"LET THERE BE LIGHT" Ministries
HELL, DEATH, and the AFTERLIFE
First Printing, 2012
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HELL, DEATH, and the AFTERLIFE
Multitudes of people honestly believe that when they die they will either go straight up to heaven if they had basically been good in life, or straight down to hell if they had been bad. Hell is believed to be a place of fiery everlasting torture where its unfortunate victims are doomed to burn, but will never die or be consumed, and so will suffer intense agony for eternity.
But is this idea of eternal torture for the wicked in hell actually taught in the Bible? If not, where did it originate from? Let us examine these questions and see what we find.
The word “hell” itself is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and before it was used in English translations of the Bible, it simply meant “to cover, to conceal” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, under word “hell”). For example, the act of burying potatoes in a pit dug in the ground to protect them through the winter was calling “helling” the potatoes, but helling these potatoes didn’t mean they were roasted over a fire. Putting a thatch roof on a house was called “helling” the house, but it didn’t mean that the house was set on fire. So then exactly what does the word “hell” mean?
In the Old Testament there is only one word that is translated as “hell” in the King James Version of the English Bible. That word is “sheol” (#7585 in Strong’s Exhaustive Hebrew Concordance), and it translates and means “hades or the world of the dead located in a subterranean retreat, grave, hell, pit”. This word appears in the Old Testament a total of sixty-seven times. It is translated as “hell” thirty-one times, “pit” three times, and the remaining thirty-three times as the “grave”.
You will notice that all these meanings for “sheol” refer to being underground. A subterranean retreat for the dead, grave, hell, pit, all indicate being concealed under the surface of the earth. So there is nothing Biblically wrong with using the word “hell”, as long as its meaning is understood to simply mean being concealed underground.
As this is true, then where did this idea of hell meaning something more than just being covered over and concealed underground originate from? To find the answer, we have to go way back into history to the beginning of the first civilization of the earth just after the flood, or to the plains of Shinar or Babylon, with its tower of Babel (see Genesis 10:6-10, 11:1-9).
Babylonian Idea of Hell
The Babylonians believed that a person was made up of a body and an immortal spirit, and that when they died, their spirit would enter the “Netherworld” or “Underworld”, or in other words “Hell”, as a ghost or a shade (Epic of Gilgamesh, tablet XII, col 1, Line 70, at http://looklex.com/textarchive/mesopotamia/gilgamesh12.htm, accessed 12-11-11). They believed that the place of Hell itself was located within “a great cavern” deep within the earth (Books on Egypt and Chaldea, Volume IV, titled Babylonian Religion and Mythology, p 35, by Leonard William King, published by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., London, 1899, at http://www.archive.org/details/babylonianrelig00kinguoft, accessed 1-18-12). Hell was thought by them to be “the land of darkness”, “the house of shadows” (Descent of the Goddess Ishtar Into the Lower World, taken from The Civilization of Babylonia and Assyria, by M. Jastrow, 1915, http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/ishtar.htm, accessed 12-14-11), and “a place full of horrors” (The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, p 581, by Morris Jastrow, Jr., Boston, 1898).
The Babylonians also believed that the Underworld of Hell was ruled over by a pantheon of gods of the dead, the two highest being the male god Nergal, and his co-ruling wife, who could be very brutal (Examining the Afterlife in Early Babylonian and Assyrian Religions, p 2, by Paula Marie Staunton, 2007, at http://www.helium.com/items/378814-examining-the-afterlife-in-early-babylonian-and-assyrian-religions, accessed 12-3-11), was the goddess Ereshkigal, who was also known as Allatu (Examining the Afterlife in Early Babylonian and Assyrian Religions, p 1, by Paula Marie Staunton, 2007, at http://www.helium.com/items/378814-examining-the-afterlife-in-early-babylonian-and-assyrian-religions, accessed 12-3-11; and Wikipedia, online Encyclopedia, under word Nergal, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nergal, accessed 2-1-12).
Nergal was known as the "raging king", the "furious one", and he was also the god who presided over and controlled fire (Wikipedia, online Encyclopedia, List of War Deities section, under word Mesopotamia, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_war_deities). As such, Nergal was known as "the burner" (Wikipedia, online Encyclopedia, under word Nergal, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nergal, accessed 2-1-12). So Nergal, this “fiery god of destruction” (Wikipedia, online Encyclopedia, under word Nergal, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nergal, accessed 2-1-12), this furious and raging king, was the god who ruled over all the inhabitants of the dead within this Hell, and so if any of the dead should happen to get on the wrong side of “the burner” then they would obviously feel his hot fiery displeasure.
