Just for Catholics

What Happens after Death?

Question: I want to know what happens when we die. Where does the spirit go?

Answer: We are made up of a physical body and a spiritual soul. At death, there is separation of body and spirit: “The body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). The body returns to the ground and decays, while the spirit returns to God. “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

Every believer will be with Christ on the same day of his death. Jesus promised the repentant thief on the cross, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The apostle Paul expected to be with Christ at death; he wrote: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:21-23). The same is true for every believer: “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Our confidence is not based on our moral perfection - we admit and confess our sins daily; yet, we fully trust in the Lord Jesus, “in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Therefore for us “to be absent from the body” is “to be present with the Lord.”

Furthermore, we look forward to the resurrection of the body, similar to the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 14). Our redemption is not complete until we are given a glorified and immortal body. “We ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).

Early Christian writers were the first to use the word ‘cemetery’ for the burial ground. The word means the sleeping chamber, and it fits beautifully with the Christian belief in the resurrection of the body. The New Testament describes the dead as ‘sleeping in Christ’. When he returns, he will call his sleeping children back to life.

Copyright Dr Joe Mizzi. Permission to copy and distribute this article without textual changes. < BACK TO Q&A