What Happens One Minute After You Die? – Program 1

By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©1998
What lies on the other side of the grave? What will we see and feel one minute after we die?

One Minute After You Die


Dr. John Ankerberg: What will happen to you one minute after you die? Today on The John Ankerberg Show, Dr. Erwin Lutzer, Senior Pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois, says:
Dr. Erwin Lutzer: John, the simple fact is that someday all of us will die. The Bible says that, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after death the judgment.” [Heb. 9:27] Death awaits all of us like the concrete floor awaits the falling light bulb. It WILL happen. And you know, God has created within us the knowledge that there is something that exists beyond the grave.
Ankerberg: The desire of many people to find out what lies on the other side of the grave is so great that some have turned to alternate methods such as channeling, reincarnation, and near-death experiences to gain a glimpse of what is coming after death. Today, you’ll hear what the Bible says will happen to you one minute after you die. You’ll also learn why the information coming from channeling, reincarnation, and near-death experiences, which attempt to peek behind the curtain of death, is not to be trusted. We invite you to join us for this edition of The John Ankerberg Show.

John Ankerberg: Welcome. Psychologists tell us that the average person thinks about death four times in some way every day. All of us know death will come to us someday. None of us will escape it. Our goal during this series will be to find out what God in the Bible says about death and what we will experience after. My guest today is Dr. Erwin Lutzer, Senior Minister of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois. He has written a best-selling book on this topic entitled, One Minute After You Die. Here is how he introduced this important topic:
Erwin Lutzer: John, the simple fact is that someday all of us will die. The Bible says that, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that comes the judgment.” [Heb. 9:27] And you know, God has created within us the knowledge that there is something that exists beyond the grave. And in this series we’re going to talk about, “What happens one minute after you die?”
Death awaits all of us like the concrete floor awaits the falling light bulb. It will happen.
You know, one day in Chicago I was asked to come to a funeral, and the reason I was invited is because I was a minister. The family was not religious. As a matter of fact, the son told me that I was asked because a shirttail relative said that a minister should be present.
And then he said to me, “I want you to make this as short as possible.” He said, “Nothing that you say will be too short!” I made a deal with him. I said, “First of all, I will be brief but I do need to say what I believe about the afterlife, even though I will not refer to your father” – a very wealthy man who made tons of money in the shipping business.
Well, the question is, what was happening to that man while we were discussing this with his widow and his son? Where was he? These are the kinds of questions that we are going to answer because we of ourselves cannot look behind that curtain. We can’t peek behind to see with authority what is there. But we have the light of the Bible. God has given us insight as to what it is that we’re going to encounter when we die, and we’ll be getting into this in great detail. But, of course, not everyone is going to have the same experience. There are those who are going to be experiencing the light and the glory of Jesus. But there are also those who are going to be experiencing dark gloom and isolation and even torment. Death is certainly a serious matter and we must be ready because it will come.
So these are the kinds of questions that we are going to be answering as we look into the topic of “one minute after we die.”
Ankerberg: Now, many people have turned to alternative sources of information to seek a glimpse of what lies beyond the grave. Channeling is one of those areas. But how can we tell if the spirits that men and women channel are giving us accurate, reliable information? Here is the answer Dr. Lutzer gave to this question. Listen:
Lutzer: John, the desire for people to find out what lies on the other side of the curtain is so great that some people have asked, “Isn’t it possible for us to peer behind that curtain and see what is there?” For example, there is such a thing as channeling, as all of us know, where you are in contact with spirits and as a result of this contact, supposedly people know what lies on the other side.
One day I was in a library and I picked up the book by Bishop Pike entitled, The Other Side. You will remember, his son committed suicide, and he wanted to find out what it was like on the other side. And he thought that his son was trying to communicate with him, and as a result, Pike went to a medium and she was in contact with his son. And I’ll never forget some of the conversations that they had. For example, one of the things that the son said was, in response to the question: “Do they talk about Jesus on the other side?” He said, “No, we don’t speak much about Jesus here on the other side.”
