Have you often wandered what happens after our death?  Below are both a Catholic view of life after death and the Protestants view as well.  This is a site to show you How Catholics Believe, so I completely agree with the first paragraph below and disagree with the Protestants view.  I could shoot many holes is their view and show you how it doesn’t make sense and perhaps another day in another post I will do just that.  For now, trust me when I say the first paragraph is Biblical and based upon Sacred Scripture.  Enjoy!


Based upon Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Church, we can say the following about death and what follows. At the moment of death, the soul is separated from the body and no longer sustains order within the natural body; as a result, the body begins to corrupt and left to its own will decompose. The soul, however, is immortal and never ceases to exist, once created. Immediately upon death, the soul of each person is judged by the Lord, either to eternal life or the damnation of hell. For those damned to hell, such a soul immediately experiences hell thereafter. For a soul judged to heaven, if the soul is truly holy then it may immediately experience the fullness of heaven. We call such souls “the saints.” For those who are judged to eternal life yet still have some attachment to sin or there is some temporal punishment due for sin, such a soul experiences purgatory in the manner that God determines. Purgatory is really a blessing, for not only does the soul know that it is destined for heaven but purgatory purges anything from the soul which would limit the vision and enjoyment of God in heaven. Eventually, when the end of the world comes about, there will be a resurrection of the bodies of all the dead and final judgment of all souls and the angels in which we will all see the justice and mercy of God. Our bodies will be resurrected and body and soul will be rejoined, for to be a human person means to have both body and soul. This is true both for the saved and the damned, and both will experience either eternal happiness or eternal suffering in both body and soul.




For Protestants this life is a pilgrimage, a journey toward an eternal destination. That destination is an eternity spent either in heaven or in hell. Those saved enjoy some benefits here on earth during their pilgrimage. Salvation is not just an experience for the afterlife; it involves the “first fruits” of blessedness, that is, a proper relationship with God, a gradual transformation into the likeness of Christ, and the filling of the Holy Spirit. This process will not be complete, however, in this life.

Some Protestants hold that there is nothing one can do to earn a spot in heaven; God freely chooses to forgive the sins of some, and they can enter heaven.  Others hold that though forgiveness is only possible through God’s grace, it is offered to all and anyone can freely accept this forgiveness.  These Protestants, who endow humans with some degree of free will and some responsibility for effecting their own salvation, tend also to believe that one’s ultimate fate rests to some extent on one’s works—both in actively choosing God through faith, and in a life of growing conformity to the teaching of Christ.

Because purgatory is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, nearly all Protestants reject the Roman Catholic teaching that there is also a transitional place or process of purification of the soul after death. That said, there is some diversity of thought about what happens immediately after death. While nearly all Protestants believe that the individual retains its unique identity after death (unlike Eastern religions), some believe that the soul goes immediately to be with Christ in heaven, awaiting the Day of Judgment and a resurrected body. Others suggest that there is an intermediate time of “soul sleep,” an unconscious waiting for the resurrection. Some believe that the souls of the dead proceed immediately on death either to heaven or hell. Still others argue that the temporality of this life versus the eternality of the life to come makes intermediate periods of time meaningless altogether.

Traditionally Protestants believe in a judgment day at the end of history. On this day all the dead from throughout human history will be resurrected, and will possess some sort of physical body that will resemble but yet be different from the body possessed during their earthly existence. Jesus’ resurrection, described in all four Gospels, is the basis for this belief, and the apostle Paul emphasizes the resurrection, linking Christ’s resurrection to the experience believers will have at the end of time. Paul insists that without the resurrection, Christian faith is meaningless (1 Cor. 15:12-19). At the final resurrection of the dead, the saints (or, the elect) enter heaven, while the damned are sent to hell. Heaven is a state of blessedness in the presence of God, something humans have not been able to experience since the fall in the Garden of Eden. Hell is a place of torment, as just punishment for sin.

In recent times, a significant split has emerged  between the more conservative and more liberal wings of many Protestant denominations. Conservatives maintain their belief in an afterlife spent in a literal place, either heaven or hell. More liberal Protestants tend to downplay hell, often because the image of God torturing people for eternity, even if they are sinners, is not easy to square with their idea of a loving God. Nor is it easy to square the idea of a just God with one who casts people into hell because, as the result of fortune for which they are not responsible, they have not lived in a place where the Gospel of Jesus was preached.

Far more Americans say that they believe in heaven in recent surveys, than say they believe in hell, and this view has been adopted by some within Protestantism. There are also now many Protestants who hold that neither heaven nor hell is a literal place. If the core of salvation as described above is to live in the presence of God, heaven is then a metaphor for blessedness or a divine relationship in this life. For some of these people, hell is a metaphor for living in the absence of God in this life.


What are you thoughts about life after death?  Please let us know your thoughts and comment below.



6 thoughts on “What happens to a person upon death?

