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Dead-On Truth About Death
by Gregory John Monroe
9/27/2011 / Bible Studies
The erroneous belief that the soul is an immortal, immaterial, separate entity within us, greatly contributes to the prevailing idea in Christianity that upon death, one's soul goes immediately to heaven or hell. This idea is mistaken because it is not biblical.The Bible says in Genesis 2: 7 that God created man by combining his body with the breath of life. At that point, man BECAME a living soul. In other words, a soul is a person, the totality of a living being. Having said that, the soul can also be meant as life itself, or as the mind, because it provides for awareness, thinking, emotions; and it directs and controls the body. Keep in mind, though, that a soul cannot exist unless there is the combination of body and the activating breath of life (not regular air).
Another way to understand the meaning of the soul is to use the example of a box. A box can only exist when boards and nails combine to make it a box. If the nails are pulled out and laid aside, there is no box. In the same way, when the breath of life leaves a person's body, there isn't a soul anymore. That means there isn't, at death, a soul that goes to heaven or hell.
There is, however, something that does go to heaven when one ceases to exist. Ecclesiastes 12: 7 says that upon death, "Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." In the Greek, the root word from which "spirit" is translated is the word "pneuma," meaning also "breath" or "air." So this verse is referring to the breath (spirit) of life given to man, now returning to God at the moment of that man's death.
As for the popular belief that the soul is immortal, thereby surviving death, there isn't anywhere in the Bible a statement that a soul is an everlasting, undying entity. Scripture says that only God is immortal (I Timothy 6: 15, 16). The Word goes on to say that the soul that sins shall surely die (Ezekiel 18: 20-KJV).
Even though the foregoing is biblically definitive, there are questions and other verses that would seem to be at odds with what's been presented. But the Bible does not contradict itself. The following are a few of those questions and verses that are used to erroneously propagate the popular, prevailing doctrine of an immortal soul that survives death on earth or in heaven or in hell.
What about the thief on the cross? Didn't he go to heaven with Jesus the day He died?
Luke 23: 43 says, "Truly I [Jesus] say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise."Though the Bible is inspired, its punctuation is not, for that was added by men. The comma in the verse should be placed after "today," and read as "Truly I say to you today, you will be with Me in paradise." This is the correct version, proved by Jesus' statement to Mary on Sunday morning. In John 20: 17, He said to her, "I am not yet ascended to My Father." This proves that Jesus did not go to heaven at His death on that previous Friday.
Matthew 10: 28 says, "Do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul." Doesn't this prove that the soul is immortal?
The latter half of the verse explains that souls do die. It says, "But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." The word "soul" here means life; it is referring to the eternal life given to the saved upon Jesus' second coming. In other words, no one can take away the gift of eternal life that God gives to the righteous.
I Peter 4: 6 says " For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God." This says that the gospel was taken to the grave and preached to dead people, doesn't it?
No! Context is that the gospel "was" preached to them during their lifetimes when they were then able to follow God's ways.
Doesn't the Bible say, in I Peter 3: 18-20, that Jesus went and preached to lost souls in hell between the time of His crucifixion and resurrection?
"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom He also went and preached to the spirits in prison, who were formerly disobedient, when once the Divine long-suffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls were saved through the water."
This passage says the preaching was done by the Spirit in Noah's day to the spirits who were then living. The "spirits in prison" refers to people who were bound by Satan; living people held captive, as attested to in Psalm 142: 7, Isaiah 42: 7 & 61: 1, and Luke 4:18.
Doesn't it show that souls do not die because in Revelation 6: 9, 10, it says that there are souls crying out from under the heavenly altar?
This is figurative language, in the same way as is the cry of Abel's blood in Genesis 4:10, "...What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground." The souls in the Revelation passage is a reference to people who had been slain for their faith. To think that people are literally living under an altar is absurd.
The State of the Dead:
When a person dies, the body turns to dust again, and the spirit returns to God. There isn't some conscious entity with a memory and feelings floating around somewhere with knowledge of and participation in anything that's going on among the living here on earth nor in heaven. The dead don't know anything. (Ecclesiastes 9: 5, 6, 10; Psalm 115: 17; Job 14: 21). Stories about ghostly hauntings; spirits returning from the dead; and mediums talking to the dead are really encounters with fallen angels (demons) who have an agenda to bring people into and trap them in the occult.
Death can be spoken of as a kind of unconscious sleep. This is confirmed by the lips of Jesus; "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep." The disciples then said to Him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, then he will recover." Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought He had spoken of literal sleep. So Jesus then spoke to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead."
The righteous who have fallen asleep in Jesus will be resurrected upon the second coming of Jesus (I Thessalonians 4: 16). At that point, they will be given incorruptible, immortal bodies (I Corinthians 15: 52, 53). Incidentally, the resurrection wouldn't have any purpose if people were taken to heaven at the moment of their death. The resurrection is to fulfill Jesus' promise to return and take the righteous to heaven where He abides (John 14: 2, 3).
The unrighteous who, of course are unsaved, are resurrected a thousand years later to face their judgment of condemnation into the lake of fire (Revelation 20: 5, 15; 21: 8). This resurrection, too, wouldn't make any sense or have a purpose if people were thrown into hellfire at the moment of their deaths.
The Second Death:
Revelation 2: 11; 20: 6, 14; 21: 8 speaks of the unsaved as perishing in the "lake of fire," which is identified as the second death. From this death, there isn't a resurrection; it is eternal death. It is the one that Jesus tasted for all mankind, of which the saved won't have to face. The second death is the wages of sin.
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