What happens to our bodies immediately after we die?

Full Question

What is the official church teaching on what happens after our earthly bodies die: Are we “dead” until Judgment Day or do we immediately go to heaven, hell, or purgatory?


Although physical human bodies die, human souls never die. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that every spiritual soul “is immortal: It does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection” (CCC 366).

So at the moment of death, the soul separates from the body, is judged immediately, and enters either heaven (immediately or through purgatory) or hell.

Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven—through a purification or immediately—or immediate and everlasting damnation. (CCC 1022)

(For scriptural evidence of this, see Luke 16:22; 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23.)

Every soul will unite with its resurrected body just prior to the Last Judgment (“Judgment Day”) when Christ returns:

In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare. The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life . . .
The Last Judgment will come when Christ returns in glory. Only the Father knows the day and the hour; only he determines the moment of its coming. Then through his Son Jesus Christ he will pronounce the final word on all history. We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and of the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end. The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death. (CCC 1039-1040)

By Jim Blackburn


  1. tina Reply

    If you’re cremated, what happens on judgment day?

    1. joe Reply

      thats a bummer!!! you’ll have to glue all your ass up!! lol

      1. Cyndi Reply

        Not funny. Grow up.

    2. Lisa Reply

      Tina…the same thing that happens when your body rots in the ground…or when the body is eaten by sharks…or is burned beyond recognition in a car accident. All things are possible with God. Not to worry.

    3. Bernie Glasby Reply

      From what I’ve read you receive a new body fit for a heavenly roll can’t tell you exactly where I saw it but try revelations. Hope this helps you.

  2. Merrie Rossman Reply

    “the soul goes to heaven (immediately or through purgatory) or to hell. I always thought that souls go through purgatory first, waiting for the judgement day. Now, I’m confused!

    1. jay-r ynot Reply

      And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
      Hebrews 9: 27

    2. chychy Reply

      Not all souls go 2 purgatory 1st. Remember that’s y saints r canonised. Because they have seen God without going through purgatory.

      1. Bernadette Reply

        anyone who goes to heaven is a saint. just not recognized with the earthly works. (as I was told)

  3. Anna Newell Reply

    I am glad the church has changed it’s policy on cremation, since the body turns to dust anyway, However, I do respect that is was the temple of God and deseves respectful burial, . I believe the Church does not approve the scattering of our ashes. I believe that the souls who will enjoy the Beatific Vision will receive transfigured bodies but I am guessing that it will be at the last judgment.,

    1. Don Roberson Reply

      My mother recently passed and sister had her cremated saying that was her wish..was done yesterday..showing was wednesday…can u share some scripture on this? Thank you

  4. ian Christopher Reply

    I do know that there is heaven and hell, but ( purgatory / purification ) is not such found in the bible scriptures after a mans death..
    purification or cleansing is on earth – our past ways in life not according to his commandments, living without God is sin, and now you have known Him and believe in His words..
    (Mark 16:15-16) – believe and is baptize will be saved, he who does not believe will be condemned .. Baptism, not the baptism we know as a child or child baptism, but to adults who have consience and have knowledge of right and wrong doings, to confess your sins..
    (Acts 2:38) -“Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..
    To be buried with Him through baptism and to be renewed from our sins (newness of life) – Romans 6:3-5
    Baptism- (Acts 22:16) – washing away of our sins, (1 Peter 3:21)-an antitype which now saves us–baptism, the answer of a good consience toward God

    Big Question: where will we go after death

    (Hebrews 9:27) – it is appointed for a man to die once , but after this judgement –
    Judgement – according to what you have done on earth –
    (Revelation 20:12) – the dead were judge according to there work

    1) To those who dies serving the Lord have a great chance of eternal –
    –The Promise:
    (Acts 14:22) strenghthening the souls of the desciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying (we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God).
    (Revelation 21:7) – he who overcomes shall inherit all things and I will be his God and he shall be my son.

    2) What about to those who live there lives not according to God, disobeying the Commandments of God?
    –Eternal condemnation:
    (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) – do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceive. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor theives, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God..
    (Revelation 20:15) – and anyone not found written in the Book of life was cast into the lake of fire
    (Revelation 21:8) – but the cowardly, Unbelieving, abominable , murderers, sexual immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death..
    (Revelation 20:10) – along with false prophets, and (they will be tormented day and night forever and ever)

    theres only two destination after death
    – To be with God we must seek earnestly in serving Him, that we may inherit eternal life in the kingdom of God.
    But if we draw back and serve Him partially, or never acknowledge his goodness to us – is death, condemnation forever..

