Saturday, 30 November 2013

Are the Dead Really Dead?

This past week, one of my colleagues at work was relating how, in their newly built house, they have been having weird things happen, such as the car radio coming on all by itself to the exact same song every time they drive into the garage. This stirred up a conversation amongst my coworkers, several of whom shared similar experiences. Being all alone in the home and hearing footsteps in the hall or seeing a shadow passing the bedroom door. Arriving home from work, when no one has been in the house all day, and finding all of the kitchen cupboard doors and drawers open. Having music suddenly start playing on a radio that isn't even plugged in. Balloons fluttering in the room of a dying man where there is no window or door open, no breeze from any source. And they stopped fluttering as soon as the man died... I know my colleagues. They're nurses: trustworthy and reliable, not subject to "vivid flights of fancy" or "overactive imaginations." If they say these things happened, then I believe that they did. And some of you reading this may have had similar experiences. But what or who is causing them? Could it be the dead coming back to visit us? Does some supernatural part of us live on after our bodies are gone? 
As I pointed out in The Source, I believe the Bible is the ultimate guide to wisdom and knowledge, so I want to find out:
What says the Bible, the blessed Bible?
This my only question be.
The teachings of men so often mislead us.
What says the Bible to me?
Let's start by finding out what the Bible says about the soul. Genesis 2:7 says, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Interesting that is says that man became a living soul, he didn't receive a living soul. If you're fortunate enough to own a Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, you can look up the word "soul" in this verse and find its reference number, 5315. You can also look up the word "creature" in Genesis 1:20, 21, 24 & 2:19 and find that the same number - in other words, the same Hebrew word as that used for soul - is used for "creature" in these verses. Turning to the Hebrew dictionary at the back, you will find that the basic definition for 5315 is "a breathing creature." That makes sense. We are breathing creatures and so are animals.  Ezekiel 18:4,20 tells us that "the soul that sinneth, it shall die." The soul can die??? In Matthew 10:28, Jesus instructs us, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." More on hell later, but for now, let's focus on the fact that Jesus says the soul can be destroyed. He doesn't use the word tormented or tortured. He says destroyed. Turning once again to Strong's, I find that destroy is number 622, which in the Greek dictionary says "to destroy fully; destroy, die, lose, mar, perish." It sounds to me like a final end, nothing about being tortured forever, which is the popular belief about what's supposed to happen to the "immortal" soul in hell. But is the soul immortal? Try searching for "immortal soul" in Strong's and you won't find a single reference. Look up the words "immortal" or "immortality" and you will find 6 references in the whole Bible, four of which refer to God. One of these, 1 Timothy 6:16 says that only God has immortality. Only God. In other words, we human beings don't. As a matter of fact the remaining two references, found in 1 Corinthians 15:53, 54, refers to us as "mortals" that must "put on immortality." Verse 52 makes it clear that this happens when Jesus comes again. If we already had an "immortal soul," why would we need to "put on immortality." Wouldn't that be kind of like putting on your clothes when you're already dressed? It is apparent that immortality is a gift that Jesus bestows on His followers when He returns. That's when He raises the dead to life.  Verse 52 says, "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed," the "we" meaning those who are alive when Jesus comes again. "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: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17.
So, if the dead are not raised until Jesus comes again, where are they in the meantime? Ecclesiastes 9:5 tells us that "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing."  Psalm 146:4 says, "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." "The dead praise not the Lord." Psalm 115:17. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he had been dead for 4 days, but there is no record of Lazarus ever telling about his experiences in heaven for those 4 days (see John 11). There are numerous accounts of people being raised from the dead in the Bible, but nowhere do any of them speak of the glories of heaven. In Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost, he states that "David (speaking of King David from the Old Testament) is both dead and buried." Acts 2:29. If Peter believed that God's people go to heaven directly after death, that would be a pretty faithless statement. Why didn't he say, "David is in heaven?"  Because David isn't in heaven. Further on Peter stated that "David is not ascended into the heavens." v. 34. Clearly then, the dead are not in heaven. So where are they? When Jesus spoke of Lazarus' death, He said that Lazarus was "sleeping." Another time, when Jesus raised a young girl to life, He referred to her as "sleeping" (Matt. 9:24). When the Apostle Paul is speaking about the fact that not all Christians will die, some will be alive to see Jesus return, he said that "we shall not all sleep." 1 Corinthians 15:51. In the Bible, death is portrayed as a dreamless sleep and we will awaken in the resurrection when Jesus comes again. 
So, if there are no immortal souls, no one goes to heaven at death and all the dead "sleep" in the grave until Jesus returns, what or who is causing those unexplained phenomena that my colleagues and others have experienced? The Bible tells us of the existence of angels. There are good angels or "ministering spirits" (Hebrews 1:14). And there are the bad angels, "evil spirits" (Luke 8:2) or "spirits of devils" (Rev. 16:14). God sends good angels to guide us on the road to heaven and, as part of that, to protect us from harm. They do not engage in hauntings, random acts of creepiness or appearing as dead people. These acts are the work of evil spirits. No matter how harmless or even friendly they may seem, it is the work of demons. Isaiah 8:19 warns us "When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?" (NIV). And God instructs us, "Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:31, NIV). He gave us these warnings because He knows that these kind of supernatural phenomena are the work of evil spirits, whose ultimate goal is our destruction.
Finally, on the subject of hell, I just want to point out two texts. The first is probably the best known verse in the Bible: "For 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. And the second is also well known: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23. Both of these texts make it clear that the opposite of eternal life, the reward for those who follow Jesus, is death. Those who refuse Jesus' offer of salvation will perish, not suffer eternal torment. The Bible calls it the "second death" (Rev. 20:6), the death from which there will be no resurrection.
I know I have covered a lot of territory and none of it in great depth. If you would like to know more, here are some resources: