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Soul Searching – 5 Things you should know about Death

There are a lot of different ideas out there about what the soul is, so we think it’s about time we all did a bit of soul searching in the Bible.

This week we’ll be taking a look at 5 thing the Bible says about the death and what happens there:

  • At death we simply decompose back into the dirt that we were made from. (Genesis 3:19, Job 19:25-26)
  • When people die, they lose all consciousness – all their hate, their love, their knowledge, their wisdom, and all their thoughts perish. (Ecclesiastes 9:4-10; Psalm 146:2-5)
  • Those who die can’t remember God; they don’t thank or praise Him. (Psalm 6:5; 30:9; Isaiah 38:18)
  • No one except for Jesus has ever gone to heaven. (Proverbs 30:4; John 3:13)
  • No one Except Jesus has seen God. (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12)

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  1. Jesse van der Meulen

    I’m curious: what do you take Paul to mean when he says in Philippians 1:23 that he wants to “depart and be with Christ”? In what sense are deceased believers “with Christ” before their resurrection?

  2. Jesse van der Meulen

    Thanks for your quick reply! I see where you’re coming from, but I disagree that Paul, in Philippians, is intending to say that to be with Christ is a future event after a Christian has died. I agree that the Christian hope is resurrection, however to say that in-between death and resurrection is “nothing” is contrary to biblical teaching, in my view.

    For example: “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
    (2 Corinthians 5:6-10 ESV)

    To be away from the body is be at home with the Lord. That is not speaking with resurrection in view.

    I would agree with the Westminster Confession of faith in this matter.

    I. The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption:but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them: the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies. And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day. Beside these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledges none.

    LUK 23:43, ECC 12:7, HEB 12:23, 2CO 5:1, PHI 1:23, ACT 3:21, EPH 4:10

    • Hi Jesse,

      Thanks for your reply. The suggestion of consciousness between death and resurrection does not fit with the consistent message of scriptures as indicated in the articles referred to.

      2 Corinthians 5:6-10 should be read in its whole context (verses 1-10) which clarifies (in verse 4) that he is talking about the change from mortality to immortality, which we are told will only happen in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15)

      If one is to read the passage referred to in the Westminster confession of faith as referring to a time between death and future resurrection they encounter several problems:

      Luke 23:43 – Note that Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (ESV) If this is referring to a time between death and resurrection then paradise is referring to a place below the ground as Jesus went to the grave that day and did not ascend to his father until 3 days later (cp John 20:17). The Greek word Today is a form of emphasis related to the word “Verily”. The only way this passage makes any sense is to move the comma that the translators have placed in the text, as the Greek expert Bullinger does, “And Jesus said to him, Verily, to thee I say this day, with Me shalt thou be in Paradise.”

      Ecclesiastes 12:7 – The Spirit is nothing more than the breath or power with which God animates all creatures (see Genesis 2:7). It neither suggests nor implies consciousness in the death state.

      Hebrews 12:23 – You’ll have to help me out here. I can’t see how this passage even implies a state of consciousness between death and resurrection.

      We’ve already addressed both 2 Corinthians 5 and Philippians 1:23 that any interpretation that reads into them the idea of a state of consciousness during death would disagree with this fundamental and clear biblical teaching that, “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.” Ecclesiastes 9:5

      Acts 3:21 is a reference to Christ’s presence at the right hand of God – something that we know happened after his resurrection.

      Ephesians 4:10 – This passage only states that Christ descended into the grave and was raised again.

      The Christadelphians believe that the bible is very clear about the state of the dead. Here are some further verses to consider:

      The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence. Psalm 115:17

      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. 6 Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. – Ecclesiastes 9:5,6,10

      And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2

      See also 1 Thess 4

  3. Jesse van der Meulen

    Hi, sorry I haven’t responded until now – it’s been a while since I visited this site. Lots to deal with …

    **2 Corinthians 5:6-10 should be read in its whole context (verses 1-10) which clarifies (in verse 4) that he is talking about the change from mortality to immortality, which we are told will only happen in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15)**

    Yes, the earlier part of 2 Cor 5 certainly has resurrection in mind. However, I don’t think you can discount verses 6-10 saying that we are, as Christians, either in our body or away with the Lord. There isn’t room given for the 3rd option of – you’re away from your body but not yet with the Lord because you’re waiting for the resurrection. That is not in this text.

    Luke 23:43 – to have “today” mean something other then, upon death you and I will immediately be in paradise, you have to show that Jesus spoke in a way that is saying, I’m telling you on this particular day – upon a later date you will be with me paradise. Looking through the gospels, I don’t have a record of Jesus ever talking that way. Do you have another example?

    Here’s how the ESV study bible explains Hebrews 12, let me know if that sheds any light for you.
    “Firstborn” is plural in Greek and modified by “who are enrolled.” Jesus was previously called the firstborn Son (1:6); here his followers are also granted an inheritance as if they too were firstborn sons (1:14; 2:10; 9:15; 12:5–8). Enrolled alludes to the book of life (e.g., Dan. 7:10; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 20:12–15), listing the true followers of Jesus. The title judge of all recalls previous warnings (e.g., Heb. 10:30–31). Spirits of the righteous refers to the saints of the old and new covenants, here portrayed as holy (“righteous”) and as personally made perfect, which was the goal of Christ’s work (10:14; 11:40), though with their reembodiment still to come at the final resurrection.

    I’ll stop there for now. Blessings!

    • Hi Jesse,

      Thanks for responding. I believe it’s important to use the entirety of scripture when trying to understand God’s principles and teachings. The consistent message of scripture is that death is an unconscious state where there is no remembrance of God. 2 Corinthians must be looked at in that context.

      The reading of Luke 23:43 that you suggested raises a problem. What happened to Jesus on the day of his death? We know that he was in the tomb for 3 days (1 Corinthians 15:3,4) and that when he was resurrected he stated to Mary that He had not yet ascended to heaven (john 20:17).

      Note what the request was of the thief: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). That’s exactly what the Lord Jesus offered him – a place in the future kingdom.

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