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The Bible Says . . .
1. What is death?
Death is the opposite of life. Let's take a look at what life is so we can better understand death.
"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." Gen. 2:7. See Job 33:4. Life is what happens when God combines a body and His supernatural spark of life. "Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust." Ps. 104:29. Death is what happens when the spark of life is extinguished, or removed from the body.
2. Where do the dead go, and what do they do there?
"He that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more. He shall return no more to his house," Job 7:9,10.
Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb." Job 21:32.
"If I wait, the grave is mine house:" Job 17:13.
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." Ps. 146:4.
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." Eccl. 9:5, 6.
"Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." Eccl. 9:10.
"The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence." Ps. 115:17.
"For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth." Isa. 38:18.
"For in death there is no remembrance of thee in the grave who shall give thee thanks?" Ps. 6:5.
Let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. For David is not ascended into the heavens:" Acts 2:29,34.
The Bible says that those who die go into the grave. They can't return to their houses They don't "think love hate, envy, work, or hope." Neither do they "celebrate, praise, remember, or thank the Lord." In fact, the most common descriptive term for death in the Bible is sleep.
"He saith unto them Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; . . . Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: . . . Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead." John 11:1-13.
Jesus, who has the keys of hell and death, calls death a sleep. The Bible calls death a sleep many times. See "The Sleep of Death" on page 9. The term sleep, in reference to death is a symbol of hope because sleep is not permanent. All who sleep in the grave are destined to wake someday.
"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." Dan 12:2
Marvel not at this: 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.
David said As for me I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake, with thy likeness." Ps. 17:15.
Job said, "0 that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, . . . All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee:" Job 14:13-15. See article 26, "Your Thought Questions Answered."
3. But doesn't the Bible teach that the soul is immortal and only the body dies?
Mortal means "subject to death," and immortal means "not subject to death." "The soul that sinneth it shall die." Ezek. 18:20.
"Shall mortal man be more just than God?" Job 4:17.
"the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality," 1 Tim. 6:15,16.
The Bible says souls die, man is subject to death, and God only has immortality. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and the phrase, are alike unknown to the entire Bible.
See article 16, "Additional Insights."
4. When will the righteous receive immortality?
"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 this mortal must put on immortality." 1 Cor. 15:51-53.
"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 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." 1 Thess. 4:16, 17.
"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." 1 Cor. 15:22, 23.
Scripture is plain that man is not inherently immortal, but the righteous will receive glorious immortal bodies when Christ returns. See article 6, "Life Everlasting."
5. Does what we believe about the dead really matter?
What we believe about the state of the dead vitally matters to the living, for the following five reasons:
1. The fact that the dead are sleeping in their graves offers supreme comfort to the living. Whether these loved ones died in a saved or lost condition, they are not suffering pain or grieving over the disappointments and trials of the living. All who sleep in Jesus are being safely kept until the golden hour of their resurrection, when Jesus comes. Thus their next waking experience will be to see and hear their Redeemer with all His holy angels coming to gather them into His kingdom. He will awaken them to receive their immortal bodies fashioned like His own glorious body. See Phil. 3:20, 21; 1 Cor. 15:50-57. Then all the godly who have ever lived or died will be reunited to enter the kingdom of heaven together as one glorified family. See Heb. 11:35-40; 1 Thess. 4:15-17.
2. The belief in the natural immortality of the soul is an attack on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Immortality is a supernatural gift of Christ's atoning sacrifice for lost sinners. If my soul is already immortal then I don't need Christ to save me from death, and Christ died in vain. See Rom. 3:23; 6:23.
3. If all immediately go to their reward at death, Christ doesn't need to come back to resurrect anyone.
4. It is a matter of who you believe. God says, "Thou shalt surely die." Gen. 2:17. Satan says, "Ye shall not surely die:" Gen. 3:4. Who are you going to believe and follow?
5. A correct understanding of man's state in death is our surest defense against Satan's deception of Spiritualism. See article 22, "Spiritualism."
6. When does hellfire burn?
At the end of the world. "As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world." Matt. 13:36-42, 49.
"And to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:" 2 Peter 2:9.
Notice, punishment comes at the end of the judgment, not at death as is popularly taught.
"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.
They are reserved in the grave for punishment until the return of Christ and His kingdom at the end of the millennium.
"The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years are finished. . . and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell [Greek, hades] were cast into the lake of fire." Rev. 20:5, 13, 14.
7. Where does hellfire burn?
On this earth. "And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." Rev. 20:9.
"Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner." Prov. 11:31.
'But the heavens and the earth which are now, . . . are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. . . . But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." 2 Peter 3:7,10.
Hellfire will burn the entire surface of the earth someday and destroy every trace of sin and sinners.
8. How long does hellfire burn?
Until the wicked are consumed. See "Annihilation of the Wicked" on page 28.
Seven reasons hell won't burn eternally:
1. Hell burns on the face of the earth, then this earth is recreated as the home of the saved. See Rev. 20:9; 2 Peter 3:12, 13.
2. God is just and fair, He punishes lost sinners in proportion to their evil deeds. See Deut. 32:4; Luke 12:47, 48; Rev. 22:12.
3. Man is not immortal. See Gen. 3:22-24; Ezek. 18:20.
4. God is love. You or I would not torture our children forever no matter how disobedient they had been. Are we more loving than God? See Jer. 31:3; Isa. 55:9.
5. God says the wages of sin is death, not eternal torture See Rom 6:23; Ezek 18:4
6. God plans to eradicate sin, not immortalize it. See 1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 20:14.
7. God plans to destroy the wicked and says so many times in the Bible. Ps. 21:9; Ps. 37:10, 20; Ps. 9:5, 6. See "Are the Wicked Indestructible" on page 28.
9. What is hell?
In the Bible the word "hell" is used 54 times and in only 12 cases does it refer to a place of burning.
In the Old Testament:
• The word "sheol" is used 31 times, and means the grave, a place of burial.
In the New Testament:
• The word "tartaroo," is used once and refers to a place of "darkness and incarceration" for the devil.
• The word "hades" is used 10 times and is equivalent to "sheol."
• The word "gehenna" is used 12 times and referred to a garbage disposal area outside Jerusalem where fire was kept burning to destroy refuse; maggots ate carcasses that the fires did not consume. The use of the word "gehenna" [the city dump] for hellfire plainly indicates that hellfire is to destroy and eradicate the refuse of sin in the universe, not to perpetuate it throughout eternity. God's promise is that destruction will come to a perpetual end, Ps. 9:6.
Scripture clearly describes the place of the dead. The word used for this purpose in the Old Testament is "sheol," and the corresponding word in the New Testament is "hades." They denote, as their use proves, a place of silence, secrecy, sleep, rest, darkness, corruption, and worms. They are names for the common receptacle of the dead, both righteous and wicked. The righteous dead are there; for at the resurrection they raise the victorious shout, "0 death, where is thy sting? 0 grave [Greek, hades], where is thy victory?" 1 Cor 15:55.
And the wicked dead are there; for at the resurrection to damnation, it is said that death and hell [Greek, hades] deliver them up. Rev. 20:13. That the "hades" of the New Testament is the "sheol" of the Old, is evident from Psalm 16, compared with Acts 2:27. Thus, Ps. 16:10 says: "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell" [Hebrew, sheol]; and the New Testament makes a direct quotation of this passage, and for sheol uses the word hades. Acts 2:27.
"Sheol" or "Hades" (the grave) is any physical location where the dead are buried. Ezek. 32:18-32.
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Created: 8/1/01 Updated: 1/14/04