Dear Pastor Gallups, "What happens when we die? I have always been taught that when we die we are asleep until Jesus returns." Confused in Milton.
The Bible clearly teaches that EVERYONE will live forever after they have passed through the veil of death, regardless of what one does with Jesus Christ and His claims upon our lives. HOWEVER, what we do with Jesus DOES determine WHERE we will live forever, Heaven or Hell!
The Bible does not contextually teach that a person "sleeps" in the ground until the return of Jesus. I am familiar with those passages that may seem to indicate this, but when the Bible is interpreted in light of ALL the passages about death and eternity, this is what it teaches in a nutshell...
When a Biblically born again believer dies, they immediately go into the presence of the Lord Jesus. (II Corinthians 5:8 and Philippians 1:21-26) They will eventually return with the Lord during the Lord's millennial reign on earth and they will forever be with the Lord. To those on earth when these previously "dead" return, it will indeed appear to the fleshly eye that they have "come up out of their graves!"
When a person dies who has refused the Lordship of Jesus over their lives, that person immediately will find himself or herself in Hell (Hades or Prison). These are all terms that the Bible uses to describe the condition and place of the lost who have left this world. At the end of the millennial reign of Jesus on earth, these people will be brought from prison and will stand before the Lord at the Great White Throne of Judgement (Rev 20). After they are thusly judged they will be thrown into the "Lake of Fire" never again to see the Lord.
So you can see, that the choice we make NOW regarding Jesus Christ and His claims of Lordship and salvation over our lives, is important and ETERNAL. You will never be more “alive” than the day you pass through the veil of death. At that point the choosing will be over. Jesus holds out His hand of eternal life TODAY. If you have not already done so, take it and really begin to LIVE!