Church of God, New World Ministries

The Doctrine Of Death

In Romans 6:23 we learn that “. . . the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This verse is plain enough to be easily understood. The wages of sin is death, but what is death? For thousands of years man has pondered this question. As children, most of us learned both at public school and at church that the main difference separating man from the lower animals is the fact that man has a soul. Animals, we were taught, lacked a certain thing that man was born with. This thing in man, called a soul, caused him to live on after death. Sometimes this soul would be called a “ghost.” Churches, it seems, don’t generally agree on what becomes of the soul or ‘ghost” at death. To many people death is a fearsome departure into some “other world” from which no one can return. Some churches teach that there are two places a soul may go at death; either heaven or hell. Some teach there are three places: heaven, purgatory, and hell. A few teach there is only one place the soul goes at death – the grave. These believe that a resurrection is necessary for one to leave the grave. Still others believe that at death the soul enters another body (either human, animal, or vegetable) and continues to live.

It would appear that amid all this confusion (Babylon) that man really doesn’t understand death, or the soul, at all.

Today’s religious community has been taught that the soul is immortal. Common sense and scriptures should be able to show us the value of this teaching. It would appear from the above Scripture (Rom. 6:23) that death and eternal life are opposites and do not exist together within a soul. Scripture teaches that eternal life is a gift, and must be given from above.

It was in the Garden of Eden that the idea originated that in death we go on living. It was in the Garden of Eden, at the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that Stan first told man, “You won’t really die, you’ve got an immortal soul. Go on and eat the fruit. It may seem that you die; but really, you’ll be liberated. You’ll have a wider experience than before. You’ll know things when you live now; when you are liberated from this body, when you live in the spirit world.” This has been the devil’s lie ever since, and people have been believing it and selling it ever since.

Much of the confusion about one’s state in death will be resolved by finding out what the Bible teaches a soul is. The first book of the Bible sheds much light on the subject for us: “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). We find that man, rather than being given a soul, became a living soul. Man is a soul. Ezekiel had this same understanding: “The soul that sins, it (the soul) shall die” (Ezek. 18:4, 20). Death is the absence of life. When God breathed life into Adam – Adam became a living soul. The result of sin, then, is to sooner or later become a dead soul.

The word translated soul from the Hebrew Scriptures is nephesh. Nephesh means “a breathing creature.” Nephesh is a word for a mortal (breathing) creature, never an “immortal creature.” In Genesis 1:24 nephesh is translated dead body! In the New Testament the Greek word psuche is translated 14 times as soul. Psuche is translated 58 times as the life of man, which could be lost, destroyed, saved, and laid down. It may be seen then that the words life and soul may be used interchangeably.

Yes, we really can die, even though Satan has been telling us otherwise since the Garden of Eden where he told Eve “. . .  Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). A good way to prove these things to your own satisfaction is to check them in a good concordance, either Young’s’ or Strong’s.  They give us conclusive evidence that the word rendered soul may be also rendered dead body. When God breathed life into Adam, his dead soul became a living soul; that soul became subject to death, and later did die. We learn in Hebrews 11 that all the faithful who have died remain in this state to this day. Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and all the rest who have died remain in this state to this day, not having received the promise (of eternal life). They are still waiting in the graves, that all the faithful may receive the promise at the same time (Heb. 11:13, 39-40). We must await the resurrection to be born a new creature.

Socrates, the Greek philosopher, and his student, Plato, both taught the pagan doctrine of the immortality of the soul. They taught that death was the separation of the body and the soul. The Egyptians before them were among the first to teach the soul’s immortality through the mystery religion. Eternal punishing of an immortal soul was a doctrine anciently used to control the “common” people. Since false religions and the mysteries were unable to convert the individual to obedience and acceptable social standards by love toward God and fellow man, fear of eternal punishing in “hell fire” were used to restrain man to acceptable standards of conduct.

    In the latter part of the 2nd century both Origen and Tertullian accepted the pagan doctrine of Plato that “Souls are immortal” and introduced it into the teachings of the Roman Church. The simple truth of the Scriptures were slowly rejected in favor of this doctrine until in 1513 A.D. the Roman Church issued a decree against those who still “dared to assert concerning the nature of the reasonable soul that it is mortal.” Those who maintained that the soul was mortal were to be punished as heretics. The Roman Church had, in this too, turned from Scripture to pagan tradition. They discounted Solomon who said: “For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even one thing befalls them: as the one dies, so dies the other; yea, they all have 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). “For the living know that they shall die; but the dead know not anything” (Eccl.  9:5). David said of man: “His breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Ps. 146:3-4). Make no mistake about it, those who teach otherwise are not in accord with the Bible.

In the Life of Ingersall’s Early Days the story is told of what made Robert Ingersall one of the most notorious infidels the world has ever known. His Sunday School teacher told his class of children if they were not good children they would go to the lake of Hell Fire, and be tormented and tortured forever. He asked the teacher what “forever” meant, and how long it would be. She gave this illustration: “Suppose a little bird would come from one of the stars down here and take a pebble of sand and carry it up there once every year. You will be in Hell just as long as it would take that bird to carry this whole world up there to that star.” Then he asked her who made this place of torment. She answered, “It was God the Creator.”

Little Robert, it is said, resolved to be an enemy of that God and to His Book, the Bible, as long as he lived, and he was. His books against the Bible are everywhere, in many languages. The result was that this unscriptural defamation of our loving Creator has in this one case destroyed the faith of countless thousands and robbed them of their eternity, certainly something for a “Satanic” being to “jump for glee” over.

The doctrine of purgatory was introduced by the Roman Church. It is supposedly a lake of fire where sinners and others are declared to go for “purification.” Their length of stay depends supposedly on the prayers of the priests; who claim to have the power to “pray them out” and get them through to the “other side” safely. These Romish priests charge immense sums from the rich for getting their loved ones out quickly and thus lessening their suffering.

The protestant clergy also teach that “hell” is a lake of fire where conscious people suffer. But instead of these ministers praying the sinners out for a price, they frighten the people by preaching “hell fire sermons” to increase their congregations and keep the people supporting their ministry. If they don’t attend and contribute – they’re sure to go to hell and suffer the pangs of torment forever.

These are doctrines of lies, taught for the purpose of robbery. They are used to swindle widows and orphans, to feather the nest of priests and clergymen. They thrive on the wrong interpretation of certain verses of Scripture; which when so interpreted, involves the whole Bible in direct contradictions. This destroys the faith of honest intelligent souls, giving birth to thousands of infidels.

Frightening people to join the church and remain loyal to the work of the Master is just the opposite of His teachings, and gives birth to “church members,” but not to “begotten of the Spirit” Christians. The Bible teaches us that it is the goodness of God that leads people to repentance. It is the love of the Father that prompts obedience, not the fear of a god who is a monster more depraved than our worst criminals. It is “The goodness of God (that) leadeth thee to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). “Godly sorrow works repentance to salvation” (II Cor. 7:10).”For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not difficult” (I John 5:3 Lamsa).

How shall a person accept that God is love, when taught this devilish heathen idea that sinners are bound for eternal punishing in “hell fire?”

Here are just a few of the many Scriptures describing the final fate and end of the wicked: “But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs; they shall consume: into smoke shall they consume away” (Ps. 37:20).

“While they are drunken as drunkards they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry” (Nahum 1:10). “. . . . .  all the wicked and all who do iniquity shall be stubble; and the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 4:1-4: 1-3 Lamsa).”They shall be punished with everlasting destruction” (II Thess. 1:9). “No murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (I John 3:15).

What would the “Eternal Torment Preachers,” who claim to believe all of the Bible, do with Scriptures such as these? Why do they never use them in their sermons? The answer is obvious. They teach that the wicked have eternal life in hell, which many of them know is a lie. Eternal life only comes through the presence of the Holy Spirit in the person. Life and death are opposite terms. Eternal life for the righteous and death (eternal) for the wicked is stated over and over throughout the Bible.

A correct understanding of this subject is almost a necessity to Christian steadfastness. For centuries it has been the teaching of “orthodoxy” of all shades that God, before creating man, created a great abyss of fire and terrors. This great abyss is supposed to be capable of containing all the billions of humans which He purposed to bring into being. They teach that this abyss is named Hell, and that all of the promises and threatenings of the Bible were designed to deter as many as possible (the “little flock”) from such wrong-doing as would make this awful place their perpetual home. Christian people have so long been taught this awful blasphemy against God’s Word that to whatever extent their belief in “hell” is shaken; their belief in the Bible is also shaken. But the Bible, rightly understood, does not teach this “burning torment in hell” doctrine.

