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All About the Afterlife

Okay, maybe this isn’t all about the afterlife, but it’s all the articles I wrote in a series on death, the grave, resurrection, and the afterlife.

Resurrection and Eternal Life in the Bible

What does the Bible say about the resurrection and eternal life?

As you read, you might want to refer back to these two articles:

Resurrection in the Bible is a very big deal. Yeshua (aka Jesus) is our savior and the only way to be reconciled to our Heavenly Creator and Father, but resurrection is central to the very meaning of salvation. When Yeshua saves us, he saves us from the eternal consequences of our sins and allows us to be resurrected into eternal life in God’s presence. The Bible talks about resurrection from beginning to end. It is described or discussed in many passages, and hidden by metaphor and allegory in many more.

On one hand, what we believe about our own resurrection and what happens afterward has very little bearing on our eternal salvation. We will be resurrected whether we understand that it will happen or not, and we will receive eternal life if we have lived believing in Yeshua and the promises of God whether we completely understand all of those promises or not.

On the other hand, our understanding of the resurrection will effect our understanding of much of the rest of Scripture, including what it means to believe in Yeshua. A person can be saved from his sins and resurrected to eternal life without ever hearing that there will be a resurrection, but his spiritual life will suffer because he doesn’t have a full understanding of his relationship with God and his place in God’s eternal plan.

Remember that the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, and that led them into many other errors. Yeshua and the Apostles thought that teaching about the resurrection was important enough that they repeatedly came into conflict with the Sadducees over it, risking imprisonment, beatings, and even death!

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
Acts 4:1-2

Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”
Acts 23:6

In my previous article on the afterlife, I established from Scripture a rough idea of what happens to a person after he dies: his spirit goes to one of the regions or chambers of Sheol to await resurrection. In this article, I’m going to pick up where that one left off and examine what Scripture says about the resurrection itself and what happens after that.

Many Temporary Resurrections

There are many resurrections recorded in the Bible, but most of them were temporary. A person died, was brought back to life, and then presumably died again sometime later.

  • Elijah and Elisha both brought children back to life in the Old Testament.
  • Yeshua raised at least three people from the grave before his own crucifixion.
  • Many people buried in Jerusalem came back to life about the same time Yeshua was resurrected.
  • The Apostles raised some from the dead after Yeshua returned to Heaven.

There is no indication in Scripture that any of those people are still alive today or that their resurrected bodies were incorruptible as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 15. If they had been made immortal or if they had ascended into Heaven like Yeshua, I’m certain that some mention would have been made of that. It’s much more likely that their spirits were returned to their former bodies, which were healed of any injuries and corruption and then grew old and died again as do the bodies of all other people.

Yeshua’s resurrection was different. He was raised from the dead in a glorified body and then rose through the clouds to heaven in his physical form. Unlike the rest of us, his body didn’t return to the dust of the earth.

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
Psalms 16:10

He left the grave with the same body that was crucified, but it was transformed. As I will show, this allowed him to prefigure two groups of believers at the end.

Appointed unto Men Once to Die

If those who were resurrected in years past were destined to die again, how should we understand this verse in the Letter to the Hebrews?

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…
Hebrews 9:27

This is a statement of general principle, not an absolute law. It’s similar to saying that “what goes up must come down”, but we all know that some things go up and never come back down. Numerous spacecraft have left the earth and never come back. Those few exceptions don’t negate the principle that anything thrown into the air will be pulled back to the ground by gravity. Without some continuous force keeping it from falling, it will fall.

In the same way, all those resurrected before Yeshua’s return have been thrown up from the grave, but the inevitable effects of entropy and the continual pull of Sheol eventually bring them back down again. They returned to life and their families, but continued to age until they died and were buried once more.

Scripture itself describes a “second death” in Revelation 21:

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.
Revelation 21:8

We can’t read both Hebrews 9:27 and Revelation 21:8 in a strictly literal sense or else they contradict each other. The one describes the usual–though not universal–end of our mortal flesh–while the second is a description of the end of the resurrected, incorruptible flesh of the wicked after the final judgment.

