Promises and Secrets

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A website for those not afraid to examine their beliefs, compare them to the real world, and make sure they fit.

Two Fates or Many?


Most people think that people are going to go to either Heaven or Hell immediately after they die. While this is not technically true, the Bible does say that there are only two options available after we die.


The Bible tells us of two fates for the citizens of the human race. Some add other possibilities due to either a lack of knowledge or an overriding hope.


This is a many-faceted topic, mainly because of the number of opinions of different people, but it is really much simpler than many think.

As humans, we want the best for ourselves and those we love. The thought of someone we love roasting eternally in Hell, or actually, the Lake of Fire, is just, well, unacceptable. Of course, many hold that when we die and haved loved Jesus and our neighbor, we go right to Heaven. Others hold that we will be "on hold" for a while until Christ returns. Still others say that we will be with Jesus in some Paradise or Heaven until it is time for us to be resurrected. Still others say that there are mysteries waiting for us that only certain experts called mediums or spiritists can guide us through.

How can we know for sure what will happen to people who die, and how can we make sure that we are able to choose the right option? What happens to people who are still alive when Jesus returns? What about those who claim to have died and returned from the dead? Exactly how many options are open to us? How do we find out?

Already decided

Getting down to brass tacks here, we do not get to determine the number of options open to us. That decision is made for us at the time of our deaths. In fact, at that time, since that decision has already been made by us, we just decide during our lives to try to pick the option we want. We can't just decide to say, "O.K., here's what I want to happen after I die." However, there is so much "information" about life and death out there, it's hard to be sure what is and isn't true, and even how many options are out there. There are claims of near-death experience, after-death experience, channelers of the spirits of the dead, reincarnation, transmigration of the soul, and probably a long list that are not mentioned here.

What amuses me, or I should say interests me, is the number of "experts" in this list of fields, all of which seem to find a way to make money from the indecision or lack of knowledge of others. What makes an expert in a field that requires death to make any progress? What school do you attend to get your PhD in reincarnation? What would you call an expert in any field that deals with the list of experiences with death, reincarnation, soul transmigration, or channeling? God puts it like this in Leviticus 19:31:

31 Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.

There is a great statement at Bible Study Tools that really helps to narrow the number of places we can look to get some guidance:

What happens after you die depends on what happens before you die.

This is a statement made by men who understand the words from the Bible that pertain to this subject. There is only one source which is likely to give us the answers as to which is the real information and many which are just the Adversary playing with our heads to keep us off the right track. Let's start with one quote that should narrow down the field of options. The writer of Hebrews 9:27-28 tells us:

27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Jesus died, Christ will return

So, all the actions that will help determine what happens after you die must be accomplished before you die. Now, many look at this and see that it may not be a good example of the point I am making, because according to the passage above, Jesus died and is going to come back. First, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that it does not say that Jesus was sacrificed once (though He was), it says Christ was sacrificed once. Jesus died, but as the Christ He has abilities that we humans do not - the ability to die to save us all and come back to do just that. Notice something else that the text above declares; "people are destined to die once".


"Hold on!", you say. Samuel and others were brought back from the dead, what about them? Samuel did not die a second time, but he was raised from his rest. Yep, it's right there in the Bible, but no one would say that those are typical examples of the fate of people. Also, the specific example of Samuel was accomplished by beings who were told by God not to do it. God did not say that consulting a medium was impossible to do or could not physically be done, He just told mankind not to do it (Leviticus 19:31
31Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.

). We see in 1 Samuel 28:7-8 that Saul did it anyway:

7 Saul then said to his attendants, "Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her."

"There is one in Endor," they said.

8 So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. "Consult a spirit for me," he said, "and bring up for me the one I name." 9 But the woman said to him, "Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?" 10 Saul swore to her by the LORD, "As surely as the LORD lives, you will not be punished for this."

11 Then the woman asked, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" "Bring up Samuel," he said. 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!"

Yeah, I know. That is in the Old Testament, so it no longer applies to us modern, intelligent people who know how to do it "the right way", right?. Well, then, you go right ahead and do it, I'll just obey God and not do it. And, please let me know when you do, so I can move away a safe distance on judgment day.

So, this is not an example of the normal destiny of mankind, but is clearly a known violation of God's law, and requires the assistance of forbidden abilities to accomplish it. Also, the actions of the medium did not change the destiny of Samuel in any way, but I'm pretty sure they didn't do Saul any good.

