| "Come out of her my people" - Jesus Christ
|WHAT HAPPENS AT DEATH?
The Bible teaches that death means ‘separation’. For example, unbelieving men are said to be spiritually dead because they are separated from God by their sins and trespasses [Ephesians 2:1-3 and Isaiah 59:1-2]. The Bible also teaches that biological death is the separation of the spirit from the body. As we see in the following Scriptures.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Genesis 35:18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. [Also see Job 34:14-15 and Luke 23:46].
THE BIBLE LIKENS THE BODY TO A TENT WHICH HOUSES THE SOUL.
As we have seen death is the separation of the spirit/soul from the body. The body is seen through out Scriptures as a dwelling place for the spirit of man. We are taught in the Bible that at death the soul leaves the body [Genesis 35:18], and at an resurrection the soul re-enters the body [1st Kings 17:22].
Job referred to the human body as a house of clay [Job 4:19].
Paul spoke of his body as an “earthly house” [2nd Corinthians 5:1].
In Second Peter 1:13-15 the Apostle referred to his body as a “tabernacle” or tent that he would “put off” or lay aside as a garment at his death.
Thus we see from the Bible that the body is considered an outer shell, that houses our true person, which Paul called our “inner man”[2nd Corinthians 4:16].
CONSCIOUSNESS AFTER DEATH?
The question we wish to investigate is: If the soul or spirit of man is the real you; does your soul have consciousness outside of the body? It is evident from the Gospels that the Apostles of Christ believed in conscious disembodied spirits. We are told in both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark that the disciples became terrified when they saw Christ walking on the water, because they thought him to be a “spirit” [See Matthew 14:26 and Mark 6:49]. The original Greek word for spirit in these verses is “phantasma” which literally means a ghost. Now this would not prove much other than the superstition of the day, if it was not for the next text.
You will remember that after his resurrection, Christ appeared to his disciples and again they thought that he was a spirit, but he explained thus to them:
Luke 24:39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
Notice Christ did not rebuke them for their belief in spirits, he did not say, “there are no spirits”, but he explained he was not one, seeing he had both flesh and bone. It was the common belief of the Jewish people that the spirit or soul of the person departed at death and entered an intermediate state where it was reserved until the resurrection. The Pharisees, who were the more orthodox sect of the Jews, who Christ said sat in Moses’ seat, believed in the immaterial soul or spirit that left the body at death. The only sect I know of that denied this doctrine was the Sadducees who also denied the existence of angels and rejected the doctrine of the bodily resurrection [see Acts 23:8]. According to Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, the doctrine of the Sadducees is this: "that souls die with the bodies." (Ant: b. xviii, chap. i. & 4). A doctrine rejected clearly by the Pharisees, the early Church and even Christ himself.
SAUL AND THE SPIRIT OF SAMUEL
Another example that we may present is that of Saul attempting to communicate with the dead prophet Samuel [1st Samuel 28:7-19]. The act of contacting departed spirits was forbidden by God in the law of Moses, but in desperation Saul transgressed and went to the witch of Endor; whom he asked to ‘bring up’ the Prophet Samuel. You will notice as you read the account that Saul was not asking her to ‘resurrect’ the body of Samuel but rather to bring up his departed spirit from sheol/hades so that he could inquire something of him. This thus proves that Saul, the King of Israel, who had served God in the Jewish faith [though now in a state of rebellion, he was no pagan], believed in disembodied spirits.
Some will ask, “was it possible for a witch to disquiet the spirit of an Old Testament Saint?”. Only if God allowed it, and actually empowered it to happen, for his own purposes and glory.
But was the apparition really Samuel? The Scriptures repeatedly states that it was. In verse 12 it says “when the woman saw Samuel” and then in verses 15 and 16 we read that it was Samuel who was speaking to Saul. We should also consider that his prophecy of Saul’s death and the kingdom being given to David came to pass.
Some say it was not really the prophet, but rather the devil [a familiar spirit] disguised as Samuel, and they base this conclusion on 1st Chronicles 10:13 where it seems to read in the King James Version that Saul was speaking to a “familiar spirit” or a demon. But the verse literally reads:
1Ch 10:13 So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a medium [necromancer] for guidance. - NKJV
The word that is translated “one that had a familiar spirit” in the AKJV is one word “’owb” and it means a medium. The words “of it” were also added by the King James translators, which they admit by leaving them in italics.
