Mark Alan Williams
What Happens 5 Minutes After You Die?
Updated: Mar 26, 2019
Or perhaps 5 seconds, or 5 milliseconds.
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What happens after you die? Recently a dear friend passed away and it has caused me to think again about the afterlife. It’s a subject we want to avoid—death is almost “the unthinkable.” This is unfortunate, for as Zig Ziglar said, “You better think about what happens after you die since you’re going to be dead a lot longer than you’re alive!”
My wife Carolyn is an RN and has worked with home health care for elderly people who were often facing serious illness and very soon their death. Yet she tells me how, despite their serious conditions and the fact that some were even on hospice, many would not accept that their end was coming soon.
So, what does God say happens after you die?
God says that one of two things happen after you die:
1. You go to Heaven
Here is a wonderful promise from Jesus: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24 NIV)
How do you like the idea of crossing over from “death to life?” Sound good?
Jesus clearly taught here and elsewhere, that after you die you go one of two ways. Here he speaks of eternal life—in heaven. In a moment we’ll consider His words regarding the other place.
Other Bible writers, inspired by God, said the same thing. The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:1, 8 “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
I used to take our boys camping in a second-hand tent which looked like a circus tent, since it had big red and blue stripes.
We had lots of fun with that tent:
In Yellowstone Park we were flooded out by freezing rain
In the Anza Borrego desert in California we were blown out of it by high winds
Even when we managed to spend the entire night in it, it was uncomfortable! If you ask me, tent camping is for the birds! We eventually threw our tent out because it was worn out.
This passage says the body we’re now living in is like a tent—we’re camping out, waiting for our “tent” to wear out so that we can occupy our REAL home, our ETERNAL home.
That house in heaven is “not built by human hands” for it is built by the Lord. Do you know that there are only five manmade things in heaven? They are the two holes in Jesus hands, two in His feet and one in his side. They are there because Jesus died for our sins, as it says in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
How do you receive eternal life in heaven after you die? Here’s a link to show you how.
That life will be so wonderful that we can’t even imagine. Therefore, the Apostle Paul looked at death as a PROMOTION and wrote in Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Heaven is something you can look forward to with eager anticipation after you die. This is why we can say with the Psalmist in Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
For the believer in Jesus, death does not need to be frightening. It is the time to go home to our Lord. It is a time to be comforted by the Good Shepherd.
When I was about 8 years old, I had a friend named Steve whose family had a German Shepherd dog. I was really afraid of that dog. It seemed mean and big enough to eat me for dinner! I ran when I saw that dog coming.
One day I was over at Steve’s house and my father came to pick me up. Somehow, I was in the car first and waiting for dad—probably because I was hurrying to get away from that dog! He came out of their home and was walking down their front walkway. Then I saw that German Shepherd coming up behind him. I thought “Oh no. That dog is gonna bite my dad and tear up his leg or his arm or hand, or maybe it will go for his neck. Dad’s in trouble now.”
Sure enough, the dog came up to my dad and nipped at his hand. I waited anxiously to see what would happen next.
Do you know what my dad did? He turned around and looked at the dog and said, “Bad dog, no. Bad dog!” With that the dog backed off and walked back to the house with his tail between his legs. My father walked to our car, got in and we drove off.
I was flabbergasted!
We fear dying, we fear death, we dread passing from this earth. But Jesus just looks at death and says, “Bad death, bad death!” And death walks away with its tail between its legs, whimpering!
We can do the same! We don’t have to let death intimidate or scare us!
My mother knew Jesus and looked forward to being with Him. I was not in the hospital in Columbus, Ohio when she passed away, but my father was. She said only a few things, knowing that her time was coming. She said to my dad, “It’s OK to cry.” And she was right; we do weep and mourn our losses.
But for mom it was a gain. She went to be with the Lord. The last words on her lips were, “I’m going to be with Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”
You see, for disciples of Jesus, this is how it works:
When you are born, you are crying and everyone else is happy.But when you die, everyone else is crying and you are deliriously happy!
Here’s a good summary verse: Psalm 116:15 “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
That is powerful! We usually think of death as an enemy, a terrible intruder, an awful ending. But death for the believer is not a tragedy:
It is precious.
It is a graduation.
It is a homecoming.
It is our blessed hope.
Why is heaven so great? Here are some of the reasons:
No wrinkles, sags, bags and age spots
No financial constraints
No crushed dreams
No running out of time
No ignorant and corrupt politicians and judges doing injustices
A perfectly healthy body
A beautiful body
Food will have no calories
Perfect union with God
Reign with the Lord over the universe
All questions will be answered and there will be no confusion about “why”Be with ones we have loved
Weather will constantly be gorgeous
The most incredible music you’ve ever heard
The fact is that heaven is wonderful beyond description.