The writer of Hebrews meant that there is no reincarnation. Everybody gets one life, not two or a hundred. Nobody will live, die, and then be born again as a baby to do it all over. This life is not a dress rehearsal. With very few exceptions, men are given one mortal body that lives once, dies, and returns to the earth.

Wait… Backup. “The incorruptible flesh of the wicked”!?

Yes, but more on that later. I’m sorry if this is getting confusing, but I will try to pull it all together at the end.

The First Resurrection

I am not going to speculate on when, but sometime in the future, Yeshua will return to earth in glory and power with a noise something like a great trumpet or the shout of a multitude.

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
Revelation 19:11

As Revelation 19 indicates, this will happen after the Beast and the False Prophet have spent some years persecuting and murdering God’s faithful during a period known as The Great Tribulation. When Yeshua returns, “the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). These aren’t all those who died prior to Yeshua’s return, but only those killed by the Beast and his minions.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years….This is the first resurrection.
Revelation 20:4-5

These martyrs of the Beast are the first wave of the Final Resurrection, long before the second wave. I don’t believe that their former bodies will be brought back to life, because they will have been killed over the course of several years and their bodies will have decomposed. Instead, these martyrs will gain newly created bodies that will never decompose.

And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.
1 Corinthians 15:37-38

These new bodies will be immortal. Although they have a beginning, they will have no end, reigning at Yeshua’s side for a period of one thousand years (commonly known by some variation of the word “Millennium”) and living beyond that.

The Great Resurrection

At the end of the Millennium, Yeshua will put down a rebellion of the nations, destroy all of the physical universe, and raise all the dead who remain in Sheol. Everyone–great and small, righteous and wicked–will be resurrected and given brand new bodies. Yes, even the wicked will be resurrected at the end.

The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended…
Revelation 20:5

Sheol will be completely emptied of all who have died between Adam’s Fall and the destruction of the Earth. Those countless souls will be given new bodies and made to stand before the Throne of God to learn whether their names are written in the Book of Life. If their names are found in the Book, they will keep their new bodies and remain alive forever in the presence of God. If their names are not found, they will be condemned.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
Revelation 20:11-12

Sheol itself will be cast into Hell and the wicked who have just been resurrected and judged will follow.

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:14-15

The Transformation of the Survivors

All those who were still alive at the time of the Final Judgment will be transformed. They won’t die, but their bodies will be glorified like Yeshua’s. He died and was resurrected, but he didn’t receive a new body. Rather the body he inhabited when he walked the earth was refined and glorified, made immune to death. In this, Yeshua’s resurrection prophesied both the resurrection of the dead and the glorification of the living before the Final Judgment.

Those who are alive at the end will stand judgment alongside the newly resurrected. The faithful among them will go on to eternal life, while the unfaithful will go down to Hell and the Second Death, having passed by the First Death altogether.

The End and the Beginning

Death and resurrection have been with us since Adam first sinned and they are central to God’s plan to refine mankind and restore us to full relationship with him as we once had in the Garden. A few have died and been resurrected temporarily, but everyone who has ever died will be resurrected and everyone who has ever lived will stand together before the throne of God to be judged for eternity.

Those whose names are found in the Book of Life will see a new heaven and earth. What happens after that has not been revealed and has barely even been hinted at so far as I know. I suspect that the time we spent on the first earth is merely trial, a proving ground for our Great Continuation. Life is a furnace and we are all silver ore being refined into something beautiful and useful. The dross will be discarded and the silver retained. What use the Creator will put us to is a mystery that I can’t wait to discover!

Note: You might also appreciate Tony Robinson’s teaching series on Resurrection in the Old Testament.

What Happens When You Die?

What happens when you die? Do you go straight to Heaven? Or somewhere else?

