Where do we go when we die?

"All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.”   ~Ecclesiastes 3:20

When we die our spirit (breath) returns to God, and our body returns to the earth—to dust. It’s imperative to know some of the Hebrew and Greek root words in Bible verses to understand exactly what they mean. The word spirit has several meanings, one is pneuma, which means breath—the other is kardia, which means heart. So when we read an English translation of the Bible, we can know which meaning is applicable by which makes the most sense.

Understanding that the word spirit often means breath is essential to understanding what these verses are referring to. Which in this case means, when we die our spirit returns to God. It is our breath that returns to God from whence it came, and our bodies return to the earth.

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


“So man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep.”   ~Job 14:12

When we die we will rest in the grave, hence the expression "Rest In Peace"/RIP. Yes, we will rest in peace until Jesus’ second coming when He returns to take us home with Him. When we die we don’t sprout wings and fly off to heaven as some kind of disembodied soul—this simply is not Biblical.

​"Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead."  ~Isaiah 26:19


”No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”   ~John 3:13

Bottom line . . . when we die, we are dead. Then, when Jesus returns He will raise us from the dead, give us new, perfect immortal bodies, and take us to live in heaven with Him for a thousand years. After the thousand years, we will return to the new earth to live eternally with our God . . . forever. 

However, nowhere in the Bible is there any mention of human beings living in heaven forever! Sure, we go there: Jesus makes it clear in John 14 that He went somewhere else “to my Father’s house” to prepare a place for us. But finish reading the Bible, and it’s obvious (see Revelation 21) that we ultimately end up living here, on a renovated planet Earth, forever. Compared to living on Earth for all eternity, our stopover in heaven is merely a short, 1,000-year layover

Nevertheless, as for now when we die we will be dead. Clearly, God tells us that there is no realization to our time spent in the grave, we are unaware of anything, we have absolutely no consciousness whatsoever!

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”   ~Ecclesiastes 9:10

Maybe you might like to think of your deceased mother or husband floating around on a cloud somewhere waiting for you to call on them for help—to reach out to them just to talk because you miss them so much. I get that, but the truth is that Jesus is waiting to hear from you when you’re in pain when you’re missing someone or needing help. He is patiently waiting for you to call to Him for all of your needs. We will be reunited with our loved ones one day, but for now, Jesus is who we need to be talking to, not our deceased relatives.

"The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence."   ~Psalm 115:17

Surely if we went straight to heaven when we died, we’d praise God! Wouldn’t we? It’s a Biblical fact that we rest in the grave when we die. The Bible states, that even David, which God refers to as, a man after His own heart, still sleeps in the grave to this day.

“For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.”   ~Ecclesiastes 9:5


“For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks?”   ~Psalm 6:5

Most certainly if we went straight to heaven when we died, we would remember God and want to give Him thanks! And then in the following verse Jesus makes the same point when He says that Lazarus is dead. Jesus refers to being dead as asleep, but when the disciples get confused, He plainly said to them, Lazarus is dead!

“These things He said, and after that He said to them, our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up. Then His disciples said, Lord, if he sleeps he will get well. However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, Lazarus is dead.”   ~John 11:11-14

Another indisputable point in this verse is that Lazarus wasn’t in heaven. Jesus didn’t summons him back to earth from heavenly bliss just to make a point. Lazarus was dead, in the grave, Jesus clearly said so! In fact, He was so dead that the Bible even makes a point to mention that the grave was stinking because Lazarus had been dead for several days before Jesus arrived.

“Jesus said, “Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”   ~John 11:39

Yes, the believer who dies will fall asleep in what we call death, but it’s not an eternal death. Just as it was for Lazarus, it will also be for us, we will sleep in the grave, but someday our Savior will come to awaken us from our slumber to live with Him.

“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice.”   ~John 5:28

​Will we all go to heaven when Jesus returns…?

”For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God”   ~Job 19:25-26

Those that have accepted the salvation of Jesus Christ will be awakened from their sleep when He returns, and given a new body and taken with Him to heaven. However, there are some people that aren’t going to heaven when Jesus returns—those that have chosen not to accept the free gift of salvation.  Even though Christ died for everyone, even the ungodly, they have made a choice to decline His offer and will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction. Everlasting, eternal destruction . . . they will burn up and be dead forever!

