Death is a mystery that the living will constantly ask questions about. However, God has the answer to all our questions, and it is possible to understand even the mystery of death while we are still alive. Let us find out below how quickly we can get to the Kingdom of God as soon as death strikes.
We go back to God immediately when death comes to us. There are many proofs of these from the scriptures but one of the most famous ones is when Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today, you shall be with me in paradise.” However, this is only true for those who believe in Jesus as Lord.
What Happens to Us After Death?
Upon the death of the righteous, the spirit is immediately reunited with God as it enters His presence. This is because it must leave the physical world, where it must reside in a physical body, into the Kingdom of God, where the spirit can reside freely. The Bible offers some insight into this fact of death, with several scriptures pointing to the fact that it must return to the Creator’s afterlife in the physical realm comes to an end.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return to God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:7
In the scripture above, there is emphasis on the fact that the spirit belongs to God. There is no other entity that can claim the spirit because it was created and granted access to the world by God. Therefore, when its time on Earth comes to an end, it reverts to He who created it.
Death will always remain a controversial subject in the physical world because the living cannot determine for sure what happens upon its occurrence. However, God provides crucial information about it in the scriptures which can be understood with clarity. Death might not be the finality we think it is because it is an end to life on Earth, but it is also a gateway into the afterlife.
What About the Resurrection of the Body?
Before we talk about when the resurrection will happen, let us first understand what it means. The resurrection of the body is a physical reality. We know that after Jesus rose from the dead, he ate food with his disciples (Luke 24:42-43). We also know that he had a physical body that the disciples could touch (John 20:17, 27). However, the body was not the ordinary body he had on earth – it was a glorified body. No wonder the disciples on the road to Emaus had a hard time recognizing him (Luke 24).
Jesus is described as the first fruit in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20). This is to mean that believers will follow suit. We have an unbreakable union with Christ as believers (1 Thessalonians 4:14, Romans 6:5) and this means that we will have a similar experience when we die. In other words, we will also be raised up (in the physical sense).
In the resurrection, our bodies will be spiritual but physical at the same time. The best way to describe it is we will have glorified bodies.
Now to the million-dollar question – when will the resurrection happen?
The scripture makes it clear that the resurrection will happen upon the Lord’s return. Here is one of the scriptures that makes this point plain;
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 )
Since we know from the scriptures that we will get reunited with God immediately after we die, we can infer that it is a different event from the resurrection. It would appear that upon death, our spirits get reunited with God as our bodies lie in waiting until the day of resurrection. This was illustrated well in the gospel of Mathew when the saints rose from the dead upon the death of Jesus.
and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. Mathew 27:52
This signified the beginning of a new covenant. Jesus, who is on the way to heaven, has now died and created the path. This resulted in all those who were dead in Christ rising from the dead and getting reunited with God. Before these events, the spirits of the saints of old were in a place of waiting – not heaven and not hell either. Some scholars believe all saints go to purgatory, a place where they wait for resurrection from the dead. While there is merit for this school of thought, it might be worth noting that it could only be true for the Old Testament believers. when Jesus invited the thief to the cross to join him in paradise, he made it clear that those who died did not go to some place to wait for his return. However, it is very likely that paradise and heaven are not the same place. It could be that the saints go to paradise immediately after death and then go to heaven after the resurrection of their glorified bodies. But even if this is true, paradise is still God’s presence so it is accurate to say that we get reunited with God immediately after death. In the words of Paul, “To be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 ).
Biblical teachings suggest that believers experience an immediate reunion with God upon death, as emphasized by Jesus’s words to the repentant thief and Ecclesiastes 12:7. The concept of a physical resurrection, discussed in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, is distinct and occurs at the Lord’s return. The events surrounding Jesus’s death, including the rising of the saints in Matthew 27:52, highlight the transitional phase between death and resurrection. While scholars debate a waiting place, Jesus’s promise to the thief implies immediate presence with God. In essence, the Christian narrative unfolds with believers traversing from earthly mortality to spiritual reunion and eventual physical resurrection in God’s Kingdom.