These two gods of the dead also had helpers, which included both “male and female demons” who were depicted as bird-like beings (Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, Chapter IV titled “Demons, Fairies, and Ghosts, p 65, by Donald A. MacKenzie, 1915, at http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/mba/mba10.htm, accessed 12-3-11). These gods and demons were obviously not friendly to their dead subjects, but could “brutally and sadistically” assault and torture them at will (Examining the Afterlife in Early Babylonian and Assyrian Religions, p 2, by Paula Marie Staunton, 2007, at http://www.helium.com/items/378814-examining-the-afterlife-in-early-babylonian-and-assyrian-religions, accessed 12-3-11).
So the Babylonians, whose religious beliefs began along with the formation of the tower of Babel just after the flood, believed that when a person died, they did not simply rest in the grave, but their immortal spirit went down to Hell. Hell to them was a place of darkness, shadows, horror; a place which was ruled over by the god of fire and destruction and his brutal wife; and was a place where hideous looking demons could sadistically assault and torture the living dead at any time.
After the events at tower of Babel, this Babylonian concept of Hell was spread into all portions of the world, including into Egypt, India, Arabia, the Americas, etc., and was taught in all languages, thus becoming the common foundational belief of all who chose not to follow the God of heaven.
This common belief in Hell and the immortality of the soul remained largely limited to all these pagan civilizations for some 2000 years, until it gradually began to creep into the beliefs of Christianity about 170 years after the birth of Christ (Proof: "[W]e [Christians] are persuaded that when we are removed from this present life we shall live another life, better than the present one....Then we shall abide near God and with God, changeless and free from suffering in the soul...or if we fall with the rest [of mankind], a worse one and in fire; for God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, a mere incidental work, that we should perish and be annihilated." Plea for the Christians, p 31, by St Athenagoras – early church father, about 177 A.D.).
At first, the Roman Catholic church tried to stamp out all paganistic beliefs and practices, but found that it was a never ending battle. So the church changed her strategy against the pagans, decided to adopt certain of their paganistic beliefs, and then blended these in with the Christian faith – which corrupted it.
"The [Catholic] Church took the pagan philosophy and made it the buckler of faith against the heathen.” Paschale Gaudium article, by William L. Gildea, published in The Catholic World (a Roman Catholic weekly magazine), vol 58, March, 1894, p 809.
One of the pagan doctrines which the Catholic Church adopted and mixed with the Christian faith was this Babylonian foundational belief about Hell being populated with the immortal spirits of the dead.
"The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’" Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 12, #1035, at http://old.usccb.org/catechism/text/pt1sect2chpt3art12.shtml, accessed 2-2-12).
This Babylonian teaching of Hell has been part of the doctrinal beliefs of the Catholic Church for some 1700 years now. All the early church councils and synods confirmed and reaffirmed this belief in Hell! Pope John Paul II himself stated: "In point of fact, the ancient [church] councils rejected the theory...which indirectly abolished hell....Is not Hell in a certain sense the ultimate safeguard of man’s moral conscience?” Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p 185-186, by Pope John Paul II, Knopf Publisher, Canada, 1994.
As the original purity of the Christian faith had been compromised with this and other Babylonian doctrines, this allowed pagans to essentially keep their same paganistic beliefs, and still be able to unite with the Catholic church in order to avoid being persecuted. Thus they essentially remained pagans, while being members of the Roman Catholic Church! And with this compromise of faith and resulting apostasy complete, the Catholic Church itself saw a dramatic increase in her popularity and membership.
Then in February of 380 AD, the Roman emperor Theodosius the Great “issued a decree...in favor of the faith of St. Peter and Pope Damasus of Rome...to be the true catholic faith” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol 23, p 259, under Theodosius, editor Thoman Spencer Baynes, C. Scribner's sons publishers, 1888). Once the faith of the Pope of Rome was declared to be the true Catholic faith, he thus became the guardian of this one true faith, and all rivals had to capitulate to his authority. And after obtaining control over all the major nations of Europe by 538 A.D., this Catholic faith was the only state approved religious belief throughout all of Christendom for nearly the next 1200 years! So by the time that the Bible began to be translated into English, beginning around the fifteenth century, this pagan-papal-Babylonian idea of Hell being an underground place of torment for the immortal wicked dead, had become universally accepted by almost all Christianity. So now you can understand why the translators of the Bible into English would use this word “Hell” in 31 of these 67 verses which had the Hebrew word sheol.
