What Happens to US When We Die?

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True Bible Teaching - About You and God and Your Hope of Salvation

What Happens to US When We Die?

WHAT HAPPENS TO US WHEN WE DIE?

diedie1The constantly repeated message of the Gospel is the way to eternal life is through the work of Christ. Those obedient to God's commands will spend immortality in a state of perfection ~ the reward for righteousness. This being the only immortality of which the Bible speaks, it follows that the conscious eternal suffering for wrongdoing is without Biblical support.

Immortality Conditional

Immortality (living forever) is conditional, and is not something which we naturally possess, as the following passages prove:

  • "Christ has … brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:10; 1 John 1:2).
  • "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life (inherent) in you. Whoever eats My flesh … has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:53-54) - to give him this "eternal life". Christ's reasoning throughout John chapter 6 is that He is the "bread of life", and that only through correct response to him, is there immortality (John 6:47, 50, 51, 57, 58).
  • "God hath given to us (believers) eternal life, and this life is in his Son" (1 John 5:11). There can be no hope of immortality for those not "in Christ". Only through Christ has immortality been made possible; He is the "the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (Hebrews 5:9, Acts 3:15 A.V. mg.). Therefore immortality for men came through the work of Christ.
  • The true believer seeks for immortality, and will be rewarded by the gift of eternal life - something he does not naturally possess (Rom. 2:7; 6:23; John 10:28). Our mortal body "must put on immortality" at the return of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:53); thus immortality is something promised, not now possessed (1 John 2:25).
  • God alone has inherent immortality (1 Timothy 6:16).

What is the Soul?

In the light of the foregoing it ought to be inconceivable that man has an 'immortal soul'. The Hebrew 'Nephesh' and Greek 'Psuche', which are translated 'soul' in the Bible are also translated as: body, breath, creature, heart, mind, person, himself. The 'soul' therefore refers to the person, body or self.

Man & Beast

There is no difference between man and animals in our fundamental nature and death:

  • "For what happens to the sons of men also happens to beasts: one thing befalls them (note the double emphasis): as one dies, so dies the other … man has no advantage over beasts … All (i.e. man and animals) go to one place (the grave): all are from the dust, and all return to dust" (Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20).

Death of the Soul

A very basic fact is that all "living creatures" eventually die. About a third of the words translated 'soul', are associated with the death and destruction of the soul. This shows that the soul cannot be something which is immortal. For example:

  • "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4).
  • God can destroy the soul. "fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body" (Matthew 10:28 See also Ezekiel 22:27; Proverbs 6:32; Leviticus 23:30).
  • Frequently the Law commanded that any "soul" which disobeyed certain laws should be killed (e.g. Numbers 15:27-31).
  • Christ "poured out his soul unto death" (Isaiah 53:12) so that his "soul" or life, was made "an offering for sin" (Isaiah 53:10).

That the 'soul' refers to the person or body rather than some immortal spark within us is shown by the majority of verses where the word occurs. Some examples:

  • "The blood of the souls" (Jeremiah 2:34)
  • "if a soul sin ... if a soul touch any unclean thing ... if a soul swear" (Leviticus 5:1-4 A.V. See also Psalm 103:1, 2, 5)
  • "For whoever desires to save his life (soul) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (soul) for My sake … shall save it." (Mark 8:35)

This is proof that the soul does not refer to any spiritual element within man; here, 'soul' just means one's physical life.

The Spirit Of Man

The Hebrew ('Ruach') and Greek ('Pneuma') words for 'spirit' are also translated in the following ways: life, spirit, mind, wind, breath.

God uses His spirit to preserve the natural creation. The spirit of God within man is therefore the life force within him, as these verses demonstrate:

  • "The body without the spirit is dead" (James 2:26).
  • God "breathed into his (Adam's) nostrils the breath (spirit) of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7).

The spirit of life is given to us at birth, and remains as long as our body is alive.

