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Well, a couple of weeks and a minor disaster has passed since the last installment of this series, but life goes on — and indeed, that is the point of this series of bulletin articles, life does go on. The first installment of this series I talked about the three realms of existence that the Bible tells us about: this physical realm in which we now live, a realm called Sheol or Hades in the Bible, and what we will call the eternal realm. This week I’ll talk about death.

Mortality — the destiny of death and decay — is not the original state of man, but a result of the first sin of Adam and Eve (see Gen. 2:16,17; Gen. 3:19; Gen. 3:22-24). But since that time, death is an appointment that everyone, except a very, very few will ever avoid. Enoch walked with God and “was no more” (Gen. 5:24); Elijah was taken up in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11,12); and those who are alive when Jesus returns (1 Cor. 15:51,52). For all the rest of us it is an appointment (Heb. 9:27), which doesn’t always give us “fair warning”; the Bible is full of teachings about the uncertainty and fragility of life (for example, Isa. 40:6-8), though we often don’t give it much thought (Eccl. 7:2).

Essentially, death is separation. Physical death is separation of the physical body from the spirit or soul (for example, Psalm 146:3,4). Spiritual death (I’ll talk about that more in another article) is also separation: separation of our spirit or soul from the Lord. By the way, the terms soul and spirit mean pretty much the same thing (for example, Job 4:11; Isa 26:9; 1 Cor. 15:45; Philippians 1:27), although “soul” seems to carry the subtle difference of “life” with it, while “spirit” is more the substance of our soul. So, when death occurs, our spirits are separated from our bodies; our bodies lose the spirit (given by God — Genesis 2:7) that moves or animates them, and our bodies begin to return to the dust from which we were made.

At death one’s spirit enters the realm of Hades or Sheol, the spirit world of all the dead that I talked about in the last article. Again, in this spirit world of Hades there is a place called Paradise (or Abraham’s bosom) and a place described as torment. Spirits of the dead who are innocent or saved go to Paradise, while the spirits of those who sinned and remained in their sins in the physical world go to the placed described as torment (see Luke 16:19ff). In these separate regions of Hades our spirits stay (Luke 16:26) until the resurrection (Rev. 20:11-13), This logically implies that there is some form of judgment that must occur shortly after we die, a judgment of guilt or innocence. The final judgment (as in Rev. 20:11-15) is probably best understood as a kind of sentencing judgment, proclaiming our eternal destiny based upon the previous judgment of guilt or innocence, based on our deeds (for example, Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:10) or our partaking of the Lord’s grace (for example, Titus 3:5; Eph. 2:8,9; and others) in the physical world.

Staying in one region of Hades or the other (Paradise or torment) is solid proof that the doctrine of Purgatory (from the Catholic Church) is erroneous and false. No matter how many prayers may be said on behalf of those who have died, the great fixed chasm (Luke 16:26) prevents any cross over, any changing of status. In other words, we must get right and stay right with the Lord in this physical world, because once we have died, our spiritual state is unchangeable.

A few questions are often asked about death:

Are the dead conscious? According to Luke 16:19ff (see also 1 Sam. 28:8-19) the dead do have consciousness, though what they know seems to be limited. There are religious groups who advocate “soul sleep” — complete lack of consciousness in death — based on their misunderstanding of Old Testament passages speaking from the point of view of humans who observe the inanimate (and therefore unconscious) bodies of the dead. Do the dead know what’s going on in this world? Again, according to Luke 16:19ff and 1 Sam. 28:8-19, there seems to be little knowledge of what is happening in the physical world. Samuel had to ask why Saul had disturbed him.

Is it possible to talk to the dead? There is only one instance of such a thing happening in the Bible (1 Sam. 28:8ff), but it should be pointed out that the necromancer or spiritist (one who claims to be able to communicate with the dead) in this story is actually surprised at Samuel’s appearance. God forbids such a practice (Deut. 18:9-14) and insists that everyone who follows Him must seek their spiritual information from His prophets (the writers of the Bible). What about those near death experiences you hear and read about? Although some of the descriptions I’ve read seem fairly credible, the actual experience of death isn’t described anywhere in the Scripture — our only sure guide to matters of the spirit — so when asked, we ought to simply say that we don’t know.

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RECENT BULLETINSFebruary 18, 2018February 04, 2018January 28, 2018January 21, 2018January 14, 2018