But if “sheol” really did mean the common understanding of Hell being the place of eternal torment, then why did these same translators change their mind and in the other 36 verses use the words “grave” or “pit” instead, which obviously meant something completely different in the minds of the people? This inconsistency doesn’t make any sense, and has obviously added to the confusion existing in the public mind regarding the real condition of those who have died.
One of the reasons why these Bible translators did not use the word “Hell” in every instance of translation of the Hebrew word “sheol” is because they found it impossible to do so. For if they did, they would have put some of the most faithful servants of God mentioned in the Bible who had died into a place of eternal torment. So they just switched back and forth from the word Hell to grave as suited their purpose best.
For example, the very first time the word “sheol” appears in the Old Testament it is used by the good patriarch Jacob. He supposed that his beloved son Joseph had been slain by wild beasts, and was broken-hearted and devastated over his great loss. Mourning for Joseph he said, “I will go down into sheol unto my son mourning” (Genesis 37:35). In this text the translators have given us the word “grave,” for otherwise it would have revealed that Jacob believed Joseph was in Hell, and that he expected to go there himself when he died. So with the pagan-papal-Babylonian meaning of eternal torture being attached to the word Hell, this would have been too much for the average reader to accept, and so the translators instead used the word grave.
The prophet Job prayed to go to “sheol”, but in translating this prayer the translators gave us the word “grave” instead (Job 14:13). Job had been going through severe hardship and suffering. It had gotten to the point where he felt he couldn’t endure life any longer, and so he asked God to let him go to “sheol” where he knew he would be at rest (Job 3:17-19). Had the translators given us the word “Hell” in this instance, readers of the Bible would have soon learned that the hell of the Bible is not a place of eternal torment, but is just the grave where the dead rest. This is because they would obviously know that Job did not ask to go to a place where his suffering would be increased, and where it would even last forever, but to instead have his misery come to an end when he would die, and be buried to rest in the grave.
Another Old Testament prophet defines “sheol” for us in no uncertain words, stating, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with they might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, now wisdom, in sheol, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). What a wonderful revelation of truth this text would have been had the translators here have used the word “Hell” to translate “sheol”, instead of using the word “grave”, as they did! It would have undermined the whole pagan-papal-Babylonian meaning attached to the word “hell”, and thus would have worked to restore the true Biblical meaning of the word!
The point to realize is that “sheol” is the only “hell” of the Old Testament, the only “hell” that the people of God were told about throughout a period of some 4,000 years until the birth of Christ. And what kind of place was it? All the Old Testament prophets and inspired writers taught that “hell” is just another meaning for the grave, which is a place of quietness and rest to which both the righteous and the wicked would go to when they die. And all these dead righteous or wicked individuals would rest in their graves until the time arrived when they would be restored back to life in the resurrection through the divine power of God – their Creator.
Hell In the New Testament
The facts concerning the definition of hell as they unfold in the New Testament are fully in harmony with what is revealed in the Old. The New Testament was written originally in the Greek language, and one of the Greek words for “hell” is “hades” (Strong’s, word #86), which translates and means “unseen, the place or state of departed souls, grave, hell”.
Now we saw earlier that the Hebrew word “sheol” corresponded to the Greek word “hades” in Strong’s Concordance. And this is further backed up by the fact that the Apostle Peter, in the sermon which he preached on the Day of Pentecost, quoted a text from the Old Testament in which the word “sheol” appears, and in doing so, the Hebrew word “sheol” was translated as the Greek word “hades”.
In Acts 2:27, Peter quoted Psalms 16:10 which states: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” This text was a prophecy dealing with the death and resurrection of Jesus, declaring that the soul of Jesus would not be left in “sheol”. As we have already noted, the Hebrew word “sheol” refers to the grave and not some underworld place of the immortal dead. So Jesus went to the Old Testament “hell” when He died, which in the Greek was “hades”. This then proves that the Old Testament hell is the exact same as the New Testament hell.
With this being true, the Bible translators were caught in somewhat of a dilemma, for if they had used the correct meaning of the word hell as being the grave then they would have put Jesus’ soul resting in the grave, which, of course, would have been quite correct. But this truth would plainly contradict the pagan-papal-Babylonian doctrine concerning the immortality of the soul where the souls of the dead do not rest in the grave, but go on living in the underworld, and so the translators used the word Hell instead.
