What happens to us when we die?

When we die, one of two things happens to us according to the Bible.  We go to be with the Lord or we face damnation.  We go to heaven or hell.  It is that simple.  If you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then all your sins will be forgiven, and when you die, you will be delivered from God's righteous judgment because your sins have been removed (Ephesians 2:8; Colossians 2:14).  Sin is breaking the law of God (1 John 3:4).  It separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2) and brings us death (Romans 6:23).  Only through Jesus can we be forgiven, and only through Jesus can we go to heaven.  Acts 4:12 says, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved."

There is debate within Christianity about the immediacy of judgment and the final abode, but heaven and hell are terms generically used to describe the dwelling place of God and the dwelling place of the damned, respectively.  Biblically speaking, the final abode of those who have been saved by trusting in the sacrifice of Christ will end up in the presence of God in heaven.  Those who have not trusted in Christ will end up outside the presence of God in hell.

What about Purgatory?

The Roman Catholics tell us that when people die, they go to purgatory if they are Christians.  But purgatory is not found in the Bible.  It is an invention of the Roman Catholic Church.  So, purgatory is not true.  For more information read the CARM article on Purgatory.

What about Reincarnation?

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 9:27 that it is appointed unto man to die once, after that comes judgment.  There is no reincarnation.  There is no returning in another form.  The Bible contradicts reincarnation.  Besides, think about it.  The purpose of reincarnation is to help people learn things as they go through their lives, and to perfect their karma until they reach nirvana and reunite with the divine being.  But, we have seen the results of reincarnation in countries where incredible poverty is allowed because the people think that those who are in such poverty deserve it because of past life failures.  This belief system then supports poverty and discrimination.  Furthermore, reincarnation teaches that people came from the divine being, and this means in their first incarnation each soul had perfect karma.  So if each soul had perfect karma, why didn't they immediately return to the divine being?  If they could not get back to God with perfect karma, what makes them think they can ever make it back?

What about Non-Existence?

Some people believe that when we die, we just stop existing.  Biblically, this is not true.  According to Scripture, we continue after death.  But, if we stop existing we will never know it.  Therefore, the only thing we could "know" after death is if we continue.  Is it worth taking a chance on eternity in the afterlife by hoping you don't exist anymore?  It's a huge risk to take.


Luke 16:19-31, “Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. 20 “And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 “Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 “And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 “But he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’”


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.