About Death - What is it?
There is an almost universal belief that when a person dies he or she either goes to heaven or hell. This widely held belief is based on the idea that man has an immortal soul. Man does not have an immortal soul, as we will see as we examine the holy scriptures on this topic. To say a person who dies is not really dead but alive somewhere else defies sound logic because being dead by definition is the absence of life.
If the dead are consciously alive then they are not dead at all and both the need and possibility of resurrection is absurd. And yet the scriptures speak repeatedly of a resurrection of the dead. How do we reconcile these differences?
Idea of Immortality
Why is belief in the immortality of the soul so prevalent, not just in orthodox Christianity but also in other religions of this world? The origin of this belief is to be attributed, not to the original scriptures but to ancient Greek philosophers, most notably Plato. The theory of Plato, that man is inherently immortal, is not found in the scripture. Let any one who believes this take up his bible and concordance and search and see if he can find a single passage to support the assertion.
Some people say there are bible verses that seem to indicate that man has an immortal soul. That is because the translators have been overly influenced by philosophy and build in their bias on mans supposed immortality into many bible translations (see article Link about this).
Many of the arguments of Plato and his followers appeal to the intellect with great intensity. The longing for immortality which God has implanted in the human heart is compelling in its favor. We all want a favorable outcome after we die. It was but human for Plato to reason from all this that death was not the end of God’s dealing with mankind. Everyone wants to believe that death is not the end. And it truly is not the end. Plato's error lay in his ignorance of God’s power to resurrect the dead. All Plato could do was to deny the reality of death itself. He would limit it to the body. He would make the soul or the spirit immortal and thus provide for the continuance of man’s existence beyond death, whether in heaven or in hell.
What does it mean to be dead?
If you relied on the arguments of Plato and theologians, you would conclude that man has an immortal soul. But the test of what is true has to be examined from the infallible Word of God. Examine this scripture:
Eccles 9:5 (KJV) For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing....
This verse is very clear. We who are alive know we will die some day. But those who are dead, know not anything, they have no consciousness. It is heartening to know that there is no consciousness in death and it especially encouraging to know there is no consciousness of death either.
The dead don’t know that they are dead. When a person dies, he or she do not know that they are dead. Not only will they never know that they are dead, but they will never even know that they even lost consciousness. All humanity will experience "the process of dying," but absolutely no one will ever experience the "state of being dead".
We will all experience "dying." Most people who die, experience dying, but they do not experience death itself, nor will they ever. It is impossible for someone to experience the death state, seeing that in it there is no consciousness, there is no knowledge, and therefore there is no memory. We might remember dying, but we will not remember ever being dead.
Death is Sleep
Death is not like sleep it is sleep. That is how scripture defines death. It is sleep, no sensation, no consciousness, no pain or suffering. Notice the words of Jesus Christ:
John 11:11 (KJV) ...Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
Lazarus died and was dead (John 11:14). Death (sleep) is the way that God has ordained to fulfill His purpose setting people aside until the resurrection.
God through Job gives us further insight into the condition of someone being dead.
Job 14:14 (KJV) If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Job 14:15 Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.
Yes the basic question, if a man dies shall he live again? In these verses we see that Job is waiting in death (sleep) until his change comes (in the resurrection). He like everyone who has died is sleeping and unconscious waiting for the resurrection.
Job 14:13. (NIV) If only you would hide me in the grave and conceal me till your anger has passed! If only you would set me a time and then remember me
Look at what God did with Moses. God prepared Moses for death and said the following:
Deu 31:16 (KJV) And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers...
"Sleep" in Hebrew is the word shakab (Strong's H7901). It means to rest, to sleep, to lie down.
It should come as no surprise that the concept of the immortality of the soul stems from the influence of Satan. Back in the garden of Eden Satan was the instigator who convinced Eve to sin. From then on men have been betrayed into the most absurd inconsistencies in their efforts to accept the adage of the serpent “Ye shall not surely die.”
Gen 3:4 (KJV) And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die
In the New Testament we are told that Satan was a liar from the beginning. He lied to Eve. This is what God said:
Gen 2:17 (KJV) But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Satan said "you shall not die" and God said "you shall surely die". Adam lived for 930 years and did die (Gen 5:5). His death was a physical death. He was formed from dust (soil) and to dust he would return (Gen3:19).
Some confusion has arisen over verse 17 because the King James version implies that Adam would die the same day that he ate of the fruit. He did not die on that day.
The solution to this difficulty lies in the important expression which the translators have rendered "surely die". In the Hebrew this expression is very different from what we have in English. Most versions have this incorrectly translated. If we take and Hebrew words and translate them literally it means "to die shall you be dying".
The Concordant Literal Version makes this plain.
Gen 2:17 (CLV) Yet from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you are not to be eating from it, for in the day you eat from it, to die shall you be dying.
