Where does the Spirit Go When You Die?

HOW BADLY injured does the physical body have to be before the spirit leaves? Some bodies can be slightly injured and die, then some can be seemingly be torn to pieces and survive; when does the severity of the injury come in to play? Is the spirit ready to leave in some cases, or is it just looking for an excuse to go, or in other cases it is just determined not to leave? Where does the answer lie?


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“The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Gen. 2:7

Referring to the physical body Solomon states “For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.” Eccl. 3:19-20

He then states in Ecclesiastes. 12:6-7 when speaking of both the body and spirit “ Remember him-before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. (NIV)

If a man dies, shall he live again? Job 14:14

From our experiences in life it is easy for us to understand the truth that when a person dies, his body begins its decay back into dust. But what about a man's spirit? Where does it go at death? This study presents a couple of possible answers derived from Scripture. Then it answers the most critical question: "What must I do to be saved from my sins and receive forgiveness and eternal life?"


Surely the greatest comfort for us as we face the end of our days on this earth is the knowledge of where we will go when we die. What will happen to us? Will we still exist even without a physical body? The answers to these questions can only be answered by God and I believe He has answered them in His word to us, the Bible. We are not left in the dark about the unseen world that awaits us.

So where does a person go when he dies? There are several ideas from different theological perspectives but one of the most logical ones, based on reasoning from several scriptures, is that all people go to Hades when they die. Hades is understood to be the unseen abode of the spirits of the dead as they await the return of the Lord and the resurrection. Consider these scriptures and then follow them to their reasoned conclusion:

1. Luke 23:43 - Jesus said to the thief on the cross “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” So Jesus went immediately to Paradise when he died.

2. Acts 2:27,31 “For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption … he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.” Jesus died and while his physical body reposed in the tomb, he (his soul) went to Hades (the unseen world of the dead). He did not remain in Hades, however. On the third day he returned from Hades, being raised from the dead.

3. Luke 16 and the story of the rich man and Lazarus - "So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom … Abraham said, … between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us. ”

We see here that Paradise was not the same as Hades, but rather one of two compartments located within Hades. Lazarus died and went to “Abraham’s bosom”. That should correspond to Paradise where the thief on the cross went when he died. The rich man died and went to Hades, but he was in torment and not Paradise. There was a division between the two places, Torment and Paradise, so that no one could pass from one to the other.

4. The reasoned conclusion is that all the spirits of all who died went to Hades, the place of the dead. Some (the forgiven, the just, the righteous) were in a good situation and some (the unforgiven, the unjust, the evil) were in a bad situation.

5. One day, Jesus will return to raise the bodies of those who died, both the saved and the lost ("Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” John 5:28,29) and then He will judge all men "because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." Acts 17:31).


6. The lost (those in the torment side of Hades) will go to their eternal punishment (Hell) but the saved (those in the Paradise side of Hades) will go to their eternal reward in Heaven. “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." – (Matthew 25:46).

The conclusion is the result of logically reconciling the various verses that speak about the destiny of people when they die. There is no clear, unified statement in the Bible.

Shown below is a simple diagram of the idea.

I would like to suggest the possibility, that, based on various scriptures, this scenario changed dramatically when Jesus arose from the dead.


I would suggest that since the resurrection of Jesus, the souls of the saved who die go directly to heaven instead of going to Hades. According to this idea, all the saved who had already died and were in the Paradise side of Hades, left Hades and went with Jesus to Heaven. The lost remain in Hades awaiting the Day of Judgment. Since the resurrection, those Christians who die now go directly to heaven instead of going to Hades. If correct, this interpretation could explain several Scriptures:

Before reading these scriptures, though, we must recognize that, in order to understand what the Bible says, we must understand the words used. Usually, the best way to define a word is to see how it is used in the Bible.

DEATH- the cessation of life. Physical death is defined as the physical body ceasing to function - heart, lungs, brain, etc.

James 2:26 – “the body without the spirit is dead”. Death is when the spirit abandons the body.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.”

