all of us will have a pleasant continued personal existence. This is due what the Bible speaks of as our chief problem as humans. The greatest problem for humans, from a biblical perspective, is a broken relationship with God due to our sinful rebellion against God. We are estranged from God; we don’t believe in God, we don’t want Him, we create false gods, we reject God’s legitimate authority. Because of our sin, we are His enemies and deeply opposed to Him (Col 1:21).  After death, we will continue our existence as His enemies, unless we have been delivered from our sin and reconciled to God. This reconciliation can take place now through Jesus, God the Son, who came to earth to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15) and bring us back to God (Col 1:22).

Physical death will come to all of us, but it is not a normal or natural part of the story of history and reality. The Christian understanding of death is that it is abnormal, or a break in the way things were meant to be, and is a consequence of our rebellion against God (Gen 2:17; Rom 6:23). In our judged state before God, we experience a physical and spiritual death.

After we die physically, our relationship with God will carry on the way it is now: either in a restored relationship with God (eternal life) or in one of continued estrangement (eternal death). The Bible teaches that after humans physically die, there is an intermediate period of time where we as humans carry on our existence as souls without bodies in heaven or hell. But this is only a temporary period of time, one that is wonderful for the person reconciled to God (Phil 1:23), but dreadful for the person who is not (Luke 16:19-31), which is to be followed by the resurrection of the dead.

One day our souls will be reunited with a physical body and all of us will resurrected physically (Daniel 12:2). This resurrection will happen to everyone who ever lived and will lead to a day of judgment before God (Hebrews 9:27 “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”). All humans will give an account of their lives to God who is the Judge of all history and humanity; the righteous will live as physical/spiritual beings on the new earth ruled under king Jesus, free from any fears of future death or evil or sin, while the unrighteous will depart from God’s gracious presence and people and be cast away into an eternal judgment in hell—a real place of conscious torment (Matt 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-21). While modern people in the West are repulsed by the idea of God “judging,” it is the clear teaching of the Bible and Jesus spoke of hell more than anyone else in the Bible. Such a judgment from God will be fair, righteous, and good. It is a judgment that will lead to a rightful punishment of evil and triumph of good.

As a Christian, the good news of the gospel is that Jesus, the righteous one, died for us the unrighteous, so that we might have hope of a right standing with God and everlasting life on the basis of His grace (John 3:16; Rom 3:21-26; 2 Cor 5:21), and not at all on the basis of our good works or behavior (Titus 3:5; Gal 2:16). This gives a person hope for the afterlife—both in the intermediate period, where individuals have souls without bodies, and at the resurrection of the dead, where individuals have soul reunited with resurrected physical bodies. Jesus already has paid the penalty for our sins, so we can have hope that we will be counted righteous before God on the Day of Judgment because of what Jesus has accomplished (Rom 5:10-11).

By Tom Schmidt

Christian, husband of Rach, Church Planter,musician,

1 reply on “What does the Bible Teach about the Afterlife?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *