Church of God, New World Ministries

Death - Then What?

No matter who you are, whether the young girl down the street, the fellow on the block, the butcher or mailman, carpenter, maintenance man, or secretary, the President, Governor, Mayor, sooner, or later, you are going to die!

You may be beautiful, handsome, healthy, young and strong, but eventually, death remains a fact of your life. It is inescapable. Whether you live out a natural life span, or whether your life is cut short by some tragic accident, incident or disease, this physical life ends in death.

Solomon made it plain: “To every thing is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die” (Eccl. 3:1-2). From the moment of birth, physical life is limited. Do you know why? Basic human life-supporting cells divide just so many times. They always reach a divisioning limit. Cells deteriorate, tissues deteriorate, organs deteriorate, and the body deteriorates. That deterioration ends inevitably in death.

Proper health measures, including a healthful diet and the elimination of disease, may prolong life substantially. But the natural aging processes do not stop. Beauty techniques such as plastic surgery, skin stretching, the lavish use of cosmetics and hair dyes may give a more youthful appearance for a time. They are only temporary. The inner process of aging, leading to certain death, relentlessly continues.

No amount of wishful thinking or physical measures help. All of man’s technology and scientific research, coupled with all of the money in the world, can’t alter the fact that humans die! The pressing question is: What happens after death? Is there hope? Is there meaning to this life?

Throughout the ages, as far back as recorded time, men have been concerned about death and what happens afterward. Is there life after death?

The ancient Egyptians were concerned about death. Their attempts to solve the enigma of a life after death reached monumental proportions. Pharaoh’s burial tombs were filled with treasures, and life’s various paraphernalia; sometimes including, in the early period, an entourage of servants, killed and entombed to serve the pharaoh in a fancied state of existence after death.

Every group of people and every civilization that has ever existed, down to and including our modern age, has pondered about life after death. Almost everybody has an opinion on the subject. There are about as many ideas about it as people to give them.

Why this confusion? Where is the source that can make the answer plain?

Said one young man, when asked if he believed in an afterlife, “I believe my inner being will be transmitted to different planes of existence as I approach perfection.” A Latin mother’s quick response when asked the same question was, “Of course there’s an afterlife. It’s in heaven, otherwise what’s the sense of living?”

Isn’t it time to understand the truth about death and what happens after death? There is only one reliable source available for discovering the truth about death. That source is God’s revelation to man of essential knowledge without which man can’t know why he is here, or where he is going. We call that revelation the Bible. But what it says probably is not what you think it says. Most people would be surprised to discover what the Bible reveals about life after death!

Contrary to popular belief, the Bible nowhere mentions an “immoral soul”! Astounding, but true! From the very first word in Genesis 1:1, to the last word in Rev. 22:21, you will not find the words immortal soul applied to man, or that man has an immortal soul.

The Bible says man is a living soul, “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” (Gen. 2:7), not an immortal soul! Did you carefully notice it! Man is a living soul.

The very word for soul is nephesh it is the same word used of lower life forms, beasts and creeping things. It is even used to express the thought of a dead body, a dead nephesh.

Ezekiel 18:4, 20 tells us that the soul can die (we either believe that or we don’t, most people don’t believe what the Bible really says). “The soul that sins, it shall die.” Man is a soul, man sins. So man, a living soul, dies.

The immortal soul idea came right out of ancient Egypt, and Babylonia. It was enshrined in philosophy by Greek thought, especially by Plato.

Notice what the Jewish Encyclopedia says about it: “The belief that the soul continues its existence after the dissolution of the body is speculation nowhere expressly taught in the Holy Scripture. The belief in the immortality of the soul came to the Jews from contact with Greek thought and chiefly through the philosophy of Plato, its principal exponent, who was led to it through Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries in which Babylonian and Egyptian views were strangely blended” (Immortality of the Soul, vol. VI, pp. 564-566)

Maybe you have heard the argument; death is not death but life in another state. The Bible reveals that when you die, you are dead, dead all over! You don’t waft up to heaven if you have been good. You don’t sink down to hell, or some intermediate place, if you have been bad. The supposed heaven and hell for immortal souls is another one of man’s pictured fantasies. According to the Bible, the dead don’t hear anything, see anything, think anything or know anything. The dead have absolutely no awareness, no anxieties of any kind. Read it for yourself (again most people don’t believe what the Bible really 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 the envy, is now perished” (Eccl. 9:5-6).

At the moment of death, life ceases, along with thinking processes, and thought. “His breath goes forth,” says God about man, “he returns to his earth; in that day his thoughts perish” (Ps. 146:4).

The Bible’s message is unclouded. Death is death beyond any shadow of a doubt. We’re even warned to make the most of life while we have the opportunity: “Whatsoever thy hand finds to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Eccl. 9:10).

When we die we go the way of the flesh, and in that respect there is no difference between man and animal: “For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even one thing befalls them: as the one dies, so dies the other; yes, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Eccl. 3:19-20). Of course, man, composed of the dust of the ground, returns to dust. The man that returns to dust is the soul that once lived. It is therefore the soul that disintegrates into dust! So says your Bible.

For those who want to cling to the cherished belief in floating off to heaven at death, listen to the Apostle Peter’s response. If anyone deserved to go to heaven, it would certainly be someone after God’s own heart. David was such a man (Acts 13:22). But Peter was inspired to say, David “is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day” (Acts 2:29), and that further, “David is not ascended into the heavens” (Acts 2:34).

Jesus Christ Himself said that “no man has ascended up to heaven” (John3:13). (Why don’t professing Christians believe what Christ said?) There can be no doubt. Death is the end of this physical life, this present chemical existence. But does that mean we can do our own thing without fear of consequences, eat, drink, and be merry now because tomorrow we die? Absolutely not and here is why!