2 Peter 1:13, 14,15 “Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.”

Luke 23:46 “And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.' Having said this, He breathed His last.”

GRAVE -is the tomb or something that marks the tomb, that is, the place where the dead body is placed.

HADES -from the Greek word “aidos” meaning “not seen” or “not known”. It is the unseen world of the spirits of those who are dead. It corresponds to the Hebrew word “sheol”.

Matthew 11:23 "And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.”

Matthew 16:18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

Luke 16:23 "And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”

Acts 2:27 “For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”

Acts 2:31 "he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.”

Revelation 1:18 "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”

Revelation 6:8 “So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.”

Rev 20:13,14 “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”

Gen 37:35 “And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, ’For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.’ Thus his father wept for him.”

Num 16:33 “So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they
perished from among the assembly.”

Job 17:16 “Will they go down to the gates of Sheol? Shall we have rest together in the dust?"

Psalm 49:15 “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, For He shall receive me. Selah”

Prov 9:18 “But he does not know that the dead are there, That her guests are in the depths of hell.”

Isaiah 14:9 "Hell from beneath is excited about you, To meet you at your coming; It stirs up the dead for you, All the chief ones of the earth; It has raised up from their thrones All the kings of the nations.”

Isaiah 28:15 “Because you have said, ‘We have made a covenant with death, And with Sheol we are in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, It will not come to us, For we have made lies our refuge, And under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.’"

Jonah 2:2 “And he said: "I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. ‘Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice.’”

Ezekiel 32:21 “The strong among the mighty Shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with those who help him: 'They have gone down, They lie with the uncircumcised, slain by the sword.'

Some confusion exists because not all translations consistently translate “aidos” as “hades”.

Some erroneously translate it as “hell”. All of the references above have the word “aidos” (hades) or its Old Testament equivalent “sheol”

HELL - from the Hebrew “geenna” meaning the valley of Hinnon or valley of lamentation. This was a valley outside the city of Jerusalem where the Jews sacrificed their children to the god Moloch, throwing them into the fiery furnace. The New Testament uses the word to describe the eternal destiny of the damned but never for the present state of the dead.

Now, if it be true that, since the resurrection, Christians who die now go directly to heaven instead of going to Hades, this could explain several Scriptures:

1. Matthew 16:18 - Jesus promised “…I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Hades is seen as a type of prison. That means that those in Hades are not free to leave at will. A dead person cannot return to life by his own will power. Imagine Hades as a place with doors to enter and to leave, but the exit door or gate was closed. Jesus promised that the doors of Hades would not prevail against the church (the saved people). If today, the gates of Hades do not prevail against the church, then the church is not held bound or prisoner there. Christians who pass on are not held captive in the place of the dead. When Jesus left Hades on the third day, he left the exit doors open on the good side of Hades (Paradise).

2. Ephesians 4:8,9 - speaking of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive…” Jesus died, was buried, descended to Hades, but was resurrected and ascended to heaven, taking with him the saved who had been held captive in Hades. Imagine Jesus exiting Hades, leaving the gates open on thegood side and the saved of Hades leaving with him, also going up to Heaven.

3.All this agrees with the desire of Paul (Philippians 1:23) “to depart and be with Christ.” His hope, upon dying, was not to go to Hades where Jesus is no longer to be found. To be with Christ, Paul would have to go to Heaven, where Christ is. See the same hope in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 and 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10.

4. In the sixth seal of Revelation 6:9, John saw the souls of martyred Christians that were under the altar and that altar was in front of God’s throne in heaven (Revelation 8:3). These martyrs were not in Hades but in heaven.

