What Happens After We Die (Part 1): Heaven and Hell Is Real

Is there a life after death? If so, where do we go after we die? In the first part of a 4 part series, we take a look at why we die, heaven, hell, and where we go.

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When the Apostle Paul spoke about death, he described death as a mystery (1 Cor. 15:51).  Death is a mystery that man has been trying to solve since the beginning of our time.  Many people say that faith in gods originate from the mystery of death.  What happens to us after we die?  Well, I am here to tell you today that death is actually not much of a mystery at all.  How can I say this? Scripture, God Himself, tells us all we need to know about death, but it is up to us whether to believe it or not.

(I actually presented this study last year, but this was before I was doing podcasts for studies. While editing the site, I was looking over the original post and it was very long and very rushed. We’re going to take our time with this subject this time around. Feel free to comment and share this study with others)

Why do we die?

The Apostle Paul was able to teach about death because Christ came before Paul and taught on this subject.  Jesus is able to talk about death, and what happens after death because He, being God in the flesh, is omniscient – knows all things. 

Death is the end result of Adam’s sin in the garden (Genesis 3:17-19).

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.

Genesis 3:17 NKJV

God is speaking directly to Adam here. There was punishment given to the serpent (Gen. 3:14-15) and to Eve (Gen. 3:16), but all of what God says happen here is a result of Adam’s sin in the garden.

God cursed the ground because of Adam’s sin. Man has to toil the earth (work) all because of Adam’s sin. Prior to his sin, the garden provided everything Adam required; he did not have to work for anything.

19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are,And to dust you shall return.

Gneesis 3:19 NKJV

Then God told Adam, “to dust you shall return” – nothing died until Adam sinned. God did not actually create life with the intention that one day we would die, but physical death is the end result of sin.

However, our physical death is not our end. Physical death is part of the Lord’s curse for Adam’s sin, but there is a far worse death than the physical. We are spiritual beings living in physical and mortal bodies, in a universe of physical matter. However, this physical world is something you and I will only interact with for a short period of time. There is another world that awaits us after our time in this physical domain.

The spiritual domains

Some of us learned, as kids, about heaven and hell.  We learn that good people go to heaven while the bad people go to hell.  “Heaven is a place in the clouds”. “Hell is a flaming inferno.”How much of that was actually right?

As many of us grew older, we began to wonder if those two places are actually real.  (Maybe that is why you are reading this Bible study – maybe you’re curious about life after this life.) Scripture is very clear about both places – they are real. 

The one thing that we must first understand and accept is that heaven and hell are literal places – they are very real.  Heaven is where the Lord is (John 14:1-6).

In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, [bI would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

John 14:2 NKJV

Clearly Jesus is speaking of heaven in this verse. He says, “in My Father’s house” when referring to God the Father. God the Father dwells in His heavenly kingdom. If this place did not exist, Jesus would have told us that it did not exist.

Now that we know that heaven is real, the question of where we do we go is still out there. How is it decided where we all go after we die?

The path – who goes where?

The teachings we received in nursery school, or early age Sunday school, were too simplistic. We need to understand that it is actually not as simple as we were once led to believe as children.  What I mean by this is that it takes a lot more than being a “good person” to get into heaven.  There are many “good people” who will not enter into the heavenly kingdom.

I want to first share this image with you; it may be slightly confusing at first glance, but be patient with me as I explain the image below.  You may have seen this image in the YouTube video and was curious as to what it represents.

discourse of life after death
Flowsheet for after we die

You may quickly notice that the image I drew up has 3 Earths.  What each Earth represents are the different ages (periods of time for mankind): Old Testament times, the Church Age (the age we currently occupy), and then the Millennial Age.

The Old Testament age starts with the creation of mankind and goes up to the point of Jesus’ death on the cross. The New Testament, which is the spreading of the gospel of Christ, was the start of the Church Age. The Church Age will not end until Christ returns to receive those who genuinely believe in Him. Follow the rapture, there will be a time of Great Tribulation, after which, Christ will return with His bride (the Church) and thus will the Millennial Kingdom (Age) start. I will go into deeper detail on each as we go further into this study.

In Old Testament Times

To start learning about this topic of what happens after we die, we’re going to do a flashback to the Old Testament time.  Again, I want you to note that this time includes everything from the beginning of mankind’s creation up to the point of Jesus’ death.  The cross is the divider of time because it was at the cross that Jesus completed His purpose.  What mankind knew about life after death was remarkably less than what we now know.  You see, we have the privilege of living after the teachings of Christ.

Thanks to Jesus’ teaching, we know exactly what happened to souls in old testament times.  Let’s take a look at the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (the beggar) – found in Luke 16:19-31.  In this parable, Jesus describes a place of purgatory where all souls went to await their final judgment after physical death.

Jesus says:

22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

Luke 16:22-23 NKJV

Hades is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Sheol. Both names are representative of the place we refer to as Hell.

Hades defined to us

So, how do we know that all souls (righteous and unrighteous) were going to Hades?  In the parable, Jesus tells us that the rich man was able to see Abraham afar off. “Abraham” was the part of Hades where the righteous, those that genuinely kept the Law and had faith in the Lord, went. The rich man was able to see Lazarus in Abraham’s Bosom.  Let’s refer to a part of my picture once again.

I am depicting Hades as a place where all souls, good and the bad, went after physical death in the Old Testament days.  There is a clear separation of spirits in Hades. Let’s take a look at what else we notice about Hades.

24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.

Luke 16:24-25 NKJV

The rich man is clearly suffering in his part of Hades! Keep in mind that he is being tormented in his spirit! This spiritual tormenting feels like he is in a flame! Lazarus, on the other hand, is resting comfortably in Abraham’s bosom. Again, both places are in Hades!

26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

Luke 16:26 NKJV

You will notice in my drawing that I have drawn Hades, but there is a gulf that separates two sides of Hades.  We know there was a gulf that divided the righteous from the unrighteous because Jesus taught this (Luke 16:26).

The righteous and the unrighteous could not mingle together because of the fixed gulf separating the two. The righteous were taken to Abraham’s bosom. The unrighteous was carried to the place of torments where they still remain to this day waiting for their final judgment.

Why were the righteous souls going to Hades?

I believe this would be the question that many people would ask after studying this. Why were they not going to heaven, and are the righteous spirits still waiting for their final judgment in Hades? There is actually a very good answer to this question, but I am not going to answer that question in this study. I will answer that question and other questions in our next study! I hope that you will return for the next part in this series of Bible study on what happens after we die.

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About Pastor Leo H. McCrary II

Rev. Leo H. McCrary II

Rev. Leo H. McCrary II was licensed to preach August 12, 2012, and ordained April 28, 2013. Currently pastors at Christian Unity in Douglasville, GA and online through New Found Faith.

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