“I have a question that I thought I was sure about until I heard your sermon on the The Great Snatching Away – Post Tribulation. When a believer dies, I thought they are with Jesus immediatly based on the verse about the thief on the cross with Jesus. But, when I heard your sermon about the Tribulation, it sounds like when you die, you are asleep or something until Jesus raises the dead in him. Can you clarify this for me please? Gina Baillargeon, Riverside, CA”
Good Fight Response:
Gina, my name is Steve Aguilar, I work with Pastor Joe Schimmel in the ministry. I’ll try to help with your understanding of the issue concerning where and how a person exists after death. I’m not exactly sure of what you’re referring to in Pastor Joe’s message, so I’ll just explain what happens to a person when they die…
According to Luke 16 we learn from Jesus Himself that when a person died BEFORE Jesus was crucified, they went to a place called Hades/Hell (which still exists today). Based on Luke 16 Hades/Hell is a place that consists of two compartments. To help you understand this, just picture a large aquarium with a very thick glass separating it into two compartments. One side, a place of torment due to flames, which is for people who die and did not follow the One True God, which also means they don’t hold to the promise of the coming Messiah/Jesus; and the other side, Abraham’s bosom, a place for those who followed the One True God whom, of course, held to the promise of the coming Messiah/Jesus.
Now when Jesus was crucified, we learn from scripture (Ephesians 4:7-10, 1 Peter 3:18-19) that during the 3 days and nights that Jesus’ body was in the tomb, He descended to the lower parts of the earth and set the captives free. Basically, Jesus went to Hades/Hell (however, keep in mind that Jesus did not go into the torment compartment)… On this point I must say, be careful, as there are ‘word faith’ teachers that teach that it was necessary for Jesus to go to the torment side of Hades/Hell to become “born again” – that teaching is heretical! Rather Jesus descended to the "Abraham’s bosom" side and set those believers free (Ephesians 4:8-10). As a result – the "Abraham’s bosom" compartment is no longer occupied, nor has it been since. In fact, it becomes clear that even the thief on the cross accompanied Jesus to Abraham’s bosom and was also set free when Jesus cleared it out.
Keep in mind that although the "Abraham’s bosom" compartment is no longer filled, nor receives the believing dead – the other compartment, the "place of torment," continues to this day to be filled with the souls of men and women who die without Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
AFTER the cross the scriptures teach that those who die become present with the Lord (Philippians 1:23, 2 Corinthians 5:8), so now when a person dies they are immediately with the Lord. In fact, remember when Stephen was stoned to death in Acts 7:55-60? We see Stephen filled with the Holy Spirit and he sees Jesus "standing" at the right hand of God and he says "Jesus, receive my spirit…" Here again we begin to see that once a Christian dies they are present with the Lord. Notice also that Stephen says "receive my SPIRIT" not "my body" or "me," he specifically says "spirit." When we die, we are with the Lord, however, we are not there physically, rather in spirit. And although we don’t have physical bodies, according to the scriptures, we certainly seem to have our senses intact (Luke 16:25). The dead in Christ do not have physical bodies until the Resurrection (Daniel 12:2, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17), which is on the Last day, as Martha stated in John 11:23-26.
Perhaps in Pastor Joe’s message you may have heard Joe refer to 1 Thessalonians 4, where Paul writes about those who are "asleep." What we must keep in mind is that the word "Asleep/Sleep" is a figure of speech called a "euphemism." It’s basically a replacement word for another word that may seem too harsh or blunt. In fact, notice in John 11 Jesus uses the word "sleeping" in reference to His dear friend Lazarus who is dead. So here John 11 clearly teaches us that Lazarus is dead, and then we have Jesus turn and advise the disciples that Lazarus "sleeps" (John 11:11). The disciples, understandably, assume that Jesus is simply saying that Lazarus is just resting or taking a nap. Jesus, seeing that the disciples don’t understand what He means, then plainly says "Lazarus is dead" (John 11:14).
Gina, I hope something in my response helps. If you have further questions or if I just missed it altogether – please feel free to Contact Us. I’d be glad hear from you.