What Happens at the Moment of Death?

Over the past couple of months, our community has been hit with a number of tragedies.  There have been many who have lost loved ones.  In times like these, I have found that a number of questions arise.  One question that has come up more than once is "What happens to a person immediately after they die?"

There are different answers to this question that are given in our world today: 
  • Nothing - at the point of death, a person just ceases to exist.
  • Reincarnation - the person comes back to life as another being.
  • Sleep - the person enters a time of "sleep" until a future judgment or time.
While there are many different thoughts that are floating around, I have come to believe that we do not have to wonder about this subject.  There is a place that one can find answers to the deepest questions that we have.  That place is the Bible.  Since this question has been brought to me many times over the past couple of weeks, I would like to share what the Bible says about the moment after a person dies.

We all pretty much understand that each and every one of us is going to die at some point.  That is not morbid.  It is "just the facts, ma'am."  The Bible tells us in Hebrews 9:27 that death will come to each person.  This verse also shoots down the notion that a person ceases to exist or even just sleeps until a later time.  Hebrews 9:27 shows that there is a continuation of the person.  

The Bible teaches that each person is made up of two "parts": the body and the soul.  First, the body is the vessel that houses the soul here on earth (Genesis 2:72 Corinthians 4:7).  The body is the physical parts of our being.  The body will at the point of death begin the process of returning to the earth (Genesis 3:19Job 10:9).  Second, the soul is the immaterial part of each person.  The Bible uses the terms 'soul' and 'spirit' many times interchangeably (John 12:27; John 13:21; Luke 1:46-47). 

Death occurs when the body and the soul/spirit are separated.  James 2:26 tells us that "the body without the spirit is dead."  When death is mentioned in the Bible, there is always this idea of separation.  The apostle Paul speaks about being "absent from the body" when speaking of physical death (2 Corinthians 5:8).  

So what exactly happens when a person dies?  

The Bible gives evidence that the moment a person dies here on earth, they are immediately present in their eternal dwelling place.  Hebrews 9:27 (mentioned earlier) gives a good statement on this when it says, "...it is appointed for people to die once - and after this, judgment".  Also mentioned earlier, Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that he would "rather be absent from the body and be at home with the Lord" (NASB).  Jesus Himself even shared a parable that spoke about the immediate moments after two people passed through death in Luke 16:19-31.  

One can see clearly that the Bible shows us that death is not the end of all things for us.  There is something that is on the other side of the grave.  There is not a cessation of existence.  We were created with eternity set in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  There is not a period of sleep as some might want to suggest.  The Bible states that when our lives here on earth end, the very next moment of time is spent in the place where we will be for all of eternity.  That is heaven - for those who have placed their faith and trust into Jesus Christ - or hell - for all who have not chosen to follow Jesus.