26. Where are the Dead
Many people feel that when a person dies they will immediately go to heaven. This idea has been held by people since the earliest times of recorded history. Though this may seem to us to be the ideal, the Bible presents to us quite a different concept of death. The lesson below examines the Bible teaching about what happens to people when they die.
1. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY HAPPENS AT DEATH?
1WD Eccl. 12:7 At death the body becomes dust and the spirit returns to God. The word "spirit" is the Hebrew word ruwach, which is literally "air." This would obviously refer to the air we breathe, or the "breath of life" God gave us in the beginning.
2. WHAT BIBLE SAINT DID PETER SAY HAD NOT GONE TO HEAVEN?
2WD Acts 2:29, 34 On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples. Thousands gathered to see what had happened. The disciples preached in at least 16 different languages (the gift of tongues) and many repented. As one of Peter's arguments, that they needed to repent, he said that David had not yet gone to heaven.
3. WHEN WILL DAVID GO TO HEAVEN?
3WD Ps. 17:15 David believed that God would save him. But when did he expect to see this happen? "When I awake," he said. So evidently David expected, at death, that he would fall asleep. This is in perfect agreement with many of the Biblical writers, as we shall see.
4. WHEN WILL DAVID--AND ALL THE SAINTS--AWAKE?
4WD 1 Thess. 4:16, 17 David and all the saints who have died through all ages will be resurrected at the Second Coming of Jesus. At that time, BOTH the living, and the resurrected dead, will all go to heaven. But when will this happen? At the Second Advent.
5. UPON WHAT DOES LIFE AFTER DEATH DEPEND?
5WD 1 Cor. 15:16-18 Paul plainly reveals that all life after death depends upon the resurrection at the Second Coming of Jesus.
6. WHAT HAPPENS TO BOTH HUMANS AND ANIMALS WHEN THEY DIE?
6WD Eccl. 3:19, 20 Solomon points out that both humans and animals return to dust when they die.
7. WHAT HAPPENS TO THE THOUGHTS OF HUMANS WHEN THEY DIE?
7WD Ps. 146:3, 4 At death the breath departs and man becomes dust. His thoughts (NIV = "plans") perish. In Gen. 2:7 when God created man, He united the dust of the ground with the breath of life. When He did this, man became a "living soul (NIV being)." The "soul" of Gen. 2 corresponds to "thoughts" of Ps. 146. This, then describes the person, his conscious self. At death, this ceases to exist.
8. WHAT IS THE SPIRIT THAT RETURNS TO GOD AT DEATH?
8WD Job 27:3 The "spirit" that leaves the body at death (Eccl. 12:7) and the "spirit [breath] in my nostrils" (Job. 27:3) BOTH are translated from Hebrew word ruwach.
9. HOW DOES THE PSALMIST DESCRIBE DEATH?
9WD Ps. 115:17 All those in heaven praise God (Rev. 5:13). But the psalmist tells us that the dead are silent. The Bible calls death a sleep 54 times. When a person is asleep, he cannot praise the Lord. Cf. Eccl. 9:10; Isa. 38:18, 19; Ps. 6:5.
10. IN WHAT STATE DO THE DEAD REMAIN--UNTIL THE RESURRECTION?
10WD Eccl. 9:5, 6 When a person is dead he doesn't know anything. He has no further contact with the living. When things happen to those he knows and loves, he doesn't know about it. He sleepsuntil the resurrection. cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18.
NOTE: In Gen. 2:7 "breath"=Heb. nishma; in Isa. 2:22 "breath . . . in my nostrils"= Heb. nishma; in Job 27:3 "spirit . . . in my nostrils" and in Eccl. 12:7 "spirit"= Heb. ruwach. Evidently "spirit" (ruwach) and "breath" (nishma) refer to the breath of life given by God at the beginning, and which returns to God when we die.
Many people feel that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is an accurate description of what happens after death. But consider the following study into the subject:
Parable of The Rich Man And Lazarus
A parable is a story to illustrate a point. The story itself may or may not be true. Parables cannot always be taken literally (cf. Judges 9:8-15).
Read Luke 16:19-31. This parable cannot be accepted literally because:
Bodies of the dead have been exhumed after having been dead for months. It is a well-known fact that the eyes, tongue, and lips are still part of the body even then; hence the absurdity of taking the parable literally is further seen. The "eyes, tongue, and lips" are in the grave, not in hell-fire.
In this parable, Christ was simply using a common belief of the day to illustrate the truth of Luke 16:31: if we refuse to believe the Bible, we wouldn’t believe if one were to rise from the dead and tell us its message. And if we don’t believe, there is no hope for us.
[It's interesting to note that some time later, after Jesus raised the real life Lazarus from the tomb, the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him too. Why? Because of his resurrection many people were believing in Jesus whom they wanted to kill. These leaders eventually got the Romans to crucify Jesus; but there is no record of any harm coming to Lazarus. (John 12:9, 10).]