Yet it seems there has been a division in the Church since the very beginning of whether this was really Samuel or a lying spirit. Men of the first four centuries like Justin Martyr, Methodius and Augustine believed it was truly Samuel; while Tertullian and Hippolytus believed it was not. Most modern commentaries on this issue are equally divided. It is interesting to note that those who have rejected that it was really Samuel did not do so on account of any Scriptural evidence, but because they thought it hard to believe that God would use a witch to disturb one of his saints. Yet, we will leave this particular subject with what we know definitely: King Saul believed in disembodied spirits.
CHRIST CLEARLY BELIEVED IN DEPARTED SPIRITS.
Luke 16:22-23 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell [hades] he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Christ taught that immediately after death Lazarus was carried to Abraham’s bosom, a place of comfort. While the rich man opened his eyes in hell, which is translated here from the Greek word hades. Hades is that hidden place, that intermediate place, where the Jews and early Christians believed the wicked are reserved until the great judgment day.
The Apostle Peter spoke of it when he wrote: “ The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve [to keep under guard] the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” –2Peter 2:9 :
Also in 1st Peter 3:19 the Apostle plainly teaches us that the spirits of those who were destroyed by the flood, who had heard the preaching of Christ through the prophet Noah, are now in this spiritual prison. A place where they are held in custody and guarded until the day of judgment. NOTE: *Christ did not preach to them while they were in this state, but while they were in their bodies before the flood [1st Peter 3:20]. They were spirits in prison at the time of Peter’s writing.
Thus the Bible teaches that the disembodied spirits of the wicked are reserved, that is kept in custody until the resurrection. This ‘prison’ that they are in is called hades. At the resurrection the wicked along with hades its self will be cast into hellfire [Revelation 20:14]. We should never forget that the wicked will be judged and punished in both body and soul in hell for their sins [Matthew 5:29-30, Revelation 20:14].
For additional proof that rich man did not lift up his eyes in the place of the final judgment [the lake of fire] we offer these facts: In Christ’s story the rich man has brothers upon earth who may be warned to escape that place of torment [Luke 16:28]. The final resurrection therefore has not yet come, neither the final judgment; for these brethren of his still had hope of repentance [Luke 16:30]. We should also carefully note that after death the Bible offers no hope of salvation, for we are told that there exists a great gulf fixed between the two places and that none can cross over [Luke 16:26].
Some may argue that this is only a parable and that there is no immediate consciousness after death. Well, if it is a parable then Christ taught us a lying parable for he clearly teaches consciousness after death in this passage. Not only consciousness, but memory and feelings. If there are none of these then Christ has deceived us badly with this story, for he speaks of these things as if they were so.
Some may ask, “Can those who are in heaven speak to them in hell or can those in hell speak to them in heaven”. This story teaches neither. The ancient Jews and the early Christians believed that before the resurrection of Christ that the spirits of both the righteous and the wicked descended into Hades, which had two gates, leading to two rooms. The righteous were reserved in perfect peace in one room, while the wicked suffered awaiting judgment in the other.
WHERE DO CHRISTIANS GO WHEN THEY DIE?
In Philippians 1:21-24 the Apostle Paul explained to the believers how he was in a difficult situation. He desired to die and to be with Christ, which was far better for him. But he was willing to remain in the body of flesh because it was more needful for the Church.
In another place Paul explained that he was “Confident.. And willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” – 2nd Corinthians 5:8
Clearly Paul believed that at death his inner man would leave the body and enter the presence of Christ.
Stephen cried out to the Lord as he was dying saying: ““ Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” – Acts 7:59. What did Stephen expect Christ to receive at his death? His breath? The Spirit of life from God? No, HIS personal spirit.
From this we learn that the interval between death and the resurrection, is a state of absence from the body, during which time the spirit is disembodied, and exists in a separate state. And this state cannot be that of inactivity and sleep, for that would not be desirable! How could thoughtlessness be preferred over enjoying the presence and love Christ? It cannot be. Thus we must conclude that to the Christian death is gain, because they enter into the presence of Christ, where the spirits of just men have happiness and glory and perfect rest, as they await the resurrection and glorification of the body; when Body and Soul shall once again be reunited.
