What Happens When You Die?
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Death. I had no plans on writing about this subject. As I type, I’m in the middle of compiling my fifth book, The Christian Identity, Volume 1. Over the past eight months I’ve stored up an index of topics to write about, and each day I thumb through them, choose one, and off I go tapping away on my keyboard. But not today. This subject wasn’t in that stack. Instead, the Holy Spirit spoke to me–not in an audible voice, but in an inspiration, in a motivation–and the discussion was this:
“Write about what happens when a person dies.”
“How am I supposed to do that? It’s a huge mystery. I don’t know enough to explain such a thing.”
“You know enough.”
“What? No. I don’t.”
“Just write. Trust me.”
Paul said to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 5:8). This was the first Bible verse about death that really impacted my knowledge of the afterlife. Even if it was minuscule knowledge, it comforted me. This passage proved there was no such thing as purgatory–as did the words Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (see Luke 23:43).
Today. Not tomorrow, not in a thousand years, not when the living “pray you out of it”–but the instant we die, we are in our Creator’s presence.
Through my imagination, I could picture myself hitting the eject button on a burning jet plane, and me literally shooting out and up, landing on a cloud where God was hanging out. Neat to think about, but not true. Yes, our spirit comes out of this fragile shell when the body dies, but I believe, based on 2 Corinthians 5:8, we are instantly in the midst of God–uninterrupted–in a completely different realm other than the universe.
God isn’t on a cloud. He is Spirit. He is everywhere at all times. He’s not bound by time, space, or matter. This is why He’s called, “The Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (see Revelation 22:13).
We can’t put such an unfathomable God in our “box” of time as we understand it; basing Him on 24-hour rotations of earth, the light and warmth from the sun, and the seasons we live through. He created time for us, not the other way around.
Jesus upset the religious, self-centered legalists when He tried to explain the difference in Himself and one of their beloved forefathers:
“Before Abraham was born, I am!” (See John 8:58)
Before Abraham was born, which was way before Jesus was physically born, I am? Do you see it, friend? He always has been, and always will be. He temporarily became flesh for us. That realm He permanently resides in–which has no time frame–is the realm we enter when our flesh can no longer sustain itself. Heaven. What we decide to believe about the Son of God, who came to His very own Creation in the form of His creation, will determine where we spend eternity (see John 1:3, 3:17,18).
The most famous Bible verse of all time explains this truth in detail:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
God gave us Jesus–He is the greatest giver ever! Why would He give us His only begotten Son–as in, from His own supernatural loin? So we could have eternal life! Who has eternal life? A life with no beginning or end? Jesus! Therefore, we receive His very own life as our own! (See Colossians 3:4, Hebrews 7:25).
When we believe Jesus has the ability to forgive us, and that He has forgiven us, we literally die in spirit, we get a new spirit, and then that spirit is infused with God’s Holy Spirit of Christ. We receive His Spirit into our own:
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12)
So–if we’ve received His Spirit, and His Spirit is in heaven, we are not waiting to “go” to heaven when we die. We’re already there. Yes, we eject from this physical realm, but all that’s really happening is a vail being lifted so that we can see clearly…so we can see ourselves as we truly are. Holy. Blameless. Righteous. Free from all accusations of Satan and people (see Colossians 1:22, 2 Corinthians 5:17,21, Revelation 12:10). Christian, today, right this very moment, because you are infused with Christ, you are already in heaven.
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6)
When Paul wrote this to the believers in Ephesus, he was still alive. He hadn’t yet died so he was explaining where the Ephesians’ spirits already were: SEATED WITH CHRIST IN HEAVEN!
Spiritually, every human on planet earth is in one of two places. In Adam–whom we descended from after he first sinned, therefore inheriting sinful spirits. Or in Christ, who never sinned. Through one man we became sinful, by no fault of our own; and through another Man we became righteous, by no ability of our own (see Romans 5:12-19).
So if Christ is in heaven and we are in Christ and He is in us–like cereal in milk, and milk in cereal–then we are currently in heaven too. Our physical body isn’t but we are, our spirit (see Colossians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 6:17,19, 1 John 4:13). We’re simply waiting on this particular epoch to be finished so that we can no longer be bound by time as well. Since our spirit already isn’t bound by time–it’s in heaven–then all of our sins have been taken away by Christ from our spirit. Therefore, when these physical bodies die, we have nothing to fear. We can hug our Creator and look into His eyes with love and gratitude (see 1 John 4:17, Hebrews 9:28).
This universe is temporary, our spirits are not temporary and neither is God (obviously). This physical realm has the power of sin and death which entered into it from the moment Adam and Eve no longer believed God (see Romans 5:12, Genesis 4:7). Before that, they were enjoying heaven, uninterrupted. The realm God is in–uninterrupted by sin and death–is heaven. John explains this revelation while exiled on the Island of Patmos, teaching us what heaven will be like apart from this fallen planet:
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4)
This might not sound like good news to a behavior-focused person. That is, someone who has worked way too hard “for God” to not get rewarded in bunches. Those who got dunked in the most elegant baptismal and repented on the highest levels–but not too high, of course. After all, they’re not perfect–just nearly perfect. Their elitism has a small window for God’s finalizing perfection to sneak in and finish things up on their Judgment Day–the day they get paid big bucks!
Oh no, for this group, what I’m teaching here seems too simple and easy. They’ll be quick to yell at me, “So Matt, are you saying we can just sin away because we are already in heaven?! How dare you!”