“They are dead, they will not live; they are deceased, they will not rise. Therefore You have punished and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish.”   ~Isaiah 26:14

There are no second chances once Jesus returns to take us home. There are only two choices, dead forever or alive forever. Who will be dead forever? Those who do not know God. What will happen to them? They will suffer eternal destruction, be dead forever.  When will this happen? At the second coming of Jesus.

“These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”   ~2 Thessalonians 1:9

This everlasting destruction punishment can mean nothing else but eternal death, burned up and forever destroyed . . . as in, dead forever! An all loving God is not going to sentence even the evilest of men to eternal torment with Satan in charge. No, He is going to euthanize them, put them down, kill them dead, remove them from existence…forever. Even Satan will be eternally destroyed forever!

​“…You have become a horror, and shall be no more forever.”   ~Ezekiel 28:19

Q:  ​Are you ready to accept the word of God as truth?

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You might say that I was a rather late spiritual bloomer, tripping my way into the Lord's arms not all that long ago. Nevertheless, I've been on the fast track ever since through a decade of Bible study courses and daily devotion. Changing careers a few years back and becoming a published author of Christian motivational books, leading to spiritual children's books and now this blog.

Latest posts by Linda Wright (see all)

2 thoughts on “Where do we go when we die?

  1. So when Jesus told the thief on the cross beside him that “Today you will be with me in paradise” what did he mean??
    Also, in Hebrews when it says we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, cheering us on, who is cheering us on if they are asleep in the grave?? Is this great cloud of witnesses a bunch of breath/wind in Heaven??
    We are made up of body, soul and spirit and our spirit man will go to Heaven when we die and our body which is our earthsuit, just a container of our spiritual self, will decay and return to dust.
    These are just a few things off the top of my head, but I respectfully disagree with some of the things you have said in the article above. I don’t think we are just a breath/wind wisping around in heaven. When Jesus came to the disciples after His resurrection, he could walk through walls but He could be seen and His hands and side could be felt by doubting Thomas.
    I sure don’t know all the answers and Trust His perfect plan regarding all this!
    Thanks for letting me comment and share my thoughts!

    1. I will try to answer your questions in the order they were asked since there’s more than one question.
      *Q1: In Luke, Jesus makes this statement…. “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Meaning as He said in other verses, Verily I tell you today (old English To day). As in, I’m telling you right here and now, I’m telling you today…you will be with Me in Paradise. It’s a promise to all of us who truth Him. In other words, when I return and raise you from the dead I will take you to heaven and you will be with me in Paradise! We must allow the Bible to define itself. The Bible is crystal clear that we will sleep in the grave until Jesus returns to resurrect us. He will then take us to heaven for a thousand years and then He will recreate the earth and we will live on the new earth with Jesus forever!
      *Q2: Hebrews 12:1, When Paul speaks of his “great cloud of witnesses,” he is referring to the forefathers of faith that are mentioned in the previous chapter (Chapter 11). Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the rest of the Old Testament believers who looked forward with faith to the coming of the Messiah. Who acted in faith no matter how difficult the situation was. Paul was saying that we are to be inspired by the godly examples these saints set during their lives. In the original text, Paul wrote the Greek word, “nephos” which, when translated means “a cloud, a large dense multitude, a throng of people.”
      *Reply to Statement 3: We are not made up of body, soul and spirit. According to the Bible (Gen 2:7 & Job 27:3), we are in fact made of body and breath (spirit). The word spirit in this text is referring to the breath of God or life. The Hebrew word is Ruah; meaning breath/spirit. So the equation God is referring to according to the bible is… Body+Breath(spirit)=A living soul.
      Your following statement is simply not biblical. Our bodies will be resurrected just like Jesus’ body. We will also have an immortal”body”…and yes it will be very different than our mortal bodies. Nowhere in the Bible does it say we will fly away to heaven as disembodied spirits. When the Bible says that our breath will return to God who gave it to us, this means that when our last breath comes out of our lungs it goes back to the one who gave it, God! The Bible is very clear that Jesus is returning to receive both the quick and the dead (those that are still alive when He returns at His second coming, and also those that are dead in the grave.)
      1 Peter 4:5 & 2 Timothy 4:1 to name just a few.
      Here’s a few posts that might help clear things up.
      Thank you for your comment and just keep reading the infallible Word of God!

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