Death is the terrible reality of life. People cope with the death of a loved one and the reality of their own impending death in many different ways. The Christian perspective of death gives abundant Biblical comfort to those who are saved. True Biblical comfort does not seek to minimize the pain of death, nor does it attempt to ignore the reality of death’s sorrows. True Biblical comfort places death in its proper perspective. Death is a defeated enemy. For the child of God, death is the end of this life and the beginning of life eternal. At death the saved enter directly into heaven. This is a great, and Biblical, source of comfort. The words of the Apostle Paul reflect the believers conviction, “We are willing to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Since the deceased believer goes directly into heaven, what will he be like? What form will the believer have in heaven?
When a person dies his spirit is separated from his body. The spirit is the indefinable, non-material part of the man. Though there is a theological distinction between the spirit and the soul, this article will use the terms interchangeably. The spirit is not currently apparent to human senses but it is nonetheless a very real component of the human make-up.
The death of the body does not eliminate the conscious existence of the person. The death of the body does not end the distinct identity of the person. Human identity is not wrapped up in the physical form, nor is it contained in the material brain. The identity of a person is connected with the spirit. At death the spirit of the believer consciously enters into heaven. Luke 16 gives the clearest description of what happens after death. Lazarus, the child of God, entered directly into heaven and received conscious comfort. Lazarus’ identity remained distinct from the others in heaven and remained aware of what was happening to him.
At death the Christian’s spirit leaves the body behind to enter the joys of heaven. This separation from the body is not a loss for the person. Though the spirit is immaterial, it is not inferior to the physical. The believer is not somehow less in heaven than on earth because he is without a physical body. The spiritual body will be far greater than this earthly body could ever be. Consider angels as an example. Angels are spiritual beings. (Hebrews 1:14) They are given the ability to manifest themselves in human form, but they are not physical creatures. The lack of a physical body does not make them less than human. In fact, the Bible says that humans are a little lower than angels. (Psalm 8:5) Angels are powerful creatures and the absence of a physical body is no defect or hindrance to them. Likewise, the believers spiritual body will not be inferior in any way to the earthly body. The Christian will be more real and alive than ever before. At death all that is left behind is the sin broken body and the corruptions of the cursed flesh.
Though the Bible does not speak directly to identity, it seems the spiritual form will retain recognizable characteristics of the individual’s identity. I doubt the spiritual body will have the same features as the earthly body, but it seems that believers in heaven will be distinguishable as the individuals they were on earth. In Luke 16 Abraham is recognizable to the rich man. When the three disciples saw Moses and Elijah at Jesus transfiguration (Matthew 17), they recognized them for who they were.
We are not given much information about the activities of the souls of the just in heaven. In Revelation 4 and 5 the Bible describes a group of 24 elders. Who they are is unknown, but it is evident they are deceased believers given a special place in heaven. They surround the throne of God singing His praises. Revelation 5 tells of a huge host of saints who sing praise to God. Whatever else the souls of the deceased will do in heaven the Bible makes clear they will be praising God and rejoicing in His glorious presence. Believers look forward to the rapture when the spiritual body will be reunited with the physical body. Believers will then live forever with body and soul joined together in a glorified physical body.