  1. Thank you for taking the time to write this article and explain your perspective on life after death. I’ve read about the belief of purgatory before, but hadn’t had it put exactly as you stated. It makes it quite clear as to how Catholics think about it. Interesting. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a Christian, and know may salvation is in the saving blood of Jesus dying on the cross for mine, and everyone else’s sin. If there was ANYTHING that I, or anyone else could do, then Jesus would not have had to die for all of us. He took on the sin of the world. And it is by that we are saved.
    I’ve always wondered how the idea of purgatory stands, as you mentioned yourself, it isn’t in the Scriptures. So again, I appreciate you sharing your perspective here, so now I see how you think!

    1. Thanks so much Shelli for your comment, I deeply appreciate it and may God Bless you.

      Much has been said over the centuries of a “third” place that people go to after death.  In the Second Book of Maccabees 12:43-46, it says, “He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.”

      Since Martin Luther threw both books of Maccabees out of his Protestant Bible during the sixteenth century Reformation, most Protestants today don’t recognize Maccabees as scripture.  However, both 1 and 2 Maccabees are in the Gutenburg Bible, published a century before Luther was born, which proves that the Catholic Church didn’t add them at the Council of Trent after the Reformation;  they were taken out by Luther during the Reformation.

      Why a need for purgatory after one’s sin has already been forgiven?  The premier example from the Bible comes from David, in the book of 2 Samuel 12:13-14:

      “David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.  Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child that is born to you shall die.”

      Here we see God punishing David by taking the life of his son, even after God forgave David for killing Bathsheeba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite, by putting him on the battlefront (So David could take Bathsheeba for his wife).  This verse also tells us that our children can suffer mightily, even death, because of our own sins.

      God Himself appeared to Moses as a non-consuming fire, which didn’t burn the bush (Exodus 3:2).  The book of Daniel says that the very throne of God is fire:

      “As I looked, thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days took his seat; his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire.” (Daniel 7:9). 

      And when God speaks, fire issues forth from His mouth:

      “A stream of fire issued and came forth from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:10).

       In the New Testament, at Pentecost, God the Holy Spirit appeared as non-consuming tongues of fire to the apostles (Acts 2:3).  So we see that God and fire can be seen as one and the same.

      In the First Book of Samuel 31:13, the survivors fasted for the dead, which makes no sense if the deceased were not in a place where that penance (fasting) could do some good for them.  In Matthew 12:31, Jesus told the parable about blaspheming the Holy Spirit (not believing that the Holy Spirit can save you, no matter what – the sin of despair), and said that anyone who does blaspheme the Holy Spirit 

       “will not be forgiven in this age or the age to come” (Matthew 12:32). 

      Since sins aren’t forgiven in Hell, and those in Heaven are already forgiven for their sins, then this one statement indicates another place after death where sins can indeed be forgiven.  When Jesus told the parable of the man beating up others who owed him money, after he himself had been forgiven his debts (Matthew 18:23-34), He said

      “And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart” (Matthew 18:34-35). 

       Since there is no release program in Hell, and no one wants to ever leave Heaven, this also indicates that there is another temporary place of torment where saved sinners go who have been forgiven their sins, but who have not paid all of their debt, down to the last penny, for their sins. In fact, in Matthew 5: 25-26, Jesus says

      “Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.” 

      The only possible prison that there could be that one gets out of eventually is purgatory.

      In Hebrews 12:22-24, St. Paul says the following: 

      “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel. ”

      We know who the angels are, as well as the first born (those who go directly to heaven upon death), & the judge (Jesus), but the spirits of just men made perfect is another category of heavenly residents.  Those would be the just men and women who were not ready for heaven upon death, but who were cleansed in the fires of purgatory and MADE PERFECT. 

      In 2 Timothy 1:16-18, Paul prays for the soul of the departed Onesiphorus:

      May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains,  but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me; may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day — and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

      Revelation 21:27 says that

      “nothing unclean shall enter heaven; ”

      so it can be assumed that if we are still unclean when we die, thanks to God’s amazing grace, we shall still be able to enter heaven thanks to the cleansing fires of purgatory.

      Purgatory is NOT another chance to be saved…Once death occurs, you are either saved or not saved.  If you have suffered greatly in this life, or during your death, that pain and suffering alleviates your purgatory time, if it was done for Christ, and not wasted in anger at God.  All purgatory does is to detach you from your love of sin, and to pay your debt to God for all of the sins that you have committed while alive on earth.  This is directly analogous to someone who robs a bank and then asks for forgiveness.  While the bank president will probably forgive him, the thief still has to give back the money and pay his debt to society through prison time.  After all, nothing unclean or defiled shall enter Heaven (Revelation 21:27).  Even Isaiah, as good a prophet as there ever was,  when he was caught up into Heaven (Isaiah 6:1), he proclaimed himself unclean (Isaiah 6:5).  A seraphim angel (seraphim means “burning one”) then took a burning ember and stuck it to his tongue to cleanse him (Isaiah 6:6-7).  Similarly, we will be cleansed in the fire of purgatory before we see God.  St. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 3:13 when he says,

