What really happens after I die?



We may know Heaven is the place where believers will spend eternity, but for many of us, Heaven seems like a vague, mystical place that has little impact on our life today.

Once we get past the “no more tears, no more sorrow, and Jesus will be there,” we are often left with just a few random thoughts about Heaven and we struggle to articulate what the Bible actually teaches about it.

But the Bible is very clear about what Heaven is like – and let me tell you, it’s way better than we’ve imagined! Contrary to popular culture, we’re not going to be floating in clouds wearing white robes and playing harps.

The Bible says that in the future, after Christ returns to the earth and there is a final judgment, Heaven will literally come down. There be a New Heaven (called the New Jerusalem) established on a New Earth. (Revelation 21 and 22) This will be a place that is as real and tangible as this earth, but infinitely better, with none of the problems of this fallen earth. We will have new bodies, perfect relationship with one another, and there will be beauty, work, discovery and enjoyment.

Yet, as much as this provides comfort and anticipation, many of us are still uncertain about what would happen if we were to die today. Often, when I teach on Heaven, I get questions like: “As a follower of Jesus, if I took my last breath on this earth, what does the Bible tell us would happen to me in that next moment?”

The Bible says that when Christians die, they immediately go into the presence of God. Scholars and theologians often refer to this place as the Intermediate Heaven.

Here’s what happens when we journey to this place:

Angels will usher your soul to Heaven.

In Luke 16 Jesus tells a story of a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus. Eventually both men die and Lazarus goes to Abraham’s side. The rich man finds himself in Hades. In verse 22 it says that when Lazarus died, the “angels carried him to Abraham’s side.”

It is apparent that your heavenly Father so desires to be with you that He’s going to make sure you are immediately escorted to Heaven when you die.

Heaven becomes your forever home.

In the same story we also learn something else about Heaven. The rich man cries out to Abraham to have Lazarus come and dip the tip of his finger in water so that he might cool the rich man’s tongue.

In verse 26, Abraham responds by saying, “Between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”

In other words, once you die, your eternal destiny is set. Your future is secure. No one can cross over the great chasm that Abraham referred to. And no one who is in Heaven will ever have to worry about losing their place or home in Heaven.

You immediately enter God’s presence.

The Apostle Paul says, Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:6)

To be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord. One minute after you die and your soul departs your body, you will be in the presence of God. There is no delay. There is no purgatory. There is no reincarnation. At the moment a Christian takes their last breath, they are immediately in the presence of Christ.

There is no question whether or not we will make it, or if it will be good when we get there. We literally will live happily ever after. We are going home. 

As a pastor, author, coach and teacher for more than twenty-five years, Chip Ingram has helped people around the world break out of spiritual ruts and live out God’s purpose for their lives. Chip currently serves as senior pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, California, and president of Living on the Edge – an international teaching and discipleship ministry. He is the author of The Real Heaven and 15 other books.