Now we should be glad that Jesus did go into the Biblical hell or the grave when He died, for by doing so He provided redemption for those who are there. In Revelation 1:18 Jesus Himself makes a very interesting statement in this connection, stating, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore....and have the keys of hell and of death”. The use of this term keys is Jesus’ way of assuring us that He has the power to unlock the prison-house of the grave (key of hell) and set its captives free to never die again (key of death). And this meaning is quite in harmony with the very last two verses in the Bible which use the word “hell”: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them...And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” Revelation 20:13-14.
Here John the Revelator tells us that hell will give up its dead; and that after this, hell will itself be destroyed. The symbol used to describe the destruction of hell is that of being cast into a lake of fire. Now there are many people who generally supposed that the “lake of fire” is itself the hell of the Bible, but this is not correct because hell itself is cast into this lake.
But how can death itself, being a condition, be thrown into this lake of fire? Also, will hell itself actually be tormented in this fiery lake? No, because the Bible tells us that the lake of fire is the second death, and that in it, death and hell will be destroyed. Fire is one of the most destructive elements known to science, as it will completely destroy to ashes what it burns, and so the Lord employs it in His Word to picture total or complete everlasting destruction. So all who are thrown into this lake of fire will become burnt to ashes, and once this process is completed then there will never be any more death, no more graves or hell, and thus the lake of fire would have fully and completely eliminated both of these forever.
Now there is another Greek word in the New Testament which is translated as “hell”, and that is the word “Gehenna” (Strong’s, word #1067). Gehenna translates and means “valley of the son of Hinnom; a valley of Jerusalem, used figuratively as a name for the place or state of everlasting punishment, hell”. This valley of the son of Hinnom or this Gehenna was actually a deep ravine just outside of the ancient city of Jerusalem, and which was anciently used as a place for the disposal of the garbage and waste products of that city. Fires were also kept burning continuously in Gehenna in order to effect the destruction of whatever was thrown into this valley.
So because of these circumstances associated with Gehenna, and also because Jesus knew that the people of His day would understand the import of what He was saying to them, He used Gehenna as a symbol of destruction that would occur to those who could not give up sin through Him, or who would not honor God by obeying Him. Gehenna did not refer to the pagan-papal-Babylonian understanding of Hell being a fiery place of torment, but was simply a symbol used by Christ to represent total destruction. Besides, nobody was ever tormented in Gehenna as it was used exclusively for destructive purposes. And also, the Jews were prohibited from the use of torture of any kind, including even of animals.
The fact is, Jesus used Gehenna for the purpose of symbolizing destruction, and nothing more. This is also clear from His statement to His disciples, when He said, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna” (Matthew 10:28). Now the translators gave us the word “hell” here as a translation of Gehenna, and it is rather strange that sincere readers of the Bible have overlooked the fact that Gehenna is solely a place of destruction, and not of any torment, and so cannot possibly be used to try and support the common understanding of Hell. This just shows us how powerful these pagan, papal and Babylonian teachings have on the human mind; how trusting people are of what their church leadership tells them; and sadly how many people really do not take the time to study for themselves and truly ponder on and think over exactly what the Bible is trying to teach them.
Now in another reference to Gehenna, Jesus intensified this picture of destruction by referring to the ever-present worms which infested dead carcasses. Speaking of worldly attractions which might come into a Christian’s life to draw them away from serving the Lord, and which would become so attached to and important to them – just like their hands and eyes, Jesus said that it would be better to cut off one’s hand, or pluck out one’s eye, rather than to be cast into Gehenna, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched (see Mark 9:43-48). So what exactly does this mean?
As we have seen, fires were kept burning continually in Gehenna, so that everything that was cast into the valley was destroyed. But in the event that a carcass thrown into the ravine should not reach the fires, but perhaps would get lodged on one of its jagged sides, these would instead be devoured and destroyed by the worms which appeared never to die as they were always present. Thus by these powerful illustrations, Jesus confirmed the universal teaching of the Bible, that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), not eternal torment in everlasting fire.
Now in telling us that the wages of sin is death, the Apostle Paul does not leave us with the thought that all hope of ever living again is lost. But he also declares that the “gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This shows us plainly that even though the dead will rest in their graves, yet this will not be forever because there is the glorious hope of a resurrection from the dead unto life eternal for all who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, and saved by His righteousness. But also know that all those who refuse to be saved by the righteousness of Christ, and who reject His gift of redemption through His precious blood, will in the end be cast into this lake of fire where they will burn until they are everlastingly destroyed into ashes, never to live again.
