What Happens When You Die: Exploring the Beliefs of Presbyterians

Fear… Not! “There Is Hope”
Luncheon Series
March 28, 2007

Introduction: Understanding Life After Death

Thank you for joining us today, my friends. Throughout history, every human being has grappled with three fundamental questions: guilt, meaning, and death. These questions are universal, transcending cultural, religious, and personal boundaries. Despite our attempts to suppress or ignore them, we all experience moments of guilt and ponder the purpose of life. And then there’s death, the great unknown. Only Christianity, with its teachings grounded in the Bible, offers answers that truly satisfy our deepest longings. Today, we will explore what happens after death from a Presbyterian perspective.

The Believer’s Journey Beyond Death

I. What happens after death for the believer?

According to the Bible, believers in Christ can take comfort in the fact that death is not the end; it is merely a transition to a different realm. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, boldly declares that our hope in Christ extends far beyond this earthly life. Christianity offers believers not only present blessings but also eternal ones. The Shorter Catechism, an influential Presbyterian document, explains that upon death, believers’ souls are made perfect in holiness, immediately passing into glory, while their bodies rest in the grave, awaiting the resurrection.

Four Blessings for Believers Alone

Let’s delve into four specific blessings that believers receive immediately after death:

  1. With Christ: Believers are embraced by the presence of Christ, whom they cherish above all else. The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:8, emphasizes the believer’s longing to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. Our ultimate desire is to be united with Christ, basking in His unwavering love and unconditional grace.

  2. Made Perfect: In death, believers are instantaneously perfected in holiness. The author of Hebrews mentions the spirits of the righteous made perfect, emphasizing that believers, freed from sin, enter into a state of godliness. This perfection, described throughout the book of Revelation, brings an unparalleled sense of peace and rest, void of the incessant battle against sin.

  3. In Glory: Believers pass directly into glory, a place of unspeakable beauty and joy. As Jesus assures us in John 14:2, believers are welcomed into the Father’s house in heaven. We find solace in the thought of being eternally home with our loving Savior, surrounded by the company of fellow believers who have gone before us.

  4. United to Christ: Even in death, believers remain united to Christ, resting in the grave until the resurrection. This triple blessing ensures that believers’ bodies, though temporarily separated from their spirits, will be resurrected and reunited with their souls. This union with Christ guarantees eternal fellowship and everlasting joy.

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The Unbeliever’s Fate

II. What happens after death for the unbeliever?

In contrast to believers, the Bible reveals a sobering truth for those who reject Christ. Unbelievers find themselves permanently separated from God, devoid of peace, fulfillment, and love. The concept of hell, often avoided or dismissed, is a logical consequence of Scripture’s teachings. Hell is a place without God, without light, warmth, or fellowship. The pain experienced there results from an awakened conscience and the torment of a frustrated ego. Unbelievers receive what they desire—an existence apart from God.

It is crucial to grasp the finality of this separation. There will be no one in hell who desires to be in heaven. They have willingly and persistently rejected God’s love, forfeiting the possibility of eternal peace and rest. While this doctrine may be difficult to accept, it stands as a fair consequence of personal choice.

Embracing Hope

Understanding what happens after death is a vital aspect of our faith. As believers, we rest in the assurance that death is not the end but a gateway to everlasting joy with our Savior, Jesus Christ. We long to be with Him, to be perfected in His holiness, and to dwell in His glory. The fate of unbelievers is a somber reminder of the consequences of rejecting God’s grace.

Let us reflect on these teachings and embrace the hope offered by Jesus Christ. Heaven awaits those who turn to Him, accepting the salvation that He alone provides. May we live in the light of this truth, cherishing our relationship with Christ and sharing His love with others.

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