All of us at one point or the other have experienced the sense of grief and loneliness that sweeps over us as we witness the end of a life. It could have been the passing of a friend or a close relative. Death is an enemy of people everywhere, and we often shrink from talking or even thinking about our loved ones dying. On such an important topic as this, filled with emotion, where can we find answers? Fortunately, part of Jesus’ mission here on earth was to “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” Hebrews 2:15. In the Bible, Jesus gives us clear and comforting answers to our questions about death and the future life.
In order for us to understand the real truth about death, we need to start from the beginning and see how God created us in the first place. In Genesis, the Bible 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” Genesis 2:7. God fashioned Adam from “the dust of the ground”. At that moment he had a brain in his head, ready to think, blood in his vessels ready to flow, but there was no activity or motion. Then God breathed into his nostrils “the breath of life” and Adam became a “living soul”. Note carefully, the Bible does not say Adam received a soul; rather it says that he “became a living soul”. It was the combination of the body and the “breath of life” that made Adam a “living soul”. So we can come up with an equation like this;
“Dust of the Ground” + “Breath of Life” = “A Living Soul”
When a person dies the opposite of the creative process described in Genesis 2:7 takes place. “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” Ecclesiastes 12:7. The Bible uses the words “spirit” and “breath” to refer to the same thing. At death, the body decomposes to “dust” and the “spirit” or “breath of life” returns to God who gave it.
For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing
Another question then comes; what happens to the soul? The Word of God gives us the answer! “”As I live,” says the Lord GOD…all souls are Mine…the soul who sins shall die” Ezekiel 18:3, 4. The soul dies, it perishes! It is not immortal! The equation we derived in Genesis 2:7, when God created us, reverses itself at death;
“Dust of the Ground” – “Breath of Life” = “A Dead Soul”
Death is the cessation of life. The body decomposes into dust and the breath, or spirit, returns to God. We are a living soul in life, but in death only a corpse, a dead soul. It therefore means that the dead are not conscious, they do not know anything. The Bible says “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing” Ecclesiastes 9:5. After the brain has disintegrated, it cannot know or remember anything. All human emotions cease at death. Concerning the dead, the Bible says “their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished” Ecclesiastes 9:6.
On a number of occasions the Bible calls death a “sleep”, it is a dreamless sleep. Jesus also taught that death is like sleep. Speaking to His disciples He said “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” John 11:11-14. Lazarus had been dead for four days but when Jesus arrived, He revealed His power and raised him from the dead.
The tunnel of death, which we ourselves may someday pass through, is like a quiet, peaceful rest. But is the sleep of death the end of the story? Is there hope beyond death? Jesus gives us a wonderful hope and assurance. Speaking to Martha, the sister of Lazarus, He said “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” John 11:25. Those who accept Jesus as their Saviour and die “in Christ” sleep in the grave- but however they have a bright future. When Jesus shall come back on earth as He promised, He will awaken the righteous dead from their sleep, just like He did Lazarus.
Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul says “But I do not want you to be ignorant,brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” And he continues “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13,16-18.
On resurrection day, the tunnel of death will seem like a brief rest. The dead are not aware of time passing. Those who have accepted Christ as their Saviour will be awakened from sleep by His wonderful voice coming down to earth and He will take them to a heavenly home. In this home, the Bible tells us that God “shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” Revelation 21:4. Today, you can choose Jesus as your Saviour and allow Him to help you obey His Word, and when He shall come back on earth you will be part of the redeemed throng that shall enter the heavenly home.