The word hell is an English word sometimes selected by the translators of the English Bible to express the sense of the Hebrew word sheol and the Greek words hades, gehenna, and tartaroo. Over a long period of years a number of words in our language have acquired different meanings and shades of meaning. So it has been with the word hell. The word hell in Old English usage simply meant: to conceal, to hide, or to cover; hence a concealed, hidden or covered place. In old English literature, records are found of the”helling” of potatoes – putting potatoes into pits; and of the “helling” of a house – covering or thatching it. The word hell was therefore properly used synonymously with the words grave and pit. These words (grave or pit) translate the words sheol and hades and signify the secret or hidden condition of death.

The Hebrew word sheol occurs 65 times in the Old Testament. In the KJV it is translated hell 31 times, grave 31 times, and pit 3 times. If the translators of the RSV had been thoroughly disentangled from error, they would have done more to help the English student than merely substitute the Hebrew word sheol and the Greek word hades, as they have done. They should have translated the words, but they have left us sheol and hades untranslated, and thus permitted the inference that these words mean the same as the word hell had become perverted to mean.  Yet anyone can see that if it was proper to translate the sheol 31 times grave, and 31 times hell, it could not have been improper to so translate it in every other instance.

A peculiarity to be observed in comparing these cases, as we shall shortly see, is that in those verses where the torment idea would have been an absurdity, the translators of the KJV have used the word grave or pit: while in all other cases they have used the word hell. The reader, long schooled in the idea of torment, reads the word hell and thinks of it as signifying place of torment, rather than the grave (hidden or covered placed or condition). Examples of these instances are Job 14:13 and Psalm 86. The second reads: “Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell (sheol).” Since the Hebrew word is the same in both cases, there is no reason why the same word grave should not be used in both. How absurd it would have been for Job to pray to God to hide him in a hell of eternal torture!

As was noted, the word hell occurs 31 times in the Old Testament, and in every instance it is from the Hebrew word sheol. It does not mean a lake of fire and brimstone. Quite the opposite, sheol is described as a place of “darkness” (Job 10:21). Instead of a place where shrieks and groans are heard, it is described in the context as a place of “silence” (Ps. 115:17). Rather than representing a place of pain, suffering, and remorse; the context describes it as a place or condition of “forgetfulness” (Ps. 88:11-12). “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge in the grave (sheol) whither thou goest” (Eccl. 9:10).

The meaning of sheol is the “hidden state,” as applied to man’s condition in death, in and beyond which is all hidden. All is hidden, except to “the eyes of faith.” Hence, by proper and close association, the word was often used in the sense of grave (the tomb, the hidden place, or place beyond which only those who haze the enlightened eyes of understanding can see a resurrection, or the restitution of being). In two scriptures (Isa. 14:9 and Jonah 2:2) translating sheol into hell was so obviously absurd that scholars have felt it necessary to explain in the margin of modern Bibles that the word actually means grave. In the latter case (Jonah 2:2) the hidden state, or grave, was the belly of the whale (or large fish) in which Jonah was buried.

The Scriptures state that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), not eternal life in a different location. The scriptural “hell fire’ is going to be a lot hotter than the clergy realize or admit; since it will consume the wicked to nothing more than ashes (Mal. 4:3).The words translated hell in the New Testament also bear this out.

This burning to ashes takes place after the resurrection. The Messiah Himself explained: “Do not wonder at this; for the time is coming when all those who are in their graves will hear his voice, and they will come out; those who have done good works to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil works to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29 Lamsa).

 “Children of God will be raised from their graves. At that time the Messiah will reward the righteous, and they will then rule with Him “as kings and priests” over the earth for 1,000 years (I Thess. 4:16-17; Rev. 20:4; Daniel 2:44; and 7:27).

The rest of the dead, the wicked, will not be resurrected until the end of the 1,000 years. They will be resurrected to judgment and destruction in the “lake of fire” (Rev. 21:8).

In the New Testament the Greek word hades corresponds exactly with the Hebrew word sheol. As proof, see the quotations of the apostles from the Old Testament, in which they render it hades: “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell” (hades). Acts 2:27 which is quoted from “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell” (sheol), Psa. 16:10. “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting: O grave (hades) where is thy victory?” (I Cor. 15:55) is an allusion to Isa. 25:8, “O death I will be thy plagues; O grave (sheol). I will be thy destruction.

