The Mystery of Death



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In 1981, not long before he died, writer William Saroyan was quoted by the Associated Press as having said, “Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?” That’s a question every person alive must eventually face. What happens when a person dies? Does the Bible tell us? And how is the subject important in the overall picture of Bible truth? In order to understand how human beings end, we must first examine how human beings were originally made.
What warning did God give Adam and Eve about death?

Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely _________.

God was clear. Disobedience would result in death. As Adam and Eve surrendered their loyalty to God, separation from God would occur (see Isaiah 59:2), and death would be the inevitable result.
How did Satan counter what God told Adam and Eve?

The serpent said to the woman, “You will _________ surely die.”

Satan directly contradicted the plain statement of God. This is the first lie recorded in the Bible. Tragically, Adam and Eve believed the lie and ate the forbidden fruit. Their disobedience brought death into the world.
How were Adam and Eve created?

The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a _______________ _____________.

It is important to recognize that when Adam was created, he was not given a soul. The Bible teaches that Adam was a soul. The King James Version of the Bible refers to the combination of body and breath as a “living soul.” As you read this It Is Written Bible Study Guide, you can know that—in God’s eyes—you are a “soul.” The Bible does not teach that human beings have a soul that returns to God at death. Remember this equation: The dust of the ground + the breath of life = a living soul. Psalm 146:4 puts it this way: “His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans [or thoughts] perish.” At death, the dust human beings were made from returns to the earth, and the breath God breathed into us to give us life leaves our bodies.

Job describes this “spirit” as being “breath” when he says in Job 27:3 (KJV), “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils.”
The “spirit” that returns to God at death and the “breath” that returns to God are one and the same thing.
Rather than being something living or conscious, the breath of life is simply the life force that keeps a person alive. When we stop breathing, we soon die. The Bible says that when we die, our “breath” returns to God.
Are people conscious in death?

The living know that they will die; but the dead know _________________.

People are unconscious in death. Their minds are inactive. Ecclesiastes 9:6 says, “Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished.”

Just as the dead “know nothing,” the dead do not praise the Lord. The Bible describes their state as “silence.”

Jesus described death as a “sleep.” Rather than going immediately into the presence of God at death, the dead sleep a dreamless sleep in anticipation of a future resurrection. In fact, there are dozens of locations in the Bible where death is referred to as sleep.
What did Jesus say to Lazarus after Lazarus had been dead for four days?

He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, ___________ _____________!”

Lazarus had been dead for four days, yet Jesus did not call him down from heaven, for the simple reason that Lazarus did not go to heaven when he died. Instead, he went into the grave. Jesus called Lazarus forth from the place where he had been buried.

Although we expect to see King David in heaven one day, God made very clear through Peter that approximately 1,000 years after his death, David was not in heaven. Peter made a very plain statement when he said, “David did not ascend into the heavens.” Where was David? David was still in his tomb, sleeping the sleep of death.
Do people possess an immortal soul?

The soul who sins shall __________.

The Bible is consistent. Nowhere does the Bible say human beings possess an immortal soul. In fact, Romans 2:7 says that people “seek for” immortality. One would not need to seek for something one already possesses. And 1 Timothy 6:15, 16 says that God “alone has immortality.”

Paul was very clear that the dead sleep until the resurrection, when the trumpet sounds. This has not yet taken place. Therefore, the dead have not yet ascended to heaven.

The trumpet sounds and the resurrection of the saved takes place on the day that Jesus returns to this world.

Martha perfectly understood the sleep of death. She was under no illusion that her brother, Lazarus, had gone to heaven when he died. The Old Testament expresses the thought in exactly the same way. In 1 Kings 2:10, we read that when David died, he “rested [slept] with his fathers.” And 1 Kings 11:43 says, “Solomon rested [slept] with his fathers.” The thought expressed throughout the Bible is that the dead sleep until the resurrection.

When Jesus returns, “the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) The resurrection of damnation takes place at another time. [Note: This will be discussed in It Is Written Bible Study Guide #12, “Hellfire: Would God Really Do That?”]
What about the thief on the cross?
Carefully read the passage regarding the thief on the cross, and Jesus’ words are very clear.
Luke 23:42, 43 — He said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
The thief didn’t ask to go to heaven that day. He asked that Jesus would remember him when Jesus came into His kingdom. Notice that Jesus seemed to say, “Today you will be with me in Paradise,” when Jesus Himself didn’t go to heaven that day. While Jesus’ exchange with the thief took place on a Friday, it wasn’t until Sunday that Jesus went to heaven. On the Sunday morning after His death, He told Mary that He had not yet been to heaven.
So what was Jesus telling the thief? It is important to remember that the Bible was written without punctuation. Punctuation was added by Bible translators several centuries after the Bible was originally written.
In this instance, the Bible translators put the comma in the wrong place! Rather than, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise,” the passage should read, “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” Now, rather than contradicting many other Bible verses, Jesus’ words are in harmony with the rest of Scripture.
Jesus was teaching a great truth, and giving the thief on the cross needed encouragement. Although he was a criminal and condemned by men to die, the thief could take heart in the knowledge that he was forgiven by God, and that in spite of his wretched state hanging on a cross, he could know that faith in Jesus is able to save anyone at any time. The thief could die in the assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ!
What popular deception is countered by the truth of the sleep in death?

As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, so he who goes down to the grave does not come up. He shall never return to his _____________, nor shall his place know him anymore.

The teachings of spiritualism are prevalent today in popular culture. Psychics who claim to communicate with the dead, and movies and books about vampires and sorcery have become part of the fabric of society. They all propagate Satan’s original lie when he told Adam and Eve, “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4) Ghosts are widely believed in, when the truth is that the dead are resting in the grave—not haunting houses!
What about paradise? Isn’t that an intermediate state or place between life on this earth and life in heaven?
In 2 Corinthians 12:3, 4, Paul speaks of a man caught up into “paradise” who is given a vision of the wonders of heaven. Paradise is, simply, heaven. In Revelation 2:7, the tree of life is described as being in the “midst of the Paradise of God.” In Revelation 22:2, the tree of life is shown as being in heaven. Paradise and heaven are the same place.
What about Moses and Elijah?
Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus at His transfiguration. This was possible because Elijah was taken to heaven without seeing death (2 Kings 2:11), while Moses was specially resurrected after he died. (Jude 9) They appeared with Jesus as representatives of all who would be saved as a result of His death on the cross. (Luke 9:30, 31)
What about the people who were resurrected after Jesus died?
This proves that death is a sleep. Matthew 27:52 says that “many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” They were dead and were described as sleeping. This serves to reinforce the Bible truth of death being a sleep.
How widespread will the teachings of spiritualism be in earth’s final days?

They are spirits of ________________, performing signs.

According to the Bible, spiritualism is going to be a major force in earth’s final days. Only those who understand the true state of a person in death will not be deceived by Satan’s major end-time delusion.

If a person died and went straight to heaven, there would be no need for a resurrection to take place. However, because we die and go to the grave, we need Someone to wake us up from our sleep, clothe us with new bodies and take us to heaven.
Only one Person can do that—Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life. Through Jesus, we can live again. He is the Bread of Life, and anyone who eats of this Bread “will live forever.” (John 6:51) Our hope in death is in Jesus—the Resurrection and the Life—through Whom we can live again.

Are you willing to put your faith in Jesus—the Resurrection and the Life— and trust Him to be your Lord and Savior?