State of the Dead

John 11:11-14

These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”
Jesus compares death to sleep. The Bible compares death to sleep over 50 times.

1 Thessalonians 4 15,16

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Those asleep in Jesus rise at His second coming.

John 5:28,29

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
There are two resurrections (one for the purpose of bestowing life and one for the condemnation of death).

Genesis 2:7

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. (KJV)
God created man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul. God did not put a soul into man.

Ecclesiastes 12:7

Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
The body returns to the dust and the spirit (breath—or the life-giving power of God) returns to God. The Bible does not say the soul returns to God, but the spirit.

Job 27:3

As long as my breath is in me, and the breath of God in my nostrils.
The spirit is the same as God’s breath of life or His power.

Psalm 146:3,4

Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish.
When the breath or spirit returns to God, the thoughts perish.

1 Timothy 6:15,16

…He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who along has immortality….
Human beings do not have immortality, only God does.

Romans 2:6,7

[God] “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality.
We seek for immortality. The Bible uses the word soul 1600 times, but never once uses immortal soul.

1 Corinthians 15:51-54

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
We receive immortality when Jesus comes again.

Psalm 115:17

The dead do not praise the Lord, nor any who go down into silence.
The dead do not praise God.

Acts 2:34

“For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’
David did not ascend to heaven at death, but awaited the coming of Jesus and the first resurrection.

Psalm 6:5

For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give You thanks?
In the grave there is no remembrance of God.

Ecclesiastes 9:5

For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.
The dead do not know anything.

Job 19:25,26

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God.
The righteous will be resurrected to see God at the Last day.

Ezekiel 18:4

Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die.
The soul (person) who sins will die!

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The wages of sin is death. Death is the absence of life. The gift of God is eternal life.

2 Timothy 4:7,8

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
The apostle Paul awaited the coming of the Lord for his final reward.

Revelation 22:12

And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
When Jesus comes His reward of eternal life will be with Him.

