Question: What happens to us when we die? Are we unconscious until Jesus comes back and the Judgment Day takes place?
Answer: Thanks for asking. I’d be glad to answer this for you. I think the story told by Jesus about the rich man and Lazarus is a very insightful one when it comes to learning about what happens to us after death. The story is found in Luke 16:19-31. Read this passage, and then I want you to notice a few things about what this story teaches about life after death.
When Lazarus died he was carried away by the angels to a place this passage calls Abraham’s bosom (22). The rich man died too. However he opened up his eyes after he was dead and was in torment. He was also able to see Abraham and Lazarus who were in a far away place from where he was (23). This story takes place during a time when people are still living on earth while Lazarus and the rich man are in their respective places after they have already died. We know this because the rich man begs for Abraham to allow Lazarus to go and warn the rich man’s five brothers to repent so they will not be in torment as the rich man is when they die (27-31).
So to answer your question, no we will not be unconscious until Jesus comes back and the Judgment Day takes place. If we are saved we will be in paradise following our death like Lazarus was and is today. If we are lost we will be in torment like the rich man was and is, wishing someone could come and put a drop of water on our tongue to relieve us from the intense torture. We will also wish that a ghost could go and warn our loved ones who are lost.
However both of those wishes will be denied. Once a person is in torment there is no relief. Just like the rich man’s five brothers would not repent if a ghost preached to them, instead of Moses and the prophets, neither would people today listen if a ghost preached the gospel instead of faithful Christians. However, Christians can be comforted by the state of Lazarus. Lazarus who used to be a poor, sick, beggar is now eternally as happy, peaceful, and Joyous as he can be. While the rich man was aware of where Lazarus was and the lost state of his five brothers, we have no indication that Lazarus knew where the rich man was or knew that any of his loved ones still living were lost. That is also comforting to know.
When Jesus descends from heaven to begin eternity the dead in Christ will rise first (I Thessalonians 4:16). The saved will be on the right side of Jesus and the lost will be on the left side of Jesus (Matthew 25:33). The earth will be burned up. Life on earth will cease to exist (2 Peter 3:10). The Judgment will take place where all will give an account for their lives. The saved will go to heaven. The lost will go to Hell. The saved will hear Jesus say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world (Matthew 25:34).” The lost will hear Jesus say, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).” I hope this helps you gain an understanding of life after death. May we all prepare ourselves to be in eternal bliss instead of eternal fire. “The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness but is patient toward you, not wishing that any would perish, but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).”
- Charles Steiner