Search For Certainty
Bible Studies

16. The Real Truth About Death

Hope Beyond the Grave

What happens five minutes after death? Heaven? Hell? Nothingness? The subject of death has intrigued men and women down through the centuries. Books on "near-death" experiences have catapulted into best-seller status. There has been an amazing upsurge of interest in spiritualism and communication with the dead. Can the dead communicate with the living? Does an immortal soul survive the body at physical death?

How can the mystery of death be solved? There are rock-solid answers to the question "What happens when you die?". The Bible provides clear information. It reveals not only what happens when we die but also how to face death with new hope and confidence. To answer the question "What happens when we die?" it is necessary first to answer, "What happened when we were created?".

01. How were we created?
Genesis 2:7
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 being.

The Bible does not teach that God placed a soul in human beings at Creation. It specifically states that God formed our bodies out of the dust of the ground and breathed into them the breath of life. We then became a living being. Some Bible translations call us "living souls." To state it in equation form, body + breath = living soul.

02. Can the soul die?
Ezekiel 18:4

“Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.

03. Who only has immortality?
1 Timothy 6:15–16

15. which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords,
16. who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.

"Mortal" means subject to death. "Immortal" means not subject to death, imperishable. The Bible never uses "immortal" to describe who we are. It uses it only to describe who God is. Immortality is a gift that God will give to us.

04. What does the Apostle Paul say we are seeking for?
Romans 2:7

eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality;

05. How does Job describe our current condition?
Job 4:17

Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?

06. When will God's people receive immortality?
1 Corinthians 15:51–54

51. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--
52. in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.

07. How does Solomon describe what happens at death?
Ecclesiastes 12:7

Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit [h:roo-akh; wind, breath] will return to God who gave it.
The Bible does not teach that the soul [spirit] returns to God. The Hebrew word "roo-akh" means wind or breath. The breath of life that God passes to man at birth returns to God who gave it at death (Gen 2:7). For Bible-believing Christians the great hope after resting in the grave is the resurrection at the second coming of Christ.

08. Are human beings conscious after death? How much do they know?
Ecclesiastes 9:5–6

05. For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten.
06. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun.

09. What about the thought processes? Do they continue after death?
Psalm 6:5

For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks?

10. What is the spirit that returns to God?
Psalm 104:29–30

29. You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
30. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth.

Ezekiel 37:5, 14
05. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.
14. I will put My Spirit
[h:roo-akh; wind, breath] in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,” says the LORD.’ ”
The spirit and the breath are the same throughout Scripture. When a person dies, it is God's life-giving power, His breath, that returns. The psalmist David states it this way: "His breath [spirit] goeth forth" (Psalm 146:4). It is not some conscious entity. It is not some immortal soul. The Hebrew word for breath throughout Old Testament Scripture is "roo-akh". This Hebrew word means air, wind, or spirit. Job 27:3 talks about God's spirit, or breath, in our nostrils. At death this spirit, or breath, returns to God.

11. Can the dead worship God?
Psalm 115:17

The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor any who go down into silence.
God mercifully shuts our eyes at death to all of the sorrow, heartache, and disappointment on earth. Since the "dead know not anything" (Ecclesiastes 9:5) and "in the grave there is not remembrance of you" (Psalm 6:5), it is only logical that "the dead praise not the Lord" (Psalm 115:17).​

12. What does the Bible compare death to?
Psalm 13:3

Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
John 11:11–14
11. These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”
12. Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.”
13. However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.
14. Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.

The Bible compares death to a sleep more than 50 times. To the Bible-believing Christian, death is no more to be feared than a sound sleep. When we are sleeping soundly, we are not aware of time passing at all. We are at rest-complete rest.

13. How does Revelation's last message to the world describe death?
Revelation 14:13

Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”

14. Who has the keys to the grave?
Revelation 1:18

I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

15. What events will take place when Jesus comes?
​1 Thessalonians 4:16–17

16. 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.
17. 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.

16. Since Jesus alone has immortality and will grant it to us when He returns at the second advent, how can we be sure to receive it?
1 John 5:11–12

11. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
12. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Death is a peaceful sleep until the return of Jesus. There is no consciousness of the passage of time in the grave. For the righteous the next event after death is the resurrection. Death for the believer is no more to be feared than a rest in the arms of a loving Savior. When we accept Jesus, we receive the gift of eternal life and the promise of immortality.

Concluding Question
Because Jesus alone has immortality and will give it freely to His people at His second coming, would you like to confirm or reconfirm your commitment to Jesus today and be ready to receive His gift of eternal life when he returns on that day?

The Bible answers your questions regarding death

1. DIDN'T JESUS PROMISE the thief on the cross that they would be together in Paradise that day?

To understand the Bible correctly, it is necessary to consider everything the Bible says about a given topic. Since the scriptures do not contradict themselves, one part of the Bible cannot be used to disprove another part of the Bible. The overwhelming evidence in God's Word is clear. Death is an unconscious existence, a peaceful sleep, a restful bliss until Jesus comes and the resurrection of the righteous believers occurs.
In Luke 23:43 Jesus said to the thief on the cross, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise" (NKJV)." Did Jesus mean He would meet the thief in Paradise that day? Obviously not. According to His own words He did not ascend to heaven until after His resurrection on Sunday morning (John 20:17). Jesus could not have promised to meet the thief in heaven on Friday if He did not ascend to the Father until Sunday.
What did Jesus mean in His comment to the thief? A lot depends on where the comma is inserted-on where the writer wanted the reader to pause. If the comma is placed after the Word "today" ("I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise"), the meaning is clear. The day He was dying on the cross Jesus assured the thief of eternal life in the future. His statement of assurance was uttered from the cross the day of His death. Punctuation was not in the original text, and most punctuation marks were not added by the church until 1400 years later; in this sentence, putting the comma in a different place than it is usually put allows Jesus' words to make perfect sense.

2. DIDN'T THE APOSTLE PAUL long to "depart and be with Christ" (Philippians 1:23 (NKJV)?

He certainly did! What he was longing for was the resurrection and Jesus' second coming. To clarify this point read 1 Corinthians 15:51-54, 2 Timothy 4:7, 8; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. Since there is no passage of time in death, the next instant Paul will know after having closed his eyes in the sleep of death will be seeing Jesus on resurrection morning.