Is There Death After Life?
It is commonly believed that when one dies, the soul or you might say the conscious part of a human being continues to be conscious. Is that what the Bible teaches?
In Genesis 2:7 it says, "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." In Genesis 2:16-17 it says, "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 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." In Genesis 3 there is recorded a conversation between the "serpent" who was Satan and Eve. Eve told the serpent that God had told them if they ate the fruit of that tree or even touched it, they would die. In Genesis 3:4 the serpent through which Satan spoke told Eve "ye shall not surely die."
Man was made from "dust" and there was no life in that dust until God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" and only after that did he become a conscious, "living soul." Death is commonly thought to be the opposite of life. How is it that God can say man will "die" but that won't really happen; he will instead continue to be a conscious "living soul" relegated to either paradise or hell?
Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 says:
"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 anything that is done under the sun."
Ecclesiastes 9:10 says:
"Whatsoever 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."
The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 38:18-19 recorded "writing" by Hezekiah done after he had been miraculously healed of a fatal illness. It says:
"For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee; they that go down to the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth."
Note that grave, pit and death are all defined in this Scripture as being synonyms. It is also saying that one who has died can't praise God. If I were living and conscious in Paradise immediately after my death, I would certainly be praising God and falling on my knees to worship Him.
Another Scripture found in Psalms 146:3-4 says:
"Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." In Genesis 2:7 it says that God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." This text says that at death that "breath" leaves man and his thoughts cease.
In John 11 there is recorded the story of Lazarus that was resurrected by Jesus after he had been "dead" for four days. The whole chapter is well worth reading but verses 11-14 are quoted below..
"These things said he: and after that 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 thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead."
Jesus called Lazarus' death a sleep. Also read Matthew 1:1 through Revelation 22:21 and see if there is ANY place in the New Testament where Lazarus described ANYTHING in Paradise. I think if Lazarus had been in Paradise for four days he would be unhappy about returning to earth and would have said something notable enough to have been recorded in the Holy Scriptures.
In Matthew 22:23-33 there is recorded a story of some learned men who, as it says in Matthew 22:15, came to "entangle him in his talk. " Those verses say:
"The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine."
There are three things that can be taken from that passage. It is "doctrine" spoken by Jesus Christ. There will be a "resurrection" and the only way God could be considered the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is because there will be a resurrection. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still in the grave sleeping and the only way God could be considered their God was because they would come back to life at the resurrection. It makes no sense to have a resurrection if, when they die, the righteous dead are already enjoying Paradise.
The apostle Paul speaks to us in Acts 2:29, 34-35 as follows:
"Men and brethren, 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: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool."
The story of the thief on the cross next to Jesus found in Luke 23:43 is frequently quoted to prove that the dead go immediately to heaven or to hell. It reads as follows:
"And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."
The meaning could depend on whether the comma comes after "thee" or comes after "To day." Fortunately the question of where the comma should go is cleared up nicely in John 20:17. This text tells of the meeting of Mary Magdalene shortly after the resurrection of Jesus.
"Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend to my father, and your father; and to my God and, your God."
The thief could not have been "with" Jesus in Paradise on the day those words were spoken as Jesus was laid that same day in the grave and rested there over the Sabbath. Jesus also didn't ascend to his father in Paradise until after his resurrection which is another indication that the thief didn't meet him in Paradise that same day.
The account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:23-31 is frequently referenced to show the conscious state of the dead. It is claimed this account isn't a parable. Part of the story in Luke 16:22-25 says:
"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou are tormented."
To know that this is a parable, again the above discussion on Matthew 22:23-33. In those verses Jesus clearly teaches that Abraham will not be conscious and capable of talking to anyone until after the resurrection.
The Bible teaches there will be a resurrection and at that time "the dead in Christ" which have been "asleep" will rise. It also teaches that there will be some still alive at the time of the resurrection and that both of those groups will be "caught up together" to meet our Lord.
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, 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 reason 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, and 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."
Another text frequently used to "prove" the dead are conscious is 2 Corinthians 5:8. It says:
"We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."
It is helpful to read the preceding verses to understand the context of the verse.
"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."
For an enlightening text to clarify 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 we'll go to 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.
"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."
Notice several things. Death is described as a sleep. Paul says we must be changed which is also what he is talking about in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8. He also describes the sounding of the trumpet which was also mentioned as noted above in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul is describing the change from our current mortal body to our immortal body we will receive at the coming of Jesus Christ.
There is nothing in the infallible King James Bible that supports the doctrine of immediately going to Paradise, Heaven or Hell upon death. The dead in Christ will be raised at His second coming when the trumpet sounds. As noted in Revelation 1:7, "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen." There is no rapture where people will suddenly disappear without any visible return of Jesus Christ. EVERY eye of those alive will see him. The dead in Christ will be raised at His second coming and not before.
© Martin J. Lohne 2018.