“This life will end some future day: another life will then begin; are you ready for that day? Just after death, what then?” These are the challenging words of a song that is in some of our songbooks. People are interested in knowing about death, and the hereafter. As long as death is present in our land, men will ask, “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job. 14:14).
God has spoken on the subject; in fact, His revealed word is all that we know on this subject. He gives us the meaning of death and some insight into the things that follow it. An integral part of any study of man’s destiny after death demands that we understand something of man’s origin, his nature, and his makeup. So we begin by asking the question…
“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? [emphasis added]” (Psa. 8:4). There are but two possible answers to this all-important question. Man is either an animal that evolved from the unknown ages past through a process of evolution, or man is a spirit-being who was created by God Himself. If man is wholly mortal, then the dead have ceased to be; and all who die will likewise become extinct (I Cor. 15:17-18). However the theory of evolution is repudiated by all reliable scientific data.
Man was created by Jehovah as shown in Genesis 1:26-27 and 2:7. Man’s entire nature consists of body, soul and spirit. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and said, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ [emphasis added]” (I Thess. 5:23). Daniel wrote, “I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me” (Dan. 7:15). Zechariah spoke of “the Lord, which stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundation of the earth, and formed the spirit of man within him” (Zech. 12:1). See also Job 32:8, 4:19, and 14:22 for more on this subject.
The spirit of man is the offspring of God, and is immortal (John 4:24; Psalm 90:2). In Hebrews 12:9, God is spoken of as “the Father of spirits.” Paul told the crowd on Mars Hill that “we are the offspring of God” (Acts 17:29). The immortality of the soul can be seen in its destiny as stated in Matthew 25:46. We will either be in “everlasting punishment” or in “life eternal.” Only the body is mortal (Rom. 6:12). And its immortality will begin at the resurrection (I Cor. 15:42-44; 53-54).
This brings us to another question, “What is death?” Physical death (the type under consideration in the title of this article) is the separation of the spirit from the body, at which time, “The dust shall return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7). See also Genesis 3:19. Other pertinent passages to examine include James 2:26, Genesis 35:18, Psalm 90:10, and II Timothy 4:6. Our mortal physical body is merely a tabernacle or tent in which the real man lives (II Cor. 5:1-8; II Pet. 1:13-15). When those who had died were raised, whether raised by the prophets in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, it was simply the returning of the spirit into the body from whence it had departed by way of a miracle. See I Kings 17:21-22 and Luke 8:55. This being true, the spirit had to have continued to exist in a place outside the body in a place of disembodied spirits. Spirits can and do exist apart from material bodies. The spirit survives the death of the body (Matt. 10:28; Luke 23:43; Matt. 17:1-8). When David’s son died, he said, “But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he can not return to me” (II Sam 12:23). David recognized that his son was alive somewhere! The Sadducees were materialists. To them, death meant annihilation; a dead man ceased to exist. Jesus answered their quibble about the woman who married seven brothers in Matthew 22:29-32. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been dead for hundreds of years, but they were still living then and they are still living now; only their bodies have perished. When the word “death” is used in Scripture it always means a separation. This is true literally and this is true figuratively. But man can never cease to exist. (To be continued.)
Paul M. Wilmoth