5. Jesus promised that those who live and believe in him would never die. (John 11: 25,26). Since the resurrection, those who live and believe in Jesus don’t die! Even though their physical bodies quit working and have to be discarded, their souls or spirits do not go to the place of the dead (Hades) but go directly to Heaven to be with the Christ who declared, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

6. If the saved in Christ who already died are with him in heaven, then I Thessalonians 4:14 makes sense when it says that when Jesus returns, he will bring in His company those who sleep in him. The souls of Christians, when their physical bodies die, go to be with Jesus in heaven where they will remain until His coming. They will return with him and receive, at the resurrection, their new, glorious, immortal bodies.

7. In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul spoke of a man who was caught up to the third heaven, that is, to Paradise. For the Jews, in the Bible, the first heaven meant the atmosphere, the second heaven meant outer space and the third heaven was God’s dwelling place. The third heaven, God’s dwelling place, is here called Paradise, the same word Jesus used with the repentant thief on the cross (“Today, you will be with me in Paradise”). It is as if Jesus, leaving the Paradise side of Hades, transferred Paradise from Hades to Heaven. Before the resurrection, Paradise was a part of Hades but is now a part of Heaven.

8.This may explain why Steven, dying for the gospel (Acts 7:54-60), said “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”. When he died, his request was granted - Jesus received his spirit. Today, the spirit of Steven is in heaven with Jesus.

And so the true Christian, today, at the moment of his death, may also say “Lord, Jesus, Receive my spirit.” trusting full well that He will. The following is a chart that illustrates this idea.




Whichever may be the correct answer to the question concerning the immediate destiny of a person who dies, the eternal destiny of every person is either heaven or hell. The most critical question, then, has to be "What must I do to be saved eternally?" He who finds the answer to that question will be faced with a serious choice to make.


I must recognize that I am a sinner who needs a savior.
Many people do not feel the need for a savior because they do not feel lost. Whether it comes through hearing a moving sermon; maybe a friend who shares with you the truth; maybe by reading a tract; whichever, in some way you must come to understand that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). As the prophet Isaiah had said long ago: our sins have hidden God's face from us so that He will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2). Our own sin separates us from God! “The wages of sin is death” we read in Romans 6:23. This is a spiritual death, which is a separation from God for those who are lost.

"But what about my good works?" someone may say. The answer returns: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9). "But my sins are small" others say, but "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10).

Human pride and self-sufficiency are the greatest barriers against salvation. He who refuses to admit that he is a sinner in need of forgiveness is lost and cannot be saved.

Have you understood the despair of being a sinner in need of a Savior?

I must recognize that Jesus is the only hope of salvation.
There is no other way to salvation. By his death on the cross, Jesus is able to save, set free, and ransom sinners. In
John 14:6, Jesus declared: says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man comes to the Father except through Me." The only way we can get to God is through Christ. We also read in Acts 4:12, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." We cannot be saved by relying on Mohammed, Buddha, Judaism, Hindu gods or any other religion. Neither can we devise our own system of "Christianity" as is being done today and expect it to save us. Only Jesus Christ can specify the conditions for our salvation, because He paid our price and is our only savior. There is no other way.

Are you ready to throw yourself down at the feet of the only one who can save you - Jesus the Christ?

I must believe this good news that Jesus Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life, was crucified for my sins, was buried but arose from the dead on the third day and now lives forever at God’s right hand to intercede for me.

What Jesus did for us is called “the gospel”, meaning “good news!” In Mark 16:15,16 Jesus tells us we must believe this gospel to be saved. What a story it is! God in human form, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, passed through so many temptations but never sinned! (I Peter 2:21-25). He did so many signs and miracles to prove His divinity (John 20:30-31). He died for us - a sacrifice to God for all our sins! ! (Hebrews 10:10-14) Finally, He was raised from the dead, proving that He is the Son of God. (Romans 1:4-5 & I Corinthians 15:1) What a wonderful story!

Are you ready to believe and obey this gospel?

I must repent of my sins.
Jesus says in Luke 13:3, "... unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." It is either repent or perish; the choice is ours. Acts 17:30 says , "Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent." All people everywhere, and that includes you and me, are commanded of God to repent. Repent of what? Repent of our sins. Repent of not fully serving and following all that God says. God is pleading with us to repent. He greatly desires that we turn to him. He tells us in 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." God wants us to repent so we can be saved. He is patiently waiting on us. But eventually our time will run out. The longer we put off repentance, the harder our heart gets.

