Death is not natural. Although it is now the way of all things, Scripture tells us in Romans 6:23 that death is the final working out of the curse of sin: “For the wages of sin is death…”
If this was all the verse had to say to us, then there would really be no point to anything; we live, we sin and then therefore we die and face God guilty of our sin and fully deserving of its punishment. But if we read on in the verse, we come to the second segment: “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This is what He has given and still provides: hope and joy for the people who love and serve Jesus. Christ took our place, He received the punishment for our sin, so all we need to do is believe and follow Him.
Yes, the Christian will still die—why is that? Well, although the Christian is completely forgiven by God, and the punishment for their sin has been paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus, the presence and the effect of sin has not yet been removed from the world, and death must still take place.
What Happens After Death?
That then takes us to the question, what happens to the Christian once they die? Well, we must first note that on the instant of death, the soul and the body separate. The body has served its purpose for now, and for a while will simply decay away back to dust, but our souls are eternal, as we see in Ecclesiastes 12:7: “…and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
The Christian’s soul then goes to be with Christ and God the Father in heaven. One of the many times from which we can learn this is from Christ’s own words to the thief that was crucified beside him, in Luke 23:43: “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.” The instant that the Christian’s soul enters heaven they will be made perfect, there can be no sin in heaven, no more pain, no more tears, only joy and only eternal contentment (Revelation 21:1-7).
The Confession of Faith words it well: “…the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies.”
Like we see in the Confession of Faith, it does not just end with the soul forever in the presence of God, although that in itself is a truly wonderful thought. There is more; at the moment that Christ comes back to earth, the Christians (both those who have passed and those on the earth at that time) will be again back in their own bodies, but our bodies will now be made perfect, eternal and like Christ (Philippians 3:21).
As John Piper states, “The old body will become a new body. But it will still be your body. There will be continuity. God is able to do what we cannot imagine. The resurrection is not described in terms of a totally new creation but in terms of a change of the old creation.”
So we will still be ‘ourselves’, but we will be fully perfect, fully Holy and like Christ.
We read in Ephesians 3:20 that God can do “…far more abundantly than all that we ask or think …” This is no different when it comes to the death of the Christian. At death the soul goes to be with Christ, looking forward to the future resurrection. At this resurrection the Christian is reunited to their body, which will be perfect and eternal. The Christian will then spend eternity with God, enjoying the new Heavens and the new Earth that will be created.
What a future! What a promise for those who are saved!