So then since the belief that Hell is an underground place where the immortal spirits of the wicked dead are tortured in fiery agony for ever has been proven to be solely a pagan belief directly from Babylon, even though millions of honest and sincere Christians have been taught through Catholicism that it is really true, then what exactly does the Bible teach about what happens when a person dies?
First of all, what is death? The Bible refers over and over again that death is likened to sleep. In Old Testament times, when someone died it was declared that he "slept with his fathers" (see 1 Kings 2:10, 11:43, 14:20, 31, 15:8, 24; etc). In New Testament times, death was also likened to sleep (see 1 Corinthians 11:30, 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). In fact, Jesus plainly stated this same idea when referring to the death of his friend Lazarus:
"Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead." John 11:11-14.
So the Bible states that being dead is just like being asleep (see also Matthew 27:52; 1 Corinthians 15:51; Daniel 12:2). But when we die or fall asleep in death, what happens?
"His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." Psalms 146:4.
So God stated that when we die, we no longer have any thoughts or mental processes. Thus there is no consciousness in the grave. As this is true, then will God show us any of His wonders, whether past, present or future, after we die and are buried in the grave? The Bible states No.
"Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee?...Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?" Psalms 88:10-12.
Will we praise the Lord in the grave? The Bible states No.
"The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence." Psalms 115:17.
Will we even remember the Lord in the grave? The Bible answers No.
"For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?" Psalms 6:5.
Will we see anyone else while we are dead? The Bible declares No.
"I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave...I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world." Isaiah 38:10-11.
But don't we see our loved ones and friends coming to our grave to pay us respect? The Bible again states No.
"But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost...His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not..." Job 14:10, 21.
So those who have died really do not know anything! And with this statement the Bible totally agrees!
"For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten." Ecclesiastes 9:5.
Truly, being dead is like being asleep – just as Jesus stated. Yet many have been taught that at death some go straight to heaven. But does the Bible teach that we go to heaven and see the Lord when we die?
"...I shall go to the gates of the grave...I shall not see the Lord, even the Lord, in the land of the living..." Isaiah 38:10-11.
Now others have been taught that their dead relatives are in heaven who are watching over them and working for their good through various means. But is this what the Bible teaches? No.
"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 thou goest." Ecclesiastes 9:10.
But what about those who believe that they have actually seen or even talked with their dead loved ones apparently alive after having died?
"So man 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.
Since the Bible clearly states that the dead will not arise or awake out of sleep until the heavens be no more, then what about those who believe in, or who have seen, ghosts or the spirits of the dead haunting houses or graveyards or even helping people?
"...the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 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." Ecclesiastes 9:5-6.
So God through the Bible declares that the dead have no memory at all of when they were alive. As this is true, then they could not remember anyone or anything that they either loved or hated, cherished or envied during their lifetime. So even if they could come back as a ghost or a spirit, they could not even remember who they were supposed to haunt or who they were supposed to help!
Yet many people have actually seen ghosts or spirits and various apparitions. Others have heard unexplained noises and seen supernatural phenomena. But since the Bible of truth teaches that ghosts cannot be the actual dead person's spirit raised to life, then who are these apparitions?
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him....For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world..." Revelation 12:7-9, 16:14.
So there are indeed so-called ghosts or spirits seen today, yet not one of these are dead people actually come back from the dead. They are only the evil angels or spirits of devils whom were cast out of heaven. These evil beings are only pretending to be the dead come back to life. And it does not matter whom they impersonate – even the dead Apostle Paul or other dead followers of Christ. In fact, the more widely known the dead individual, the better to impersonate them.
But why do these evil angels impersonate the dead and sometimes even communicate information to those whom they contact? Their whole purpose for doing so is to deceive people and try to get them to believe that the information given them is really the truth. But does the Devil, along with his evil angels, tell the truth?
"He [the devil]...abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it." John 8:44.
So those who do not want to be deceived are not to believe any of the information relayed by these apparitions or so-called spirits of the dead, because it is nothing but lies! The biggest lie which the Devil and his evil spirits have tried to pawn off as being true is the belief that when we die our soul continues to live on. This Babylonian falsehood is also known as the immortality of the soul, and multitudes have been duped into really believing it is true.
But is humanity immortal? The Bible teaches that all human beings are "mortal", not immortal (see Job 4:17; Romans 6:12). In fact, it is God alone “who only hath immortality" (1 Timothy 6:16).
So the holy Scriptures declare that at death, we do not go on living for eternity. We do not go to heaven or to hell at death, but we simply sleep or rest in the grave. This then means that we do not reincarnate into some other creature as in the pagan belief of the endless circle of life – or a continual rebirth only to die again. This is because God mercifully declares in His word that human beings die once – not many times.
