When our loved ones die, we mourn. And we may ask: What has happened to them? Are they suffering? Are they watching over us? Can we help them? Will we ever see them again?
Next to God, the dead are the only group of people who really know what happens when you die. Since we can’t hear directly from the dead, it’s up to scientists to explain what happens when a person dies.
Death, just like life is a process, scientists say. The first stage of the process is known as clinical death. It lasts from four to six minutes, beginning when a person stops breathing and the heart starts pumping blood. During this time, there may be enough oxygen in the brain that no permanent brain damage occurs. Other organs, like the kidneys and the eyes also remain alive throughout clinical death.
In the second stage of dying, known as biological death, the cells of the body begin to degenerate, and the body’s organs – including the brain – shut own. In this stage, doctors are sometimes able to stall it by inducing hypothermia – cooling the body to below its normal temperature. This method can stop the degeneration of cells and has been used to revive cardiac-arrest patients.
While these stages of death are well understood, what remains elusive is what happens to a person once he or she is both clinically and biologically dead. To get some insight on what happens after we die, we can turn to the Bible which speaks directly on life after death.
The Bible says, “The living are conscious that they will die, but as far as the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Therefore, when we die, we cease to exist. The dead can’t act, think, or feel anything.
According to Scripture, we will return as dust. God explained what happens when we die when he spoke to the first man, Adam. Because Adam was disobedient, God said to him, “Dust you are and dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19). Before God created Adam “out of dust from the ground,” Adam did not exist (Genesis 2:17). Likewise, when Adam died, he returned to dust and ceased to exist. The same thing happens to those who die now. Speaking of both humans and animals, the Bible says, “They have all come from me by dust, and they are all returning to the dust” (Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20).
For believers, the Bible tells us that after death believers, souls are taken to heaven, because their sins are forgiven by receiving Jesus Christ. For believers, death is to be a home away from the body and with the Lord. We also know from Scripture that death is not the end. The Bible often compares death to sleep. Psalm 13:3 says, “Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes or I will sleep in death.” John 11:11-14 says, “After he had said this, he went to tell them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up’ His disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.’ Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead.’” A person who is fast asleep is unaware of what is happening around them. Likewise, the dead are not conscious of anything.
Jesus promised at the moment of our death, He will personally take us by the hand and escort us to our new home in heaven. This is not the job of the angels. He reserves the right for Himself the right to personally accompany us to heaven’s glory. The Bible tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would have I told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am. You know the place where I’m going” (John 14:1-4).
Death is nothing to fear. In fact, we Christians can look forward to it with anxious anticipation. In Philippians 1:21-23, Paul declared, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain, I am torn between the two: I desire to depart to be with Christ, which is better by far.”
Was it God’s original purpose for people to die? Not at all. God made man to live forever on earth. As we learned in Genesis, God placed the first human couple in a delightful paradise. He blessed them with perfect health. God wanted only good for them. Does any loving parent want his children to suffer the pain of old age and death? Of course not. The Bible says, “God created us with the desire to live forever ever, And He has opened the way for that desire to be fulfilled” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God created us with desire to live forever, and He has opened the way for that desire to be fulfilled.
God’s Word also provides assurance of life after death. God promises that we will return through a resurrection of the dead. This is how mankind will receive the gift of eternal life. Even though are bodies are temporary, subject to decay and death, God has planned for us much more than just this limited existence.