Please refer to A Dictionary of Death, Resurrection, and Judgment for terms that might not be clear, and to A Timeline of Resurrection and Judgment for an overall perspective of related events since Yeshua’s crucifixion.


Faces blur, lights fade, and darkness closes in.

But there’s another light. Just a pinpoint at first, but it grows brighter and brighter, larger and larger, until it rushes in like an oncoming train, and suddenly you find yourself… someplace else, but where?

Whether we admit it openly or spend much time thinking about it, everyone wants to know what happens when you die.

We’ve all heard stories about it: a bright light, a tunnel, meeting God, etc., or else somewhere dark and hot, where you meet someone else entirely. We’ve also heard sermons and Sunday School lessons–not to mention Internet memes and Hollywood productions–about going to Heaven or Hell. And who hasn’t heard someone say, “I just know my [insert loved one here] is looking down from Heaven.”

Recently, someone in our local community expressed her frustration to me over the conflicting messages from church, friends, and Scripture. Some talk about soul-sleep, others about Purgatory, and still others say we go to be with Jesus in Heaven immediately upon death. They all claim Scriptural support for their beliefs, but all three are mutually exclusive, so only one of them can be right. Or none of them.

I had a pretty good idea of what the Bible said about life after death, but I didn’t want to give her a hasty answer. I needed to check a few things and get back to her. Those few things turned into a few more things, and then there was COVID…but that’s another story, at least for me. It didn’t take me long to realize that the topic was more complicated than I thought. In order to really understand what happens immediately after death, I needed a better picture of the entirety of the afterlife. Not just now, but the resurrections of Revelation, the final judgment, and beyond.

After a couple of months of searching the Scriptures and consulting the apocrypha, Early Church Fathers, and modern Bible commentaries, here’s what I can say for certain: not a whole lot. Much of the popular imagery of Heaven and Hell comes from European mythology, fiction, and conjecture, not from the Bible or even Jewish tradition. Some of what I was taught in church when I was young–or at least what I think I remember being taught in church–was wrong or at least unfounded. The Bible just doesn’t give a lot of specific details.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let me tell you about my current beliefs…

Sheol, Hades, and the Grave

Sheol is the Hebrew word for Hades, also often referred to euphemistically as “the grave”. Ancient Jewish beliefs on the afterlife were about as divided as modern Christian beliefs are. According to the Book of Enoch1 (Michael A. Knibb translation, chapter 22), Sheol is divided into four areas, great “hollow places” in the earth, two for the righteous and two for the wicked. This is similar to the picture given by Yeshua in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16, in which the spirits of the righteous went to Abraham’s side (aka Abraham’s Bosom), while the spirits of the wicked went to another place of extreme thirst, but close enough to be able to see and interact with the righteous dead.

I don’t believe these depictions were meant to be literally true. However, they might still describe something about an incomprehensible reality in terms that we can understand. Sheol is a spiritual place, not a physical one, so descriptions such as found in Luke 16 and Enoch are necessarily allegorical. The righteous and the wicked are separated by the spiritual equivalent of a chasm, rather than an actual crack in the ground (Luke) or walls carved out of a mountainside (Enoch). The dead have no bodies, and so they don’t see, hear, or experience physical sensations in the same way that the living do, let alone thirst for water. The side of the chasm reserved for the wicked isn’t actually uncomfortably dry, but the dead who are there experience some sensation analogous to extreme thirst.

Don’t dismiss the “parable” of Lazarus and the rich man as a mere parable. Yeshua might (or might not!) have chosen specific terms and imagery in order to align with the cultural beliefs of the day, but this is the only parable in which he gave one of the characters a name. I believe this unusual bit indicates that the essence of the story is true, even if Yeshua changed some details to make the setting more comprehensible to a flesh and blood audience.

What Is Sheol Really Like?