The Removal of God's Spirit

When God's spirit is withdrawn from anything, it immediately perishes. If God "should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust" (Job 34:14-15).

dieWhen God takes away His spirit from us at death, not only does our body die, but our entire consciousness ceases. "Do not put your trust in princes … His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish" (Psalm 146:3-4).

At death, "the dust will return to the earth as it was; and the spirit will return to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7). die2When we die we 'breathe our last' in the sense that God's spirit within us departs from us. That spirit is absorbed into God's spirit which is all around us; so at death "the spirit will return to God."

Death Is Unconsciousness

The Bible makes it clear that we have no consciousness during the death state:

  • "(Man's) spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish" (Psalm 146:4).
  • "The dead know nothing ... their love, their hatred, and their envy, have now perished" (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6).
  • There is no "knowledge or wisdom in the grave" (Ecclesiastes 9:10) - no thinking and therefore no consciousness.

Death is repeatedly referred to as a sleep or rest, both for the righteous and the wicked: "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake"; "But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days" (Daniel 12:2, 13 See also Job 3:11, 13, 17).

Sufficient evidence has been produced for us to bluntly state that the notion of the righteous going to a state of bliss in heaven at death, is simply not found in the Bible.

Resurrection

The Bible emphasizes that the reward of the righteous will be at the resurrection, at the coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Paul said that if there is no resurrection, then all effort to be obedient to God is pointless (1 Corinthians 15:32). Surely he would not have reasoned like this if he believed that he would also be rewarded with his 'soul' going to heaven at death? The implication is that he believed the resurrection of the body to be the only form of reward.

Christ encouraged us with the words "you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:14). At his return, Christ "will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body" (Philippians 3:20-21). As he now has a literal bodily form, energized purely by Spirit rather than blood, so we will share a similar reward.

Our reward ~ An Immortal Body

At the judgment we will be rewarded for how we have lived this life in a bodily form (2 Corinthians 5:10). The ungodly, retain their present mortal body, which will then rot back to dust. Those who have tried to overcome the mind of the flesh with that of the Spirit "will of the Spirit reap life everlasting" (Galatians 6:8) in the form of a Spirit-filled body.

There is ample evidence that the reward of the righteous will be in a bodily form. Once this is accepted, the vital importance of the resurrection should be apparent. Our present body clearly ceases to exist at death; if we can only experience eternal life and immortality in a bodily form, it follows that death must be a state of unconsciousness, until such time as our body is re-created and then given God's nature (1 Corinthians 15:35-44). As Christ rose from the grave and had His body changed to an immortal body, so will the true believer share his reward (Philippians 3:21).

Through baptism we associate with Christ's death and resurrection, showing we believe we too will share the reward which He received through His resurrection (Romans 6:3-5). Through sharing his sufferings now, we will also share his reward (2 Corinthians 4:10, Romans 8:23).

This hope of a literal bodily reward has been understood by God's people from earliest times (Isaiah 26:19). Job knew that although his body would be eaten by worms, he would, in a bodily form, receive his reward: "my redeemer lives, and He shall stand at laston the earth: and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God" (Job 19:25-26).

The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?

The following passages show that earth not heaven will be the location of God's Kingdom:

  • The 'Lord's Prayer' asks for God's Kingdom to come, whereby God's desires will be done on earth as they are now done in heaven (Matthew 6:10). We are therefore praying for God's Kingdom to comeon the earth.
  • "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5 See also Psalm 37, especially verses 11, 22, 29, 34, 35) -not '... for their souls shall go to heaven'. Living in the earth forever means that eternal life in heaven is an impossibility.
  • "David ... is both dead and buried ... David did not ascend into the heavens" (Acts 2:29, 34). Peter explained that David's hope was the resurrection from the dead at Christ's return (Acts 2:22-36).
  • The righteous will say at the judgment: Christ has "made us kings and priests to our God: and we shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:9, 10).
  • Daniel's prophecies (Chapters 2 and 7) outline a succession of political powers, which the Kingdom of God supersedes at Christ's return. God's kingdom will fill "the whole earth" (Daniel 7:27; 2:35 cp. v. 44).

