Due to reader requests, we expand on a previous commentary…
Scriptures tell us that when one dies s/he is “absent from the body but present with the Lord.” We discussed SOME of this back in Part 14, but does this include all mankind, believers and nonbelievers alike? Some clarity is needed due to questions asked by readers. What happens to the unbeliever upon his or her death? How can they be present with the Lord or are they?
2 Corinthians 5:8 (NKJV) What we don’t understand, and part of God’s process is how believers will not initially be in heaven upon death. This is from where Catholic doctrine gets what they call Purgatory. Also, what happens to the soul of the unbeliever? Please be patient. There is logical scripture given that believers will eventually be in heaven…a place we cannot even imagine. NKJV: “But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” Simply put, we have no clue what awaits us or what heaven will look like.
Some who submitted a similar question referenced “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” – 2 Corinthians 5:1 This too is correct…in due time believers will have their tents staked in this eternal house in heaven. But we still do not know about those who die as unbelievers.
A quick reference back to commentary article #14…It is appointed (by our creator) once to die. We will not yet again monologue about the so-called survivors of the Tribulation and Millennial Reign. That has been addressed in previous commentaries on this website. What is at stake in the questions received from ahabiblemoments.com readers are three-fold:
- What happens to those who are believers who die during the church age? Do they go directly to heaven?
- No. They like the thief on the cross next the Jesus will be in Paradise.
- What happens to those who die without confessing Christ as Lord and Savior? Where do they go? Does all go to the grave?
- They await judgment at the final resurrection. It is called the Great White Throne Judgment. Their souls wander in a barren land called Hades seeking shelter from the heat and thirst but cannot find it. Remember that even Hades goes into the Lake of Fire. (Revelation 20:13, 14)
- Does the grave hide all of a human being until Christ gives the first resurrection?
- This we addressed in article #14.
- In brief. The soul was not created from the dust of the earth. It was God-breathed into mankind. Since it was not created from dust or ashes it cannot return to what it never was…dust or ashes.
We are created in God’s image; body, mind, and spirit (soul). This has nothing to do with whether one is or will eventually be a believer or nonbeliever. The God-head parallel with body, mind, and soul (spirit) is the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The immediate difference between the God trinity and man in three parts is that the human body and mind go to the grave but not the soul. Remember that man became a living SOUL. The soul or spirit of mankind never was dust or ashes. It is the God-given “breath” of life. God can separate his three parts for distinct separate purposes but are one God-in-three.
When one dies as a believer, s/he will be present with the Lord in PARADISE. That is not the heaven we read about in I Corinthians 2:9. To understand this more clearly, we must go back to the thief on the cross whom Jesus told in Luke 23:39-43 will tonight be with him (Jesus) in Paradise. Note that Jesus did NOT SAY in heaven. Jesus had told his disciples that he must ascend to the heavens to prepare a place for them. Jesus had not yet ascended. This brand-new believer at the crucifixion was “to be present with the Lord” but not in the heaven described in I Corinthians 2:9.
In verse 43 of Luke 23, it specifically states “paradise” not heaven. The true believer’s soul and living a life patterned after Christ first goes to Paradise. We can contrast this temporary location of Paradise with the place of the Rich man versus Lazarus. The rich man could see what he missed but Lazarus apparently does not see the torment of the (lost souls) rich man.
Another interesting aha moment is what the Bible tells us about life in and of itself. We are not to worry about it. Why? Life is the breath that was breathed into us called a soul. The soul will spend eternity in one of two places: heaven or hell. It will not be destroyed therefore ETERNITY is an attribute of the soul or life we have within us. This means to not worry about the life within us, but we must be concerned about where that soul will spend eternity once reunited with the body from the grave at the first resurrection and again just before the Great White Throne Judgment.
This takes us to the second death mentioned in Revelation 20:14, 15, and Revelation 21:8. Remember that the soul is eternal without regard to one’s spiritual condition or means of death. There will be a resurrection of all bodies, ancient and recent. All souls will be reunited with their bodies. If one’s name is not found written down in the Book of Life, body and soul will then be cast into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death but not for the soul. It will anguish for eternity. Seriously, bear in mind that the soul is the living part of each human. His or her conscious state and his or her soul will be blessed or tormented forever and ever.
Now to the question of this article of what happens during the interim of the nonbeliever’s soul before it is reunited with his or her risen body and then judged at the Great White Throne.
Nonbelievers go to a place called Torments in Hades where they experience oppressive heat, thirst, and other discomforts until they are reunited with their resurrected bodies for the judgment of the unsaved at the end of the Millennium. (Luke 16:19-31 & Rev. 20:11-15). The lost soul seeks relief but cannot find it.
Consider again the history of Lazarus and the rich man found in Luke 16:19-31. The rich man is seeking thirst relief from Hades, not hell. That final judgment comes at the Great White Throne Judgment. The bodies of all have been resurrected and reunited with their living spirit. Now comes his and her eternal judgment. Why do humans struggle with the idea of eternal life? Simply put, they cannot prove or disprove it. All we know from an earthly point of view is we bury the dead. Believers must follow what scripture tells us about having faith.
Rev. Dr. Jstark