Ever since man was expelled from the garden of Eden, there has been speculation as to what happens after someone dies. Death is a fearful enemy visiting everyone, without respect of person. It separates loved ones and crushes the greatest ambitions. Is there anything after death? Many different theories have been proposed and handed down from generation to generation until tradition gives it acceptance as truth. These various theories differ widely but the majority of them have one point in common: that man possesses an immortal soul. It is this belief, together with many other teachings based on the same assumption, that gives spiritualism such a strong following.
Do people continue to live in another form on earth after they die? Do they go to some other place in the universe? Can we know the truth about our uncertain future or is death the end? Fanciful as many theories may sound, what is the reality? One is just as imaginative as the next, with no certainty or solid foundation for believing any of them. Let us investigate this subject from the word of the living God. To begin with, we will first look at how the first man was created.
What Is Man?
In Lesson Number Three we learned that man was created in the image of God and that he was created perfect in every detail. Now let us notice the steps in his creation and the result.
“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.” Genesis 2:7.
Man is composed of the same elements which are found in the earth. This is a scientific fact. But when God formed the human body, although perfect in every aspect, it was not yet complete, one element was missing – life. God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, which made man a living soul. This, then, is the equation of man:
Dust of the ground + Breath of Life = Living Soul
Dust of the ground – Breath of Life = Dead Soul
Living Soul – Breath of Life = Dust of the ground
Man therefore, is a soul, and he does not, as many believe, possess a soul. This truth is illustrated in Psalm 104:29. “Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.”
God is the Giver and the Sustainer of all life. Jesus, our Creator, said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6.
For years scientists have endeavored to produce life, but in vain. The unbroken law of nature is that life can come only from life. Never can life originate from dead matter.
Can A Soul Die?
Now that we understand that a person is a soul, we may question if it is possible for a soul to die?
“The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:20.
Most certainly “Yes”, according to the word of God. This brings up a number of questions regarding the theory of the soul living on after death. As we learned in Lesson Four, it was not God’s will that people should ever die, but that all would have eternal life while they obeyed God’s command: “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.” Genesis 2:17.
Therefore, when Adam and Eve broke the commandment of God, they sinned (1 John 3:4) and the penalty for sin is nothing less than death.
“For the wages of sin is death;” Romans 6:23.
However we find today that the vast majority of people believe that people have an immortal soul, and that when the body dies, the soul continues to live forever. Where and when did this teaching originate?
“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.” Genesis 3:1-4.
“Ye shall not surely die” was the first sermon ever preached on the immortality of the soul. God said, “thou shalt surely die,” while Satan said, “Ye shall not surely die.” He also said they would be as gods (immortal beings) if they would eat of the forbidden fruit. (Genesis 3:4).
Christ later said to the unbelieving Jews in regard to their relationship to Satan: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.” John 8:44.
The definition of the work “to die” is given in the Oxford Dictionary as “cease to live”. This illustrates what God said, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7.
Are People Conscious in Death
Does a person’s spirit wander about or go to a place of punishment or bliss? The Lord is very clear on this point.
“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.â€ Ecclesiastes 9:5,6.
The dead, as we read here, know nothing. Their breath of life has returned to God, and their body disintegrates in the grave.
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Ecclesiastes 9:10.
Job writes about the condition of man in the grave: “His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them.” Job 14:21.
Is death therefore the end of person? No. God does not leave us without hope. Another state of existence must come after the grave, for death is called “a sleep”. Sleep is a condition from which one awakens to consciousness again.
“So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heaven be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.” Job 14:12-15.
Jesus also called death a sleep when referring to Lazarus, His friend, who had been dead for four days.
“He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they though that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” John 11:11-14.
God’s plan is that the day will come when there will be an awakening: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2.
When Will Those Who Sleep In Their Graves Awake?
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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:” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16.
Yes, dear friend, death cannot hold the children of God forever. Just as Jesus died and rose from the dead, so Christ, at His return, will raise those who have had their sins forgiven, and have died believing in Him.
Job spoke of this glad event in no uncertain words: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another, though my reins be consumed within me.” Job 19:25-27.
God knows every part of us. Even the hairs of our head are numbered (Matthew 10:30). David declares: “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:15,16.
Our Creator is acquainted with our very substance. He possesses an unerring record of each individual. Therefore He is able to re-create men exactly as they were at the moment of their death. He has our formula!
All Are Subjects of Death And The Resurrection
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23. We are all under the condemnation of death, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:20. But this is the first death, the death of sleep.
In Lesson Number Five we learned how Christ, the Son of God, was willing to die in our stead that we might have life. Eternal life, therefore, is the gift of God to those who by faith accept Christâ€™s sacrifice on the cross for their sins.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23.
Immortality is an attribute of God alone: “the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality.” 1 Timothy 6:15,16.
Although the body perishes, we have the promise and hope of the resurrection of the righteous to eternal life.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
According to the dictionary “perish” means “to suffer destruction, to lose life” or in other words, “to cease to exist”. All the dead, good or bad, will one day be resurrected.
“Marvel not at his: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28, 29.
The wicked are resurrected in order to receive the reward of their life of sin, which is called: “the second death” (Revelation 20:14 and 21:8).
According to John 3:16, the righteous shall receive everlasting life, “But the wicked shall perish” Psalm 37:20.
When Will The Righteous Receive Immortality?
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.
After the resurrection, the righteous will receive the promised gift of God – immortality. This great event takes place at the return of Jesus, as King of kings and Lord of lords.
After the saved have been made immortal, a new life commences.
“Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:43.
It will be a life of full and complete happiness, unmingled with sorrow, sadness and the fear of death: “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth; for the LORD hath spoken it.” Isaiah 25:8.
Dear reader, will you not resolve today, to be among “them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:”? Romans 2:7.