What is the Biblical Definition of Death?
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About a year ago, I was at the funeral of a good friend. I was both surprised and appalled at some of the statements made by the minister with regard to “the afterlife”. It seems Christians are taught all kinds of things about what comes after death and then along the path of life, make additional assumptions based on these teachings.
In this case, she made multiple references to my friend now being face to face with the Father and enjoying his new life in heaven. As a member of the clergy you would think she would know better than to make such references.
I think there may be some questions that people need to ask with regard to what they are being taught. It seems that preachers are not necessarily being totally honest with their flocks and in some cases may themselves actually believe what they are preaching. It is not always known why this is happening – whether to keep the flock coming back week after week by telling them what they want to hear as opposed to the truth or whether the preachers themselves actually believe the misconceptions they are spreading.
Money is a big motivator and more money means larger congregations, more clout and subsequently, more power. The Catholic church has obtained considerable power and riches by instilling guilt within its congregation worldwide. Who hasn’t heard of Catholic Guilt? However, is this what Christ teaches? Is it all about money and power? Jesus had neither and lived as a pauper teaching love of God and fellow man.
The forefathers of the United States of America were a group of brilliant men who knew the value of the separation of church and state, yet the first meeting of congress included a 3-hour prayer session. Doesn’t that seem a little strange coming from a group of men who thought that the separation of church and state was so important as to insert it as a part of the Constitution?
If you step back and take a closer look at their meaning, it isn’t strange at all. These were men who were well versed in both history and the bible. They knew from the study of both that it is never a good idea to try to remove God from the country. However, the church is run by men and, consequently, has been corrupted by them as well. History shows us that when the church is also in control of government, very bad things happen on a very large scale. The Spanish Inquisition and The Crusades are two prime examples.
I’ve heard people state that these examples illustrate God’s sanctioning the killing and torture of innocent people, but the truth is that it was never God sanctioning these actions – it was the church which is run, controlled and operated by men – more often than not, corrupt men. God and the church are NOT one and the same and one does NOT necessarily support the other.
Now getting back to point – death and afterlife. Most cultures believe or have believed in some kind of afterlife. The ancient Egyptians mummified their Pharaohs and other VIP’s in preparation for the next life. The East Indians believe in reincarnation and are very cognizant of all life with the understanding that any living thing could once have been a friend or relative. However, as a Christian, what does the bible ACTUALLY say on the matter of death?
The bible compares death to sleep and makes mention of it in over 50 places within its pages. Nowhere does it state that we are going directly to heaven to meet God right after we die. It does state that we basically go to sleep – we know nothing and see nothing. When we die, the next thing we will be aware of is Christ waking us up. It will be just like when you go to sleep at night and it seems like the next moment you are waking up to face the new day.
Genesis 2:7 (KJV) “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.”
God did not put a soul into man. It is the combination of dust and breath that create a living soul. In other words, the body and soul are one and the same.
If you were going to make a wooden box you would take a combination of boards and nails to create the box. However, if you take the box apart and pull all the nails out of the wood and put the nails in a pile and the boards in a stack, you no longer have a box. What happened to it? It simply ceases to exist until you put it back together again.
While this is a very simplistic way of looking at it, that is essentially the way it is with death. If you remove breath, that spark of life which comes from God, the body then returns to dust or ashes. What happens to the soul? It is returned to God until Christ returns at the resurrection and puts it all back together again. When Jesus returns to earth, he will return with the breath of life to be reunited with the dust and return us to life. Therefore, according to the bible the soul and the person are one and the same.
The interval of time between the moment we die and the resurrection is described in the bible as “sleep.” We have no consciousness of anything going on in the world, time passing, events going on, etc. According to the bible, dying is like going to sleep. Your next conscious thought will be when you are looking into Jesus’ eyes directly after he has resurrected you and breathed life back into your dust.
Let’s get a few direct biblical quotes (and not out of context like so many clergy do these days to give their congregation what they want to hear so they will keep coming back). This is one of those things that never ceases to amaze me about people in general. The desire to only hear what you want to hear instead of what should be an even stronger desire to know the truth no matter how unpleasant or distasteful it may be. Many people even take a little from multiple religions to create their own little belief system – completely out of context from any single faith and built on a combination of all kinds of things – sometimes even a little fantasy is thrown into the mix from any number of fictional, science fiction or fantasy books from modern authors they may have read and simply decided to insert into their religious fact base.
Dunno how to take all that in – I’m more like a Dragnet rerun where Joe Friday says, “Just the facts, Ma’am!”
Give me the truth no matter how much it may taste like Vick’s Formula 44 or some other nasty tasting concoction from 50 years ago! It may be a hard pill to swallow, but truth has an ability to heal like nothing else. If you know it up front, there is no let down from the lie later.
All following quotes are from the King James Version which is the closest English language version of the bible to the original Hebrew and Greek.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 – “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” The spirit being the breath of life which is returned to Him who provided it.
Job 27:3 – “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils;” The spirit of God being the same as God’s breath of life or the life He has breathed into our bodies.
Psalm 146:4 – “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” The dead do not think.
Psalm 115:17 – “The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.” The dead are silent and cannot raise a voice in praise – not from the earth or any afterlife.
Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 – “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, 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.” I think this one kind of speaks for itself.
Human beings are not immortal – not our bodies nor our souls (which are actually one and the same). Only God, Jesus and the angels are immortal and because the angels were created by God, they can also be un-created by him. We will receive our immortality as a gift from Jesus when He returns.
1 Corinthians 15:51-54 – “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”
When Jesus returns and resurrects us, He will bring His reward of eternal life with Him.
Revelation 22:12 – “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Not everyone is going to heaven. This is another misconception perpetuated by the church to gain more following. Heaven and eternal life will be available to those who have earned that place.
After all, can you honestly believe that the most evil individuals in history have a place by the side of Jesus!? Hitler, Mussolini, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, all the crazy Caesars and a whole slew of unrepentant murderers, assassins, rapists and what may be in the eyes of Jesus the most heinous of them all, child molesters and pedophiles. It was well documented how Jesus felt about children and it would simply be impossible to believe that these people who are unrepentant about their actions could even remotely have a place by His side no matter how much protest might come from the liberal faction in the USA today!
The same is true for those who do not believe in Him, shun Him or rebuke Him. Why should he not return that favor for these people? Is there a reason He should extend to them eternal life when they have gone out of their way to refuse Him and treat the people who DO love him like a group of comedic insects? Those who love Him and have proved it will be with Him throughout eternity.
Matthew 10:33 – “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”
Those people who have shown an unrepentant love for evil will not go to heaven and everlasting life. Will they burn in hell for eternity? We can get into that discussion later.