Lesson 16 – The Real Truth About Death

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 sane, sensible information. It reveals not only what happens when you 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?

1. How were we created? Genesis 2:7

Answer: From the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life

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.

2. Can the soul die? Ezekiel 18:4

Answer: The soul who sins is the one who will die.

3. Who only has immortality? 1 Timothy 6:15, 16

Answer: God, who alone is immortal

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

4. What does the apostle Paul say we are seeking for? Romans 2:7

Answer: Seek honor, and immortality

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

Answer: Mortal-Can a mortal be more righteous than God?

6. When will God’s people receive immortality? 1 Corinthians 15:51-54

Answer: At the last trumpet…the dead will be raised imperishable.

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

Answer: The dust returns to the ground it came from and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

The Bible does not teach that the soul returns to God. The Bible mentions the word “soul” approximately 1,800 times. It never once uses the expression “immortal soul.” For Bible-believing Christians, the great hope is the resurrection at the second coming of Christ.

8. Are human beings conscious at death? How much do they know? Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6

Answer: The dead know nothing…even the memory of them is forgotten.

9. What about the thought processes? Do they continue after death? Psalm 146:4

Answer: Their plans come to nothing.

10. What is the spirit that returns to God? James 2:26

Answer: The body without the spirit is dead.

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 ‘ruach.’ 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; 6:5

Answer: It is not the dead who praise the Lord. No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises You from the grave?

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? John 11:11-14

Answer: Our friend Lazarus is fallen asleep…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

Answer: Rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them

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

Answer: Jesus I am the Living One…I am alive forever and ever.

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

Answer: The dead in Christ will rise first…those who are still alive will be caught up together in the clouds.

16. Since Jesus 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

Answer: He who has the Son has 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.

* Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.