Bible study lesson 11 - State of the Dead
Purpose: Man does not possess immortality. God alone has life.
Theme: 1 John 5:12 - He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Bible verses to read:
- John 14:6
- 1 Timothy 6:14-16
- Acts 17:28
- Genesis 2:7
- Job 27:3
- Job 33:4
- Ezekiel 37
- Genesis 3:19
- Ecclesiastes 12:7
- Job 14:10-15
- 1 Corinthians 15:51-52
- Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, 10
- Psalms 146:4
- Ezekiel 18:4
- Acts 2:29, 34
- Psalms 115:17
- John 11:11-14
- John 11:23-25
Greetings, friend. Today we are going to study on the topic of the state of the dead. There are a lot of misconceptions on this topic, especially in popular media. This may also be a very sensitive topic for you, especially if you have lost a dearly beloved person. However, can we agree to go by what the Bible says, regardless of how upsetting the revelation may be to us? Before we begin, I recommend that you a King James Version (not NKJV) of the Bible alongside your regular Bible, just to compare the words in the verses we will go over.
Let's turn to John 14:6 and start off by looking for the Biblical definition of life.
- According to this verse, what does the Bible define life as?
- Answer (highlight to read): Jesus is life.
Life is a person; it is not just a condition. That person is Jesus.
Let's turn to 1 Timothy 6:14-16.
- According to this verse, who has immortality?
- Answer: Only God has immortality.
God alone has immortality. So then, if you are not God, then you do not have immortality. We each depend on God for life.
Let's turn to Acts 17:28.
- According to this verse, how do we have life?
- Answer: We have life through God.
In God we have life - mortal man does not live by himself. We are dependent upon God for life, whether we acknowledge this fact or not.
If God made us, how did we come into existence?
Let's turn to Genesis 2:7.
- According to this verse, how did God first make man?
- Answer: God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
God formed us out of the dust and gave us the breath of life. Everything else in creation was spoken into existence. God could have said, "Let there be Adam," but instead, God got on His knees and formed us and breathed into us. We have an intimate connection to our God in our lives!
So, what does the breath of life mean?
Let's turn to Job 27:3.
- According to this verse, what is in us as long as we are alive?
- Answer: The breath of God.
Let's turn to Job 33:4.
- According to this verse, what is the breath of God also known as?
- Answer: The Spirit of God.
The breath of God and the Spirit of God are used interchangeably.
Let's turn to Ezekiel 37 and read the entire chapter together.
- According to these verses, what did the breath (Spirit) of God do?
- Answer: The breath (Spirit) of God brought life to a valley full of dead bodies.
Now that we know what life is, we will be able to better understand what death is.
Let's turn to Genesis 3:19.
- According to this verse, what happens when we die?
- Answer: Our bodies goes back to the dust, because that is where we came from.
Let's turn to Ecclesiastes 12:7.
- According to this verse, what happens to the breath (Spirit) of life when we die?
- Answer: The breath (Spirit) of life goes back to God, because that is where it came from. (This verse also says that the body goes back to dust, supporting what was said in Genesis 3:19).
You might be thinking to yourself at this point, this is a little confusing. What is the difference between spirit and soul? Well, the answer to that is the soul is the conscious alive package that has the spirit and body together. The spirit is just one element to that.
Let's try to summarize what we learn into a couple of simplistic equations:
BODY (DUST) BODY (DUST)
+ BREATH (SPIRIT) - BREATH (SPIRIT)
LIFE (LIVING SOUL) DEATH (NO SOUL)
Let's imagine a body to be like a light bulb and the breath of life to be like electricity. When you flip the switch, the light goes on in the light bulb and you get light (living soul). If you flip the switch again, the light goes out (death), the electricity goes back to the power plant (God), and all you have left is darkened bulb (dust).
Let's take another example. Imagine a quesadilla, which is made of a tortilla and cheese. If you take one ingredient out, what happens? The quesadilla ceases to exist. It is the same with man. We are made from two ingredients: the breath of God and dust. If you remove one ingredient, then we cease to exist. After reading through all these verses, you will notice that God did not give us a soul/being. We became a living being/soul.
Let's continue on and turn to Job 14:10-15.
- According to these verses, what happens when a man dies?
- Answer: He lies down and does not rise until the heavens are no more.
Job likens death to a sleep, which is temporary. In the same sense, death is a temporary sleep. Job is asking for a temporary relief from life in death, until his change comes. So what is this change?
