What Happens to Us When We Die?
Death is inevitable. What happens to your spirit, soul, and body after taking your last breath? Why can’t living people communicate with the dead?
Brother Bob Pellien: Hello everyone and thank you for joining with us here on this episode of That’s In The Bible. I’m Bob Pellien. Our question that we received for today came to us via email from Tom Nguyen in Garden Grove, California. He asks, “What happens to us after death?”
Brother Bob: Well, that’s a nice question because especially right now as so many are losing the COVID battle leaving behind grieving loved ones. There are many people who are wondering well, what happens after death and, you know, there’s an endless number of answers that many religions of this world are very willing to provide. But, before we really know what happens to a person when he dies, dear friends, it’s essential to know that a person actually is composed of three parts. And what are these three parts, and what happens to each individual part when we die? Well, that’s where we begin. The answer to that first question is recorded here in I Thessalonians chapter 5:23 wherein it says this:
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
[1 Thessalonians 5:23 New King James Version]
Brother Bob: So, dear friends, a person is composed of three parts: a body, a soul, and a spirit. So to know what happens to a person when he dies, we need to know first: what happens to the soul, what happens to the spirit, what happens to the body?
What happens to the soul when a person dies?
Brother Bob: Where does the soul go immediately after death? What happens to the soul immediately after death? Well, if we go to Ezekiel, a prophet wherein he wrote the following in Ezekiel, it’s recorded in chapter 18, verse 4:
“Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.
[Ezekiel 18:4 New King James Version]
Brother Bob: So, dear friends, the Bible mentions here what will happen to the soul. Clearly, it dies. No matter what other religious organizations will tell you what will happen to the soul immediately after a person dies, the Bible’s answer is definitive. The soul dies. Wait, whose soul dies? Well, the one mentioned here is the soul of the sinner. The soul of the sinner dies. Well, who’s the sinner? In the Bible—we’ve read in many of our lessons in the past—Romans 5:12 makes it very clear that all people commit sin. Nobody could stand up and say, well, I’m perfect [and] never committed sin. No, it was only Jesus that was without sin. All people sin, therefore, all [peoples’ souls die].
What happens to the spirit and body when a person dies?
Brother Bob: How about the spirit? That was one of the three elements of a person, right? How about the body? What about these two components? First, let’s go to Ecclesiastes chapter 12, and let’s take a look here, together, in verse 7. What happens to the body? What happens to the spirit? In verse 7, it says:
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
[Ecclesiastes 12:7 New King James Version]
Brother Bob: The Bible’s very clear. The spirit returns to God. And the body returns to the dust from where it came. And, as we read previously, the soul dies. So, that’s what happens to the three parts. But the question of Tom is also like, “What about the consciousness?” OK, because we know what happens to the soul, we know what happens to the body, we know what happens to the spirit. But then, what people really want to know is what about their consciousness after one dies and goes to the grave?
What happens to your thoughts when you die?
Brother Bob: The body returns to dust, spirit returns to God, what about my thoughts? Will I no longer have thoughts? Is there something that a person who has already died and has been buried already, is there something that they could benefit from, or is there something that they could participate in that is still being done here on Earth by those who are alive? Can they still have contact? Should they still expect to be communicating with the living?
What happens to your thoughts when you die, dear friends? These are the kind of questions that many are asking relative and connected to the question that Tom posed. So let’s continue here in Ecclesiastes, we turn to chapter 9, and let’s read verse 5 and verse 6, where the Bible gives the clear answer:
For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun.
[Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 New King James Version]
Brother Bob: Tom, dear friends, the Bible is, once again, so very clear. They will never have a part in anything that is done under the sun. Any novenas, or masses that are said for them, they have no part in that. The Bible is very clear. Any communication with them, they have no part, that’s not it. People have all these different kinds of ceremonies for the dead and rituals for the dead. [But the] Bible is clear. The Bible does not instruct for those things to be done. Why not? Because those who have died have no more share, or no more part in anything that is done under the sun. “Do you mean to say then, that’s the end of it all? There’s nothing more?”
What will happen to the dead in Christ when Christ returns?
Brother Bob: What will happen to the dead when Christ returns? Well, the Bible continues to provide important information about these things, so we turn to I Thessalonians 4:16-17:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
[1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 New King James Version]
Brother Bob: Dear friends, what happens to those who have died in Christ, according to the Holy Bible? Although they may have been in the grave, even if they were there for a long period of time, the Bible makes it very clear: they will be brought out of that grave. When? When the Lord descends from heaven. And at that time, there will be a [separation] of what the Bible calls the sheep and the goats.
Separating the sheep from the goats
Brother Bob: Our Lord Jesus spoke of this as well in the book of Matthew. Let’s include that in our reading for today as well. In the book of Matthew chapter 25. We’ll read verse 33, 34, as well as 41:
And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:… “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:
[Matthew 25:33-34,41 New King James Version]
Brother Bob: So here, dear friends, Jesus spoke of it in these terms when He said at that moment, the sheep would be separated from the goats. On the left would be what He called the goats that would be cast aside into eternal destruction. And then those on the right? Well, He referred to them as His sheep. They would enter the kingdom that would be prepared for them by the Father in heaven. And what will be the basis of that judgment? That judgement that would determine whether or not we would be those goats on the left or the sheep on the right? What will determine that? Revelation chapter 20, let’s listen together to what is recorded here in verse 12, wherein this is recorded:
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
[Revelation 20:12 New King James Version]
Brother Bob: So the Bible does mention, then, of the basis of that judgment. It will be what’s recorded in the books that will be read on that upcoming Day of Judgment. Be sure that the works recorded in that book on the Day of Judgment— that will be read on the Day of Judgment—will include that you are in Christ. The works that have brought you to be in Christ. Do you want to know how you can be sure that you are in Christ? Will it be just our own declaration? Just saying so? No.
Brother Bob: When you’re ready to learn more about the fundamental teachings found here inside the Church Of Christ, visit us online or visit any of our various social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram). And to speak to a minister of the gospel and worship with us, you can find a directory of our houses of worship online as well. If you have any questions about the Bible, email then to us for a chance to be featured here on the show. I’m Bob Pellien. Thank you for joining us and we’ll see you again next time right here on That’s in the Bible.