What Happens When We Die?

Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, Tracy from Oakland called in to ask Patrick a few questions about the concepts of death, what happens to the body, and how we reconcile judgment and the resurrection with what we learn in the Catechism.

“With ‘Ashes to ashes and dust to dust’, it brought up these questions again today. When we pray the rosary, we say, ‘I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.’

So, I’ve been trying to figure out how we have eternal life but we speak of death, and if we die, is it just our bodies that die? And with the resurrection of the body, how do people picture that?

And one more little part: It says, ‘He will come to judge the living and the dead.’ Well, how will He judge the living? And I thought the judgment of the dead took place at the moment you die.”

Patrick began by explaining what death literally is. Bio-medical death is when the body ceases to be animated by the life force that we know as the soul. Human beings are not souls stuck inside bodies or bodies that are being possessed by souls. We are both; a composite of the two components. The soul is our form, so when the body ceases to be able to respond to its life-giving force, it dies. At that point, the soul separates from the body.

Even though the body in this mortal state will die and return to the earth, the soul lives on forever, either in heaven or in hell. And at the final judgment, our glorified bodies will be reunited with our souls. But in the meantime, when the body and soul separate and before that reunion, that’s when our personal judgment takes place.

“Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27)

“And that judgment we call the particular judgment,” said Patrick. “That’s where you have your exit interview. And that’s where you’re informed where you will spend eternity: heaven or hell.”

For those who love and trust Jesus, have lived according to the tenants of Christ, and die in the state of grace, they already know where they are headed for eternity. However, we are still only souls in the afterlife until the final judgment which will come at the end of the world with the second coming of Jesus Christ. At that point, our bodies will be resurrected and reunited with our souls which are already in the afterlife. Those who are in heaven or heaven-bound will receive glorified and perfected bodies.

Tracy’s last question asks about the wording of the phrase “…judge the living and the dead.” What that means is that at the end of the world, Jesus will return for the final judgment. The “living” that he is referring to are those who are still alive when Jesus returns, and the “dead” are all those that have died. Regardless of your state, all will be resurrected and brought before God to undergo the final stage. Some will be granted eternal salvation in heaven. And the rest will suffer in hell forever. Purgatory will cease to exist.

Tune in to The Patrick Madrid Show weekdays 8am – 11am CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.