Death is what the passage in Hebrews 9:27-28
27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

says is destined for people. Not only that, but it says they are going to die once. The medium brought Samuel up for Saul to speak with him, but he did not die again, just returned to his rest. Another, the case of Lazarus, was also not what any sane person would call a typical example of a man's life and death. Did his resurrection change his destiny? We are never told. However, it is clear from the text what the purpose of the incident was. So, yes, there are exceptions, but they are clearly an interruption in the course of the normal destiny of man, and we can see the reasons clearly.

Examples of "near" death experiences

Now, using this logic, of those "death" and other experiences listed above, the only one not addressed is the "near-death" experience. Since we have few Biblical references to such things, there is no way to know for sure whether all these "recent" claims are real, made-up, imagination, hallucinatory, or the result of "guidance" by beings with which we are not to associate. The Bible does not address these things directly, which leads me to believe that most are either false or not appropriate for us to delve into. If you happen to have or have had one of these experiences, you will have to decide for yourself what actually happened.


So that we are not accused of ignoring the obvious, we should mention that Stephen, John, and Paul all had what I would call "out-of-body" experiences, even if only one of them, Stephen's, could be called "near-death". In Acts 7:55-60
55But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. 58When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" 60Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" Having said this, he fell asleep.

we see the details of Stephen's vision just before he was being stoned to death, so this would qualify as a near-death experience, even if not the kind we see in the "rag sheet" journalism. He did declare what he saw as he was filled with the Holy Spirit and was treated to a vision of the Messiah standing at the right hand of the Father. The slight difference here is that he actually died during this episode, though it was after his vision, and he did not return to life to give an account of his experience. So, by definition, Stephen would be one of the "dead in Christ".


As for the experiences of John and Paul, they cannot really be classified as near-death as they were more in the vision category. John's vision was while he was receiving the revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:9-11
9 I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, 11 saying, "Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea."

), and he was told to write down what he saw and send it to the seven churches. An interesting thing about this revelation is the contrast to the instance of a vision Paul mentions his vision (2 Corinthians 12:1-4
1 Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago - whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows - such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know how such a man - whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows - 4 was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.

) but does not describe it because he was not permitted to repeat the details. Likewise, John later ran into some vision parts (Revelation 10:4) that he was adamantly told not to write down:

4And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, "Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down."

So, we can only assume, albeit with a good amount of confidence, that this was similar to the part that Paul saw in his vision.

But, what happens next?

Now, by pretty much the same logic that we used for Stephen, unless they lived until today, John and Paul would also both be in the group known as the dead in Christ.

These are examples of visions of Heaven from the Bible, so we cannot deny that they have happened. However, not one of them describes anything about what will happen to men immediately after they die. In fact, the revelation given to John describes only two events that will affect people - both living and the dead - with regard to the final disposition of mankind.

The good one or the bad one?

At the beginning of this page, I mentioned that the decision about what happens after we die has already been made. It becomes final at the moment of our deaths, but does not affect us until the time of Christ's Second Coming. For some, it is the good resurrection at the beginning of the millennium, for others, the bad one after the millenium is over. This is not from me or our group, but from John himself. You can see a more detailed description of these two events in the page called Millennium on the dropdown of the Main Menu page called End Times. But for now, we will stick to the basics.

Quickly referring to Hebrews 9:27-28
27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

, people are appointed to die once, then to face judgment. So, how long is it after we die before we face judgment? According to John in the book of Revelation, the righteous are raised when Christ returns (Revelation Chapters 19 and 20, with special attention to 20:4-5
4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.

). These righteous who are raised from the grave at the Second Coming of Christ are called the "dead in Christ".

How long?

So, the answer to "how long" must be something like "from the time when we die until we are raised for either eternity with Jesus (the dead in Christ at His coming) or for the great white throne judgment (the rest of the dead) at the end of the Millennium." Since there are a thousand years between these resurrections, death will be that much longer for those who must face judgment. I know that this seems like a quick answer, but the Millennium page on this site will give you more of John's (and my) reasoning and the logic behind it.

For now, just stick with Jesus

The bottom line here? Well, putting aside all the spiritual "experts", those who claim to have died and returned to tell about it, and those claiming to have been reincarnated from a previous life as a snail, Jesus said in Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23, with a slight variation in Mark 9:38-41:

"Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." (Matthew 12:30, Luke 1:23)

38 "Teacher," said John, "we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us." 39 "Do not stop him," Jesus said. "For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. (Mark 9:38-41)

Some say that the sayings of Jesus overlap each other and include some who are neither for or against Him. However, anyone with wrong motives would not be able to perform a miracle in the name of Jesus, and this discussion was about men performing miracles in the name of Jesus, so they would be on the "for us" side.

This whole discussion narrows down the options and puts us in one of two camps. Each of these camps is going to opposite sides of a very nasty fence.

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