To that, I’d reply, “Where do you see such a thing in my writings? And are you saying your lack of sinning is causing you to achieve heaven? Are you sure? Are you absolutely, 100% certain?…Friend, you’re not. If you claim to be earning your entrance into heaven by what you do and don’t do, then why are you claiming Christ was enough? Why are you adding to the Cross? A ticker-tape parade, big mansion, and pot of gold for our wonderful works is not the gospel. I’m sorry. Our reward is Jesus, now. Our inheritance is heaven in us, today and forever. This is our only hope of glory. The work has been done. The payment has been made to each of us, evenly. It’s Him.”
The sweet by and by is here. The problem is, this person is focused on time as we know it, so they are focused on their behavior in that time frame. Jesus has taken away all sins from every believer for all time–and He in us is our full reward! How can this be true? Because He has no beginning or end. Understanding this about Him causes us to sin a whole lot less and enjoy His Spirit a whole lot more because we know we weren’t remade to sin! Heaven is inside our sinless spirit with Christ so we may as well live Him out! (See Hebrews 7:3, Romans 6:1-14, Galatians 2:20, 5:22,23, Luke 17:21).
Some people are even worried about their physical bodies when they die–as if God still needs them. He doesn’t. The truth is, they aren’t worth anything once our holy spirits discharge. You can bury them in the ground, or above the ground, send them out to sea like a dead viking–or cremate them. The flesh counts for nothing (see John 6:63). God’s grace doesn’t end based on what happens to this body when it no longer has a heart beat. It came from dust. It will go back to dust.
“No way, Matt! God needs them for the resurrection! For the new bodies! Cremation is not okay!”
Friend, do you honestly believe that God can’t make something from nothing? C’mon. Our bodies are going to decay in seven years in a coffin, or 7 minutes in a furnace. If someone chooses cremation do you think the Creator can’t piece them back together, or form a new body for them? The truth is, some people can’t even afford a burial. Did Christ say, “It is finished! Unless you don’t have a nice procession!”?
No. These kind people who are considering cremation simply do not want to leave the burden of a large funeral bill to their families. Will our loving Father not give them a new body at the resurrection for being considerate? Of course He’ll give them a new body–a body just like Jesus’ when He was resurrected.
If you go even deeper into this fleshy legalism, some believers are blown up in war, some in acts of terrorism, and others don’t even have a body–they’re obliterated in horrible accidents. Some Christians are washed away in floods, some eaten by wild animals–and in some parts of the world, there’s not even a place for them to be buried. Geographically it’s not possible.
This ideology of cremation not being acceptable to Dad is just plain stupid. Please, recognize where it’s coming from: hell. Such an ungraceful thought is meant to create fear for children of God, and it’s way off base. God’s love for us is perfect and perfect love casts out all fear! (See 1 John 4:18, 2 Timothy 1:7).
Paul said, “To live is Christ and to die is gain!” (See Philippians 1:21). What does that mean? It means to live on this planet is Christ! He was explaining the “vine and branch life” Jesus spoke about in John 15:5! Paul’s life was Christ’s life–as is every believer’s when we allow Him to live through us!
…But he also said to die is gain. To die is gain. How can that be when we are all striving to live each day? It’s because his relationship with God would no longer be interrupted by this universe, by this realm, by this sin-covered planet. The dirty film would be wiped away and he’d finally get see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit crystal clear. This is why he penned:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, neither has it even entered into the mind of man, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (See 1 Corinthians 2:9)
We Christians love God–not by what we do or don’t do, but by the love He’s placed in us from the millisecond we first believed. This love in our spiritual makeup is an incorruptible love. It’s God Himself. It’s heaven (see Ephesians 6:24, Romans 5:5).
We aren’t waiting. We are there. Heaven is inside of us.
So today, my friends, know this: What happens when a Christian dies? Our real life begins! What happens when an unbeliever dies? Their real death begins. We either instantly begin life uninterrupted with God, or we instantly begin death forever away from Him, because of our sin. God can have nothing to do with sin. They don’t mix. God and sin is oil and water–peanut butter and pickles. This is why heaven is so amazing–it’s because of the complete absence of sin! This is also why we need to be forgiven–it’s so Jesus can remove them from us permanently! If you’ve chosen to believe Christ has forgiven you–then He has, once and for all time–because He’s not bound by time (see Hebrews 10:10, 2 Peter 3:8). He’s taken your sins away, so don’t be afraid (see John 1:29, 1 John 3:5). You’re already seated with Him in heavenly realms, you’re just waiting for this body to finish this short trip to planet earth–a blip on the radar of eternity!…But if you’ve not believed on Jesus, please, do so this very moment. Today is your day of salvation! Today! Believe, my friend. Please, please believe. Join us in the relationship for which you were made!
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, today I want to thank you for the peace you’ve given me about my next life. Through your Spirit, I’ve come to develop a confidence in what Jesus has really done for me. He’s given me heaven right now! Yes, to die would be gain, but to live is Him–so let’s do this! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. So many of them are believers in Jesus, but are still afraid to die. We are all literally dying every second of the day–some just do it quicker than others. You never meant for us to be here for good, you meant for us to be your ambassadors while briefly visiting. Please ease the minds of these dear readers about death. Help them come to know the truth of what Jesus has finished for them. Expose the amazing abilities of their new, heavenly spirits, which are joined with your Spirit right now! No amount of my most finely-crafted sentences could ever explain heaven, so I didn’t even try to do so in this devotional–OUR FINITE MINDS CANNOT FATHOM IT! But we know how to get there! We know how to BE there! The only way is through Christ! In His name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from my upcoming book, The Christian Identity, Volume 1. Check out my other bestselling books here!