Answer: Most of us have been taught that when we die we immediately go somewhere for some form of reward or punishment. The Bible actually says differently. The Bible describes death as like a kind of sleep. And it shows that the dead are asleep in the grave, awaiting either a resurrection to judgment or a resurrection to eternal life.
In Ecclesiastes 9:5 we read, “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.” Then in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.”
Do you see? As shocking as this may seem, the Bible teaches that when we die, we remain dead until the resurrection. The Apostle Paul never speaks of the dead as being alive in Heaven or Hell! He refers to deceased Christians as those who “sleep” in Jesus. Sleep is used as a metaphor for death. Think about this: if we all went to heaven when we died, what would be the need for a resurrection? Yet the Bible talks again and again about the hope of the resurrection!
Our change is coming, and faithful Christians will receive the gift of eternal life. The Bible reveals that those faithful Christians who have died in the faith will be resurrected at Jesus Christ’s Second Coming, while those who remain alive at His coming will at that time be changed. This is described as a mystery in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
At that point, we will be with Christ, our Savior, and we will “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Revelation 14:4). Not to Heaven and not to Hell, but to Jesus Christ, under whom we will serve as He rules over the Kingdom of God.
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