Let's turn to 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.
- According to these verses, what happens at the sound of the last trumpet?
- Answer: The dead will be raised and God's people will be changed and given incorruptible new bodies.
Paul is referring to the Second Coming in these verses. The Bible does indeed say that there is life after death, but not immediately. There is a wait in sleep.
You might be asking yourself, what about those stories where people have talked to the spirits of their deceased love ones through mediums or fortune tellers?
Let's turn to Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, 10.
- According to these verses, how much does a person know after death?
- Answer: Nothing.
The Bible says that you know nothing after death. When a person dies, their intellectual capacity ceases and their emotional capacity also ceases. This means that when knowledge and emotion cease, there is not the possibility that these people can visit others after they die. They are asleep in the grave.
Even if your experience conflicts with this truth and you believe that you have been visited by a deceased loved one, ask yourself, what does the Bible say?
Let's turn to Psalms 146:4.
- According to this verse, what happens when you die?
- Answer: Your spirit returns to God, your body returns to the ground as dust, and your plans and thoughts perish.
The Bible shows that there is no possibility for a conscious mind to be wandering around the earth or to be anywhere else.
Let's turn to Ezekiel 18:4.
- According to this verse, can souls die?
- Answer: Yes
The soul can die - the soul is a human being and human beings can die. This text shows that our souls belong to God. In Adam, we are fallen and by nature, are sinners. Therefore the soul can die - we are not immortal.
Let's turn to Acts 2:29, 34.
- According to these verses, is King David in heaven right now?
- Answer: No, he is still in the grave right now.
Even David, a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), is not ascended into the heavens. The same lot is for the lost sinners and those who are saved - nobody ascends to heaven. If we all went to heaven immediately after we died, there would be no point in the Second Coming.
Let's turn to Psalms 115:7.
- According to this verse, can the dead communicate with the living beyond the grave?
- Answer: No, the dead go down into silence.
Ask yourself this: if we went to heaven immediately after we died, wouldn't we be praising God? If death is silence, then it is impossible to communicate with the dead.
You might be asking yourself, "Wait a minute, what about the story of Saul and the witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28:1-25? Didn't Saul talk to the dead prophet Samuel in that story? Isn't that proof that we can talk to the dead beyond the grave?"
If you read that story very carefully, you will notice a couple of things. First of all, in the previous chapters of 1 Samuel, you find that Saul has turned away from God. That is why God stopped answering Saul's inquiries.
Secondly, Saul went to a witch to speak to Samuel. God expressly had forbidden his people to engage in witchcraft and other occult practices (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). Saul not only left God, he was walking into the grounds of the Devil. Besides, how can a witch (who works for the Devil) summon someone from heaven?
Thirdly, in verse 13, the witch saw a spirit come out of the earth. If Samuel went to heaven immediately after he died, why would he be "ascending out of the earth"? Shouldn't he be descending from above?
Finally, verse 14 states that Saul never actually saw the spirit. He only perceived it to be Samuel from the witch's description. Saul was actually being deceived by an evil spirit impersonating Samuel! It was easy for the evil spirit to predict Saul's defeat by the Philistines, since the Holy Spirit was no longer with Saul.
If anything, 1 Samuel 28:1-25 further proves that the dead cannot communicate with the living.
Let's turn to John 11:11-14.
- According to these verses, what does Jesus compare death to?
- Answer: Sleep
Jesus says Lazarus is sleeping, and then later He says Lazarus is dead. Jesus uses sleep and death interchangeably.
Let's turn to John 11:23-25.
- According to these verses, what was Martha's response to Jesus?
- Answer: She knows that Lazarus will be rise again at the last day.
If you had been there, you would be able to hear in Martha's voice that she is blaming God a bit in her disappointment and sorrow over her brother's death. She believes in the resurrection and she did not have the New Testament yet like Christians today. Notice that she does not say, "At least, my brother is in heaven now." Martha knows full well what death was. However, she did not understand what Jesus meant. Jesus shows that He has power over death, that He can re-open the grave and bring forth life.
God sometimes allows people to die for reasons that we do not know, but in the end we know it is to glorify His name.
If we have Christ, death is not the end for the Christian, it is only a pause. Isn’t it amazing that even for the Christian death is not the end? Is it your desire to be where sin will be no more with those you love who are in Christ too?