WHAT DEATH IS LIKE
BY WHAT figure does the Bible represent death?
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope." 1 Thessalonians 4:13. (See also 1 Corinthians 15:18, 20; John 11:11-14.)
NOTE.—In sound sleep one is wholly lost to consciousness; time goes by unmeasured; and mental activity is suspended for the time being.
Where do the dead sleep?
"And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake." Daniel 12:2. (See also Ecclesiastes 3:20; 9:10.)
How long will they sleep there?
"So marl lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep." Job 14:12.
THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS OF THE DEAD
What does one in this condition know about his family?
"His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them." Job 14:21. What becomes of man's thoughts at death? "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish." Psalms 146:4.
Do the dead know anything?
"For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing." Ecclesiastes 9:5.
Do they take any part in earthly things?
"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." Verse 6.
NOTE.—If one remained conscious after death, he would know of the pro- motion or dishonor of his sons; but in death one loses all the attributes of mind—love, hatred, envy, etc. Thus it is plain that his thoughts have perished, and that he can have nothing more to do with the things of this world. But if, as taught by some, man's powers of thought continue after death, he lives; and if he lives, he must be somewhere. Where is he? Is he in heaven, or in hell? If he goes to either place at death, what then is the need of a future judgment, or of a resurrection, or of the second coming of Christ? If men go to their reward at death, before the judgment takes place, then their rewards precede their awards.
How much does one know of God when dead?
"For in death there is no remembrance of Thee." Psalms 6:5.
NOTE.—As already seen, the Bible everywhere represents the dead as asleep, with not even a remembrance of God. If they were in heaven or hell, would Jesus have said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth"? John 11:11. If so, calling him to life was really robbing him of the bliss of heaven that rightly belonged to him. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16) teaches not consciousness in death, but that riches will avail nothing in the judgment and that poverty will not keep one out of heaven.
WHERE ARE THE DEAD?
Are not the righteous dead in heaven praising God?
"For David is not ascended into the heavens." Acts 2:34. "The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence." Psalms 115:17.
Where did Job say he would await his final change?
"If a man die, shall he live again ? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come." Job 14:21. "If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness." Job 17:13
NOTE.—The Hebrew original for "grave" in this verse is sheol, meaning among other things a dark, hollow, subterranean place, used simply in ref- erence to the abode of the dead in general, without distinguishing between the good and the bad. (Young's Analytical Concordance.)
good and the bad. (Young's Analytical Concordance.) The same word is also translated "pit" 3 times (Numbers 16:30, 33; Job 17:16), and "hell" 31 times (every occurrence of the word "hell" in the Authorized Version of the Old Testament). The translation of sheol as "grave" 31 times bears witness to the unsuitability of the present English word hell to the idea of sheol, especially in reference to Jacob (Genesis 37:35; 42:38), Job (Job 14:13), David (Psalms 30:3), and even Christ (Psalms 16:10; cf. Acts 2:27, 31). The American Revised Version avoids choosing between "hell" and "grave" by retaining sheol as an untranslated place name, just as it does the corresponding Greek word Hades in the New Testament (see page 511). It should be remembered that "hell" in the Old Testament always means sheol, a place of darkness and silence, not a place of fiery torment.
WHEN THE DEAD RISE AGAIN
What must take place before the dead can praise God?
"Thy dead men shall live, together with My dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for . . . the earth shall cast out the dead." Isaiah 26:19.
When did David say he would be satisfied?
"As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied; when 1 awake, with Thy likeness." Psalms 17:15.
Were there to be no resurrection of the dead, what would be the condition of those fallen asleep in Christ?
"For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised.. . . Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." 1 Corinthians 15 :16-18.
When is the resurrection of the righteous to take place?
"For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first." 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
NOTE.-If, as stated in Ecclesiastes 9:5, the dead know not anything, then they have no knowledge of the lapse of time; it will seem to them when they awake that absolutely no time has elapsed. "Six thousand years in the grave to a dead man is no more than a wink of the eye to the living." And herein lies a most comforting thought in the Bible doctrine of the sleep of the dead. To those who sleep in Jesus, their sleep, whether one year, one thousand years, or six thousand years, will be but as if the moment of sad parting were followed instantly by the glad reunion in the presence of Jesus at His glorious appearing and the resurrection of the just.
It ought also to be a comforting thought to those whose lives have been filled with anxiety and grief for deceased loved ones who persisted in sin, to know that they are not now suffering in torments, but, with all the rest of the dead, are quietly sleeping in their graves. (Job 3:17.)
Again, it would mar the felicity of one's employment in heaven could he look upon earth and see his friends and relatives suffering from persecution, want, cold, or hunger, or sorrowing for the dead. God's way is best—that all sentient life, animation, activity, thought, and consciousness should cease at death, and that all should wait till the resurrection for their future life and eternal reward. (See Hebrews 11:39, 40.)