The Bible doesn’t give a lot of specific information about life…or, um, death…in Sheol, but it does give us some glimpses into how the ancient Hebrews, including the Patriarchs and Prophets thought of it. I have listed below some points that can be gleaned from Scripture, but keep in mind that some of the source texts are poetry, and therefore laden with hyperbole and allegory. The Scriptural references aren’t exhaustive, but should be sufficiently representative.

  • Everyone goes to Sheol. Genesis 37:35, 42:38, etc; Numbers 16:30,33; 2 Samuel 22:6; Job 21:13; Psalm 18:5, 89:48; Isaiah 5:14; Luke 16:19-31
  • The righteous go to a pleasant side of Sheol, a paradise. Luke 16:19-31; Luke 23:43
  • The wicked go to an unpleasant side of Sheol. Job 26:6, Luke 16:19-31
  • Some fallen angels or antediluvian villains have been imprisoned in Sheol. 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 1:7
  • The physical body decomposes and returns to the earth, while the spirit lives on. Psalm 141:7, 146:4; Ecclesiastes 3:20, 12:7; 1 Corinthians 15:35-57; James 2:26
  • The dead still exist in some way in the present and do not skip across time to the final judgment. Genesis 37:9-10 (his mother died years earlier); Matthew 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:37-38
  • The dead can’t return from Sheol of their own volition, but can be called up against God’s Law. 1 Samuel 28:11-12; Job 7:9; Isaiah 38:10-11
  • The dead are in a sleep-like state or at least have limited awareness. Psalm 6:5, 49:19, & 115:17; Ecclesiastes 9:5,10; Daniel 12:1-3; Matthew 27:52; 1 Corinthians 15:20,35-37

Everyone’s spirit goes to Sheol after death, while their body stays behind and decays into nothing. Once there, they don’t come back unless resurrected or temporarily brought back by a necromancer. (I wouldn’t count on any spirits called up by a necromancer to be who they claim to be, though. Satan is the master of every necromancer and spiritist, and he is a consummate liar!) The minds of the dead are dulled nearly to the extent of sleep, but the dead do experience some kinds of sensations analogous to physical pleasure and pain. Existence there is more pleasant for the righteous than for the wicked, although we don’t know exactly what that means.

Do the Dead Still Go to Sheol?

It is commonly taught in Christian churches that Yeshua went to Sheol (aka Hades) during the three days he was dead and preached the Gospel to the spirits imprisoned there. Those who believed him and repented (What does it mean for the dead to repent?), he released and took up to Heaven with him. I have seen three verses from Ephesians and 1 Peter used to support this idea:

A Host of Captives

Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.
Ephesians 4:8-10

In this passage, Paul quotes Psalm 68:18, which is about God liberating Israel from oppression and sin and elevating them through worship and obedience. In Ephesians 4, Paul is using it in a very similar manner. When he says Yeshua descended to the “lower regions”, he means the earth, not the grave. We, not the dead in Hades, are the captives that have been set free and elevated by repentance from sin and adoption into the House of God. The gifts he gave to men are “the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

The Spirits in Prison

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.
1 Peter 3:18-20

Peter and Jude both wrote about some of the events described in the Book of Enoch. They don’t appear to have quoted it directly, but they and their intended audiences were clearly very familiar with its contents. In this passage, “the spirits in prison” does not refer to all men who died before Yeshua’s crucifixion. Rather, it refers to the extraordinarily wicked people who were destroyed in Noah’s Flood, or else the “hosts of Azazel” which led men into their wickedness.

In either case, he surely did not go there in order to preach the Gospel one more time to those who heard and rejected it from Noah for one hundred years! Should he give the worst of the worst a second chance after death while abandoning the vast multitudes who lived and died in lesser sins after the Flood? Peter also wrote nothing about releasing these prisoners or taking anyone to Heaven.

Yeshua did not go to Sheol to convert those already condemned. He went there to show them the glory predicted by Enoch and Noah and which they forfeited by their hard-headed rebellion. Those prisoners who heard Yeshua’s proclamations over those three days are still there today and will only be released in order to be judged and transferred to the Lake of Fire at the End.

The Gospel Was Preached to the Dead

For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
1 Peter 4:6

I believe that “those who are dead” in this verse refers to living people who are spiritually dead, as described in v3, “living in sensuality, passions,” etc.. Peter’s hope was that, in preaching the truth of God’s judgment and forgiveness to the wicked, he might rescue some of them from their sins, converting those who are dead in the flesh into spiritually living sons of God.

It’s possible that he really did mean that Yeshua (or someone) preached to the dead in Sheol in order to convert them, but he still gives no hint that anyone who is there might be released prior to the Final Judgment. The only way to get that out of the text is to insert it first. Nobody could read 1 Peter and get the idea that any of the dead had been released from Sheol unless they already believed that before reading it.

Do We Go Straight to Heaven or Hell When We Die?

Most Christians seem to believe that, after Yeshua’s resurrection, Sheol (if they are aware of it at all) has been closed and locked, so that the righteous dead now go immediately to Heaven while the wicked go immediately to Hell. Certainly before the crucifixion, nobody went directly to Heaven when they died. In John 3:13, Yeshua told Nicodemus that no man other than Yeshua himself had ascended to Heaven. As I’ve shown above, I don’t believe there is any reason in Scripture to believe that the dead who were in Sheol at that time aren’t still there now, but what about people who died after that?

There is only one passage in all of Scripture (that I know of!) that can be reasonably interpreted to mean that the dead go straight to Heaven:

And [Yeshua] said to [the thief on the cross], “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:43

Ancient Greek, like ancient Hebrew, had no real punctuation, so translators need to exercise some license and discretion in deciding how to punctuate the English. Some believe that the comma should be moved from after “you” to after “today”, changing the meaning to something like “I say to you right now, that you will be with me in paradise someday.” I’m not an expert in Biblical Greek, but I have heard from those who are that this would have been a very unusual way to speak, so this theory probably is not correct.

I think the word “paradise” is much more open to interpretation. Literally, it refers to a manicured garden or a park. The word was often used to refer to any pleasant, peaceful place, even to the righteous side of Sheol.

We know that Yeshua did not go to Heaven immediately after he died, so how could the thief be with him in Heaven? If “today you will be with me in paradise” was literally true, then “paradise” can only refer to the pleasant place in Sheol that King James Version readers have come to know as “Abraham’s Bosom”. In other words, Yeshua was telling the humble thief that his faith would be rewarded by allowing him to wait out the final resurrection and judgment with Abraham and Lazarus rather than in torment with the rich man and the prideful thief who mocked Yeshua.

The short answer is, no, we do not go straight to Heaven or Hell when we die. Rather we go to Sheol, just as did wicked Korah and righteous Moses.

How Long Will We Remain in the Grave?

Not forever!

It is impossible to say how time passes for the dead. Since their conscious processes are severely limited, I suspect that their perception of time is probably very different from ours. None-the-less, they do have a long wait in store before they will be resurrected for the White Throne Judgment at the end. How long is known only to God, but it will be at least another thousand years for most (or all) of us alive today.

Why a thousand years? And what happens then? You will have to wait for a later article in this series to learn why that is so.

The question of “What happens when you die?” in the immediate sense is never addressed directly in Scripture. We can only work with hints and their implications, but those hints aren’t insignificant either. The Prophets and Apostles pointed us in the right general direction, but gave very little detail. That very lack of detail also tells us something: What happens to our spirits between death and resurrection isn’t nearly as important as what happens before and after.