Well, do you know what I would like to do? I would like to suggest, my friend, today, that if you die and you’re in a place where they’re not talking much about Jesus, you’re in the wrong place.
Now, the question is, “How, then, did this spirit, this medium, know information about his son?” You know, the Bible talks about evil spirits as being “familiar spirits.” Did you know that there are actually demonic powers that are acquainted with us; they observe our ways? And so it would be understandable that a medium, being in contact with these spirits, would be able to give information regarding them and regarding the young boy.
Now, listen to what the Scripture says. It is very clear in making sure that we do not, that we do not consult mediums: “And when they say to you, ‘Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?” [Isa. 8:19] God condemns this kind of prying into the spirit world because there are spirits out there that are very deceptive.
Ankerberg: Next, what about reincarnation and near-death experiences? Many New Age writers and philosophers, as well as many people in Hollywood believe they have found real answers about life after death in these areas. I asked Dr. Lutzer what he thought about these two areas in light of the Bible and this is what he said:
Lutzer: Now, there are another means that sometimes people think about and that is Reincarnation. One day I was on a plane and I was riding with this woman sitting right next to me and her name was Shirley. When Shirley found out I was a minister, she said, “Oh, I envy you being able to speak to people because I can perform healings and I have all this information!” And then she told me that she believed in reincarnation because she said, “There was this house in Vermont and I would dream about it. I had visions of it.” And she said, “I had never visited the state but as an adult I went there and I found the house and I discovered that I lived there in the 18th century.”
And I said, “Shirley, I want you to know something. There is no such thing as the transmigration of souls, but there is the transmigration of demons.” I said, “You’re picking this information up from the spirit world. It was evil spirits that gave you this information about that house in Vermont.”
And she looked at me defiantly and said, “Absolutely not! I have nothing to do with evil spirits. I communicate only with those that come to me clothed in light.”
Well, what verse of Scripture do you think I gave to Shirley? The Bible says in 2 Corinthians that, “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” [2 Cor. 11:14] I want to tell you today, my friend, that there is a lot of deception that is going on out there.
We’re going to be talking about Near-Death Experiences next and even in that area… you know, the book, Embraced by the Light, that book by Betty Eadie which, incidentally, is dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ. But it’s a book that is very deceptive because it gives the impression that when one dies, Jesus is there to embrace everyone. There is no judgment. And she even makes a statement to the effect that, “I was worthy of Jesus.” My dear friend, I want you to know that is not the Jesus of the New Testament because the Bible is very clear that death is not a wonderful experience for everyone. As a matter of fact, some people have written about this topic and have said, indeed, that after interviewing people immediately after these near-death experiences, that some of these people have had a terrible experience. They’ve described it, really, as an experience of Hell, not a Jesus who embraces everyone.
I remember one woman saying to me, “You know, I had this near-death experience,” and she said, “Jesus took me by the hand and He showed me all the different religions of the world. He said, ‘There is Buddhism, and there is Hinduism, and there is the Islam faith.’” And she said, “Jesus told me that all of these religions lead to the same destination.”
Again, I want you to know, my friend, that is not the Jesus of the Bible who said that He is “the way, the truth and the life,” and that “no one can come to the Father” except by Him. [John 14:6] Jesus is very clear regarding who He is. In fact, the Bible says there are many christs [Matt. 24:5] and so we should not be surprised at the fact that there are demons out there who even take the name of “Jesus” to deceive.
Now, I can imagine there is someone who says, “But Pastor Lutzer, what about Stephen?” I love that story in the New Testament where Stephen is being stoned, you’ll remember, and rocks are being thrown at him. And, lo and behold, the heavens are opened and he sees the Son of God standing at the right hand of the throne of God. [Acts 7:55] John, I’ve often thought about that passage because, you know, it is the only place in all the New Testament where Jesus is seen standing at the right hand of God the Father. Elsewhere Christ is always seated, but it’s almost as if Jesus is saying, “Stephen, be faithful. Be faithful, because the minute you die, I’m here to receive you.” And later on we’ll be talking about what Stephen experienced after death.
