What Happens at Death?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Happens at Death?

By Larry R. Lasiter

1996

Just What Really Happens When One Dies?

The Ancients Believed their Immortal Souls Were Carried Away

Does the Holy Bible Give Us the Answer to this Question?

The ancient Greeks believed that the soul of the deceased would be carried by the river Styx to the place of the spirit world.

Reincarnation is a common belief in many countries of the East. In this concept, one may return to the land of the living as almost any creature, depending upon how he or she had lived their previous life. The goal in this concept is to eventually reach the blissful state of nirvana.

In the ancient religion of the children of Israel, the dead were believed to remain in the grave; but there was hope that God, the Eternal One, would ultimately rescue them through the Messiah. Notice Daniel 12:2, -"And many of those who SLEEP in the dust of the ground will awake."

There is little indication in the Scriptures that the Israelites believed in the concept of an immortal soul. Notice what King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:19-20, -"For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts IS THE SAME. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. ALL GO TO THE SAME PLACE. All came from dust and all return to the dust."

Indeed, the Prophet Ezekiel said the SOUL that sins shall DIE.(Chapter 18:4,18) It is clear that the Israelites did not believe that they continued living in another realm of existence when they died.

Since the New Testament church was anchored solidly in the Old Testament Scriptures as magnified by Jesus; how is it that this idea of the immortality of the soul came into Christianity?

Well, there is no doubt that there was heavy influence from the culture in which they lived. The Jewish converts to Christianity embraced the belief that the Messiah had made a way for the departed to be resurrected from the grave. This was easy for them because there was no belief in the immortality of the soul in their culture.

In sharp contrast, the Gentile converts had been reared in cultures that believed deeply in the immortality of man's soul. By the time of Jesus, this part of the world had been dominated and ruled by Pagan nations for over 600 years. Babylon, Medo-Persian empire, Greece, and by this time Rome.

Notice Paul's words concerning the Roman culture, -"For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1:21-22)

The dominate culture prior to Roman was Greek. It is well documented how the Greek culture thrived on human philosophy. So it is obvious that the cultural environment of the new Gentile converts had given them many things to unlearn.

As Christians, we must learn to base our beliefs on the very words of the Creator Himself as found in the Holy Scriptures. The Bible reveals that human beings possess something called the "spirit of man". This spirit returns to God at death, but it is not immortal, or an immortal soul. This spirit bonds with the human brain in man, giving him a mind. This makes man like God and far superior to the animals around him. Notice Job 32:8, -"But it is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding."

Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in his book The Mystery of the Ages, -"Many passages of Scripture show that there is a spirit IN man. Spirit is not matter, and man is matter. To distinguish it from God's holy spirit, I designate it as the human spirit. Nevertheless, it is spirit and not matter. This human spirit imparts the power of intellect to the human physical brain. The spirit cannot see, hear, taste, smell or feel. The brain sees through the eye, hears through the ear, etc. The human spirit cannot of itself think. The physical brain thinks. What, then, is the function of this human spirit? It is not a soul. But, (1) it imparts the power of intellect, of thinking, and of mind power to the human brain; and (2) it is the very means God has instilled, making possible a personal relationship between human man and divine God."(page 102)

The word "soul" is translated from the Hebrew word "nephesh", which simply means "breathing animal." Three times in the first chapter of Genesis animals are called "nephesh." The English translators used the English word "creature" when "nephesh" referred to animals, but in Chapter 2:7 they translated "nephesh" into the English word "soul." Notice verse 7, -"Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man BECAME a living soul."

It was the breath of life that caused man to become a living soul. This is quite distinct from the spirit in man. Man is a LIVING SOUL that possesses the SPIRIT OF MAN. As a living soul, man will ultimately die and return to dust, but the spirit of man, not being formed from the dust of the ground but from the breath of God. Returns to God when the soul dies. Therefore, the soul is physical, composed of matter, and can die just as God said through the Prophet Ezekiel in Chapter 18.

Although the spirit of man leaves the soul when the breath of life does, it possesses no consciousness. NoticeEcclesiastes (:5, -"For the living know they will die; but the DEAD DO NOT KNOW ANYTHING, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten."

Not notice what Solomon said about death and the spirit of man, Ecclesiastes 12:6-7, -"Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitch by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed; then the dust will return to the earth AS IT WAS, and the SPIRIT (of man) WILL RETURN TO GOD WHO GAVE IT."