"...it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement..." Hebrews 9:27.
Yet the big question which still needs to be asked is: What causes humanity to die in the first place?
"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die....And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat....And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him...In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Genesis 2:16-17, 3:6, 9, 19.
This means that death began when God's command or law was disobeyed and broken. And what actually occurs when we disobey or transgress the law of God?
"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." 1 John 3:4.
So by breaking God's law, we commit sin, and what happens because of our choice to sin? "For the wages of sin is death..." Romans 6:23.
Who is the author and originator of all sin and death?
"Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou was created, till iniquity was found in thee." "He (the Devil) was a murderer from the beginning..." Ezekiel 28:15; John 8:44.
This means that God cannot be blamed for either sin or death, because it was the Devil or Satan or Lucifer who was the originator and creator of all sin and death, and thus is alone responsible for all the horror, pain, and suffering caused because of it. And since sin entered the world with its penalty of death by Adam and Eve choosing to break God’s commandment, then humanity has ever since tried to find a way to circumvent death and continue to live on. And the Devil has been only too willing to help foster such a deceptive belief through his many and varied lies, and he has been very successful with getting the majority of humanity duped into believing them.
Multitudes today sincerely believe that sin only causes the penalty of death to our fleshly body, but our soul continues to live on forever. But does the Bible teach this? No.
"The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Ezekiel 18:20.
So the soul that sins does not continue to live on forever, but it dies! And since "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), then the soul of no dead human being has ever continued to live on after death!
This particular belief, that we are made up of a body and a separate soul, is just another lie directly from the Devil and his evil spirits. God instead tells us the truth about how we were created.
"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.
So God first formed a body, then gave it the breath of life, and then man became a living soul. If we put this sequence into a mathematical formula for life, it would be as follows: a body, plus the breath of life, equals a living soul (see also Job 33:4; Ezekiel 37:6). Now the opposite equation of this formula would be: a body, minus breath, cannot equal a living soul – but equals a dead one! So there is no truth to the doctrine of our soul continuing to live on after we die. Neither does humanity have a spirit which goes on living after death.
Our breath, which comes from God and allows us to have life, can also be translated in the scriptures as "spirit" (see also Job 27:3). So a body, plus the breath or spirit of life, equals a living soul. But a body, without spirit, cannot equal a living soul. So again there is no truth to the belief that at death, our spirit continues to go on living. When we die, our breath or spirit of life goes back to God who gave it to us at birth (see Ecclesiastes 12:7; Psalms 31:5), but there is no separate life or consciousness in this breath – no more than there would be every time we exhale.
But as this is all true, then is the lot of humanity to always face death without any hope of ever escaping from it's eternal grasp? Are we always to rest and sleep in the grave for ever? Or has someone found a way to deliver us from such a hopeless destiny as this?
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man...Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Hebrews 2:9, 14-15.
So then Jesus Christ has found just such a way of deliverance, and has mercifully provided this to all of humanity so that any who will can be delivered from this hopeless destiny of eternal death in order to have life again!
"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.
"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." 1 Corinthians 15:22; 1 John 5:11-12.
This means that every human being can now have hope that there is indeed life after death – but only in Jesus Christ. No other human being: be he president or pope, evangelist or guru, shaman or priest, can offer anyone eternal life in truth. Life after death is only found in Jesus Christ because it is only Jesus that has been given "power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many" as are His (see John 17:2). And Jesus Christ is available to all humanity – even those considered to be in the lowest scale of human worth or in the deepest pit of sin.
"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:15-16.
"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." 1 Timothy 1:15.
So all humanity can now rest in the hope that there is indeed life after death – but only in Christ Jesus. No longer need anyone be afraid of death – unless you have not accepted Jesus as your Saviour and are not connected with Him.
Please do not allow another moment to go by without getting on your knees, repenting of your sins, and asking Jesus to forgive you and then plead for Him to take control of your life. We are told that "Now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2) – not tomorrow, because tomorrow may be too late. So do it today, and don’t wait, because your chance for eternal life is at stake!
Now this truth of there being a chance for life after death through Christ is a great comfort and blessing for those who are still alive, but what about those who have already died? Will those who have already passed away or fallen asleep and are now resting in their graves ever be brought back to life again – including those who had rejected Christ?