    1. Ken Reply

      1 Peter 3: 19-20 is the best proof, to me, of the existence of Purgatory. As Christians, we are called to strive for Sainthood. Being human, in these mortal coils (shackles), we are bound by sin and the only way to attain worthiness to be with the angels and the Saints is to go through the same kind of cleansing that the Saints went through. We are all born with original sin and though our baptism; accepting of Christ and our rites (as you have shown) reconciles us to GOD. Some gain immediate admittance to Heaven, but for the most part, the majority are still sinners and we bind ourselves by sin. Purgatory is our final purge before we go forth. Yes, I’ve elaborated way to much on my understanding than given you what you asked for. The best advice to you, in going forward is to search out the writings of Saint. Augustine on the topic. GOD bless

    2. Tom Sindani Reply

      All those who die in God’s grace and friendship but still imperfectly purified are assured of eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification. This is biblical; Mat 12: 32, which clearly states that there is forgiveness in the present age and the coming one.1 Cor 3: 15 clearly mentions a purifying fire. The church teaching has biblical basis.

    3. Al Reply

      If you read a Catholic Bible you will find proof in the 1st Book of Macabees. The Catholic Bible has seven books that the Protestants removed in the 16th century.

    4. Otty Reply

      Dear Ian,
      Evidently you are Protestant and not Catholic. Purgatory is a beautiful and mercyful reality and a teaching of my Catholic faith. I could share so much more about Purgatory with you, but the truth is that if you are not open to it, it will not lead this conversation anywhere. This is not about winning an argument, it is about Truth and “there is” evidence about Purgatory in the bible. God Bless you and hope the Holy Spirit guides you in your path.

  5. jude Reply

    Then am confused. What is the difference between paradise and heaven? Because you say that saints are in paradise. Then who is in heaven?

      1. Dennistrillo Reply

        Paradise is the earth. Heaven is the kingdom of God Lord Jesus Christ.

  6. Elena Reply

    As I read if you divorce your partner you are adulterer. Then, if the one who annulled their partner,remarry was still an adultery. What if a person always asking for forgiveness of our Lord, because she know that what has done is a big sin. Does she will be remained a sinner even she always repent of her sins, asked the forgiveness of our Lord?

    1. Kingsley N,C Reply

      Elena, your question is just like if some one stole a neighbor’s wallet and is asking God for forgiveness without returning the wallet. forgiving starts from the sinner by rejecting sin and show remorse for it.

  7. Paul Maresca Reply

    I have a question….Was Jesus a vegetarian? Are there any biblical references ?

    1. Thomas R Reply

      I don’t work on here, and this is a late response, but as I recall after the Resurrection he had a meal containing fish with some of the Apostles. The story of the Prodigal Son mentions killing a fatted calf.

  8. edward Reply

    . Is the soul immortal?
    Gen 2:7—What is a soul? Formula of Life: DUST + Breath of life (Spirit of God) = Soul or Living Being
    Ec12:7—What happens when a person dies? (Formula of death: Body (Dust)- Breath (Spirit) = Death)
    Job 27:3/James 2:26/Ps 104:29—The Body w/out the spirit is dead (cease to exist–ex. Bulb & electricity)
    Ezek 18:4/Rev 16:3—Is the soul immortal? (Soul-could mean life itself, mind, intellect)
    Gen 3:4—Who said that a person is immortal? (Rev 12:9)
    Ecc 9:5, 6, 10—Dead people are unconscious (Ps146:4)
    Ps 115:17/Acts 2:29, 34—Do good people go to heaven when they die?
    Job 14:12,21—Can the dead communicate w/ the living?
    Job 7:9-10—The dead do not go back to his house
    Job 14:12—Death is like a sleep (1 Kg 11:43; 14:31)
    Jn 11:11-14—Jesus called the state of the dead “sleep”
    1Thes 4:13-15—Death is a sleep
    1Thes 4:16-18—What comfort can we have in Jesus
    Phil 3:20-21/ 1Cor15:51-53—What kind of bodies will we have
    Lk 34:36-43–What kind of body did Jesus had when he resurrected
    Job 14:14—Till my change comes
    Common Questions on the state of the dead:
    Luk 23:43-“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise”
    “Assuredly I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.”
    Jn 20:17—Jesus has not yet ascended to heaven
    Lk 16:19-21—Par of the rich man & Lazarus (Par not a literal story)
    1 Sam 27:3,6-16—Saul consults a medium
    Lev19:31; 20:27/ Deut 18:10-11—Consulting mediums is prohibited
    Rev 16:14—They are spirits of demons…

  9. marife bustamante fernandez Reply

    as far as i know,our body will die….but our soul still remain and waiting our jesus crist coming for final judgement……

  10. M Reply

    Will purgatory still be there at or after the last judgment? For persons who die during that time who are not qualified to immediately enter heaven, where will their souls undergo purification if purgatory will no longer be there?

  11. Diana Reply

    Does that mean when we die and are reunited with old body or will we get a new body? At the end times?

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