Funerals can give us some of the most sobering moments of our lives, the purpose, meaning, and brevity of human existence coming out of the shadows and drawing into sharp focus. It’s only then, for a brief open-casket viewing, that we see our frailty and that our myopic tendencies are exposed for what they are: petty and trivial.
Could our refusal to talk about death actually be unbelief – doubting that heaven holds a better life for us than this one? Or is it simply a matter of an attention deficit – being captivated by motion and distracted by shiny objects that herd our thoughts toward temporary, fleeting, vanishing things?
Heaven Is NOT:
- Heaven isn’t now. Somewhere in the world, between twenty-five and thirty wars are being fought right now. Enough said.
- Heaven isn’t for everyone. Some people won’t be there. I know that sounds harsh and exclusive, but it’s the truth. We’ll get to this more later.
- Heaven isn’t cute and ethereal. I’m not judging you if you have Precious Moments figurines on your bookshelf or mantle; I’m just saying heaven will not look like those. Nor will heaven look like what we see in cartoons or movies, where we float on clouds and God is Morgan Freeman.
- Heaven isn’t a state of mind or a mindless state. In some forms of Eastern thought, people aspire to be liberated from cravings, anger, and afflictive states. Nirvana is where there is nothing and where nothing is grasped. However, heaven is not nirvana.
Hell Is NOT:
- Hell isn’t funny. Gary Larson’s Far Side comics are often hilarious, but what he depicts about heaven, and especially about hell, are just plain wrong. No one will ever laugh in hell.
- Hell isn’t a bearable annoyance. Often we are led to think that hell is just a bad hair day stretched out for a long time. Or something like this crosses our mind: My life is hell. Life can be difficult, but this life is not what the Bible describes as hell.
- Hell isn’t just for Hitler and those Columbine shooters and maybe a few more. Lost Springs, Wyoming, boasts a population of one. Jesus clearly indicated a population for hell that’s much greater than that of Lost Springs: “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13, NIV).
Death means “separation.” What happens when a person dies? Now technically, the scriptures speak of at least four kinds of death in relation to one’s spirit, soul and body:
1. SPIRITUAL DEATH (Isa.59:2; Eph. 2:1)
This death is the SEPARATION of man from God because of sin. Briefly explain the fall of Adam (Gen. 2:16-17). One can be alive physically but dead spiritually (Matt. 8:22; I Tim. 5:6). A lost person may have a live body, live soul, but dead spirit! The good news is that a sinner can still escape spiritual death and be spiritually resurrected (Eph. 2:5). A man has a lifetime of opportunity to escape spiritual death.
2. PHYSICAL DEATH (Jas. 2:26; Gen. 35:18)
This death is the SEPARATION of the INWARD man from OUTWARD man (cf. Eph. 3:16; II Cor. 4:16). There is no escape from physical death except at the Rapture! But barring the Rapture in our lifetime, we will all die and there is no escape in spite of the amazing advancements by technology, science, and medicine. Our BODY of flesh is the outward man that dies, corrupts and returns to dust (Job 34:15). On the other hand, the SOUL is the inward man that is immortal and incorruptible. The BODY may be dead but the SOUL is alive forevermore in heaven (II Cor.5:8) or hell (Luke 16:23). No soul sleep but body sleep instead!
One may be dead physically but that is not the end of everything (Heb. 9:27). The Bible teaches that the SOUL is ever alive and conscious even when the BODY is dead! We get a foretaste of physical death when we sleep and dream!
3. ETERNAL DEATH (Luke 16:19-21; Ezek. 18:4)
This is the SEPARATION of the SOUL from the BODY and SPIRIT to be cast into hell. When the BODY dies, it returns to dust and the SPIRIT returns to God who gave it (Eccl. 12:7). When the body dies, there is no more second chance of salvation for then the SOUL is lost and condemned forever and ever. It will be separated from God ETERNALLY! Unlike spiritual death, eternal death is irreversible!
4. SECOND or FINAL DEATH (Rev. 20:15; 21:8)
This will take place AFTER the Millennium at the Great White Throne Judgment. Contrary to popular belief, the Last Judgment does not occur at the Second Coming of Christ but only after His literal 1000-year earthly reign (Rev. 20:5-6). (Summarize passage). At the Last Judgment, the dead will be physically resurrected which means that their bodies will again re-unite with their souls to face God – the Judge and give an account. The sea, the grave, death, and hell itself will give up ALL the bodies and souls in them to be judged.
