What Really Happens When You Die?


CNN's special To Heaven and Back broadcast on December 1st, 2013, presented the accounts of people who claimed to have post death experiences, that is to say that they claimed to haved died in a clinical sense, yet continued on consciously in spirit form, to then leave their body and look back down as a witness to their own death, listening to the conversations of doctors or others at the scene. Then they relate various experiences in wonderful detail, such as feeling a euphoric sense of peace, love and serenity, meeting awesome spirit beings, proceeding along a brightly lit path in Paradise, and dancing joyfully in celebration, and talking with none other than Jesus. But then for one reason or another, their spirit returned to their recently deceased body, and they are able to testify convincingly to their life after death experience.

Is this what the Bible teaches? Do people have an immortal spirit that continues conscious life immediately after clinical death? While that is sincerely believed by the vast majority of Christians, it is a lie that was first told by Satan in the garden of Eden:

Gen 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

The Serpent's lie is still taught today from church pulpits:

366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - it is not "produced" by the parents - and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.235 — Catechism of the Catholic Church

On his October 7th, 2003 Breakthrough program, Pastor Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church, Columbus Ohio, made the following assertion:

Everybody, in this room, is going to live forever! No, no, I got to go real slow with you. Everybody, in this room, is going to live forever! I guess I better help you with one more word tagged on to that sentence. Everybody, in this room, is going to live forever, somewhere! - Rod Parsley.

The late D. James Kennedy, at the end of his Truths That Transform sermon dated April 4th, 2003, titled Why I Believe In Hell said:

 Yes, dear friend, the truth of the scripture is that the anger and wrath of God will one day fall upon your sins. The only question is, will it fall upon you, in hell, forever, or will it fall upon Jesus Christ, upon the cross. That choice is yours to make. You WILL live forever, somewhere! - D. James Kennedy

On the June 28th, 2000, This is your day program, Benny Hinn said the following:

The important thing is - eternity. Now remember, like I said last night, nobody here is going to die. Our bodies will, of course. This flesh will go back to dust. But the real you, the real person, will never die. The real you, the real spirit, will never die, its gonna live forever. The question is where. Where will this real you live? Will the real you live with God in heaven and glory, or will the real you live with the enemy and his angels and his demons? That's your choice, you see, you make that choice in life. - Benny Hinn

And here is Pastor Raul Ries, Calvary Chapel Golden Springs, Diamond Bar, California, from the program broadcast on Thursday, November 2nd, 2000, "The Rich Man And Lazarus", Tape TS-871.

Do people live beyond the grave, for all eternity? Yes! One of the things that we must understand, is that, everybody not only is going to die, but everybody is going to live forever, whether you go to heaven, or whether you go to hell. - Raul Ries

In his sermon broadcast Friday, August 27, 2010, on Hebrews 11:30-40, Raul Ries said:

... we as believers, when we die, we don't go to sleep, the moment a person takes their last breath and they die,  ... the angels of God come to take you home, and they take you to be with the Lord. This body remains here, goes back into the earth, but the spirit, the spirit that's in us, immediately is in the presence of God in heaven, and what does God do? Immediately He gives you a new body  - a new body - all things become new. - Raul Ries.

Also on past television programs broadcast from the South Bend Indiana based LeSEA (Lester Sumrall Evangelistic Association) ministries, Steve Sumrall and Delron Shirley also made the astounding statement that no one ever really dies, that everyone lives forever, the righteous in heaven and the wicked in hell. The late Lester Sumrall even taught this himself; that every human being was given immortality by God, and will never die. (Lester Sumrall was an ordained Assemblies of God minister.)

Actually, this is a belief that is widely accepted by most of the Christian community, but does the Bible teach eternal life (immortality) for everyone, wicked and righteous alike? What does the Bible really teach about death?

THE FIRST LIE IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN

Gen 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

The first lie, told by Satan, assured Eve that she would not die. But what had God warned Adam and Eve about eating from the tree of knowledge?

Gen 2:17 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.

O.K. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and were doomed to die. But what about their souls, you might ask, the soul continues on after death, right? Aren't Adam and Eve (their souls) in heaven now?

THE SOUL THAT SINS SHALL DIE

Ezek 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Ezek 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Ezek 33:11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Psa 22:29 All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.

Psa 33:18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;
Psa 33:19 To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.

Psa 56:13 For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?

Psa 89:48 What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?

The soul dies? Yes! Nowhere does the Bible speak of humanity possessing an innately immortal soul, but it plainly teaches that the soul (person) that sins is destined to die. Adam and Eve don't have bodiless souls in heaven, they both are dead in the grave. Death is the result or penalty of sin-

Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

John 4:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

1 John 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Eternal life will be the reward for those who are righteous, but this is only given after judgment. The wicked will not see eternal life, but eternal death, they will not have life.