Commonly Asked Questions Regarding Death

What does Paul mean by the expression “absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6,8)?
In 2 Corinthians 5:1-11, Paul contrasts the earthly perishable body subject to sickness, diseases, and death with the glorious, eternal, immortal body which God has prepared for us in the heavens. The expression “absent from the body” means absent from the mortal body with its earthly infirmities. The expression “present with the Lord,” means present in the glorious immortal body received at Jesus’ second coming. 2 Corinthians 5:4 gives us a clue when the apostle longs for “mortality to be swallowed up by life.” These words echo the words Paul wrote earlier in 1 Corinthians 15:51-54, “we shall put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality.” In 2 Corinthians 5 as well as 1 Corinthians 15, Paul longs for the immortality bestowed at Jesus’ second coming (See also 2 Timothy 4:6-8).
If the dead are asleep, how could the Witch of Endor bring the prophet Samuel back from the dead to speak to King Saul (1 Samuel 28:15)?
There are three important facts to observe about the story:
1. God’s clear command through the entire Old Testament period was that spiritualists be driven out of the land of Israel and be put to death. The word of God unmasks all spiritualism as the work of demonic, satanic forces (see Deuteronomy 18:10-15, Isaiah 47:13,14).
2. Saul had already rejected the prophet Samuel’s counsel. He had inquired of God and received no answer (1 Samuel 28:6). The specific reason Saul sought out the Witch of Endor was because he received no answer from the Lord. What Saul saw was not Samuel. Notice carefully the Bible declares the witch saw “gods ascending out of the earth” verse 13, and Saul “perceived” he saw Samuel (1 Samuel 28:14). Since the “dead know not anything” (Ecclesiastes 9:5), Satan masquerades as the form of dead loved ones imitating both their forms and voices (Revelation 16:14).
3. The ultimate result of Saul’s visit to the Witch of Endor was not repentance, confession of sin and life but despair, discouragement and death (1 Samuel 28:16,20,21, 31:3,4,9,10). Deceived by Satan, he surrendered his soul to demons.
Doesn’t Paul imply that an individual goes directly to heaven at death by stating that he “desires to depart and be with Christ” and “death is gain” (Philippians 1:21,23)?
The Bible does not contradict itself. Paul doesn’t state one thing in one place and another someplace else. The apostle is clear. At the second coming of Jesus, the righteous dead are resurrected to receive their eternal reward (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54). In Philippians 3:20,21 the apostle points out that “our citizenship is in heaven from whence also we look for the Savior the Lord Jesus Crhist who shall change our vile body that it might be fashioned like His glorious body.” Again his desire is the second coming of our Lord. Writing to his friend, Timothy, the apostle declares from this same Roman prison, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7,8). Paul longed for the return of Jesus when he would see his Lord face to face and be ushered into eternity. Yes, death is gain! For the apostle it meant freedom from the pain of a weary body, deliverance from the bondage of a Roman prison, and security from the temptation of Satan. To Paul, death was a sleep with no passage of time. The next event after closing his eyes in the sleep of death was “to depart and be with Christ.” Since there is no conscious passage of time from death to the second coming, for Paul, death meant closing his eyes in sleep and waking up to be with his Lord.
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man goes immediately to hell and Lazarus to heaven. How do you explain this parable if the dead are sleeping (Luke 16:19-31)?
It’s important to notice this is a parable. It is the fifth in a series of parables (the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost boy [Luke 15], and the unjust steward [Luke 16:1-11]). Parables are designed to teach great moral principles. Each feature of the parable is not to be taken literally. For example, we do not all have wool and four feet like sheep. We are not metal like a silver coin. The question in each parable is what are the great moral lessons. We get in deep trouble if we attempt to take each detail of the parable literally rather than seek the lesson Jesus is trying to teach. Let’s assume that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a literal story. Do people actually have conversations between heaven and hell? Can those in heaven see people burning in hell? Can they hear their screams? Do souls actually have fingers and tongues as described in the parable? Abraham must have a large bosom to contain all the individuals who go there. To take the parable literally is to create huge problems. Heaven would be a terrible place if we beheld the constant, ever-present suffering of our friends and family. Why did Jesus use this story? What lesson was He trying to teach? The Jews had a common story describing death as passing through a valley of darkness picturing salvation as fleeing to the security of Abraham’s bosom and eternal loss going to destruction. Jesus used this story to teach three lessons. First, the Jews believed riches were a sign of God’s favor and poverty a sign of His displeasure. In the story, the rich man who the Jews thought was blessed of God ends up in hell and the poor man in heaven. Jesus reversed the expected outcome.
1. Riches gained by greed, dishonesty or oppressing the poor are not a sign of Gods favor at all.
2. The parable describes a great gulf fixed, Jesus clearly communicated that there is no second chance after death. The decision made in life determines our eternal destiny.
3. Jesus points out that if the Pharisees rejected the clear teachings of God’s word regarding salvation, they would also reject such a mighty, supernatural spectacular miracle as one rising from the dead. The Jews were always asking Jesus for a sign. He gave them the greatest sign. A short while later, He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:11-14,43,44). As the result, the Jews became threatened and attempted to kill Lazarus (John 12:10). They also became so angry at Jesus—they were so deceived that they plotted to dstroy Jesus as well. They had read the Bible with a veil over their eyes (2 Corinthians 3:14-16). They had failed to understand that “all the scriptures” testify of Jesus (John 5:39). When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, they did not believe. His words in Luke 16:31 were prophetic: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” What an appeal! What an urgent warning! Scripture is our final authority. Jesus used a popular Jewish story to illustrate this powerful truth, thus all the Bible harmonizes beautifully.
Is the soul immortal?
The Bible uses the word “soul” approximately 1600 times and never once uses the expression “immortal soul.” The word mortal means subject to death. The word immortal means not subject to death. The Bible expressly states “The soul that sinneth it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Jesus declared that both the body and the soul could be destroyed in hell (Matthew 10:28). Immortality is an attribute of Divinity. Only God is naturally immortal (1 Timothy 6:15,16). Satan’s first lie in the Garden of Eden was regarding death. The evil one stated that the effect of disobedience was not death but life. He said, “you shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). God’s word says, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death is the absence of life. Sin brings forth not eternal life in hell, but total, absolute, banishment from the presence of God by annihilation. The Bible is clear. Man is mortal (Job 4:17). We seek for immortality (Romans 2:7). The righteous receive immortality as a gift from our Lord at His second coming (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). Sinners receive their eternal reward as well. “Sin when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:15). The choice then is between eternal life and eternal death.
What does Peter mean when he talks about Christ preaching to the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19)?
To understand this text it is necessary to read the entire passage (1 Peter 3:18-22). Verse 18 reveals that Jesus the divine Son of God who was put to death for our sins was “made alive” through the power of the Holy Spirit. Verse 19 makes a transition and declares that it was by this same Holy Spirit that Christ spoke to the spirits in prison. When did he preach to those spirits in prison? Who are the spirits in prison? Verse 20 tells us! In the days of Noah, the hearts of men and women were only evil continually. They were in bondage to evil spirits. The same Holy Spirit, which raised Jesus from literal death appealed to men and women possessed by evil spirits who were spiritually dead in the days of Noah to bring them to spiritual life. The Spirit of Christ spoke through the prophet preaching the gospel to men and women trapped in spiritual prisons (1 Peter 1:10-12). The mighty power of the Spirit opens the prison of sin so the captives go free (Isaiah 61:1). 1 Peter 3:21 makes the illustration even clearer. The experience of the flood is likened to baptism. Just as the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from death to life, just as the Holy Spirit led Noah’s family into the ark, preserving them from death and leading them to life, so the Holy Spirit works awakening spiritual life, convicting men and women of sin, providing power for a changed life and leading them through the waters of baptism. In Noah’s day, the Spirit led men and women from death to life. Today the Spirit delivers men and women from Spiritual prisons leading them from death to life—all because of the mighty power of the resurrected Christ.
What does the Bible teach about re-incarnation?
Re-incarnation is based upon two premises, neither of which are true. First: human beings purify themselves through their own righteous acts. Second: there is an immortal soul which survives bodily death. The Bible teaches that salvation is through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 3:24-31). Death is a sleep until the glorious resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:15,16, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54). There is no second chance after death (Hebrews 9:27). Now is the time for salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).