1 The Book of Enoch might contain some remnants of prophetic writings of Enoch, the great grandfather of Noah, but any intact copies of his own work (if they ever existed) are long lost. The bulk of the book was probably written only a few hundred years Before Christ at the earliest. While it contains a lot of truth and much of it aligns with the words of Yeshua and the Apostles, some of it does not. The Book of Enoch is much more likely to have taken ideas–possibly even direct quotes of other works–that would have been familiar to many Jews of the time, and incorporated them into a work that is entirely allegorical. According to Ryan White, Enoch was probably intended to be a veiled commentary on current events, not to be taken as the actual writings of the antediluvian prophet. Whether or not that is correct, it is full of allegory, and the nature of the text itself indicates that almost nothing in it should be taken strictly literally.

A Timeline of Resurrection and Judgment

Eschatological timeline of resurrection and judgment.

As with the Dictionary of Death, Resurrection, and Judgment, I am likely to revise this timeline as I continue the Afterlife series. You know what they say: “You only stop learning when you die.” I’m sure somebody says it, anyway…

  • The Crucifixion – Yeshua is crucified and dies.
  • Three Days in the Grave – Yeshua is buried in tomb of Joseph of Arimathea and remains there until the third day.
  • The Resurrection – The tomb is opened, Yeshua returns to life, and leaves the grave.
  • The Pre-Resurrection – The dead in Jerusalem (probably only the very recently dead) are brought back to life sometime between Yeshua’s death and reappearance in Jerusalem. These people were resurrected with their old bodies, not glorified ones. They don’t count as the “firstfruits of the resurrection” because they would die again like Lazarus. They go back to their homes and families, not to Heaven.
  • The Second Coming – Yeshua makes a dramatic and violent return to earth, binding Satan in Sheol for a thousand years and ending the period of the Great Tribulation.
  • The First Resurrection – The saints who were martyred by the Beast and False Prophet during the Tribulation are resurrected to reign on earth with Yeshua.
  • The Final Battle – Satan is released to lead the nations of the earth in a rebellion against Yeshua and are defeated. Satan is thrown into the Lake of Fire, where he remains forever.
  • The Second Resurrection – All the dead who were not resurrected at the beginning of the Millennium are resurrected in order to face judgment.
  • The Final Judgment – The books of Heaven and the Book of Life are opened and all the dead are judged according to the record of their deeds.
  • The End of Death and Hades – Sheol itself is thrown into the Lake of Fire.
  • The Final Disposition – Those whose names are written in the Book of Life are allowed to eat from the Tree of Life and to live in the New Jerusalem or the New Earth. All who are not found in the Book of Life are thrown into the Lake of Fire.
  • The New Heaven and New Earth – The old heaven and earth have passed away and are replaced by new, incorruptible versions. A new, massive Jerusalem descends from Heaven.

A Dictionary of Death, Resurrection, and Judgment

I created this short glossary as an aid in studying the topics of death and the afterlife in Scripture. Although it is based on extensive reading in the Bible, I am not a scholar of biblical languages or ancient cultures, so it is almost certainly erroneous in some respects. I will make changes as I learn more.

Please feel free to offer your own thoughts in the comments, with the understanding that I am looking for truth, not mere mythology. I’m sure that the beliefs of the Norse and the Navajo concerning what happens when we die are fascinating, but they are irrelevant to this glossary unless they can help us to understand what the Hebrew prophets knew about these things.

