Today, we’re going to talk about the important question: “What Happens When You Die?” This is a very important question for each person to answer. It is important because when we understand what happens when we die, it will help us live our lives now in the best possible way. There are many different ideas about what happens after death. Churches teach many different ideas about this as well, so many people are confused. Yet, the Bible is very clear in its teaching about what happens after death.
Ecclesiastes 3:11b (ESV) … Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart …
What is this eternity that God has placed in every person’s heart? God has created each person in His image. God is eternal, He has always existed and will always exist. People however, are created beings. We came into existence when conception occurred in our mother’s womb. But God has created every human being to exist forever, just as He does. And God has put the desire to live forever in every person’s heart.
Psalm 90:10 (ESV) The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
The years of our physical life are very limited, for we all face death. No one is going to live forever in the mortal body that we now live in.
Psalm 90:12 (ESV) So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Each of has a certain number of days allotted by God. We must use the precious days that God has given us wisely to prepare for eternity. Eternity is what we enter into after our physical death. Eternity is the timeless state in which God lives that will last forever. However, everyone does not enter into the same eternal state.
What determines what eternal state you enter into upon death? The choices we make in this life determine our eternal state. If we compare 70-80 years of this life to the endless time of eternity, we must make good use of these years. We need to consider hoe to live now to impact eternity for ourselves and for others.
Eternity is divided into two opposite destinations. Eternal life is life with our creator God forever. Eternal life is Eden restored with new heavens and a new earth and new glorified bodies. Eternal death is eternal existence without God in a place of eternal torment called hell. At judgement day, everyone will be resurrected from the dead.
Daniel 12:2 (ESV) And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Many churches either deny the existence of hell, teach that hardly anyone goes there or have made up ways that people can escape from hell. There is no way out of hell. Purgatory is a lie from the pit of hell. And no, Jesus is not going to go into hell and save everybody eventually. Today, we’re going to study Jesus’ teaching on what happens when you die.
Luke 16:19 (ESV) “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.
Our teaching today begins with two characters. The first is a very rich man who dressed to make everyone know how rich he was. Not only did he dress extravagantly, he ate the same way. He feasted lavishly, not just once a week, but every day. My guess is that his body reflected his gluttonous eating habits. At least some of the characteristics of this man were the result of choices he made in life. Perhaps, he did not work his way to become rich, he may have inherited his wealth, we are not told.
Luke 16:20 (ESV) And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
The second character we are introduced to is a very poor man named Lazarus. He was a beggar, who laid at the gate to the rich man’s house to beg money from those who went through. Lazarus was not only very poor, but he must have not been able to walk and he was covered with sores. Undoubtedly, Lazarus was in daily pain and often hungry.
The presence of Lazarus at the gate of the rich man, tells us something more about the rich man. The rich man must have daily passed Lazarus lying on his bed at the gate. Yet, he did nothing to help Lazarus, nothing to give him a place to stay, nothing to help him be healed. Although it seems as though Lazarus was in a pitiable state, it may not have been due to his choices alone. Because, as we’ll see, Lazarus had made the most important choice in life that impacted eternity. Your choices in life determine your eternal destiny.
Just imagine yourself observing these two characters, the rich man and the poor man, Lazarus. What would you think? We’d be tempted to think that the rich man had worked hard and smart throughout his life. He’d earned the right to live a luxurious lifestyle through his hard work. The poor man? Well, he must have done something wrong to end up so poor. Probably didn’t work very hard and take care of himself, that’s why he ended up homeless.
We’re going to see as we go on in the story that God viewed the two men, very differently then how we might have viewed them. God looks at the heart and sees what’s inside a person, whether they’re rich or poor. What’s in a person’s heart, which depends on choices they’ve made, will determine their eternity. We also must not judge ourselves or others by external characteristics. The things that are appealing to people often hide hearts far from God. We must ask God to help us to discover what’s in a person’s heart. Because what’s in their hearts is the most important. Your choices in life determine your eternity.
Luke 16:22-23 (ESV) The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
Both men died, but their destinations were different. The poor man’s spirit was carried by angels to heaven. Heaven is described as being at Abraham’s side. Abraham was the father of faith. He was the one who believed God and was made righteous. Abraham is pictured as reclining at a table to eat at a banquet and Lazarus is with him. The picture of heaven is one of beauty with angels, fellowship with previous saints and bountiful provision.
