From earliest times, as far back as man’s recorded history and beyond, human beings have been vitally concerned about death and a possible hereafter.
Archaeological discoveries reveal that Neanderthal man must have pondered the nether world and a possible life after death. He dug burial pits for his dead. He also provided his deceased with tools, weapons and food undoubtedly an attempt to give the departed, or the departed’s soul, necessities for an imagined afterlife.
But Neanderthal’s burials were simple compared to burials of later ancients. Burial extravaganzas unsurpassed in scope and magnitude is recorded in the histories of some of the world’s past great civilizations. Enormous treasures of gold and jeweled objects, riches of all kinds, sometimes servants, horses, wagons and even ships were often entombed with kings and queens to help them continue a lavishly high standard of living in a fancied afterlife continued by their souls.
One royal tomb, excavated at the site of the ancient Sumerian city of Ur, revealed the remains of five men, ten well-dressed women, an entire chariot, the remains of two asses and their grooms, a number of other bodies, a large treasure, and some weapons and tools. After all of this were found soldiers, whole wagons, and more grooms and court ladies – sixty-two bodies in all. Finally, further excavation uncovered the king in his burial chamber, along with three more servants.
In more recent times people have been just as concerned about death as the ancients but less concerned about the hereafter.
Throughout the ages men have spent long hours seeking to discover a way to prolong human life and maybe even to obtain eternal life. The keys to longevity have been thought to be everything from witches’ incantations, mystical herbs and spices to certain foods and minerals, or some kind of regimented diet. Ponce de Leon and others were convinced there was an actual fountain of youth somewhere.
Ponce de Leon began his search for this legendary fountain after becoming intoxicated on new world Indian stories about a wonderful fountain of youth that rejuvenated the old and strengthened the weary, supposedly hidden somewhere on the island of Bimi in the Bahamas. He helped organize a privately sponsored expedition, and on March 3, 1512, set out with his group to find that fountain.
Sophisticated moderns, of course, don’t believe in Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth, but in a sense, they are still searching for it. They’re trying to find it in a different way, through science, technology and medicine. Aging movie stars go to plastic surgeons, spending large sums of money for face lifts, to erase the telling wrinkles of age.
Scientists and medical researchers, on the other hand, are trying to discover the exact causes of aging and thereby learn how to cure it, maybe even stop it.
A growing number of people are putting their hope in future medicine, knowing full well that today’s medical scientists are still nowhere near eradicating disease or finding the solution to aging. They’re submitting their bodies to Cryonic suspension, a sort of mummification by freezing. Several Cryonic societies now exist.
A Cryonics society member’s body, instead of going through the normal burial or cremation procedures, is prepared for storage by freezing. Blood is drained and replaced with a sort of antifreeze solution. The body is placed into a ten-foot-long capsule full of liquid nitrogen, which is kept as 321 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. And instead of being buried six feet under in a cemetery plot, the thermos-bottle-like capsule is stored in a vault which will be opened sometime in the distant future when medical science, hopefully, will have the ability to thaw out the body, cure the cause of death of the deceased Cryonics society member, and restore him or her to life.
Superficially, this sounds tremendously intriguing. But as experts are quick to point out, and objective Cryonics society members are forced to admit, the statistical odds against its working are phenomenal.
Why won’t it actually work? Because the undeniable reality is that a human body is programmed to die. Even if disease could be virtually eliminated, along with stress and poor diets (major factors that contribute to death), we would still die. From the very moment of birth man’s days are numbered.
Basic life-supporting cells in the human body divide just so many times. They reach a divisioning limit, approximately 50 times for certain main types of cells, after which all doubling ceases. This inborn aging factor puts a limit on man’s life span. Cell deterioration, tissue deterioration, organ deterioration and body deterioration ending in death is inevitable.
This programmed physical deterioration begins to increase dramatically in the average healthy human at around age 40. Taste ability, constantly on the decline, now begins to dramatically decrease. The ability to hear high-pitched tones diminishes. A noticeable drop in visual acuity occurs. More importantly, the vital organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys and liver increasingly malfunction.
With aging, hardening of the arteries increases markedly. Blood pressure climbs. Bones gradually lose more and more calcium. They become fragile and subject to breakage, even with relatively minor falls.
