What is it Like to Die? Part 3 – A Different View of Death

This post was originally published in August 2014

For Christians, the Bible calls us to reverse our thinking on a lot of subjects. We are to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and serve if we want to lead. When we are finished living, death is not a final punishment, but the beginning of a new life in heaven and an eternal reward. We don’t see death that way because we can only see one side of it, the side that takes place in our present reality.  To understand the Bible’s view, we need to see death from a different perspective.

As I said in the first post in this series, people have two “parts;” a physical part, the body, that will wear out and die and a spiritual part, the soul or spirit, which will never die.  When a person becomes a Christian, God’s Holy Spirit begins to live in them and for many people it is their first experience with the spiritual world. We are aware of feelings and input that comes in through ways other than our senses. It is both exhilarating and unnerving when we “sense” the Holy Spirit tell us that something is wrong or we just stop doing things we used to do. Our spirit is being changed and the change is reflected in what we do and how we think. That’s how Paul could be sure that a person who had accepted Christ would begin to bear the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22.  God’s Holy Spirit teaches our spirit to be God-like and demonstrate God’s character.

When we die, our body releases our spirit. I talked in an earlier post about where the spirit will go. In this case, I am talking about those who have accepted Jesus’ death for their sins and their spirits are going to heaven for eternity with God. For those of us on the earthly side of death, all we see is the body stop working and the person we knew is gone. But, if we could see the whole picture, we would see that when the person drew his last breath here, his eyes opened in heaven where there are angels singing, there are the spirits of believers through the ages who have died before him, and he is where God dwells in His glory. The joy, peace, and acceptance are overwhelming. There is a sense of finally being home in the place that Jesus promised he would prepare for us. Here on earth, we only see half the picture, and it’s not the good half.

That is why Christians see death differently. Do we miss those who die? Of course we do do. Do we think that someone died too soon, or too young, or that they lingered too long? Sure. It’s OK to feel that way. God comforts us in our sorrow. Jesus, as God in the flesh, had people in his life die. When his friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept. But, because of the great hope we have in heaven, we can celebrate death as a graduation or passage. Death no longer means eternal separation from God. As Paul said, because Jesus paid our penalty for sin “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” I Cor 15:54-55.

I don’t want to over spiritualize this.  If you have lost someone to death, it hurts and there is sense of loss that will never go away.  The way you feel is normal and you should not bury those feelings.  It is OK to grieve and take time to heal.  God will comfort you if you ask and He will restore your hope for the future.

Really, the purpose of this short series on death is you.  Do you know what will happen when you die?  I hope that you have accepted, or will accept, Jesus’ death for your sins and that you will spend eternity in heaven.  I became a Christian when I was in college.  There was this girl, I don’t even remember her name, who wanted to share the gospel with me every time I talked to her.  I humored her and I knew enough from attending church to respond to her questions and tell her that I just hadn’t made my mind up about Jesus.  One day, I thought I had her.  I said, how about all those people in other countries who will never hear the gospel, are they just going to hell?  She didn’t even flinch.  She said, “Dave, this isn’t about them, it’s about you.  God loves them and I trust he will treat them justly.  But, you have heard the gospel, you have to decide what to do with it, you have no excuse.”  I never forgot that.  It was a couple years later that I committed my life to Jesus in a little country church when I was home on summer break.  My life was forever changed.  If you are not a Christian and you have read these last few posts, you have all the information you need to make a decision.  What will it be?  I trust that God will speak to you and that you will accept the wonderful free gift of grace and salvation that He is offering.

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