The rich man, on the other hand, went down to Hades, another term for hell where he was in torment. In hell, the rich man was able to see into heaven, which increased his torment. He saw both Abraham and Lazarus by his side, although they were far off.
Luke 16:24-25 (ESV) And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.
The rich man calls on Abraham to send Lazarus to send some water down to hell. Why? Because he is in agony in the eternal fire of hell. Abraham tells the rich man that in eternity, the state of the two men have been reversed. Lazarus is being comforted in heaven, but the rich man is in anguish in hell. Abraham continues …
Luke 16:26 (ESV) And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’
No one can cross between heaven and hell, either from heaven to hell or from hell to heaven. Your eternal state is sealed forever when you die. There is no more opportunity to repent, there is no point praying for someone after they die. Your eternity is sealed forever when you die.
You know how many people in America believe they will go to hell when they die? One half of one percent. 99.5% of people do not believe they’re going to hell. Jesus tells us that the vast majority of people will end up in hell. In our next point, we’ll talk about the most important decision in life. The decision and follow-up that will determine your eternal destiny. That decision or lack thereof is what determined where the rich man and Lazarus ended up.
How does that apply to us? In two different ways. First of all, each of us needs to be sure that we have made that important decision. The decision is not that I want to go to heaven. Everyone who believes in heaven wants to go there and the vast majority think that’s where they are going. You must believe that heaven is your destination for biblical reasons.
The second way that this applies to each of us is for those around us. Quite frankly, if you’re a believer, the main reason that God still has you on this earth is to bring more people with you to heaven. If that wasn’t our purpose, we might as well hold people down when they’re baptized and send them straight to heaven. If you’re a believer, your main mission in life is to do everything you can to rescue people from hell. You see, hell is the default destination. Everyone is born a sinner and if the trajectory of their life does not change, they will end up in eternal hell. Your eternity is sealed when you die. What decision must you make to change your eternal destiny from hell to heaven?
Luke 16:27-28 (ESV) And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’
The rich man knows there is not hope for his escape from hell, it is his eternal destination, a place of unending torment. So, now he wants to warn and rescue his brothers from his fate.
Luke 16:29-30 (ESV) But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
Abraham replies that all the truth people need is found in God’s Word. The last sentence of the rich man is very instructive. He thinks that if someone rises from the dead, then his brothers will repent. You see, in hell, the rich man understands completely, why he is in hell. He is in hell, because he did not repent of his sin and believe in Jesus. He wants to tell others to repent before it’s too late, but he can’t do that from hell.
Luke 16:31 (ESV) He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
If people do not believe that truth of God’s Word and it’s call to repentance. They will not believe in Jesus resurrected from the dead either. And not everyone will believe. In fact, even when we witness to people, the majority will not believe. Some will believe for awhile and then fall away. Yet, some will believe and continue to believe until God calls them home to heaven. People must repent and believe in Jesus to have eternal life.
One of the main reasons that people do not believe in Jesus is that they all think they’re going to heaven no matter what. One of the main reasons that true believers don’t witness to people is that they believe that all their friends and relatives are going to heaven or probably going to heaven. So, I don’t’ want to upset them by questioning whether they’re going to heaven.
Oftentimes we are more concerned with upsetting people then in their eternal destiny. The reality of hell should motivate us to reach as many people as possible with the Gospel. Remember the default destination is not heaven, it’s hell. And also remember that to go to heaven, one must believe and continue to believe until you die. Some believers fall away and stop believing.
If someone is offended with you witnessing to them, what does that tell you? It tells you that they need to believe the Gospel, they are not saved. In Jesus’ parables about the final judgement, no one is ever surprised they are going to heaven because they thought they were going to hell. In every case, people are surprised they’re going to hell, because they thought they were going to heaven. Everyone must repent in and believe in Jesus to have eternal life.
What Happens when you die? Everyone’s choices in life determines their eternity. Eternal destinies are sealed when a person dies. If you’re listening today and you’ve not repented and believe in Jesus, then do it today, before it’s too late. Don’t assume you have plenty of time. Your life could end this afternoon.
If you’re a believer listening today, think about the people you know. Do you know what their eternal destinies are? Simply believing in God or going to church does not save a person from hell. They can’t ask Jesus to save them and then live anyway they please. To repent and believe is to acknowledge Jesus as Lord of their life. That means, they will learn His commands and obey them. Let’s do everything we can to depopulate hell and populate heaven.