TODAY THOU SHALT BE WITH ME IN PARADISE
Luke 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Here is the promise that Christ made to the thief who believed upon him; “today shalt thou be with me in paradise”. Now we know that bodily neither entered paradise that day, thus it had to be to the soul of the thief that Christ spoke. For both a bodily ascension and a spiritual [out of the body] ascension are possible to paradise according to the Apostle Paul [2nd Corinthians 12:1-4]. We should also remember that it was a common belief among the Jews that ‘paradise’ was the intermediate state where the departed spirits of the righteous abode until the resurrection.
Concerning the objection to such a rendering of this verse which some make, John Gill wrote in his Expositor: “Some would remove the stop [comma], and place it after "today", and read the words thus, "I say unto thee today,"; as if Christ only signified the time when he said this, and not when the thief should be with him in paradise; which, besides it being senseless, and impertinent, and only contrived to serve an hypothesis, is not agreeably to Christ’s usual way of speaking, and contrary to all copies and versions.”
THE SOULS OF THE MARTYRS ARE IN PARADISE.
Revelation 6:9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
The souls of them that had been put to death by persecution are here represented as making supplication to God, in his very presence. This is one of the incidental proofs in the Bible that the soul does not cease to exist at death, and also that it does not cease to be conscious, or does not sleep till the resurrection. These souls of the martyrs are represented as still in existence; still remembering what had happened on earth and even praying onto God!
The doctrine that the soul continues to live after death was taught by Christ, when he explained that persecutors only have power to kill the body, but can not kill the soul of believers: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Matthew 10:28
With this we should admit several things: The spirits of Christians who die in the Lord go directly to the presence of Christ, in heaven. They do not cease to be. Neither do they become unconscious. Neither do they enter ‘Abraham’s bosom’ as the Old Testament saints are said to have done. Nor do they enter the Roman ‘purgatory’, but they are carried into the very presence of God. It was for this privilege Christ prayed, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” – John 17:24.
WHAT OF THESE VERSES?
Psalms 146:4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
Does this mean that at the moment of death the soul or spirit of man ceases or ceases to be conscious? No, But the meaning is, that at death all the plans and designs of men all come to an end. All their projects and schemes that they have made concerning things of this earth come to nothing [see Job 17:12]. As we can see in the following translation of the verse:
Psalms 146:4 His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish - NKJV
Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 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; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
Does this verse contradict all that we have learned? No! The key to these verses is the phrase “Under the Sun”. Under the Sun, where the body remains the dead know nothing, all their bodily senses have gone extinct. And spiritually the departed have nothing to do with worldly things of this earth, things that are done under the sun. They know not any thing that is done in this world. They don’t even know how it goes with their own family and children which they have left behind [See Job 14:21 and Isaiah 63:16]. Thus it is proven that Roman Catholics and heathen waste their time praying to the dead, for they do not know their prayers and cannot serve as their mediator. But spiritually we are taught by Christ that they know. The rich man knew Abraham and recognized Lazarus, he could still remember his brethren. He knew what it meant to be thirsty and to suffer. Lazarus knew comfort. Abraham knew that the Law and Prophets were sufficient to lead men to repentance. The souls under the altar in Revelation chapter six knew God, for they called upon him. They knew they had been martyred, and knew what it was like to be clothed in white raiment.
Daniel 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Does this verse teach that the spirits of men sleep and are unconscious until the resurrection? I do not know anyone who thinks that the spirits of dead men sleep in the dust. For we are told they “return to God”. It is the body that sleeps in the dust, and knows nothing; that shall awake at the resurrection. This verse only lends proof to the physical resurrection of the body; and does nothing for the doctrine of ‘soul sleep’. In fact the Bible says nothing of souls sleeping at all. The closest verse we have is Revelation 6:11 where the souls of the martyrs who were praying unto God are given white robes and are told to ‘rest’ a little while longer. But the word there though does not denote sleep, but simply rest from labor. A promise made to all the dead who have died in the Lord [Revelation 14:13].
The Christian church has consistently and overwhelmingly taught over the past two-thousand years that the spirits of men are conscious after death. A doctrine that is clearly outlined in the Scriptures. There have been only a few heretical sects who have denied the doctrine; the great majority of which have appeared in the last one-hundred and sixty years; these also hold other variant doctrines which are contrary to the ancient Biblical faith.