When Christians die, their physical bodies are buried in the earth, but their spirits (or souls) go immediately into the Lord's presence in heaven. Paul said, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23), and “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). When Stephen was dying, he cried out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59; cf. Gen. 35:18; Eccles. 12:7; Luke 23:43; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 6:9). Then at Christ's second coming, when he returns to the earth, believers' bodies will be raised from the dead, made perfect, and reunited with their spirits (1 Cor. 15:23, 51–52; 1 Thess. 4:16–17).

When unbelievers die, their bodies also are buried in the earth, but their spirits go immediately to experience separation from God and punishment for their sins. “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27; cf. Luke 16:24–26; see also notes on 1 Pet. 3:18; 4:6).