|Where does one go to After Death?|
Some people say, death is the end. Others say, the dead go to heaven. Yet others say, if a man does good deeds, he will go to heaven when he dies; if he does evil deeds, he will be cast into hell to suffer torment. Where actually does one go to after death? Have you considered this question before?
Let’s find the answer from the Bible. Romans 5:12 tells us that because our ancestor Adam disobeyed God and ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, sin entered the world. As a result, death reigns over all men (v. 17). In other words, all men, whether old or young, are subject to death. However, death is not the end. Hebrews 9:27 says that after death there is judgement, which is affirmed by Revelation 20:13: “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works”. Not only so, the Bible also clearly says that after judgement there is punishment for sin, which is “the second death” or being “cast into the lake of fire” (v. 14). What a terrible end!
God loves man whom He has created. He does not want us to come to such a tragic end. To save us from the wrath to come, He sent His only Son Jesus Christ to do His will, accomplish salvation and prepare a wonderful future for us, that all who believe in Him may have eternal life (cf John 3:15-16, 36; 6:40; 1 John 5:13). Nevertheless, before we enter into the full enjoyment of eternal life, because our body is defiled by sin, it is subject to death. Now if we have to go through physical death, where will our souls go to? Where will we wait for the resurrection to meet the Lord? And where do unbelievers wait for the day of their judgement?
Hades, the place for the dead
Isaiah 5:14 in the Old Testament records: “Sheol [Hades] has enlarged itself And opened its mouth beyond measure; Their glory and their multitude and their pomp, And he who is jubilant, shall descend into it”. This verse tells us explicitly that there is Hades, and that the dead descend into it.
The record in Revelation 6:8 in the New Testament is even clearer: “I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth”. Wherever death is, there is Hades, for Hades is the place the dead go to.
The location of Hades
Where is Hades? Psalm 71:20 reveals that Hades is in the depths of the earth: ”You ... Shall revive me again, And bring me up again from the depths of the earth”. In addition, Proverbs 9:18 says that the dead are in the depths of Hades. Ezekiel 26:20 also states: “I will bring you down with those who descend into the Pit, to the people of old, and I will make you dwell in the lowest part of the earth, in places desolate from antiquity ...”.
Furthermore, when Korah and his company rebelled against the authority set by God, He caused the earth to open its mouth and swallow them up. So they went down alive into the pit and the earth closed over them (Num 16:30-33).
These verses show distinctly that Hades is in the deepest part of the earth. Psalm 88:6 even describes Hades as being “in the lowest pit, In darkness, in the depths”.
Let us first consider the Old Testament. Psalm 9:17 declares: ”The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God”. Psalm 55:15 also says: “Let death seize them; Let them go down alive into hell, For wickedness is in their dwellings and among them”. In the New Testament, 1 Peter 3:18-20 records that after the Lord was crucified, He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which eight souls were saved through water. From this, we see that the souls of unbelievers wait for the day of judgement in hell.
Where do God’s people who have died wait for the resurrection? In heaven? The Bible does not say that; rather, it says all who believe in the Lord have eternal life and will dwell with God forever in the New Jerusalem (John 3:16; Rev 21:3). In the mean time, He has prepared a temporary place for their souls - paradise.
The Old Testament records that the patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David were “gathered to his people” when they died (cf Gen 25:8). What does this mean? From Jacob’s words, “I shall go down into the grave [Hades] to my son” (37:35), we see that it means going down to Hades. In 1 Samuel, before the medium tried to bring Samuel up from the earth, he had already ascended (28:12-14). Hence, we know that God’s people who have died are also in Hades. However, one thing is certain - they are not in the same place as the unbelievers. Although they are all in Hades, there is a difference between them.
How do we know that? From what the Lord said about the rich man and Lazarus after their deaths, we see that they are in very different realms: although they can see each other, a great gulf lies between them. The rich man is tormented in the flames while Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:19-31).
The record of the Lord’s crucifixion and His words to the believing robber is even clearer: “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23: 43). “Today” refers to the day of their death, so where did they go to on that day? The Lord proclaims in Revelation 1:18 that He was dead and is alive forevermore; He has the keys of Hades and of Death. This shows that after He died, He went to the deepest part of the earth, took the keys, resurrected and ascended, according to the prophecy: “His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption” (Acts 2:31). He resurrected, but not the robber, who is still in paradise waiting for the resurrection.
Brothers and sisters, since God has prepared everything for us, we should work out our salvation today with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), as Ecclesiastes 9:10 exhorts us: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave [Hades] where you are going”. Let us be encouraged to love the Lord now and diligently serve God and His church, amen!