But here’s the point: Is it possible to have a near-death experience? Sometimes people have said in that transition between life and death, my grandfather or my grandmother or a child, they actually talked about seeing relatives. It’s certainly possible. Stephen saw the Lord Jesus Christ before he died. But I want to warn you today that Satan would like to give the same positive experience to everyone. And that’s where the deception comes in. There is no such thing as having a near-death experience that is completely authoritative unless it squares with what God says death is all about.
Frankly, I think it’s arrogant for people to trust their near-death experiences. I do not want to trust someone who was only “near” death, because I’m not so much interested in the transition. I’m interested in the final destination. How much better to trust someone who actually was dead and then came back from the dead so that He can tell us what lies on the other side. I think of the words of Jesus in Revelation 1. He said, “I am He that liveth and was dead and am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of hades.” [Rev. 1:18]
At the end of the day, we do need a reliable map. We need a reliable guide who can help us know what is on the other side. And only Jesus Christ qualifies. And that’s why we have to hang onto every word that He said in the New Testament because He alone is able to tell us what happens one minute after we die.
Ankerberg: In describing what happens after death, you may have heard many people use the words “Sheol,” “Hades,” and “Hell.” Does the Bible use these words? If so, what do these words refer to? Does Sheol refer only to the grave? Is Hades the same place as Hell? Dr. Lutzer tells about these words and how they are used in the Bible:
Lutzer: You know, it’s very necessary for us to talk about the dark side of death. In future programs, we’re going to be talking about heaven; we’re going to be talking about seeing Jesus; we’re going to be talking about how consciousness continues. And we’re going to be giving hope and comfort about what lies on the other side. In fact, we are also going to be talking about hell. But before we talk about all those things, we do have to talk about what the Bible refers to in the Old Testament as Sheol and in the New Testament as Hades.
Now, 65 times in the Old Testament you have that word Sheol occurring. In the King James Version, 31 times it is translated “grave.” Thirty-one times also it is referred to as “hell.” And that’s what caused the confusion, by the way, in the minds of people because as we shall see in a moment, Hades is not yet hell. Hades is going to be “thrown into hell,” as the Book of Revelation teaches. And three times it has been translated as “the pit.”
What does Sheol refer to? First of all, let me say, it is not just the grave. There is a Hebrew word that refers only to the grave and that’s not the one that is used. In all of the texts of the Bible, Sheol is always referred to as “a shadowy place” of departed spirits. There are several things that we know about it. In it, people appear to be fully conscious. They go down into Sheol. The Scripture talks about “Sheol awaiting the dead.” It speaks about those who descend into Sheol, into this “gloomy, shadowy place” where they are being “tormented.” It seems to be a place of isolation. In fact, in the Old Testament what you find, though, is that even there there seems to be an indication that Sheol has two compartments. Why do I say that? Because the righteous, they delight to go into the grave, into Sheol.
For example, Asaph even talks about dying and he says, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon the earth that I desire beside thee.” That’s Psalm 73:25. So Asaph was desiring and looking forward to a place after he died of bliss. And yet at the same time you find that there are all of these negative references to Sheol.
Now, this is what caused the ancient rabbis to see something with which I happen to agree: that Sheol you can think of as two compartments because the righteous, they go into Sheol and they are blessed; they are with God. Those who do not know God, they also go into Sheol and it is there that they experience gloom and darkness.