Repentance is not just being sorry. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, "For Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death." Repentance is a change of heart and a change of mind. We must make up our mind to stop living life our way and start living it God’s way. It is making up our minds that we are going to serve God with all our might and do everything He says. Matthew 22:37, "Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." In other words, we must do it with all of our being.

Romans 2:4 says, "The goodness of God leads you to repentance." God has been so good to us, and this should cause us to want to please Him in every way. God, because of His love for us, has done so much for us, and because of this we read in I John 4:19, "We love Him, because He first loved us." This should cause us to want to repent and do all the things that He has asked us to do, otherwise we do not love God. Jesus said in John 14:24, "He who does not love Me, does not keep my words."

Do you love God? If you do, you will want to do everything that He says. In John 14:15 Jesus says, "If you love Me keep My commandments." Are you willing to show your love to God by repenting? By renouncing all your sins and disobedience? By deciding that you will give your life over to following and obeying Jesus? Jesus said: "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." (Mark 8:34). Have you decided that you do not want to sin anymore? If so, you are now ready to be united with Christ.

I must confess Jesus
Jesus wants us to confess Him before men. In Matthew 10:32-33 he says, "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in Heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in Heaven." If we deny Christ we are going to be lost. We must not be ashamed to confess to other people that we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jesus says in Mark 8:38, "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when he comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." If He is ashamed of us, that means that we are going to be lost.

There are several examples of people confessing their faith in Christ in the Bible. One is found in Matthew 16:16-17, "Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven." Christ was well pleased with Peter's confession and He will be with ours also.

In Acts 8:36-37 a man asked the question, "See here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Then in verse 37, "Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." That is the good confession.

But there is more. We not only confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, we also confess Him as our Lord. " ... if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.." Romans 10:9. We name Him as our leader, owner, ruler, chief, boss, the one who has all the authority over our lives. Some day everyone will make this confession (" …that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:10-11) but for some it will be too late.

Are you ready to confess to others that you believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God and that He is now the lord and Master of your life?

I must be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins
Acts 2:38 “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” We are to be baptized in order to receive the remission (forgiveness) of all our sins.

Acts 22: 16 “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” We are baptized to have our sins washed away and in that action, we are calling on the name of the Lord. To call on the name of the Lord means to invoke Him to action. Calling on the name of the Lord to do what? To save us! (to wash away our sins).

1 Peter 3: 21 “Corresponding to that (eight souls saved by water in the ark), baptism now saves you - not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Baptism, according to Peter, is not an outer cleansing of dirt from the physical body. Rather, the baptism that saves us is an 'appeal' to God for a good conscience. It is a prayer to God for an inner cleansing of the guilty soul.

What saves us from our sins? The blood of Jesus! When does the blood of Jesus save us? When we are baptized! So where lies the saving power? It is in the blood of Christ. (The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the event that validated the worth of his death on the cross). Faith-baptism links us with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

Being baptized "into his death" and being "united with him in his resurrection" (Romans 6:3-5) is how salvation comes to us in baptism..

Salvation (forgiveness of sins) which comes from being united with God in Christ is given when our trusting hearts appeal to God for a good conscience. We do this when we are baptized. Baptism is faith crying out to God to save us based on the death of Christ on the cross.

Do you need to be baptized?

I must be faithful until death
Colossians 1:21-23 “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight; if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, ...”

Revelation 2:10 “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

This is only a brief outline of God’s will for your life. Those who enter in the way of Christ spend their whole lives seeking his perfection, preparing themselves for eternal life that the saved will enjoy in His presence. Now you must decide. Each one of us will choose our own eternal destiny. Which will your decision be?

Matthew 7:13,14 “Enter by the narrow gate for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate difficult is the way which leads to life and there are few who find it”