The question about whether there is really life after death has been pondered by multitudes over the millennia. The desire to know the answer has led many far and wide in searching for the truth. Especially can this desire burn in the hearts of those who are grieving over the loss of loved ones. But where can they go to find the answer, knowing for certain that it is the truth, and thus find the lasting comfort they long so much to have?
The Apostle Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, describes a time when the dead will really be with the Lord, and then he concludes as follows: “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” So it is by looking in God’s inspired Scripture that all who have lost loved ones can find lasting and true comfort, because it is there revealed that there will indeed be life after death.
In fact, in 1 Corinthians 15:12-13 we are told that if there is no such thing as life after death, then Jesus could not have been raised from the dead. So the very fact that God raised up Jesus from the tomb is our assurance that we also will be raised if we should die! “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus...” (2 Corinthians 4:14). So there will be life after death because of a coming resurrection, and Jesus Christ being raised from the dead was proof of this fact.
But for what purpose does the resurrection serve?
“For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” 1 Corinthians 15:18-19.
Or in other words, without the resurrection, the dead in Christ will perish. And if we hope for reward only in this life, then we are of all men most miserable and pitiable. We may as well eat, drink, and enjoy life because only death ultimately faces us. This is exactly what the Humanists believe today.
But Paul goes on to tell us in 1 Corinthians 15:58:
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the word of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
Or in other words, the fact that we will be raised is what assures us our labor for the Lord is not in vain. If there is no resurrection, then why steadfastly abound in the Lord's work? But since there is a resurrection, then even death cannot prevent our reward being granted us. In fact, if there is no reward after death, then there is no real justice!
Many good people suffer in this life just as much or more than evil people. Many wicked people have prospered far above righteous people. Many criminals and sinners have neither been caught nor punished. So justice demands a resurrection so the righteous may ultimately be rewarded, and the wicked can be ultimately punished. Thus the resurrection serves as a day of reward!
Jesus assures us all:
“Thou shalt be recompensed (rewarded) at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:14.
“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” Matthew 16:27.
In simple, plain language Jesus declared that no one would be rewarded until the resurrection takes place at His second coming. This means that none of the righteous dead have yet been rewarded with eternal life. All are still waiting in their graves for the judgement and the end of the world. In fact, almost the last words of the Bible confirm this truth:
“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his works shall be.” Revelation 22:12.
So we can understand that the righteous will be given their reward at the second coming of Christ. But what about the wicked? When will they receive their reward for all their sins?
“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgement to be punished.” 2 Peter 2:9.
So the wicked are reserved somewhere until the day of judgement. But where are they reserved?
“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28-29.
Jesus made it exceedingly plain that all the dead would be reserved in their graves until called forth in the resurrection to receive their reward of either eternal life or eternal damnation. And, you know, the Bible makes perfect sense!
Obviously no one can receive either eternal life or punishment and damnation until after they are judged worthy of receiving such a reward. Justice demands that this be done. Therefore each and every one of us are judgment bound, and we will be judged according to our works!
“For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10.
“...it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Hebrews 9:27.
“Let us here the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (see also Matthew 25:31-46).
The wonderful message of the Bible is that both good and bad dead people are sleeping in their graves until resurrection day. At that time they are brought forth to face the judgement, and receive either rewards or punishments according to their deeds.
Now consider how confusing it would be if rewards and punishments were now being applied to the dead. What purpose would be served by the resurrection? Obviously each soul would already have a determined fate, and the idea of some final judgement would be totally meaningless. But in plain and simple language the Bible clearly reveals that all the dead are resting in their graves until the judgment occurs and their rewards figured out, to be given them at the resurrection.
As we can see that there will be two different kinds of rewards – eternal life or eternal death, so there will be two different resurrections.
“...there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” Acts 24:15.
Now, which resurrection occurs first?
“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 (see also 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; John 14:1-3; Matthew 24:30-31).
So the righteous dead are raised up to life first, and together with those righteous living on the earth, who have already been changed from mortal to immortality, are both caught up in the air to be forever more with Jesus.
But what happens to those on the earth who do not go up to be with Jesus in the clouds?
“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.
“...whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming...because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved...but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12.
“And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground.” Jeremiah 25:33.
So when Christ comes again, the first resurrection occurs and all the righteous dead are raised to life to receive their reward of immortality, and then together with the righteous living are taken to heaven. But all the wicked living on the earth will be slain by the brightness of His coming. Thus the earth will be left littered with the bodies of the wicked dead whose corpses will be feasted on by scavenger birds until no flesh is left of them (see Revelation 6:14-17, 19:11-18). Yet even these scavengers will eventually run out of food and will themselves die, thus leaving the earth completely desolate (see Jeremiah 4:23-27; Isaiah 24:1,3).
