What Happens to the Soul before Judgment Day?

“I miss my uncle so much! But I just know that, somehow, he’s with me right now, watching over me.”

Some people find comfort in thoughts such as these after they’ve lost a loved one. Are such thoughts valid? Are the departed still “hovering” near us? What does the Bible say?

Death, the Bible says, is the separation of body and soul. The body returns to the ground to await the resurrection, and “the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

When Christians die, their souls are immediately with the Lord in heaven. Jesus said to the penitent thief who hung on the cross next to his, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). We can comfort a dying believer, as well as ourselves, with the same assurance.

What is life like for those souls who are with Jesus in paradise? The Scriptures say little about this, and we should be careful not to say more than is written in the Bible.

In his story about the rich man and poor Lazarus, Jesus says that Lazarus was comforted at Abraham’s side after he died (Luke 16:25). The apostle Paul stated that he desired “to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23). We can be similarly confident that those who have died trusting in Jesus “are away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

“God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Are the souls in heaven aware of events on earth? Solomon wrote, “The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6).

The souls in heaven are aware that time is passing and that God’s plan of salvation is progressing (Revelation 6:9-11), but that is about all we can say with confidence. They no longer influence the events of earth. Rather than wonder what Christians are doing in heaven, it is more important for us to be Christians now, so we can join those who have gone before us.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

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