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Article 46 - What Happens To The Soul After Death?

What Happens to the Soul After Death?

Jon Gary Williams

Many wonder about what happens to man's soul after this life has ended. Some believe that since man's body is his soul, there is no soul to exist after death. Some believe that the soul goes into some kind of unconscious state. The scriptures support neither of these views. Jesus taught that the soul and body are not the same thing (Matt. 10:28). He also taught that the soul is conscious after death (Luke 16:19-31).

Another false view accepted by many is that at the point of death, the soul goes directly to either heaven or hell. If this is not true, then where does the soul go? Here is what the scriptures tell us. (Compare with chart below.)

At death the body goes to the grave. (Hebrews 9:27)

The soul goes to hades - the realm of the "unseen."

There are two parts to the hadean realm - Paradise and Tartarus
- Paradise is where Jesus said he was going (Luke 23:43). However, Jesus' soul went to Hades (Acts 2:27-31) Note: the word here is hades, not gehenna hell.

- Tartarus is reserved for the lost (II Peter 2:4,9) (cf. Jude 6)
There is a Great Gulf between Paradise and Tartarus which cannot be crossed over. (Luke 16:26)

At death what happens to all souls?
- Infants and faithful Christians go to paradise.

- Unfaithful Christians and those still lost go to tartarus.
What happens at the judgment?
- The resurrection of all dead bodies (John 5:28; Acts 24:15; I Corinthians 15:52)

- The souls of men will be reunited with new, resurrected bodies.

- All will pass into their eternal state.
Those in paradise will enter heaven. (Matthew 25:34).
Those in tartarus will enter hell (gehenna) (Matthew 25:41)
Some reason that souls go directly to heaven or hell at the point of death. If this is true, then it follows that souls go there without their resurrected bodies and also that they go there before the judgment occurs.

This brings about an awkward conclusion: that souls would be brought out of heaven and hell to be judged, and then those souls would be reunited with their resurrected bodies and returned to their respective final abodes.

A great judgment will someday take place for all of us, whether we are alive on that day or waiting in the hadean realm. On that day, those bodies in the graves will be reunited with new bodies, and those alive on that day will be given new spiritual bodies - bodies even more "real" than those we currently   have.

This chart shows what the New Testament teaches about the soul and what will happen to it after physical death. It also shows how that many denominational doctrines err in regards to what will really happen in the afterlife, teachings such as: the Jehovah's Witness doctrine of no immortal soul; the premillennial doctrine of two separate resurrections; and the Catholic doctrine of purgatory.