THE SOUL - THE BREATH OF LIFE

But, what of the soul? Just what is it?

Gen 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.

A soul, as shown by this verse, has the spark / breath of life, given by God.

Psa 104:29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.
Psa 104:30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.

(The word breath in verse 29 and spirit in verse 30 is H7307 ruwach)

Eccl 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit (H7307 ruwach / breath) shall return unto God who gave it.

When God breathed life into Adam, he became a living soul (creature). Note that Gen. 2:7 does not say God put a soul into Adam. You are a soul because God has breathed life into you.

Job 12:9 Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?
Job 12:10 In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.

Job 27:3 All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils;

1 Ki 17:17 And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him.

1 Ki 17:21 And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again.
1 Ki 17:22 And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

In the above incident with Elijah, the return of the child's soul and breath are identical in meaning. You do not have a ghost-like immortal soul that survives your physical death. Life is what makes you a soul. Without life you perish.

EVERY SOUL IN THE SEA

Rev 16:3 And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man; and every living soul died in the sea.

Notice that even the inhabitants of the sea are referred to as living souls, just like Adam. This is because the soul is only the spark of life, which is given by God alone. It is not a ghost living inside you.

THE RICH MAN WHO LOST HIS SOUL

Note the story of the rich man who thought he was set for a life of leisure because his barns were full:

Luke 12:20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

The rich man's soul did not move to heaven that night, rather he lost his life. He lost his soul and perished. He ceased to live, and his goods then became the property of someone else. All of his planning was worthless.

Mat 16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
Mat 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Mark 8:35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
Mark 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Mark 8:37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

The above two passages make plain that the words soul and life are interchangeable. When you die, you lose your soul, which is to say you lose your life. The wicked man who rules the world, but loses his soul, does not take up residence next in hell for eternity. Rather he perishes, he loses his life, he ceases to exist. The implication being that he has foolishly traded away his eternal life for earthly wealth.

ADAM AND EVE DENIED ETERNAL LIFE IN SIN

Now notice this account of Adam and Eve and how they were denied eternal life-

Gen 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
Gen 3:23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil, they lost the right to eat of the tree of life. God expelled them from the garden, forbidding them to eat from the tree of life, and thereby denied them eternal life because they had sinned.  They had to die because of their sin, but death did not give them instant access to heaven! When Adam and Eve died, they lost the God-given spark of life and perished. They returned to the dust-

Gen 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Job 34:15 All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.

Death returns you to the dust, in a totally unconscious state. Nothing survives after death.

THE SLEEP OF DEATH

Now notice how Jesus himself describes death-

John 11:11 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.
John 11:12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
John 11:13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
John 11:14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

Mat 9:24 He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn.

Mark 5:39 And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.

Luke 8:52 And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.
Luke 8:53 And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.

In Jesus own words above, death is described to be like a sleep.

Job 14:10 NIV But man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more.
Job 14:11 As water disappears from the sea or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,
Job 14:12 so man lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, men will not awake or be roused from their sleep.

Psa 13:3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;

James 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

Absent From the Body - Present With the Lord?

When a man dies, he is asleep and does not awake until the end of time. But doesn't Paul say that the very moment he dies he will be with Christ?

Phil 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Phil 1:22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
Phil 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
Phil 1:24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

2 Cor 5:6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
2 Cor 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
2 Cor 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
2 Cor 5:9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

Jesus equated death with sleep, so Paul is saying that should he die, he would sleep the sleep of death, and next see Jesus Christ after the resurrection. To Paul, however, the passing of time after his death would be as an instant, the blink of an eye, and his next thing he would know it would be the second coming, and the resurrection of all the righteous saints.

John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
John 14:2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

When does Jesus receive us? Jesus says it will be at His second coming, not at the moment of death.

Since the dead are asleep in the grave, what do they know, what are they conscious of?

THE DEAD KNOW NOTHING

Eccl 9:5 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.
Eccl 9:6 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 9:10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

The dead know not anything, everything about them perishes, including their conscious mind. They remain this way until their resurrection.

Psa 6:5 For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?

Psa 146:3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
Psa 146:4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Even the thoughts of the dead perish with them when they lose their soul (the spark of life).

Dan 12:2 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.

The dead are sleeping until their resurrection, that is when they will awake.

Mat 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

This verse is used by the Catholic Church to prove that the soul can't be killed, that it is immortal. In fact it means do not fear those who can kill your physical body but have no control over your resurrection and eternal destiny. Rather, fear God, who does determine who goes into the lake of fire (eternal death) to be forever destroyed, body and soul, and who gets eternal life. The choice is actually ours, and God affirms the choice we make.

