Although most of us dislike confronting it, nobody should face death wondering what it is, and what happens after we die. In this post, I will use the Bible as the most important source of information. Additionally, I will utilize other tools to try to understand and learn the process of dying and the afterlife; all from a spiritual point of view.
Everyone knows he is going to die, but no one wants to talk about it. Most living humans approach death with mixed emotions. Although there are variations on how different religious groups see it, most of us believe that the body, and its functions, do not determine who we are; the soul does. After all, it is the spirit that we carry inside that gives us our humanity. For those who believe in the existence of the soul, we die when that invisible part of our duality is separated from the world of the natural. We will not need the body or its functions in the spiritual world that we will inhabit from that moment on.
All humans die in the same way. The Scriptures tell us that “our bodies were made of dust, and they will become dust again." The process of dying begins when the body stops responding to the instructions given by the spirit, or the soul; call it the subconscious mind, if you will. It is then when our body is no longer able to perform its natural functions – the heart stops beating, and the lungs cease breathing. The most visible communication of our spirit with the material world is through respiration and heartbeat. The soul is manifested through these organs; consequently, when the soul separates from the body, these functions cease. The corporeal part breaks down and decompose while the spirit becomes independent carrying with it all the components of our personality. The thoughts, the affections, the love and all those things impossible to detect with physical tools are what make us human. At that moment, it is said that the person has died. This assertion is true for approximately 13% of the planet’s population who do not believe in the afterlife. For them, the dead are forever dead. For the rest of us, the person is still living, more existent than ever. Jesus's resurrection shows there is life after life.
In my opinion, neither Catholics, nor Christians, nor Muslims, have the correct conception of what happens when we die. 65% of the world’s inhabitants do not understand the process by which our essence, who we are, separate from the natural world to move to a transcendent dimension. Our humanity moves from a material world to a spiritual one. We die in one, and are born in the other. In the true sense, the word "death" should mean rebirth or, simply, continuation of life. The rebirth in that new world does not suspend mental functions. The essence of who we are, remains intact. Jesus Christ told us what would happen. He told us about the mansions that the creator had prepared for us; places where we will all be eternally happy, even if we don’t remember who we were or with whom we interacted when we were living in the natural world.
Some students of death and the afterlife affirm that, after the separation, the soul remains in the body for a few moments, as if it were asleep, until our creator, through his angels, wakes her up to guide her out of the body and introduce her to the spiritual world. Meanwhile, people who die are not aware of their current status; they don't feel like they're dead. They remain so for several hours, until other spirits and angels convince them of this new reality and prepare them to leave the body. At that moment, the deceased person feels as if a powerful force is pulling him. Eventually, he realizes that whoever takes him out of the body is no other than God himself. This is the moment when the transition from this world to the new one takes place.
Until that moment, we cannot perceive what kind of world we were born in. All we perceive is our thoughts covered by darkness. Suddenly, we see the light, literally. God’s messengers will lead us to the "mansions" promised by Jesus Christ. We now recognize that we have abandoned the natural world and must adapt to this new incorporeal world where we lose all our physical abilities and realize our spiritual powers. This is the moment when we discovered that we were always spirits lent to a body. From that moment on, our soul will feel pure love and will not allow actions or thoughts that are not noble, good and generous.
There is a very small amount (2%) of people (I know one such person) who see God as a super intelligent designer and creator who lives outside of the universe in a realm where there is no time, matter, or space, equidistant from all places and times. These believers believe that, immediately after their death, they are going to inhabit a big building, located in another dimension, where trillions of souls live in "mansions" assigned in accordance to how they did while occupying their mortal bodies. From there they could decide to better their fate by working hard on improving their spiritual qualities to get closer to God, or in coming back to earth to inhabit another body to learn new lessons. For these people, the entire cycle consists of three stages: 1) From birth to death; 2) From death to rebirth into a community based on the person’s deeds while in a human form. These communities are estates created at different levels depending on their closeness to God; 3) Eternal spiritual life in their designated communities or coming back to mortal life to start a new learning cycle. This last part is the basis for 6% of the population who believe they will be reincarnated. They feel they will come back to earth to live a distinctive existence which may be reincarnated in a different body, even an animal, or something else. This entire theory is based on Ecclesiastes 12:7, which states: “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." It also considers Jesus’ words when he said to the apostles “in my father’s house are many mansions. I’ll go to prepare a place for you” Are these mansions we will awaken to after we die? God is the father of the spirits who, at the point of conception, places a soul in the new body.
In the Old Testament, it is our actions that determine who we are. Sheol is where the soul resides until the moment when Jesus comes back to resurrect the dead. Unquestionably, Jesus did not doubt the existence of the afterlife. His death gave us hope. His resurrection, and His promise of ours, tell us there is life after death. When Jesus tells us the story of the rich man and the beggar going to a place where father Abraham is, it isn’t the presence of God, it is a different place, some kind of intermediate location where souls wait for their sentencing at judgement day. Many biblical students believe this is the Paradise Jesus referred to when he told the thief that “today, you will be with me in paradise.”
Many Christians believe that when they die, they go immediately to God’s presence where they will be judged and sent to his destiny: heaven or hell. Catholics are of the same opinion but have an additional option: if they are good, they go to heaven; if they are wicked they go to hell; if they are neither good nor bad, they go to purgatory, which is a place where you go for an indefinite time until you pay for your sins and can then go to heaven. Jehovah’s Witnesses, on the other hand, believe that when you die, your body and your soul go into oblivion, until the great judgment day. Until then, their dead will be resting in their graves without conscience or awareness of what’s going on. A small minority (2%) believes they will become ghosts. For some others, they will stay in the places where they spent their human lives, forever haunting those places. These dissimilarities have been, and still are, based on different interpretations of the same biblical texts.