Now notice Mark 9:47-48:”If thine eye offend thee pluck it out, it is better for thee to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” If you have a Bible with references along the margin, as many Bibles have, you will notice that there is a small figure by the word “hell” which you may trace to the margin. There you will find hell was translated from the Greek word gehenna. Any Bible dictionary will tell you the word gehenna is the name of the valley joining Jerusalem on the South, known also as the Valley of Hinnom. It was in this valley the garbage of the city was dumped. Also into the city dump were thrown the bodies of dead animals, and the bodies of dead convicted criminals. Fires were constantly kept burning to consume them. Around the edge where the fire did not burn, the maggots (or worms) were constantly eating the flesh that remained. Webster’s New World Dictionary tells us about gehenna: “The valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem where refuse was dumped and fires were kept continually burning to prevent pestilence: hence a place of burning.”  Here children were also burned to death in sacrifice to Moloch.  Gehenna then, as occurring in the New Testament, symbolizes death and utter destruction. In no place does it signify a place of eternal torment.

In Matthew 25:46 we learn that the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous unto life eternal. The punishment inflicted upon the wicked is to be everlasting in duration; but the verse of the KJV does not make it clear as to the nature of this everlasting punishment. In the Emphatic Diaglott this punishment is clarified: “These (the wicked) shall go forth to the aionian (everlasting) cutting off; but the righteous to aionian life.” God‘s Word explains further in II Thess. 1:9 that the wicked “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.” Also see Psa. 92:6-7; 68:2; 104:35; 37: 20, 38: Isa. 1:28; Nahum 1:9-10; Rev. 20:9, and 21:8.

Possibly the favorite verse of modern “hell fire” preachers is Luke 16:19-31. The rich man lived in luxurious splendor; while at his gate lay a beggar who would have been content with no more than the crumbs from the rich man’s table. The beggar’s only comfort came from dogs that licked his sores.

     The rich man died and was buried. The beggar died and was carried by angels to “Abraham’s bosom.” In hell from flames of torment, the rich man cried to father Abraham, “have mercy on me, and send Lazarus (the beggar), that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue.” The response brought a reminder that in their lifetime the situation was reversed. Before death the plutocrat thought nothing about the need for one man to help another.

Pleas persisted from the rich man, asking that Lazarus be sent to warn the rich man’s brothers, lest they also end up in torment. Abraham advised that they had Moses and the prophets. The rich man insisted his brothers would believe one who came from the dead, but Abraham was unconvinced.

 It is for  us to shun the profane and vain babblings of so-called “orthodoxy,” and accept God’s word which treats death as the cessation of life, offers you a resurrection from the dead, and immortality upon the condition that you “by a patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life” (Rom. 2:7).

Tradition says the dead are “Not dead but gone before.” But the Bible says of the faithful: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises” (Heb. 11:13), and that if there is no resurrection of the dead, “then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (I Cor. 15:18).

Tradition would make the Word of God of no effect. For if the wicked go to their punishment at death and the righteous go to the reward, what need would there be for a resurrection?

Tradition says men are recompensed at death; but the Bible says they shall be “recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14). Death, then, is the cessation of life, resulting in dissolution; and the resurrection is the reformation of man and the renewing of life.

Someone might ask, “But what about the experience of the thief on the cross? Didn’t Jesus tell him that he would be in Paradise that day? No, He really didn’t tell the thief that. The Bible doesn’t teach that a man goes to paradise at the time of death. The fact is that the thief didn’t ask to go to Paradise that day. He said, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The Master replied to him, “Verily I say unto you today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).

Someone might exclaim, “But you read that differently than other people do. Other people say, ‘Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.’” Well, how we say it whether we say, “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise,” or “I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise” depends upon what the Bible tells us about the thief, the Messiah, and about death.

Remember: When the Greek manuscript was written, there were no punctuation marks of any kind. The placement of the comma was a matter of translation, not inspiration.

Since Christ was in the heart of the earth three days and three nights we do not believe that He was in Paradise contrary to what he said in Matthew 12:40 as to where He would be at that time. Further proof that Christ did not go to Paradise that day is found in John 10:17: “Do not come near me; for I have not yet ascended to my Fathers; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God” (Lamsa translation). Revelation 2:7, 22:1-2 shows that the Father’s throne is in Paradise, so Christ had not yet gone to Paradise on Sunday morning.