1 Cor 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
1 Cor 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
1 Cor 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Mat 27:52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
Mat 27:53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

Those who are dead are asleep in the grave, to be awakened at their resurrection. The above mentioned saints did not come down from heaven to re-inhabit their bodies. They were resurrected from the grave (awakened from their sleep) in a victory over death, at the time of Christ's resurrection.

KING DAVID IS NOT IN HEAVEN

Acts 2:29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. ...

Acts 2:34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,

King David is still in the grave. He is still asleep, still dead, not in heaven.

WHO HAS IMMORTALITY?

1 Tim 6:11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
1 Tim 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
1 Tim 6:13 I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;
1 Tim 6:14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:
1 Tim 6:15 Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;
1 Tim 6:16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

In verse 16 above it states that only God has immortality. This includes the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. If God only has immortality, then we do not have it, at least not until our resurrection, when we will again be given access to the tree of life.

THE PROMISE OF ETERNAL LIFE

But aren't the righteous believers promised eternal life? -

John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

John 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
John 5:29 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 6:39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
John 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
John 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

2 Tim 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

At the second coming, the last day, THAT is when the righteous will receive immortality, but they do not have it before then. Here is a promise of eternal life-

1 John 2:25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.

Heb 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Heb 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

Here, in verse 14, the Holy Spirit is the eternal spirit. Verse 15 says that Jesus died to redeem us from our sins, that we may receive the eternal life that is promised. We do not receive this eternal life until after we have been judged righteous, which is at the second coming. Until then, we have the promise of eternal life.

Rom 2:6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
Rom 2:7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
Rom 2:8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,

Rev 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Rev 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Rev 22:13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Rev 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

We seek immortality, but do not have it yet. Only the righteous will receive it at the second coming, from God Himself, by being permitted access to the tree of life. The wicked, however, will not be given access to the tree of life, so immortality is simply not possible for them. They will not live forever, they will perish, they will cease to exist.

THE RESURRECTION HOPE

Every year during the Easter season, Christian pulpits ring with sermons proclaiming the fundamental importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the Christian faith, and rightly so, for if Christ is not raised from the dead, our faith in in vain, as scripture makes very clear:

1 Cor 15:12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
1 Cor 15:13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
1 Cor 15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
1 Cor 15:15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
1 Cor 15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
1 Cor 15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
1 Cor 15:18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
1 Cor 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
1 Cor 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
1 Cor 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
1 Cor 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
1 Cor 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

Paul is clearly teaching here that the resurrection from the dead is a critical point to understand for the Christian, for if there is no resurrection from the dead (as demonstrated by Christ's resurrection), your faith is totally in vain. But, why would Paul say this, if when you died, you continued to live in a conscious spirit form in heaven (as is taught by most Christian churches)? That would make no sense at all. Paul is saying that without a resurrection, the dead would cease to exist forever, in any form at all. Death would be final, a completely futile and hopeless end of existence. Paul clearly put his hope in the promise of a resurrection from the grave, which he says happens at Christ's second coming.

Phil 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
Phil 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Phil 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
Phil 3:11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

Paul again addressed the resurrection to the Thessalonian church:

1 Th 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
1 Th 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring [forth from the grave] with him.
1 Th 4:15 For this 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 [precede] them which are asleep.
1 Th 4:16 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:
1 Th 4:17 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 Th 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

The Thessalonians were sorrowing over the dead, and concerned that because they were dead, they were gone forever and without any hope of salvation. Note that Paul does not comfort the Thessalonians by saying the immortal spirits of their dead loved ones are already blissfully in heaven in the presence of the Lord. Paul responds that just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead, so those who have died in faith will be resurrected at the second coming, then to ever be with the Lord. And Paul makes the point that this resurrection of the righteous dead precedes the living saints joining the Lord in the clouds. Paul is clearly reaffirming the resurrection hope to the Thessalonian church, not the immortality of the soul.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ demonstrates that for those with faith in Him, even the power of death can be overcome by that faith:

John 11:21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
John 11:22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
John 11:23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
John 11:24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
John 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
John 11:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

Lazarus was dead, in the grave for four days. Martha knew nothing of Lazarus being in heaven for the last four days, she mourned because her brother was in his grave, and she knew he would remain there, dead, until until the resurrection of the last day, the second coming of Christ. Jesus told her that He was the giver of life, that He had power over the grave, and could immediately resurrect her brother from death, because He was and is the son of God, the Christ. This resurrection hope, that Jesus can and will defeat the power of the grave, is the fundamental promise of Christianity, the keystone in the arch of the Christian faith:

Psa 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me.

