"Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" Hebrews 9:27
You are familiar with the old truism that only two things are for sure - death and taxes. I suppose if you are in a certain income bracket and can find enough deductions and a good accountant, you might possible avoid your tax liability. However, there is no way to escape dying.
With that in mind I want to share with you four mostly commonly held ideas within our culture.
1) Soul Sleep
4) Heaven or Hell
Soul sleep is a position held primarily by members of the Seventh Day Adventists or the Jehovah's Witnesses.
The proponents of the soul sleep position have two premises. First, they hold that at death the soul does not leave the body; both soul and body sleep until the Day of Christ’s return. Second, they teach that the soul has no consciousness as it sleeps; it is aware of nothing. What is the basis for these two premises? They base their argument primarily on passages that speak of death as sleep (or unconsciousness) and passages that speak of bodies awakening on the Last Day.
Proponents of this view hang their position on three verses that refer to death as sleep, but the word used in the Greek for sleep is taken figuratively every other time it is used. The vast evidence of Scripture clearly implies that at death there is a separation of the soul and the body.
The death of Jesus illustrates that the soul departs the body at death. Ephesians seems to indicate that upon His death Jesus went to the lower regions since he died as a sinner and his body was sealed in a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers.
Reincarnation originates in Eastern religions and teaches that life recycles into another form until it finally is able to rid itself of bad karma and merge into nirvana with the cosmic consciousness. In Western thought, the soul is thought to evolve to a higher or lower life form based on how you behaved during this reincarnation.
The writer of Hebrews speaks directly to any notion of reincarnation when he states flatly "it is appointed unto man ONCE to die and after that the judgment"
I am not sure where the idea of annihilation comes from. We believe the Bible clearly teaches that once life begins at conception that life is eternal. Though it changes form from the womb to the world into eternity, it continues to exist. Our verse from Hebrews also suggests that life continues following physical death.
Without going too deep into the Bible I can think of the encounter Jesus had with his deceased friend, Lazarus in Bethany. Lazarus had already been departed from his body four days when Jesus came and raised him from the dead. If Lazarus had ceased to exist upon his death Jesus would have had to recreate him and not resurrect him. I also think of what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration where Peter, James and John saw both Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus. Both of them had been gone quite awhile before they appeared on the mountain with Jesus. If they had gone out of existence they would not have been able to appear there.
Overwhelming Scriptural evidence supports the idea that upon death the soul leaves the body and goes either to Heaven or to eternal torment in Hell. In the words of the classic board game, Monopoly, "go directly to eternity and don't pass 'go'".