Now how long is the earth to remain completely empty and desolate?
“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished...” Revelation 20:5.
Thus the Bible plainly declares that after Christ comes again and the first resurrection takes place, there will be a period of 1000 years, and that none of the wicked will be resurrected back to life until after these 1000 years are over! But is there anything living on the earth all through these 1000 years? Yes!
The Devil or Satan or Lucifer is bound upon this desolate earth during these 1000 years, and he cannot escape! (See Revelation 20:2-3). How ironic, that this mighty tempter and deceiver of the earth’s inhabitants throughout some 6000 years of history is now left completely alone with absolutely no one to tempt! During these 1000 years he will obviously have plenty of time to think, and also to view all the destruction which he is responsible for.
But what will the righteous be doing in heaven with Christ during these 1000 years? As priests and kings they will be reviewing all the cases of the wicked dead – including the wicked angels and Lucifer, and in unison with Christ, will pass judgment upon all the wicked so that the wicked can receive their just reward after the second resurrection takes place (see Revelation 20:6, 4; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3).
So the word of God has plainly shown us in truth what is soon to take place. But this is quite a different picture from what is loudly portrayed by the majority of the preachers today! Through various doctrines of devils which are being advocated from the pulpits, book stores, and even in the theaters, such as the Rapture Theory, many have be deceived into believing that after Christ comes there will be a 1000 year period of His rule on earth where the unsaved will have a second chance at salvation! (For a complete study on this, please read our tract on “The Secret Rapture”). But the Bible of truth reveals a completely different picture, and many are now faced with having to choose between following the word of God, or continuing to follow the cunning lies of men!
The fact of the matter is, there will be no second chance of salvation! There is no second probation!
“Now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2.
“Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Hebrews 4:7.
This means that today is the day of our salvation, because tomorrow may be too late!
Now for those of us who have lost loved ones, God gives the following for our comfort and solace:
“But I would not have you be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
Here is a perfect picture of true comfort. Paul describes the coming of Jesus and the resurrection of the saints as being the only manner and means of our loved ones being with the Lord, and thus all other ideas are excluded. Then he tells us to “comfort one another with these words.”
If you think about it, there really is no comfort in the belief that some invisible, disembodied spirit-entity leaves the body at death to either be punished or rewarded. Is it really comforting to believe that unsaved dead relatives are now suffering the torment of unquenchable fire? Is there solace believing that dead loved ones are looking down from heaven upon the heart-breaking circumstances occurring to those left behind? No wonder Paul was so specific in describing that the second advent of Jesus and the resurrection are the only ways anyone can be with the Lord after death, and this is really the only true way to be comforted.
All the dead will rise to face the great decrees of the judgement, whether they went to sleep thousands of years ago, or just five minutes before Jesus appears. The actual time they were dead will seem to them as only a fraction of a second – just like waking up after a whole night of sleeping.
“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” 1 Corinthians 15:21-26.
Or in other words, Jesus will reign until He defeats the last enemy, which is death. Death entered because Satan seduced Adam and Eve to sin, and Christ's ultimate victory will occur when He defeats this last remaining enemy. Then “death will be swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). And what will the resurrected righteous then say?
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” 1 Corinthians 15:55.
This glorious hope of life after death is only made possible by our Lord and “Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). And very soon, death itself will die by being cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14) to nevermore afflict the children of men!
So there is indeed hope of life after death – but only through Jesus Christ.
“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” John 11:25-26.
Jesus is the only way any of us can have life after death. Not Buddha, Christna, Mohammad, Maitreya, or any other spiritualistic medium or shaman can grant you eternal life. And neither can any pope, priest, minister, elder, teacher, nor church grant you eternal life either! Life after death can only be found through Jesus Christ, and if we should reject Jesus Christ as our Saviour, or if after accepting Him we choose to deny and walk away from Him, then we are eternally lost!
So if you have not given your heart to follow Jesus, do so now! Tomorrow may be too late! If you haven’t given your heart to follow the truth as it is in Jesus, do so now! Don’t be one of those who are deceived and lost because you refused to follow Bible truth and kept following false doctrines instead. Today, right now, determine to follow Christ and Bible truth regardless of the cost. Isn’t Christ worth it? His death made the promise of eternal life to all who accept Him a reality! Don’t let it be said that Jesus Christ died in vain for you! Accept Him now, and you can then have a firm and never failing hope of life after death!