What Happens to a Christian After Death?

Death for a Christian Is Only the Beginning of Life Eternal

What Happens When a Christian Dies?
Deborah Harrison / Getty Images

Don't mourn for the cocoon, for the butterfly has flown. This is the sentiment when a Christian dies. While we sorrow over our loss at the death of a Christian, we also rejoice knowing our loved one has entered heaven. Our mourning for the Christian is mixed with hope and joy.

The Bible Tells Us What Happens When a Christian Dies

When a Christian dies the person's soul is transported into heaven to be with Christ. The Apostle Paul spoke of this in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8:

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing ... we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life ... we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. (NLT)

Speaking again to Christians in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul said, "...we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope" (NLT).

Swallowed Up By Life

Because of Jesus Christ who died and was raised to life again, when a Christian dies, we can grieve with the hope of life eternal. We can grieve knowing our loved ones have been "swallowed up by life" in heaven.

American evangelist and pastor Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) once told his congregation:

"Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of East Northfield is dead. Don't you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now."

When a Christian dies he is greeted by God. Just before the stoning death of Stephen in Acts 7, he gazed into heaven and saw Jesus Christ with God the Father, waiting for him: "Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God's right hand!" (Acts 7:55-56, NLT)

Joy in God's Presence

If you are a believer, your last day here will be your birthday in eternity.

Jesus told us there is rejoicing in heaven when one soul is saved: "In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God's angels when even one sinner repents" (Luke 15:10, NLT).

If heaven rejoices over your conversion, how much more will it celebrate your coronation?

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. (Psalm 116:15, NIV)

Zephaniah 3:17 declares:

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. (NIV)

The God who takes great delight in us, rejoicing over us with singing, will certainly cheer us across the finish line as we complete our race here on earth. His angels, too, and perhaps even other believers we've known will be there to join in the celebration.

On earth friends and family will be grieving the loss of our presence, while in heaven there will be a great joy!

Parson of the Church of England Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) said, "It is not darkness you are going to, for God is Light. It is not lonely, for Christ is with you. It is not unknown country, for Christ is there."

The Eternal Love of God

The Scriptures do not give us a picture of a God who is indifferent and aloof. No, in the story of the Prodigal Son, we see a compassionate father running to embrace his child, overjoyed that the young man has returned home (Luke 15:11-32).

"...He is simply and altogether our friend, our father—our more than friend, father, and mother—our infinite, love-perfect God...He is delicate beyond all that human tenderness can conceive of husband or wife, homely beyond all that human heart can conceive of father or mother." --Scottish Minister George MacDonald (1824-1905)

Christian death is our going home to God; our bond of love will never be broken for all eternity.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, NLT)

When the sun sets for us on earth, the sun will rise for us in heaven.

Death Is Only the Beginning

Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) had it right when he said:

"Death—the last sleep? No, it is the final awakening."
"Think of how powerless death actually is! Rather than rid us of our health, it introduces us to 'riches eternal.' In exchange for poor health, death gives us a right to the Tree of Life that is for 'the healing of the nations' (Revelation 22:2). Death might temporarily take our friends from us, but only to introduce us to that land in which there are no goodbyes." --Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer
"Depend upon it, your dying hour will be the best hour you have ever known! Your last moment will be your richest moment, better than the day of your birth will be the day of your death." --Charles H. Spurgeon.

In The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis gives this description of heaven:

"But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world ... had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."
"For the Christian, death is not the end of adventure but a doorway from a world where dreams and adventures shrink, to a world where dreams and adventures forever expand." --Randy Alcorn, Heaven.
"At any point in all of eternity, we can say 'this is just the beginning.' " --Anonymous

No More Death, Sorrow, Crying or Pain

Perhaps one of the most exciting promises for believers to look forward to in heaven is described in Revelation 21:3-4:

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, God's home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever." (NLT)
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Morse, Elaine. "What Happens to a Christian After Death?" Learn Religions, Feb. 8, 2021, learnreligions.com/what-happens-when-a-christian-dies-700369. Morse, Elaine. (2021, February 8). What Happens to a Christian After Death? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/what-happens-when-a-christian-dies-700369 Morse, Elaine. "What Happens to a Christian After Death?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/what-happens-when-a-christian-dies-700369 (accessed August 2, 2021).