Notice that this second death is the casting of both BODY and SOUL into the Lake of Fire (Matt. 10:28). The Bible teaches TWO hells – one below the earth which is temporary (Matt. 12:40; Acts 2:27, 31) and the other above the earth which is everlasting – the Lake of Fire which was prepared for the devil and His angels (Matt. 25:41). Hell itself will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:14) along with those who will perish after the Last Judgment.
The final death results in the casting into the Lake of Fire of all the “rubbish of the universe” – Satan and his unholy angels, death, hell, sin, and sadly, all who died without repenting of their sins and rejected Christ as Lord & Saviour!
Conclusion: The Lake of Fire in its final state will be thick darkness (Jude 13), unquenchable fire, torment, suffering, plus worms (Mark 9:44-48). Friend, life is short, death is sure, sin is a curse but Christ is the hope and cure (John 11:25). Do you have 100% assurance of salvation in Christ?
Death As “Sleep”
The Bible compares death to sleep more than fifty times. After death we are asleep, we are unconscious; we are not aware of the passing of time or of what is going on around us. That is what death is like as well. The Bible says, “for the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing… their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, NKJV, see also Psalm 146:4; 115:17).
It makes sense that after Lazarus was raised from the dead, he doesn’t share what he saw or experienced. He didn’t have anything to tell, except that once he was dead, and now he is alive! He didn’t experience hell or heaven. He was simply “sleeping” in his tomb. Peter on the Day of Pentecost said the same of King David. “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day…For David did not ascend into the heavens…”(Acts 2:29, 34).
What Christians Believe About The “SOUL”?
Many Christians think of the soul as an immortal entity within us that goes on living after death. What does the Bible say? Describing the creation of human beings in the beginning, the Bible says, “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” (Genesis 2:7, KJV). Other Bible translations say, “. . . and man became a living being” (NKJV; NIV). God did not put a soul into man.
He formed the body from the dust of the ground, and then He breathed His life-giving spirit into the lifeless body—and the result was a soul or a living being. When a person dies, the reverse takes place. The breath of life departs from the body, and the soul no longer exists. That’s what the Bible says. “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7, NIV). At the resurrection, God reunites the body and His life-giving spirit—and the person lives again.
If souls existed as separate entities that lived on after we died, that would mean we have immortality. However, the Bible says human beings do not have immortality. Only God is immortal (see 1 Timothy 6:15, 16). Paul says that the righteous “seek for glory, honor, and immortality” (Romans 2:7). If we had immortal souls, why would the righteous seek after something they already have?
May be simply defined as the termination of life. It is represented under a variety of aspects in Scripture:
- “The dust shall return to the earth as it was” (Eccl 12:7).
- “Thou takest away their breath, they die” (Psalms 104:29).
- It is the dissolution of “our earthly house of this tabernacle” (2Corinthians 5:1); the “putting off this tabernacle” (2 Peter 1:132 Peter 1:14).
- Being “unclothed” (2 Corinthians 5:3 2 Corinthians 5:4).
- “Falling on sleep” (Psalms 76:5 ; Jeremiah 51:39 ; Acts 13:36 ; 2 Pet 3:9)
- “I go whence I shall not return” (Job 10:21); “Make me to know mine end” (Psalms 39:4); “to depart” (Phil 1:23).
The grave is represented as “the gates of death” (Job 38:17 ; Psalms 9:13 ; 107:18). The gloomy silence of the grave is spoken of under the figure of the “shadow of death” (Jeremiah 2:6 ).
Death is the effect of sin (Hebrews 2:14), and not a “debt of nature.” It is but once (9:27), universal (Genesis 3:19), necessary (Luke 2:28-30). Jesus has by his own death taken away its sting for all his followers (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
There is a spiritual death in trespasses and sins, i.e., the death of the soul under the power of sin ( Romans 8:6 ; Ephesians 2:1Ephesians 2:3 ; Colossians 2:13 ).
The “second death” (Revelation 2:11) is the everlasting perdition of the wicked (Revelation 21:8), and “second” in respect to natural or temporal death.