Also from the exeGeses Companion Bible:
Gen 2:17 (ECB) and of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, eat not: for in the day you eat thereof, in dying, you die.
To die shall you be dying” makes clear to us the process of death, culminating, indeed, in actual death. A person eventually dies, life may be short or quite long, but long or short we all go through an aging process and eventually die.
Body, Spirit and Soul
We have seen from scripture that the soul of man in not immortal. The scriptures tell us that a living human being consists of body, soul and spirit. Lets examine each of these 3 components of a human being.
1Thes. 5:23 (KJV) And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our physical body is the vessel which houses the soul and our spirit. Man (Adam) was formed from the dust (more correctly soil) of the ground.
Gen 2:7 (KJV) And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground...
Gen 3:19 (KJV) In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Gen 3:19 (CLV) In the sweat of your face shall you eat your bread, till your return to the ground, for from it are you taken, for soil you are, and to soil are you returning.
At death the body returns to the soil whence it came. It may seem amazing but death is a return. Man is soil and returns to the soil.
Job 30:23 (CLV) I know that You are turning me back to death...
This truth has been obscured by inconsistent rendering of the Hebrew word shub (Strong's H7725). This word is represented in the English Authorized version by many variations in rendering. The main question to be answered is whether this Hebrew word simply means to turn, or if it includes the thought of a previous condition, hence a return. If you do a search on the meaning of the Hebrew word "shub" (Strong's H7725) you will conclude it means return.
We can understand what the spirit in man is from a number of scriptures.
Job 32:8 (KJV) But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
God places spirit in all living creatures. The spirit in man gives him the ability to reason, plan, create, love, hate, etc. It is his intellect.
1Co 2:11 (KJV) For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
God the Father is the wellspring of all Spirits. It is through His Holy Spirit that He creates, orders and sustains all the universe. The Holy Spirit is the power of God.
Psalms104:30 (KJV) Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.
The word spirit is translated in the Old Testament from the Hebrew word ruach ( Strong's H7307). It is first used in Gen 1:2.
Gen 1:2 (KJV) And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
All breathing creatures have a spirit from God.
Job 33:4 (KJV) The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.
Eccles 3:21 (KJV) Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?
And so the spirit is given to a person by God at the moment of birth (or maybe at conception). And at death it departs the body and returns to God.
Eccles 12:7 (KJV) Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
In the New Testament the word spirit is from the Greek word pneuma (Strong's G4151). There are many examples.
Rom 8:14 (KJV) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
Gal 5:22 (KJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Gal 5:25 (KJV) If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
The Scriptures distinguish clearly between the spirit and the soul. The spirit and the breath are closely related as may be seen in the expression "the breath of the spirit of life" in Gen. 7:22 (ASV). The spirit is that invisible life force from God which when united with the body produces the thing we call a soul.
What is the Soul
This is most intriguing. The breathing person is a living soul.
Gen 2:7 (KJV) And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Anyone who is reading this is a living soul. Can a soul die? Yes it can. It most certainly is not immortal. We have already studied this pagan doctrine of the immortal soul earlier in this article.
Ezek18:4 (KJV) Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
The word soul is translated in the Old Testament from the Hebrew word nephesh (Strong's H5314) and is defined by Strong as a ”breathing creature".
From Strong's Exhaustive Concordance:
From H5314; properly a breathing creature, that is, animal or (abstractly) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental)
I take exception to this definition by Dr. Strong because the soul can be either alive or dead. I know this is quite controversial, but I continue.
Man is a living soul when two conditions exist:
(1) he breaths
(2) he has blood flowing in his veins
Death comes when we either cease to breath or bleed to death. When either one of these two conditions occur the soul dies.
(1) Anyone who stops breathing dies. Could be from suffocation, drowning, or some other way of being unable to breath. If you stop breathing, you die.
Gen 7:22 (KJV) All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.
A more accurate rendering of this verse is from The Concordant Literal Version.
Gen 7:22 (CLV) Everyone which has the breath of the spirit of the living in his nostrils, of all that were in the drained area, dies.
In the King James version the words "breath of life" is inaccurate. The more accurate is from the Concordant Literal Version - ""breath of the spirit of the living".
Simply put, a living soul dies when breathing ceases.
(2) Some bible students do not fully appreciated that scripture tells us of a connection between blood and the soul. This is an important point regarding the soul. Verses that reveal that the soul of the living person (flesh) is said to be in the blood.
Lev 17:11 (KJV) For the life of the flesh is in the blood.
Or more accurately from the CLV:
Lev. 17:11 (CLV) for the soul of the flesh, it is in the blood...
Gen 9:4 (KJV) But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof...
Again, more accurately from the CLV:
Gen. 9:4 (CLV) Yea, only flesh with its soul, its blood....