      ” The work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire. “

      And then there are these 2 verses of scripture that talk about God and fire and us:

      Mark 9:49: For every one will be salted with fire. 
      Hebrews 12:29: “For our God is a consuming fire.”
      1 Peter 1:7: “The  genuineness  of  your  faith,  more  precious  than  gold  that is perishable  even  though tested by  fire, may  prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

      In the First Book of Peter 3:19 and 4:6, Peter says that after the crucifixion and death of Jesus, that Jesus

      “went to speak to the spirits in prison”

      to bring them the good news of His saving power.  This prison was basically a holding tank for Old Testament people who followed the teachings of God, and looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, who would once again open the doors of heaven to man, which had been shut since the sin of Adam.  This scripture also indicates that there is a place mentioned in the bible besides Heaven and hell for dead people to go to before they can enter into Heaven.  

      We, as the Church Militant (still alive), can help our relatives and friends (and ENEMIES, by the way), who are in Purgatory (The Church Suffering) by praying for them, saying rosaries for them, offering up our sufferings here on earth for them, and most powerfully of all, having Holy Masses said for them.  No need to wait for All Souls Day, although that is a GREAT time to have Masses said for them.  See your parish secretary and have masses scheduled in remembrance of your loved ones as soon as possible.  Once they make it to heaven, they will remember your kindness, and become powerful intercessors with Jesus for your salvation.  Definitely a win-win effort!!  No sacrifice for the dead is ever wasted.  For example, if your loved one is already in heaven, then God, in his infinite mercy, will apply the sacrifice you make to someone else who most needs it.

      There are some who think that it is sacrilegious to pray for the dead, in spite of what the second Book of Maccabees says..  Well, think about this…There is no time in Heaven.  God exists only in eternity, and knows the future.  God, in his infinite wisdom, thus knows when a person dies that a loved one will be saying prayers for him/her years down the road.  He then applies those yet-to-come prayers to the dead person’s sentence in purgatory at the time of death.  Of course the worst thing in Purgatory, besides the cleansing fire, is the knowledge that you are separated from God, because of your sins on earth.  That intense longing to see God is both painful and comforting at the same time, because you know that you have made it, but must still wait to be cleansed.

      To sum up, the Church, under the direction of the Holy Spirit has always taught that does exist.  It is not a second chance to be saved, but rather, a place of cleansing for the already saved before entering into heaven.  People who die with unexpiated sins or the attachment to sin on their souls go there, and are cleansed in the purifying fire of Purgatory for a period of time.  Once they are purified, they go to heaven and enjoy the Beatific Vision forever.  These people remember who prayed for them while they were in Purgatory, and then start offering prayers to Jesus for them.  St. Therese, the Little Flower, and the 33rd Doctor of the Church, tells us that it offends God greatly when people say that they will surely have to spend time in purgatory after death. She says that Jesus would rather not send anybody there, and he would prefer that one has TOTAL TRUST in HIM now so that they won’t have to spend one second in purgatory later. It seems that believing in one’s own sinfulness rather than in the infinite mercy of God to forgive them becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy to spend time in the fires of purgatory instead of going straight to heaven.

      Please come back to comment again.  Thanks and God Bless


      1. Thank you so much for this explanation. You clearly do your research and know your stuff! I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to me.

        1. Thanks so much for the comment again, Shelli.
          I hope you enjoyed the response and the information about how Catholics live. Please come back anytime.

  2. I’m wondering of Catholicism teaches that a physical body goes to heaven. A lot of times I hear people speaking about a “bodily” resurrection, but they don’t clarify whether they’re referring to a physical body, or a spiritual body. What is the Catholic belief?

    1. Jim, thanks so much for the comments, you always have great comments, and they are welcomed anytime.
      Jim, instead of worrying about what you mean by spiritual body or physical body… here is what the Catechism says:

      Although physical human bodies die, human souls never die. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that every spiritual soul “is immortal: It does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection” (CCC 366).

      So at the moment of death, the soul separates from the body, is judged immediately, and enters either heaven (immediately or through purgatory) or hell.
      Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven—through a purification or immediately—or immediate and everlasting damnation. (CCC 1022)
      (For scriptural evidence of this, see Luke 16:22; 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23.)

      Every soul will unite with its resurrected body just prior to the Last Judgment (“Judgment Day”) when Christ returns:
      In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare. The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life . . .

      The Last Judgment will come when Christ returns in glory. Only the Father knows the day and the hour; only he determines the moment of its coming. Then through his Son Jesus Christ he will pronounce the final word on all history. We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and of the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end. The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death. (CCC 1039-1040)

      Does that help with answering your questions? If not, let me know, perhaps I can explain more.
      Thanks again Jim, for the comments.
      God Bless

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