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What Does the Bible Say About...What Happens After Death?

When you die does it say you go right to heaven or what happens, because it says in the end times God will raise all the bodies from the earth and they will rise and be in the kingdom with God. But then what happens when you die do you just not go to heaven? Or are you just dead until God comes back or do you go to heaven? I don't know; I just don't understand. And I was also wondering about how is God supposed to raise you up if you are cremated?


I can understand your confusion about what happens after you die. You aren't the only one. In part that is because the Bible is not real clear about the period between your death and the resurrection that will come when Christ returns.

What happens to the soul after death? Does it go straight to heaven or hell? Or is there a waiting period? Or does one lose all consciousness until the return of Christ? There are those, notably the Jehovah's Witnesses, that say that some (the saved/elect) are going to be resurrected and everyone else will cease to exist. The scriptures do not appear to support this latter view, however, because Jesus talks of those who will have eternal punishment (Matthew 25:31-46, note especially verse 46).

The passages in the Old Testament are generally vague about what will happen after death. Some indicate that there may be no awareness in the grave (Psalm 6:5), but most don't address the ultimate fate of the soul. So we must look to the New Testament.

The story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 seems to indicate there will be awareness after death and before the world ends, and there will be a separation of the good and evil. Many have said this is a sort of holding area prior to the judgement. That is possible, but not clearly stated. Others have said this was just a parable and doesn't really show what will happen after we die. The main objection to that idea is that all of Jesus' parables were based on actual scenes or events.

What is clear is that when Jesus comes again all the dead will arise with the living and meet him for judgement (1 Thes 4:13-18; 2 Thes 1:7-10). Contrary to what many today believe, these passages don't indicate a period of time, such as a thousand years, between the resurrection of the righteous dead and the final judgement. Taken with the scene in Matthew 25, it appears that we do not go directly to heaven upon death, as some believe, but wait for Christ to appear. Then when he comes again all who are dead will be resurrected and join those living at the time to be judged.

You also ask how God will raise us up if we are cremated. The same question could be asked about all who have been dead a sufficient amount of time for their bodies to return "to dust." Cremation only speeds up the process of decay. A related question would be, what about those martyrs during the Roman era who were burned at the stake or torn and eaten by animals?

It seems that some in the first century were also concerned about this. Paul answers some of their questions in 1 Corinthians 15:35-57. I summarize it here, but ask that you read it yourself. Paul says that we are buried in a natural body, like a seed planted in the ground, but will be raised in a spiritual body. You plant a seed and the plant that grows is not anything like the seed; so it will be with the difference between our natural and spiritual bodies. Flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of heaven, so it doesn't matter what happens to our flesh after we die. We will be given a body that does not decay or grow old. What will it be like? We may not know until it happens. But the decay of the body in the grave, or cremation, or any of the other things that can keep a body from being whole at death will have no effect on the spiritual body that will receive eternal punishment or spend an eternity with God.