What happens to a person at death?
From the old testament days till the present, mankind has tried to solve the riddle of death and the afterlife. Philosophers have wrestled with the question of immortality. Spiritists have tried to communicate with those who are gone. In our modern world, scientist have investigated the experiences of people who claim to have died and return to life again. All have studied occult phenomena, hoping to find a clue to the ministry of life and after death. Christians need not to wonder about death because we have revelation from the word of God. Why should substitute the word of God which is divine revelation with human speculation.
Christian theism clearly explains this question. At death people are transformed. It is either they enter an existence with God and his people. In (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) Paul address the question that all philosophers have been searching for. It is important to note that the revelation concerning death and the afterlife was not given all at one time. Many cults use verse from Psalms and Ecclesiastes to prove their false doctrines. Thessalonians verse seem to teach that the brave is the end, or that the soul ‘sleeps’ till resurrection. We must keep in mind that God’s revelation was gradual and progressive, and that it climaxed in the coming of Jesus Christ “who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). We look to Christ and the new Testament for the complete revelation concerning death.
God gave Paul a special revelation concerning the resurrection and return of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Paul says in (1 Corinthians 15:51-54) “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory”. Paul’s teaching is synchronized with Jesus teaching (John 5:24-29; 11:21-27). God’s revelation to Paul is also synchronized to the historical facts of Christ’s resurrection. Since the Savior conquered death we need not to fear death or the future. Christ is coming again. Paul emphasizes the return of Christ in Thessalonians letters.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15 Paul says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep”. Paul applied the word sleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13-15) to those believers who died. The body shall go to sleep but soul goes to with Lord. Jesus used the same word when he was going to resurrect Lazarus. However, Paul did not say the soul went to sleep. He made clear that the soul of the believer went to be with the Lord. It is not the soul that sleeps, it is the body. The bible definition of death is given in James 2:26, “For as the body without the spirit is dead”. At death the spirit leaves the body, and the body goes to sleep and no longer functions. The soul-spirit goes to be with Lord, if the person has trusted Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul says, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
The fact of our Lord return is comfort to us in bereavement. The imminent return of the Lord will happen any moment, we do not know when it will happen. We should be ready and always prepared. Jesus will return in the air, He will issue the “shout of command” and the “dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). The will received glorified bodies like the body Christ (Philippians 3:20-21 and 1 Cor 15:48-58). He call only those who are saved through faith in Him. Suddenly millions of those who are alive and remain will be “caught up” in the cloud in the clouds to share with them the glory of His coming and to ever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18). Resurrection assures us that death in not the end. The word rapture is not used in this passage (1 Thessalonians 4:17), but this the literal meaning of “caught up”. The word means to catch away speedily, or to seize by force, or to move to new place and to rescue from danger. 1 Corinthians 15:52 shows that this will happen so suddenly that it will be over the twinkling of any eye. Christ does not say He will send a messenger. He will come Himself ((Acts 1:11) and (Matthew 24:42). Paul assures us that all will not die before He comes. So we ever be with the Lord when we are raptured. We will be eternally with Him. In summary our Lord Jesus Christ will descent from heaven, the dead in Christ will be raised, millions living believers will be changed and will be caught up and meet the Lord in the air. You do not have to miss this. It will be lovely and marvelous event. This will all happen the twinkling of an eye.