And best of all: after you die the party never ends!
2. You go to hell.
But now let’s turn a very sharp corner and look at the other option: hell.
We want to avoid the subjects of both death and hell! And it is not enjoyable for me to write about hell. However, it would be terribly wrong to avoid the topic and endanger others in my uncomfortableness.
Imagine there’s a gunman in a public building near you. He is randomly shooting, wounding and killing people. You’re there, but you run outside to safety. As you run outside, there are people going into the building. Would you warn them? I hope so! It would be evil not to! In the law, this is called the “duty to warn.”
Likewise, it would be unethical if not downright evil for me not to warn about what the Bible says regarding hell!
Matthew 25:41, 46, say “Then he [the Lord Jesus as judge] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Jesus says here that there will be “eternal punishment.” The Bible’s description of this punishment is that it is:
People are sometimes confused, thinking they want to go to hell where all their buddies are. But there will not be any party there. In fact, there will be only loneliness.
This is why Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” One of the most common statements of Jesus is “be not afraid.” But here he warns us to “be afraid” of hell!
In 2003 a research group discovered 64% of Americans expect to go to heaven when they die, but less than 1% think they might go to hell.
That statistic reminds me of a belief called Universalism which holds that that salvation is universal and there will be no one in hell—God is too loving for that. I’ve written and podcasted about this subject many times, for example in this article: Six Reasons all Roads DON’T Lead to Heaven
Isn’t it interesting that people think they have to correct the Bible and that they know more than God does? They are essentially saying to Jesus, “You are mean and barbaric—I am more compassionate and wiser.”
Universalists want to make God more loving, but ironically, they make Him less loving, since they belittle the fact that Jesus took the sins of the world upon Himself on the cross. He was being physically tortured in the worst way imaginable, but that was child’s play compared to what His soul experienced when He bore our sins!
Universalism is not what the Bible teaches and not what Jesus taught. In fact, Jesus spoke more of hell than all other Biblical authors put together.
But others did write of it, such as the Apostle Paul who wrote in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.”
Some try to say that “everlasting” doesn’t really mean “everlasting” and “eternal” doesn’t really mean “eternal.” For instance, in this verse it says, “everlasting destruction” about which they say, “It’s destruction, therefore, it is not everlasting.”
But the words used in Hebrew and Greek for “everlasting” and “eternal” are the same used for God being eternal and heaven being eternal. So, if someone believes hell is going to become extinct, to be consistent they’d have to believe that someday God will become extinct and heaven will become extinct.
You can’t have it both ways. Eternal means eternal.
The Big Question:
How do you know you’re headed to heaven after you die? Revelation 20:15 says, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Hell is called different names; here it is the “lake of fire,” which signifies the physical suffering there. It is a place to be avoided at all costs after you die! But only those whose names are in the “book of life” will not go there.
So how do you get your name in the “book of life?”
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:16, 18-19)
The fact is that our names are not automatically in the “book of life.” They must be put there, or we will not be in heaven. We are “condemned already,” because we are sinners. It doesn’t matter who we are or how “nice” we seem to be.
Any sin is enough to keep you out of the perfection of God’s presence in heaven after you die. In order to go to hell, you don’t have to do anything more.
But Jesus came to die and rise again so that we would not have to go to hell but can have eternal life. And when someone believes in Jesus, their name is placed in the “book of life.”
We can accept or reject that gift. What is your choice? Where will you go 5 minutes after you die?
Does God enjoy seeing people reject him and choose hell? No! In fact, while we saw the verse earlier that says that the death of saints is “precious in the sight of the Lord,” Ezekiel reveals how God sees people who reject Him and go to hell. In Ezekiel 33:11b God says, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked…”
The Lord…is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9b)
God wants all to be saved. He wants every person’s name to be written in the “book of life.” But he doesn’t force anyone into his kingdom; he lets each one make the choice. And he waits patiently for people to choose eternal life. Some do, some don’t. The question is what each of us will do. What will you do with the message you have clearly received in this article? Will you go to heaven after you die? You can be sure!
To receive God’s gift of eternal life in heaven please click HERE.
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Additional resources about related subjects on this site:
Podcast: Isn’t Christianity arrogant to claim to be the only way to heaven?
Podcast: Since Jesus paid the price, is everyone heaven-bound?
4 Desperately Hopeless Yet Common Approaches to Suffering and Death
Five Questions for Those Who Think Many Roads Lead to Heaven
Podcast: Isn’t Christianity arrogant to claim to be the only way to heaven?
Podcast: Is salvation found in various religious traditions? (Pluralism)
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