Questions 139 & 140
What happens to the righteous* at death?
The bodies of the righteous* return to the dust. Their souls* go to be with the Lord*.
Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 12:7; 2 Corinthians 5:8
What happens to wicked people at death?
The bodies of the wicked return to dust. Their souls* suffer punishment. God keeps them for the day He comes to judge.
All people have a body and a soul. God made both the soul and the body, so both the body and the soul are good. But the body and soul are not eternal* like God is. They only live as long as God decides to give them life. A body may die. But the scriptures* tell us that God will cause the soul to live somewhere forever. The Bible* is clear that death is not the end for anyone.
When the body dies, the soul leaves the body. A body can die and be buried. But the soul continues to live. The soul continues as it was before the body died.
The scriptures say that the souls of both the righteous and the wicked go to a place to wait. They both wait for their bodies to be raised to life again. But the righteous and the wicked do not go to the same place. And they do not experience the same things.
One story in the scriptures speaks of the soul after death. Two men died. One was poor and the other was rich. But, after they died, the souls of both men were still alive. Both men had gone to a place that was different than where they had been with their bodies. Both men knew who they were. They knew other people who were with them. They remembered what they had done in the past. Their souls continued after their bodies had died. The poor man found rest and comfort where he was. The rich man found no rest or comfort. He went to a place of terrible suffering with no one there to show him mercy*. Jesus used the word ‘hell’* to speak of the place where the rich man went. There was only sorrow where he was, but he could not get out of that place.
When righteous people die, they go to a place of rest and comfort. The righteous are those who have been made right with God. They believe that Jesus is the son of God and they have trusted him to save them. For the righteous, death is to be ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord.’ When a believer* dies, their body goes to the grave. But their soul goes to be with Christ the moment that their body dies. There, they wait for the day when they will return to the earth and enjoy a new life in a new body. Paul* tells of this time when the bodies of believers will be raised to life again many places in the New Testament*.
The scriptures say that the souls of all who have died and are right with God are in heaven.* There, they have been made perfect. We do not know everything about what heaven will be like. But we do know that it will be ‘far better’ than what we are doing here.
For those who do not trust* Jesus, their souls are taken to a holding place as soon as their body dies. In this place, there is no rest or comfort. They wait there until the day God will bring the souls of all people to return to their bodies again. All people will be raised from the dead. Then, they will be alive again, body and soul, to stand before God. They will stand before God, in their new bodies, to be judged. God will judge them and send them to a place that is much worse than where they were before. And they will be there forever and ever.
After death, no one can change from evil to righteous. After death, all that remains for those who are evil is judgement*.
 John 3:16-18; Hebrews 9:27
 Luke 16:19-31
 Matthew 5:29-30; Matthew 10:28; Matthew 18:9; Matthew 23:33; Luke 12:5; Luke 16:23
 2 Corinthians 5:6-8
 1 Corinthians 15:50-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
 Hebrews 12:22-23
 Philippians 1:23
 Revelation 20:14-15