To make it even plainer where Christ was after His death, turn to Acts 2:31. Peter was speaking of Christ and quoting the prophet David: “He (David) seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.” This verse proves that Jesus Christ was not in Paradise, but in hell. The word here rendered hell should have been translated “grave.”

What about Enoch and Elijah? When Elijah was caught up “by a whirlwind into heaven” (II Kings 2:11) he could not have been taken to God’s abode. The Son of God stated that no man, except Himself, has ascended into heaven (John 3:13). We find, in Hebrews 11:5, Enoch is mentioned. We find the prophets (Elijah was one) referred to in verse 32. From Hebrews 11:13-16 we may see that both Enoch and Elijah “died not having received the promise!”

Enoch and Elijah were translated into the first heaven but later finished out their physical lives on this earth. Scriptures speak of three heavens; the air around us, outer space where the planets and stars are seen, and the abode of the Father. A study of II Chron 21:12-15) gives evidence of Elijah’s later life.

We may be delivered from the pitfalls and deceptions of spiritism by believing what God says about death. Interest in witchcraft and spiritism is sweeping the world these days, and is one of the great deceptions of the last days. Someone might ask, “But if the dead are asleep in their graves, who is it, then, that appears in the séance chamber in the form of our loved one? Who writes on the slates and speaks through the Ouija board? Who is it?”

Well, the Bible says that the spirits of devils work miracles and deceive the whole world (Rev. 16:14; Matt. 24:24). Men can masquerade in the form of other men and imitate their voice; and if men can do this, certainly evil angels can do as much. They can look like and sound like our deceased friends and relatives. These beings have existed and observed man for thousands of years, why should they not know of past events, and speak of them to us, to convince us that they are our departed friends?

All through the Bible the final fate of the wicked is described as being burned up by fire. It’s this “lake of fire” that is described as being the “second death,” from which there will be no resurrection. The wicked are to remain dead forever, this is their eternal punishment. Look back to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. As Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, what did He want them to understand? There can be little doubt they understood what He was telling them. In Luke 13:27-28 he had told them: “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.” These Pharisees were going to be the “rich man” in the parable.  They were going to be thrust out into the LAKE OF FIRE, AS Malachi 4:1 explains: “For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that comes shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Host, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” All the proud and the wicked are going to be thrown into the lake of fire!  When they are resurrected and lift up their eyes, they’ll know they are doomed – doomed to be burned up.

We may learn from Christ’s words that the everlasting fire is prepared for the devil and his angels. In Matthew 25:41 Christ said: “. . .  Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” The wicked, who never were immortal, will be destroyed when thrown into this fire after the second resurrection.

The apostle Paul stated: “For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not that we should be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life” (II Cor. 5:40).

In verse I of the same chapter Paul spoke of “our earthly house.” We understand he is thereby speaking of the temporal or mortal, fleshly body – that it will be dissolved, That is, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” The hope is given by telling us of the eternal house or body “not made with hands,” because the Lord will supply it.

Notice that in Romans 8:19-23 Paul says we were made “subject to vanity” (one version says “decay”) but gives us hope that we shall be “delivered from the bondage of corruption” (or decay). I Corinthians 15:16 informs us that this deliverance and new body will be at the resurrection. We are “waiting for the redemption of our body.” This is not the redemption that now comes at conversion, when our sins are blotted out by faith in Jesus Christ. Notice that nothing is said about any desire to be in any spirit world when the mortal body is in decay or in the process of returning to dust while waiting for the immortal body we long for.

    In II Cor. 5:4 Paul says we “groan (‘we sigh’ another version says) being burdened.” Indeed this life has its burdens which should help cause us to long all the more for immortality.

“. . . . not for that we would be unclothed, but that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” It is clear in I Corinthians 15 that this life that swallows up mortality will come at the resurrection when at the Saviour’s return “the trumpet shall sound.”

The desire is not to be unclothed (to die), but to be clothed with an immortal body from the Lord. If folks “went to a spirit world” at death to wait until the resurrection, why didn’t Paul mention it and have a desire to be there when the old body of flesh couldn’t suffer pain and anguish? The fact is – when believers are laid to rest they are not in some spirit world, but rather they are “asleep in Christ” as the Bible plainly teaches.

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