WHERE ARE THE DEAD?
Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
“Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. . . . For David is not ascended into the heavens.”
Acts 2: 29, 34
“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man.”
John 3: 13
WE ASK the questions, “Where are our family, friends and neighbors after their death? Where are the noble and the vile after their death? The answer to these questions affects our philosophy and way of living. To be uninterested in this subject proves one to be thoughtless. If food, clothes, finance and politics are worthy of thought, how much more concern should we have for the eternal future of ourselves, our loved ones and others.
But before presenting the Scriptural answer, let us consider the thoughts of the great thinkers of the world:
(1.) Agnostics say they do not know. They would like to believe in a hereafter, but they say there is no proof, that man appears to die like the lower animals. This answer is unsatisfactory, for the Creator made man so superior to the lower animals, that we would expect man’s preeminence in His Plan. The brevity of life, its experiences and lessons would all prove useless if death ends our existence forever.
(2.) The non-Christian world, which comprises three-fourths of the world’s population, has two schools of thought: (1) the first is called transmigration, which is the teaching that at death one changes into a different form, and that one’s future life depends upon how well one lives in this life. If one lives a relatively good life, he may come back in a higher form, or if one lives a relatively bad life, he may come back in a lower form; and (2) the second teaching is that at death one becomes more alive than ever – that he will either experience blessings in a spirit world or a hell of torments for the wicked.
(3.) The Christian world may be divided into Catholic (Greek and Roman) and Protestant: (1) Catholics teach that at death everyone goes to one of three places: (a) heaven, to which few go, (b) hell, also to which few go, or (c) purgatory, to which the majority will go. They describe purgatory as a place of sorrows, woes and anguish, but it is not a hopeless situation, for though one may have to spend hundreds or even thousands of years there, eventually one will be admitted to heaven; and (2) Protestants have protested against purgatory, which leaves them with only two places that one could go – heaven or hell. Though our forefathers threw away purgatory, they retained the thought that hell is a place of eternal torment.
What say the Scriptures
All of the foregoing beliefs are merely the opinions of men, but are not found in God’s Word. Isaiah 55: 9 reads “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Setting aside the beliefs of the various religions of the world, let us examine what the Bible declares regarding where the dead are.
Please note that the foregoing theories are all based upon the assumption that death does not mean death, but that following death one becomes more alive than ever. But this is contrary to God’s warning to Father Adam that disobedience would mean death (Genesis 2: 17). Satan contradicted God when he told Adam “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3: 4). Unfortunately for man, Satan’s lie has been generally accepted, whereas God’s Truth has been rejected. Jesus said of Satan that he “abode not in the truth” and that he is the father of lies (John 8: 44). Satan authored his false doctrines with the heathen first, and the nominal Christian Church adopted many of those doctrines in the Dark Ages.
On the contrary, the Scriptures say that “the dead know not any thing (Ecclesiastics 9: 5). Job declares, “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). Ecclesiastics 9: 10 reads, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither though goest.” The Apostle Paul speaks of those who “sleep in Jesus” and those who have “fallen asleep in Christ,” and that these are all perished if there is no resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15: 18). Our Lord stated, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3: 16).
The Seed of the Woman
Adam was created a perfect human being, in the image and likeness of his Creator, but he failed in his trial and as a consequence brought himself and his posterity under the sentence of death. However, God gave him a glimmer of hope when he pronounced that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head (Genesis 3: 15). God elaborated further to Abraham that in him and his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12: 3; 28: 14). Finally, after more than 4,000 years following Adam’s fall, God sent His Son into the world to redeem the human race, by dying “the just for the unjust” (1 Peter 3: 18). As a result of the redemptive work at Calvary, there is to be “a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24: 15).
From the foregoing passages of Scripture, we learn that eternal torment is not the penalty of sin, but death is its penalty. Romans 6: 23 states, “The wages of sin is death,” and God declared, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3: 19). There is no hint of eternal torment in the Bible. Death is always stated to be sin’s penalty. Romans 5: 12 reads, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Adam lost perfect life, a Paradise home, fellowship with God, and instead inherited sickness, pain, sorrow and death. And Adam’s 40 billion descendants have likewise inherited physical, mental and moral weaknesses, “a groaning creation” indeed (Romans 8: 22). What reasonable person would say that the penalty is insufficient? That justice demands torment for eternity?
God’s death penalty is neither unjust, nor too severe. God could have blotted Adam and his race out of existence, but He had a higher purpose – to use the trials and experiences under the curse to prepare mankind to take a wiser course. If sin’s penalty was eternal torment, our redemption would have cost our Lord that price. But Christ does not suffer eternal torment, for 1 Corinthians 15: 3 states, “Christ died for our sins,” and Hebrews 2: 9 declares that “he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” How marvelous is the wisdom and economy of our great Creator! The whole world has been condemned for one man’s disobedience, so that He might have mercy upon all through the obedience of another, our Lord Jesus Christ. That does not mean that we have no individual responsibility, for every sin, in proportion to its willfulness, degrades character and will make it that much more difficult to overcome in the next Age.
The Resurrection of the Dead
Our Lord’s miracles foreshadowed His great Millennial works. All the sick, lame, blind and dead will be revived, and given the opportunity to attain human perfection, and gain eternal life, but the disobedient will go into the Second Death (Acts 3: 23). Our Lord’s most notable miracle was the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11), but Jesus intimated that what He did for Lazarus He would do for Adam and his race. Jesus stated, “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth” (John 5: 28, 29). Isaiah 61: 1 reads, “To proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” This passage is not referring to a literal prison, but to the great prison-house of death, the tomb, which holds over 30 billion of our race.
God’s Word alone answers the question, Where are the Dead? And it answers that the dead are dead, and that our hopes are centered in the redemptive work of Christ, and His resurrection work at His Second Advent. We rejoice that soon Satan will be bound, his kingdom will be destroyed and God’s Kingdom will be established in all the earth.
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