I once believed that after a person dies, they were immediately judged and either sent to Heaven or Hell. After being born again and reading God’s word, I’ve learned that this is not true. Why? Saying that one is immediately judged after death would be to say that Jesus’ second return of judgment has already happened. In fact, that would mean that his second judgment was centuries ago. So, where does unrighteous souls go, after death? Before I answer that, I must first define a few words and places.
The Lake of Fire?
The Lake of Fire, is a literal place of everlasting fire that was originally created by God as a place of punishment for Satan and the angels that followed him in his rebellion against God (Mat. 25:41-Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:). Even though Hell was created for Satan and the angels who followed him, the unsaved of humanity from all ages will be with them in this place of torment (Mat. 13:42 – And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. )
While there is no one in the Lake of Fire at this time, it will one day hold a vast multitude. Revelation 19:20 and Revelation 21:8 states who will be cast into Hell and the order; Rev 19:20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. Rev 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars,, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
These words refer to a place of temporary torment. What we mean by this is that, at the time of death, the souls of the lost go directly to Hades, where they suffer in torment until the time of the Great White Throne Judgment when they will be resurrected and cast into the Lake of Fire. The souls of all the lost who have already died are presently there and those who die in their sins immediately go there to join them.
Revelation 20:13-15 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
In this sense, death, or the grave, claims the physical part of man, the body, while Sheol/Hades claims the separated, spiritual part of man, the soul. Psalm 16:10: “For Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell(Sheol); neither will Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.”
Because of the curse of sin, we will all face the reality of physical death. We can’t evade it by our own power, nor can the soul of any man or woman escape from Sheol/Hades on their own.
For those “in Christ,” death has no sting and Sheol/Hades has no victory because their body and soul will be united in a resurrection unto life (see I Cor. 15:19,20,51-57). This is not so for those who die without Christ for they face a resurrection unto judgment, which is referred to as the “second death” (Rev. 20:13,14; 21:8).
(This is only my interpretation of my studies so far)