Hell

dieThe Bible teaches that hell is the grave, where all men go at death. The Hebrew word 'sheol', translated 'hell', means 'adie3 covered place'. A good translation of this word is 'grave'. The following examples of 'sheol', should torpedo the popular conception of hell as a place of fire and torment for the wicked:

  • "Let the wicked ... be silent in the grave" (Psalm 31:17). - they will not be screaming in agony.
  • "God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave" (Psalm 49:15) - i.e. David's soul or body would be resurrected from the grave, or 'hell'.

Seeing that 'hell' is the grave, the righteous will be saved from it through their resurrection to eternal life. The supreme example is that of Jesus, whose "soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption" (Acts 2:31 A.V.) because he was resurrected. That Christ went to 'hell' should be proof enough that it is not just a place where the wicked go.

What Happens to Sinners?

God does not impute sin to those ignorant of His word (Romans 5:13). Those in this position will remain dead. Those who have known God's requirements will be resurrected and judged at Christ's return. If wicked, they will be punished with death and stay dead for ever (Revelation 2:11; 20:6). It is in this sense that the punishment for sin is 'everlasting', in that there will be no end to their death.

It is one of God's principles that the punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23; 8:13; James 1:15). Death is a state of complete unconsciousness. Sin results in total destruction, not eternal torment (Matthew 21:41; 22:7; Mark 12:9; James 4:12).

Unconsciousness ~ The Practical Meaning of Death

There can be no activity in the grave … therefore now is the time to live a life active to the absolute maximum possibility in the Lord's service (Ecclesiastes 9:10-13). Moses pleaded with God to make time-frittering Israel see the implications of their mortality; having eloquently spoken of the tragedy of our mortality, he concludes: "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).

The tragic brevity of life means that we should quit time wasting follies. The fact we are going to die relatively soon, and lie unconscious, drives the man who seriously believes it, to faith in the God of resurrection. Death being like a sleep, it follows that judgment day is our next conscious experience after death. Because death is an ever more likely possibility for us, our judgment is effectively almost upon us. And we must live with and in that knowledge.

Personal Testimony

I had always believed in hell as a place of punishment. From a kid my mother used to warn me that if I did wrong, then bad people went to this place of fire. I have always believed there's a God, seemed dumb to think there wasn't. But this idea that God is put to punish us so terribly if we put a step wrong, or indulge a bit of our humanity…it put me right off. I didn't want to get into all this God stuff if this is what He was like. I watched evangelists on TV, they seemed on about the same stuff…and there was always this idea that there's a devil out there who is going to punish you. I got confused, like, is God using the devil to punish me, will God take pleasure in torturing me because of the fact I have a baby and no husband…?

But somehow the conscience I had about God kept coming back. It wouldn't go away. Then one day I overheard a conversation in a bus line. Some old woman, I think she must have been a Pentecostal, was telling some drunk guy that he would burn forever in hell and he'd remember her words. Another fella was standing behind me, he turned and quietly said to the woman behind him 'I wish people would get it clear that hell is just the grave…we're all going there'. I was…simply amazed.

'But what about satan and all that?' I blurted out.

'Well, I figure from the Bible that there's no actual person called satan out there, it's some kinda personification of our own natures…that's the real problem'.  Learn here about the real satan: Is satan a supernatural being?

To cut a long story short, I got into the Bible. I read amazing things. That God takes no pleasure in punishing the wicked. I saw that the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek and that those words translated "hell" and "grave" are just one and the same. My whole attitude to God changed. I came to see that really, "God is love"…I started reading the Bible daily using a reading planner, and then I saw that the only way to rise from the grave, or hell, is to be baptized into Jesus, who was in 'hell', the grave. For 3 days and then rose again. And this is what I did, and have never regretted it.

Want to Know More?

Read here about God's Plan for the World