Knockin' On Heaven's Door
Depending on what your taste of music was, or is, or still is, you may or may not know who Warren Zevon was. He died in September of 2003 at age 56, of lung cancer, after a long and successful performing career in the rock music industry (in contrast to those who now labor in a very different kind of "Rock" movement). Given only 3 months to live when the diagnosis of his advanced cancer was made, he managed to survive a little over a year, during which time he produced a final album which featured his rendition of Bob Dylan's Knockin' On Heaven's Door. Although Bob Dylan may have performed the original, that he wrote, technically better, Zevon's version of it, by a man who knew full-well that his death was imminent, was certainly the more powerful in terms of sheer human emotion - something that people all over the world must endure every day as they knowingly face their own life's end from a terminal illness.
Where Is "Heaven's Door"?
Everyone has had family or friends who have passed away, and it's quite natural to wonder what happened to them when death occurred. Where are they now? Are they in heaven? Are they somehow still conscious? Are they alive and dead at the same time?
The example of Jesus Christ clearly answers the question. The Son of God (see The Logos) was born as a normal physical human (Hebrews 2:14-18). After He was brutally killed (see How Did Jesus Christ Die?), His body was placed in the tomb (see The Garden Tomb) where He remained dead until He was resurrected to life. His resurrection would not have been necessary if He had been alive while He was dead.
What does The Bible actually say about what happens when humans die, and more importantly, what does The Word of God say about how and when they stop being dead?
A Peaceful Sleep, No Sense Of The Passage Of Time
"For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing" (Ecclesiastes 9:5 RSV)
"For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again." (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 RSV)
"Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.... For David did not ascend into the heavens" (Acts 2:29,34 RSV)
"No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven, the Son of man." (John 3:13 RSV)
A Later Resurrection
"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 RSV) (see The Return Of Jesus Christ)
"Thy dead shall live, their bodies shall rise. O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!" (Isaiah 26:19 RSV)
"But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet The Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with The Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 RSV)
"for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment." (John 5:28-29 RSV)
"And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." (Daniel 12:2 RSV)
Fact Finder: When will the Judgment Day be?
See When Will You Be Judged?