Ankerberg: Now, there is only one man in all of history who died and came back from the dead, and that’s Jesus Christ. Only He has the right to speak about what will happen one minute after death. Listen to what He said will happen:
Lutzer: Now, John, the best place for us to see this is in the New Testament. In the 16th chapter of Luke, Jesus tells a story. It is not a parable; it’s actually a story. And let me tell you the reason He told it. He was trying to show the Pharisees, who loved money, that in the afterlife the fortunes of the rich and the poor might be reversed. And so He tells the story of a man by the name of Lazarus who was very poor. So poor, in fact, that he was willing to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Jesus talks about the dogs coming and licking his sores. Can’t get much more poor than that, can you? And yet the remarkable thing is, he dies and he goes to Hades. Now, let’s just be clear: in the New Testament, which was written in Greek, the Old Testament word Sheol is Hades. And I take, therefore, Hades to be another description of the Old Testament Sheol. And here you have two compartments, if you please. Let me just read a few verses. [Luke 16:19ff]
Jesus says that, “A certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate [that is, at the rich man’s gate] covered with sores, longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table. It came about that the poor man died and was carried by angels into Abraham bosom. And the rich man died and was buried and in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue because I am in agony in this flame.’ And Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received good things and likewise Lazarus bad things; and now he is being comforted here and you are in agony. And beside all this, there is between us a great chasm fixed in order that those who wish to come over from here are not able to do so and we cannot cross over.’” And then, the man becomes interested in “missions” and says, “Send Lazarus that he may go warn my brothers that they come not to this place of torment.”
Now, John, it’s important that what we do is to simply make a couple of observations regarding this place called Hades. What can we say about it?
First of all, the man who died, the rich man who was tormented, he was fully conscious. You just look at his senses. He could see. He could feel. He could touch. He was still filled with compassion. Also notice, though, his eternal destiny was fixed. Abraham said that “between you and us there is a great gulf fixed and no one can cross over” from either side. [Luke 16:26] Furthermore, I want you to notice that he was in torment. He is in agony in this flame.
John, I thought about this a lot and I believe that one of the characteristics of hell – and remember, this is not yet hell, this is Hades; Hades is going to be thrown into hell – I believe that one of the characteristics is these great burning desires that are never fulfilled; insatiable desires for all of eternity. In fact, that’s the other thing, is that he is eternally in this place called Hades which will be thrown into hell.
But something else that I find remarkable is that I believe that this man believed that his punishment was just. You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, how do you know that?”
First of all, he did not complain about being there and say that “it is unfair.” But second, he knows exactly why he’s there. He says to Abraham, “Please send Lazarus back that he might preach to my brothers and that they might repent so that they do not come to this same place of torment.” [Luke 16:27-28] I marvel at this story because what it really means is that this man knew that it was repentance that would keep them from this place of torment.
And you know, let me just speak from my heart to your heart for a moment. At the end of the day what we need to do is to understand that unless we repent, unless we trust in Jesus Christ, we will be in this place called Hades and we will experience the gloom and the darkness and the torment.
A few moments ago I spoke about that wealthy man that I had the responsibility of burying in Chicago. While I was scurrying around looking for a place to park at his funeral, he was in agony. And furthermore, wouldn’t it have been something if he would have told me what I should preach in that funeral sermon? I’m sure he would have said, “Pastor Lutzer, warn my family so that they do not come to this same place of torment!” The compassion that he had in this life extended to the life that he was now experiencing, because you’re the same person after you die. We’ll be talking about that in a future program.
But at this moment, I need to ask you, have you believed in Jesus? Because the Bible says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; but he who does not believe in the Son, shall not see life but the wrath of God abides on him.”[John 3:36]
Why don’t you at this moment trust Christ? Tell Him that you’re a sinner, that you know that you are headed for condemnation. And believe in Him! Why? So that you do not come to this place of torment. It’s the most important decision you could ever make.
Ankerberg: Now, let me ask you a question: Do you fear death? So much so, you can’t even talk about it? Maybe you fear death because you’ve learned you have a life-ending disease and you don’t know what’s up ahead. Or maybe you’re young but you fear death because you know there are both big graves and small ones in the cemetery. Death comes to different people at different times of life. How then can a person overcome the dreadful fear of death? Next week our entire program will be devoted to sharing with you the wonderful information God has given to us in the Bible that will enable you to conquer the fear of death.

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