Does this picture an event where a newly deceased is departing his body as an immortal soul and going to meet his Maker as a conscious being? It does show, that man is mortal, and must hope in the resurrection from the dead. Have you ever wondered why there would be a resurrection from the dead if people were already living in heaven or hell? If man is an immortal being in a flesh body, who is in the grave awaiting resurrection to life? The resurrection pictures life from death; if man is already immortal how could he pass from death to life; wouldn't it be impossible for him to die at all?

The holy Scriptures make it abundantly clear that the soul possesses no thought or memory at death. NoticePsalms 6:4-5, -"Return, O Lord, rescue my soul; Save me because of Thy lovingkindness. For there is NO MENTION OF THEE IN DEATH. In Sheol (Heb. "grave") who will give Thee thanks?"

David, a man after God's own heart says he could not give thanks to God anymore if God allowed him to die. You see, David knew that death was as sleep in God's eyes, and he would have to trust that God would not forsake him in the grave forever. David hoped in the resurrection of the dead.

Jesus spoke of death as sleep, notice John 11:11-14, -"Our friend Lazarus has fallen ASLEEP; but I go, that I may AWAKEN HIM OUT OF SLEEP. The disciples therefore said to Him, "Lord, if he has FALLEN ASLEEP, he will recover." Now Jesus had spoken of his DEATH; but they thought that He was speaking of LITERAL SLEEP. Then Jesus therefore said to them plainly, "Lazarus is DEAD."

In Verse 21 Martha told Jesus that if He had gotten there sooner her brother Lazarus would still be alive. She had faith that Jesus would have healed him had He gotten there before he died. In verse 23 Jesus told her that Lazarus would rise again. Martha responded by acknowledging her belief that he would rise at the resurrection. This however did not keep her from missing him now. Then notice what Jesus said to her, -"I AM the RESURRECTION and the LIFE; he that believes in Me shall LIVE even if he DIES." (Verse 25) Martha had faith that Jesus had the power to heal her brother BEFORE HE DIED, but not the faith and understanding that the power of the resurrection was standing in front of her. Jesus then called Lazarus from death to life saying,"Lazarus come forth, I command you, come forth." What a joyous moment!

There are two words often translated "HELL" that should be rendered "GRAVE." The Hebrew "Sheol" and the Greek "Hades." The burning hell spoken of in the Scriptures is from the Greek "Gehenna", but both sheol andhades refer to the grave.

Jesus said He would establish His church and the gates of HELL would not prevail over it. The Greek word for "church" is "ekklesia", which means "called out ones." They are people that God has called out of this world and its ways. They are sanctified (set-apart) by TRUTH and have the indwelling of the holy spirit, which is the very mind and power of the Eternal God. They are called the "very elect" that will not be deceived and have the promise of eternal life. They are true Christians. "Gates of Hell", should be translated "Gates of the GRAVE" because the Greek "hades" rendered "hell" here really refers the grave.

So when we put all this together correctly, rightly dividing the Word (2 Tim 2:15), it shows us that the grave has gates but that Jesus possesses the keys to those gates. And all who repent of practicing sin, are baptized and receive the gift of the holy spirit are promised eternal life in the kingdom of God. But God the Father had to be willing to give His only Son to open those gates. To make it possible for man to pass from death to life. And Jesus had to be willing to lay down His precious, sinless life for us in order to make a way for man.

Now, lets notice the order of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, Verse 20 says that Jesus is the first to be raised of those WHO ARE ASLEEP. Verse 51 says that not all will "SLEEP", some will be changed from flesh to spirit in a "twinkling of an eye." These are true, spirit-filled Christians that are alive at the return of Jesus. In Verse 52 we find that the dead in Christ will be raised first and will have glorious spirit bodies. Not notice Verses 54-57, -"DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY. O death, where is your victory? Where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

We may read through the Holy Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, but we will find very little to substantiate the concept of the immortal soul. What we will find is ample reasons to conclude that the dead are ASLEEP in the GRAVE waiting to hear those wonderful, gracious words that Lazarus heard, -"Come forth, I command you, come forth."

At that very moment, the dead in Christ will bolt from their graves in power and might, and with a glorious spirit body. What an exciting future awaits the faithful, true Christian!

If you have a ear to hear and are willing to repent of your old sinful ways to follow Christ, you too can be a part of the first resurrection, the better resurrection, the AWAKENING from the SLEEP of DEATH to LIFE, eternal. I hope to see you there.

 

 

 

Points of Truth Ministries