John 6:39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
John 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. ...
John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Rom 6:5 [NIV] If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.
Rom 6:6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--
Rom 6:7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Rom 6:8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
Rom 6:9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.
Rom 6:10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
Rom 6:11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Phil 3:10 [NIV] I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
Phil 3:11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Phil 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Phil 3:13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
Phil 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

1 Pet 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1 Pet 1:4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
1 Pet 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Cor 15:51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
1 Cor 15:52 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.
1 Cor 15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
1 Cor 15:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
1 Cor 15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

On Matt 22:23-32, Mark 12:19-27, and Luke 20:27-38.

Jesus is asked by the Sadducees (who did not believe in a resurrection) a hypothetical case of a woman who has seven consecutive brothers as husbands:

Mark 12:18 Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,
Mark 12:19 Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
Mark 12:20 Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed.
Mark 12:21 And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise.
Mark 12:22 And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also.
Mark 12:23 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.
Mark 12:24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?
Mark 12:25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.
Mark 12:26 And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
Mark 12:27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

Note that both the question of the Sadducees, and the answer Jesus gives, deal with after the resurrection? If as Catholicism (and much of Christianity) teaches, people went immediately to heaven after death, then the focus of the conversation would have been on the recent dead, not those who are resurrected from death at some point in the future. Note that Jesus rebukes the Sadducees for not knowing the teaching of scripture, or the power of God with respect to raising the dead. Jesus is affirming to the Sadducees that there will indeed be a resurrection from death, that there is victory over the grave!

Verse 26, however, does not prove that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive in heaven, but rather, because of their faith, they will indeed be resurrected and then be rewarded with eternal life, something the Sadducees rejected (v. 18). Note that Jesus begins verse 26 with - and as touching the dead, that they rise - Jesus then goes on to present Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as prime examples of those who will be raised from the dead, despite the false beliefs of the Sadducees. The Sadducees rejected the resurrection from the dead, and Jesus in verse 27 is saying that God will not be the God of the dead and buried, but the God of the living, the resurrected, as he makes clear at the beginning of verse 26.

On Acts 2:29-34

Acts 2:29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
Acts 2:30 Therefore being a prophet and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
Acts 2:31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
Acts 2:32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses.
Acts 2:33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.
Acts 2:34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
Acts 2:35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool.
Acts 3:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Please note that David is not in heaven (not even in some alleged spirit form). According to verse 34, he is still dead, still in the grave. While he was living, David spoke of the resurrection of Jesus, that Jesus would not be left in the grave (hell), but rather, God would raise Jesus from the dead and He would be exalted as Lord and Christ. It is this victory over death and the grave that Jesus Christ offers us if we will have faith in Him. But this reward is something we receive after our resurrection, not before:

Rev 22:12 And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Rev 22:13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Rev 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

We do not get access to the tree of life and live forever until after the second coming, at which time the righteous will be resurrected, and enter the New Jerusalem. That is when we will be given the opportunity to eat from the tree of life.

On 1 Peter 4:1-6

1 Pet 4:1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
1 Pet 4:2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
1 Pet 4:3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:
1 Pet 4:4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run riot, speaking evil of you:
1 Pet 4:5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.
1 Pet 4:6 For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

This does not speak of preaching to dead people in the grave in the physical sense. In context it is speaking of preaching to the Gentiles, the unbelievers, the spiritually dead, that they too might hear and believe the Gospel message. Another example of this is found in the book of John:

John 5:25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

At the time, Jesus was speaking of those people hearing His voice at that instant. Those that were spiritually dead in the crowd that heard and believed Him, would inherit eternal life. This is exactly what 1 Peter 4:6 is saying as well. Until the resurrection, however, those in the grave hear nothing and do nothing:

Eccl 9:5 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.

Eccl 9:10 Whatsover thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

The time is indeed coming, however, when Jesus will speak to those dead in their graves:

John 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
John 5:29 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.

CONCLUSION

When we die, we sleep in the grave - we have no thoughts, no consciousness, no existence at all, until our resurrection. At the resurrection of the just, at the second coming, the righteous will receive eternal life. That is the reward for faith:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Jesus brings the gift or reward of eternal life to bestow on the faithful at the second coming, but not before. The wicked however, will eventually perish forever in the lake of fire (after the 1000 years). Any church that teaches otherwise (that everyone, even the wicked, live forever) is merely repeating the first lie told in the Garden of Eden- "Ye shall not surely die".


See also:

The Witch of Endor, a Familiar Spirit, and the State of the Dead.
The Biblical Truth About Hell.
The Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail?
Purgatory?
Limbo?



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