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What Happens to Us When We Die?

Over the past few weeks, we have had several members of our synagogue family who have lost extended family members. When you add these new deaths to the list of all of our friends and loved ones who have died over the past several years, you can understand why one of the most talked about and asked about subjects in my world has been, “What happens to us when you die?” 

One person might ask what happened to my wife, another my grandfather, a third my son or daughter, and still another, my friend. Others ask what happened to my enemy.

The reasons for wondering are different. Some may be questioning the existence of G-D, or questioning their faith in G-D, while others are asking because they knew their friend or loved one was questioning the existence of G-D, or their faith in G-D. Some are questioning because they are looking for confirmation of where their friend or loved one will spend eternity. Some are hoping that their friend or loved one will spend eternity in Heaven, while others are hoping their enemy will spend eternity in Hell.

If you ask most rabbis or pastors, they will tell you that the Bible is absolutely clear in what happens to us when we die. However, once you enter conversation with each of these spiritual leaders, you will find that while they each are absolutely sure that the Bible is crystal clear on what happens to us when we die, their crystal clear understanding of the Bible’s treatment of the subject will vary in many ways.

These differences in understanding of what happens to us when we die include not only who goes where, but also who goes where and when. They also include their disagreement in the interpretation of where those where’s are, and even if those where’s exist at all. Do Heaven and Hell exist? Are Heaven and Hell both eternal? Do the departed go directly to Heaven and Hell, or is there a temporary waiting place or places that they exist in until a time of final judgment? Is there a judgment at the end, or are we all judged as we live and death ends our judgment? 

I would run out of blog space before I ran out of the questions I have been asked about a topic that so many biblical teachers and scholars, who are absolutely positive they are right about, and absolutely sure the Scriptures are crystal clear about, differ so widely about. 

After all, the Bible says, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). So, we can conclude that once we die, we are eternally with G-D. But, the Bible also says that when we die, we sleep (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

The Bible also speaks of death, hell, and the grave, Gehenna and Sheol, and more than one judgment. The truth is that while the Bible is absolutely clear in what it states, and the Bible is absolutely true and doesn’t contain any contradictions within its pages, every one of those rabbis and pastors, theologians and teachers, and biblical scholars of every type and kind, are humans, including me. Because we are human, we are rarely crystal clear, and we are never 100% correct, and we are often full of conflicting conclusions and contradictions. Because we didn’t author the Bible, we simply try to interpret the words of its author to the best of our ability. 

The truth is that while the Bible is absolutely true and crystal clear without contradictions or errors, those of us who teach it while doing our best are none of those things. So, while I am absolutely positive that I am correct in what I teach about what happens to us when we die, I am also absolutely positive that the only One who truly knows precisely what happens to us when we die is G-D, and He wrote it down for us in His book so that we would know also. So, please read His book, because the truth is that it is much more important that we know Him personally, than it is that we understand the mystery of eternity.

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Terri Gillespie
Terri Gillespie
17 de jun.

Hmm. The eternity thing is so important. I just remember what you shared with me a few months ago. As humans with finite minds, we can't comprehend eternity. Could you share what you shared with me? It was so comforting--especially in light of some discouraging teachings out there.

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