Overall body reflexes become sluggish with age. The conduction speed of nerve impulses slows. Brain cell deterioration, constantly occurring throughout life, reaches a more critical point. Memory starts fading. Increasing memory loss for recent events occurs. The ability to acquire new learning and cope with psychological stress declines.
As physical and psychological deterioration mounts, the ability to shake off and resist disease weakens. At this point the way of all flesh draws nigh, death rears its ugly head.
Cryonics suspension doesn’t alter this death-cycle. Those bodies which are frozen are frozen after death.
Proper health care, including a proper diet and the elimination of disease, may prolong life substantially, but it doesn’t solve aging and eventual death.
Plastic surgery, skin stretching and the use of cosmetics and hair dyes may give a more youthful appearance for a time, but the inner process of aging and inevitable death continues nonstop.
At this point, one might be inclined to forget trying to prolong life or live forever in the flesh and begin to ponder what happens after death and whether or not there is an afterlife. But contrary to what the ancients thought and what many today will be shocked to find out, hope in having a possible afterlife through an immortal soul is just a dream.
The religious source of belief of millions – the Bible-- surely ought to be the most authoritative and reliable source on such a subject as an afterlife. And, indeed, the Bible does speak out on the subject. According to Scripture, the dead don’t hear anything or know anything. They have no knowledge that they ever existed. They have no awareness of any kind, period.
The dead are dead. Man does not have some kind of an immortal soul that lives on after the body dies. The Bible records the following fact: “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 their envy, is now perished” (Eccl. 9:5-6).
Again, in talking about someone who dies, the Bible says: “His breath goes forth, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Ps. 146:4).
The Bible absolutely confirms beyond the shadow of a doubt that the dead are dead: “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).
“For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even one thing befalls them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, 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).
As far as the immortal soul idea is concerned, it’s a myth that originated in ancient Egyptian and later Greek thought, and was chiefly made popular through the philosophy of Plato. It didn’t come from the Bible.
Just as you can’t pin your hopes of living forever on technology, neither can you put your hope on having an immortal soul.
Reality is undeniable. You are going to die. And when you die, you are dead. All the billions of dollars in the world won’t alter that fact. All of man’s technology and research can’t change it. But the same source that shatters the immortal soul myth actually says man yet has hope in death. That hope is spoken of throughout the Bible as a resurrection of the dead.
Jesus is quoted in talking of a resurrection: “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 damnation (judgment)” (John 5:28-29).
Jesus, the founder of the early church and the one whom Christianity acknowledges as the very son of God says all, meaning that everyone who has ever lived, is going to be resurrected, the good or bad, atheist, heretic, heathen or believer, And so it’s clear that the Scriptures do not support the idea of an immortal soul or afterlife as imagined by man, and the dead are indeed dead. The Scriptures do, on the other hand, state that death is not the end. Everyone is going to live again. Some, as the Bible mentions elsewhere, will live again forever and some for just a very short time. This conclusion is based on the very words of Jesus, who was, according to Scripture; himself resurrected the third day after being put to death.
Contrary to the elaborate schemes and myths of men regarding the possibility of an afterlife, the biblical plan is quite simple: All who have ever lived, or ever will live, will be given a chance to change from a life of disobeying God to one of obeying him, thereby having the opportunity to live for eternity. Some, however, will reject that opportunity. These are the ones who will suffer an eternal death by being burned up in a lake of fire (Rev. 20:15).
God explains, however, that he has no desire to impose such a fate on anyone. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).But for the self-willed and rebellious, those who reject his way God has no other choice. The Bible teaches that disobedience produces unhappiness, and God will not allow people to exist in a miserable state of mind for all eternity. He will, therefore, mercifully and permanently destroy the wicked.
Humanity has always been and will continue to be vitally concerned with the possibility of an afterlife: The question is, will it continue to reject or will it accept the only source that provides a hope for the dead? Certainly the attempts of man, through science or religious myths, offer no satisfactory alternative.
Obedience to a Creator God? A resurrection from the dead? These questions may seem farfetched to some, but not to those who are seriously putting their affairs in order. We have many DVD’s and articles on the subject of death on our website, cognwm.org. If you would like to know more on this vital subject visit us there. You will be glad you did!