What happens after death?
The Bible clearly describes what happens after death and the two possible eternal destinations everyone faces. For believers in Jesus Christ, after death their souls/spirits are taken to heaven because their sins are forgiven by having received Christ as Savior (John 3:16, 18, 36). For believers, death is to be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). The soul/spirit of a person is separated from the body at death and goes immediately into the presence of God, while the physical body remains in the grave “sleeping.”
1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 speak of a time when the souls of believers will be reunited with their glorified bodies. This occurs at the Rapture of the church, just prior to Christ’s Second Coming to earth, when “the dead in Christ will rise first” which is all those who died in faith. At this resurrection of believers, the physical body is resurrected, glorified, and then reunited with the soul/spirits which are in heaven already. This reunited and glorified body-soul-spirit will be the possession of believers for eternity in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21-22).
For those who do not receive Jesus Christ as Savior, death means everlasting punishment of their souls/spirits in hell. However, at death, their destiny is similar to that of believers in that they go immediately to a temporary holding place to await the resurrection of bodies fit for an eternity in hell. Luke 16:22-23 describes a rich man being tormented immediately after death. Revelation 20:11-15 describes all the unbelieving dead being resurrected, judged at the Great White Throne judgment, and then being cast into the lake of fire. Unbelievers, then, are not sent to hell (the lake of fire) immediately after death, but rather are in a temporary realm of judgment and condemnation.