Upon death, what happens to the soul? Is there such a thing as a dead soul? Yes and we can find verses to show this in both the Old Testament and New Testament. Unfortunately, the scholars who translated the original text into the English language could not bring themselves to be true to scripture and forced their belief in the immortality of the soul into the translations. Instead of translating dead soul (dead nephesh) they translated it as dead body, thus losing the real meaning.
Here are a few of a number of verses from the Old Testament where there is reference to a dead soul (nephesh):
Lev. 19:28 (CLV) You shall not put a laceration in your flesh for a deceased soul (nephesh)…
Lev. 21:1 (CLV) ….No one shall defile himself for a deceased soul (nephesh) among his kinsmen,
Num. 9:6 (CLV) And it came to be that some men who became unclean by touching a deceased soul (nephesh) of a human….
So when a living soul (person) dies that person becomes a dead soul. What happens to a dead soul? We already saw that a body (flesh) upon death decays and returns to dust. And the spirit returns to God who gave it. We will look at the outcome of a dead soul after we look at a few verses in the New Testament on this topic.
In the New Testament the word soul is translated from the Greek word psuche (G5590). Here are some verses among many from the New Testament where there is reference to a soul.
I Pet 1:9 (KJV) Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls (psuche).
Act 2:41 (KJV) Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls (psuche).
Upon death, what happens to the soul? We have already seen from scripture that there is no such thing as an immortal soul and the dead have no consciousness. Here is scripture about the death of Jesus Christ that is critical to understand what happens to the soul at death. What happened to Christ when He died? Did His soul continue to live? Or did His soul still exist when He was dead? He certainly died and had no breath. In fact if He did not really die, we have no Savior.
Acts 2:27 (KJV) Because thou wilt not leave my soul (psuche) in hell (hades), neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
A more accurate translation is:
Acts 2:27 (CLV) For Thou wilt not be forsaking my soul (psuche) in the unseen (hades), Nor wilt Thou be giving Thy Benign One to be acquainted with decay."
The dead Christ, His soul and body (which did not decay) was in the grave (the unseen or imperceptible) until the Father raised Him from the dead. To find out what hell really is go to this LINK and you will see proof that hell is simply the grave, also can be described as the "unseen" or "imperceptible".
Resurrection - Power of God
When you go a funeral service, how many times have you heard the preacher mention the resurrection of the dead? Seldom probably. Why is that? One reason why you hear so little about resurrection is because Christianity as a whole has made resurrection unnecessary and foolish, by representing people as going right on to the Lord when death occurs, and thereby entering into all the joys that are in store for them. If this were true, it would be unnecessary to have a resurrection.
The person who dies does not go to heaven. Neither does the person go to hell. He or she has not gone anywhere. Failure to recognize the facts concerning death makes resurrection unimportant. If the dead are alive enjoying the bliss of a better life without a body, what real need is there for a resurrection?
The soul has returned to the unseen, the spirit has returned to God, and the body will return to soil. But be not be mislead into thinking that the spirit which has returned to God is conscious. There is no scriptural basis to warrant saying that there is any consciousness, except when body and spirit are united, forming soul, which is sensation, or consciousness. Dead people are unconscious. They are not with the Lord. Only in resurrection, not in death shall anyone be with the Lord.
There are two resurrections. The first is the resurrection of the dead who are in Christ. If the person is Christ's, salvation comes to him in Christ's appearing.
1Th 4:16 (KJV) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
Additional information regarding the resurrections will be given in a future article.
Make no mistake. Death is an enemy. But it will be destroyed by God and only life will remain. Ultimately,no more sorrow, crying, pain or death.
1Cor. 15:26 (KJV) The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Rev 21:4 (KJV) And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
The spirit, the soul, and the person go to different places at death. The spirit returns to God (Eccl.l2:7).
The soul goes to Hades (not hell but the unseen) (Acts 2:27). The person is said to be in the grave (John 5:28). When our Lord Jesus Christ died His spirit went to God (Luke 23:46); His soul went to Hades (not hell but the unseen)(Acts 2:22-32); He, Himself, is said to have been in the tomb during the days He was dead (1 Cor.l5:3,4; Mat.l2:40)
Failure to understand and believe what the Scriptures teach about death lays a firm foundation for all kinds of speculation about the "after life" ideology. Many arguments have been put forward implying the immortality of the soul. If the dead are alive somewhere, communication with them is within the realm of the possible. If they are actually dead, communication with them is an impossibility. The result of these false teachings slanders God and dishonors the Lord Jesus Christ
Failure to grasp the truth concerning death strikes at the very heart of the true gospel. Incorrect views concerning death result in wrong views about how God deals with mankind, including the wicked in the future. There is no life during death but through Jesus Christ all will ultimately receive fullness of life, that is, immortality.
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