  • Book of Life – A listing of the names of all those who will be granted eternal life at the Final Judgment. It doesn’t contain merely their first and last names, the written and spoken labels by which we all address one another, but the sum of each person’s character. This is one writing in a collection kept in Heaven, the other members of which apparently describe the deeds of each person, righteous and wicked alike, in more detail. See Daniel 7:10, Revelation 13:8, and 20:12.
  • The Final Resurrection – The resurrection of all who remain in Sheol at the time of the Final Judgment. See Daniel 12:2 and Revelation 20:12-13.
  • The First Resurrection – The resurrection at the time of Yeshua’s Second Coming of faithful believers who were killed during the Great Tribulation. See 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Revelation 20:4.
  • Gehenna – Literally, the Valley of Hinnom, apparently once known as the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom. See 2 Chronicles 28:3.
    1. Literally this is the Valley of Hinnom, where the Canaanites and idolatrous Israelites made human sacrifices long before the Babylonian dispersion, and which was later used as a public dump for garbage and corpses, both animal and human. It was a place of decay, stench, and fires. Even now, landfills are subject to frequent spontaneous fires that can burn beneath the surface for months or even years.
    2. Figuratively, Gehenna refers to a place of fire and destruction where the wicked are sent after judgment. See Lake of Fire.
  • The Grave – See Sheol.
  • The Great Tribulation – A period in which the earth is subject to waves of devastating plagues, wars, natural disasters, and the reign of two figures known as the Beast and the False Prophet. See Daniel 7-9, Matthew 24:21-29, and Revelation 11-13.
  • Hades – See Sheol.
  • Heaven – The seat of God’s court and location of his putative residence. The skies are also called “heaven” and the ancients believed that God’s Heaven was located somewhere in the sky. However, God’s Heaven is not a physical place that a person could see through a telescope or travel to in any vehicle that could be made by human technology. It might exist in a higher dimension (whatever that means) or in some other universe or it might simply be a realm of pure spirit, undetectable in any direct fashion by beings with physical bodies.
  • Hell – See Lake of Fire.
  • Lake of Fire – A place of darkness, fire, and destruction where death, Sheol, Satan, Satan’s angelic followers, and all whose name is not found in the Book of Life will be thrown at the time of the Final Judgment. What most people think of when they hear the word “Hell”. See Matthew 13:40-43, Revelation 19:20, and Revelation 20:7-15.
  • The New Earth – A physical planet earth that will be newly created after the present earth is completely destroyed. See Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1.
  • The New Heaven – A physical universe that will be newly created after the present universe is completely destroyed. See Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1.
  • The New Jerusalem – A massive, cuboid city made of precious metals and stones that will descend from the sky to take the place of the old city of Jerusalem on the New Earth. See Revelation 21.
  • Second Coming – The return of Yeshua to earth following the Great Tribulation to reign personally from Jerusalem for one thousand years. See Matthew 24:30, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, and Revelation 19.
  • Sheol – The Hebrew word for the place where the spirits of the dead go to await resurrection. Equivalent to the Greek word Hades. Sometimes translated as “the grave”, “Tartarus”, or “Hell”, but most people today use the word “Hell” to refer to the Lake of Fire, which is not the same as Sheol. See Genesis 37:35, 1 Samuel 2:6, and Luke 16:19-31.
  • Soul – The entirety of a living being, including body, spirit, and mind. We are a soul and we are partly made up of body and spirit. Animals are souls, because they are living beings. The Hebrew word used in Scripture for soul is nephesh, translated variously as soul, creature, being, person, etc.. See Genesis 2:7 and 27:4, for example. Most English speakers, including Bible translators, use the words soul and spirit almost interchangeably, but that makes it difficult to talk about two distinct Biblical concepts, for which we would otherwise not have distinct terms. For the purposes of this discussion, I intend to use the word soul to refer to the whole being and the word spirit to refer only to that aspect of a person which continues to exist as a distinct entity after the physical body has died.
  • Spirit – Usually translated from the Hebrew word ruach but sometimes also from neshamah. Although the second meaning below is probably the most common usage in Scripture, for the purposes of this discussion, I will be using the first definition.
    1. The incorporeal component of a living soul that continues to exist as a distinct entity after the physical body has died. See Job 32:8 and Psalm 31:5.
    2. The morale and/or motivating will of a person. See Exodus 35:21 and Proverbs 17:22.
    3. A state of mind or strong tendency. See Exodus 28:3 and Numbers 5:14.
    4. A non-human spiritual being that does not normally have a physical body. See 1 Samuel 16:14 and 1 Kings 22:21.
  • Tartarus – See Sheol.

Watch the Afterlife category for upcoming related articles!