The Great God has put us here on this earth for a great eternal purpose. Not just to have the best fling possible, then die. There is a tremendous purpose, not even understood by this world’s religions. We are on this earth for a reason. It involves the answer to why we humans suffer through the gamut of emotions, troubles or good time of human life.

Job knew the reason. Job once reached a point near death, psychologically and physically. Everything dear to him had been taken away. He lost all of his children in a tornado, as well as all his wealth because of thieves and fire. Now, he was physically stricken and racked with pain. Runny, puss-filled boils covered his entire body from head to toe. The idea of death seemed sweet to Job.

He knew that if he died now, his present pain and distress would be over. Then he would wait in death, asleep in the grave, as the Bible put it in I Thess. 4:13-14, until God jerked him up out of that grave later. “If a man die, shall he live again?” Job asked himself in a sort of reassurance knowing full well he would. And he answered himself with the next words; “All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shall call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands” (Job 14:14-15).

But how will man, dead in the grave, live again? Jesus himself gave the answer: “Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth: they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29).

There will be an accounting for our behavior in this life! You are going to be in one or another resurrection. There are going to be, in fact, three kinds of resurrection. But what does the Bible mean by a resurrection?

Paul describes the first resurrection as taking place at Christ’s return to restore the government of God over the whole earth. This soon coming event is described in I Thess. 4:16: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” “This is the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:5), last sentence). “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection,” says God, “on such the second death hath no power” (Rev. 20:6).

Those who will be in the first resurrection are described in Rev. 14:12: “They that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” They are few in number because most people do not keep the Ten Commandments!

Included, in Hebrews 11, are Bible notables: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Rahab and a host of others not mentioned, but known and chosen by God. They will never have to face death again. They will rise out of their graves as immortal spirit sons of God. They will be changed from flesh and blood mortality to eternal immortal spirit life. They are those who were converted in this life, who received the promise of eternal life through the Holy Spirit which imparts the divine nature (II Peter 1:4) and impregnates them with the beginning of eternal life (I Peter 1:23).

But what about the multitudes of people who never knew God, or the Bible? What about the hundreds of millions of people now living in areas of the world who have no access to the Bible? Those deliberately kept from the knowledge of God in this atheistic secular, deceived world?

The billions of people who once lived, but never knew God, and never had the opportunity to understand and choose His way of life, will have their opportunity. They will have their turn in a second resurrection, a thousand years after the first resurrection. These are those mentioned in Rev. 20:5, called “the rest of the dead:” “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” Think of it! Every person now living without the true revealed knowledge of God, or who has lived and died, will have a time of judgment in which either to accept or reject the way of life of God.

The Apostle John describes the 2nd resurrection in Rev. 20:12: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books (The Bible), according to their works.” There would be no reason for a book of life to be opened if none were to receive eternal life. It will be a time when humanity as a whole will come to know God and receive his Holy Spirit, which imparts a new spiritual life in mortal humans once again living in the flesh. See Ezekiel 37:11-14.

There are, sadly, those who knowingly reject God, and God’s way of life. These will be in the 3rd resurrection. The 3rd resurrection is absolutely final. All who spurn God and God’s way of life, and died a natural death, will be resurrected in a 3rd resurrection to a final, eternal death. It is called the 2nd death, from whence there will never be a resurrection: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell (the grave) delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the 2nd dead. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life (at the time of the second resurrection) was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:13-15.They shall be burned up and turned to ashes (Mal. 4:3).

The message should be clear; it’s time to take thought, to consider and to ask yourself where you stand before God.

God does exist! What he says in the Bible will happen! Any claiming to be an atheist, nonbeliever, agnostic or whatever, will not change the truth of God, nor reality about life, death and what happens after death. God even warns that disbelief is no excuse: “For the invisible things of him from creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead: so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

Don’t be deceived! Each of us will ultimately reap what we sow! (Gal. 6:7-8.) Be warned! Each of us will have to personally answer to God for what we have done in this life. We will each have to give an account for our own actions (Rom. 14:10-12).

Don’t treat this article lightly, and let the information go in one ear and out the other. There will be a judgment (II Cor. 5:10). Only the few are now called to judgment. Judgment now is on the Church of God (I Peter 4:17), not the world as a whole.

Each of us has made mistakes. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s expectations, (Rom. 3:23). The point is, it’s time to stop sinning! And start doing what is right! That’s called repentance, change. 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 you from your evil ways; for why will you die?” (Ezk. 33:11). Note, it does not say “live forever as immortal souls in hell.”

God makes it clear: “If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he has committed and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live’ (Ezk. 18:21-22).

God’s mercy toward those who change, who repent, who stop going the get way, and turn to the give way, is spelled out in the Bible. It is beyond human understanding: “Come now,” implores God, “and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18).

Says God to those who properly fear him, that is, respect his authority and his commands, “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgression from us” (Ps. 103:11-12).

God’s very name, as he himself spelled it out, proclaims his loving mercy toward those who ask him for forgiveness and seek to do his commandments: “The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Ex. 34:6-7).

God mercifully made man mortal, so that if he did choose to go the wrong way he would die, not suffer eternal punishing in a hell fire. That final death of the wicked, those who choose the way of get, will be death by fire, when this earth burns up. They will be turned to ashes, but the earth will be renewed, an eternal inheritance for those who choose the way of give, of love, the way of the Ten Commandments.

Solomon’s simple conclusion sums it all up: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14). So, which resurrection do you plan to be in?

For more information on this intriguing subject enroll today in our new series, “Traditional Christian Doctrines.”

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