This is our third and final installment looking at the question posed in our title. Thus far we have examined four questions: (1) What is man? (2) What is death? (3) Are the dead conscious? (4) Where are the dead? In this article we will consider a few more.
(5) What about purgatory? In Roman Catholic doctrine purgatory is a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before going on to heaven. Biblically, such a place is unknown! It does not exist! The hadean world is not a place of purgatory for anybody; fate is sealed at death (Heb. 9:27; II Cor. 5:10). The idea is suggested only in a book written by an uninspired man in II Maccabees 12:43-46. Purgatory is totally in contradiction to what is taught in the inspired Scriptures. Moreover, the Bible does not command nor teach that we are to pray for the dead. If so, where is the scripture? Death cannot change a person’s character; the “great gulf” between the saved and the lost is “fixed” (Luke 16:26). There is no postmortem gospel. “Today, if you will hear His voice...” (Heb. 3:7, 15). In I Peter 3:18-20 the preaching was done by Christ through Noah; it was done to the people living at the time the ark was built. Neither does the Bible teach vicarious baptism, nor does it teach that anything we do on earth will affect or change the destiny of departed loved ones in any way (II Cor. 5:10). Notice the words “in the body.”
(6) What about future recognition? The Bible does not speak directly on the subject, yet many passages seem definitely to imply it. Memory and personal identity are still retained in the soul after death (Luke 16:19-31; Rev. 6:9-10; Phil. 3:21). These are essential elements in future recognition. If we do not retain our memory and recognition, we would not even know that we had been saved! Of course earthly relationships will not exist in the same way as they do on earth (Matt. 22:30). The redeemed will be in immortal bodies (I Cor. 15:42-45). In heaven God will remove all sorrow (Rev. 21:4). The righteous cannot know fully in this life the joys of that eternal home (I John 3:1-2). The following passages are believed to indicate that we will know each other in heaven: Matthew 8:11; 17:3-4; II Samuel 12:23; Philippians 2:17; 4:1; I Thessalonians 2:19-20; and II Corinthians 1:14; 4:14.
(7) What about spiritualism? The Bible does not teach that the living can communicate with the spirits of the dead. In fact, this practice is severely condemned throughout the Bible (Lev. 19:31; 20:6, 27; Deut. 18:10-12; Acts 19:18-20; Rev. 21:8; 22:15). This system is of the devil. The narrative of the appearance of Samuel to King Saul in the house of the witch of Endor, when properly studied, is God’s exposé of this system of deception (I Sam. 28:3-25; I Chron. 10:13-14). Don’t be bewitched in believing in ouija boards, mediums, or seances. Save your money.
These notes were used in a lesson at Northeast some time back due to some questions that were submitted. Let’s look now at those questions. (1) Where do all peoples’ (sinners & Christian) souls go after death? We have answered this in our discussion. (2) Do babies, small children, and mentally disabled people go straight to Jesus/God? The classes named were never lost. We often say they are “safe” (Matt. 18:3-4; Matt. 19:14). By implication, these will go into “paradise” along with the souls of all the righteous to await the resurrection and the judgment.
What about you? Are you living in such a way that you do not have to fear death? Paul said, “For me to die is gain.” Can you say that?
“Just after death, please answer me, where will you spend eternity? When life on earth has ceased to be, Just after death, what then?”
Paul M. Wilmoth