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What is Death?
by Alon Ronk
We begin in Hebrews 9:27 where the scriptures say, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" What does it mean, to die? Death provokes fear, sorrow, hopelessness, anxiety etc. Many have become accustomed to thinking of death as merely a cessation of life. The Scriptures actually define and explain death in easy to understand language.
First, we must remember that death is a result of sin. You can see the seriousness of sin by its effects. We were not originally created to die but to live forever. But how did man originally become alive? 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 soul." We see first of all from this verse that man did not pre-exist in some spirit world somewhere. He was initially created and got his first start when God made his body and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. It is at that point that man began living.
Second, the body and the soul are not to be confused. We know that God is Spirit and yet He says in Leviticus 26:11, " And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you." And again in Lev.26:30, "And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you." Surely God the Father was not indicating that He had a physical body by using the term, "My soul". When God gave Adam life the scriptures say God, "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life". The Hebrew word for "breath" is, hmvn (Neshama). In the creation account, nephesh is used of man and animals alike. But the Neshama is used for man's creation alone making mankind unique above the animals. Neshama is translated, breath 17 times, spirit 2 times, inspiration 1 time, and therefore refers to more than just a soul, or Nephesh. It is God divinely inspiring life into man as a personal act and man awaking with a capacity to interact with his Creator. When man dies, the life that God imparted departs. Ecclesiastes 3:21, "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" And again in Eccl.12:7, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." Therefore death is not a cessation, it is a separation.
The Bible speaks of the body and soul as being two separate things. It further demonstrates that principle. For examples of the first point we turn to Micah 6:7, "Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" Matthew 10:28, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." And again in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, "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."
So we see that the body and soul are separate and can be separated. This separation is called death. In the following verses we will see that point demonstrated. Genesis 35:17-20, "And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day." The Bible records the death of Rachel and explains that her death was a departure of her soul. Where did it depart to? Certainly it was not what they buried in Bethlehem. They buried her body after she left it.
Again, 1 Kings 17:17-23, "And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son? And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth." With Rachel, we saw that her departing soul left behind a dead body. Here, for this widow's son, we see that it was the re-entry of the child's soul that brought his body back to life.
The apostle Peter spoke of death in the same way. 2 Peter 1:13-15, "Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance." Peter speaks of death as "put[ting] off this my tabernacle". And he himself explains that he is talking about his decease (death). So for him, death was him being separated, or departing from his tabernacle (body).
The apostle Paul also used similar language. We will also use the next verse of scripture to answer the question, if death is the separation of the soul from the body, what is the soul? But I might also add this one point before going to my next verse. Peter's statement, "as long as I am in this tabernacle", shows that Peter knew he could only personally benefit others while he was still alive. He could be of no further help after his death. This surely shows us the folly of trusting in, and praying to dead saints which the Torah would condemn as a form of necromancy, Deuteronomy 18:10-12, "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee." Paul said also, as Peter did, in Phillipians 1:23-24, "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." The apostle Paul also knew he could not personally benefit others after his death, which he discribed as, " having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ". The alternative to departing, i.e. dying, is, " Nevertheless to abide in the flesh".
Now let's turn to 2 Corinthians 5:1-8; "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him." In this verse of scripture the soul of man is discribed by personal pronouns, specifically the word "we". "We" expresses knowledge in vs.1; groans with desire in vs.2; inhabits the tabernacle of flesh in vs.4; expresses consciousness seen in the words, we know; expresses confidence in vs,6; speech in vs.8; and will in vs.8. "We" can also be absent from the body and present with the Lord or at home in the body and absent from the Lord. This agrees to the words Paul used when he said, "having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." And also 2 Timothy 4:6, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand."
Therefore, we ought not see people as having souls but rather souls as possessing bodies. The soul is the real man; the true man. The inner man who no one sees. We only see the physical tabernacle of the person housed within but not the person himself. The human body locks us into the physical world and through it we interact with physical reality. During death, the spiritual man vacates his earthly tabernacle. The way I see it, roughly put, the spirit is the intellectual part of who we are and the soul is the emotional part of who we are all bound up in one, housed in a body of flesh. But we are not our bodies, we are in possession of a body. The soul then, is the inner man. The person who thinks, feels, fears, loves, hates, plans etc.
But if death is a departure of the soul from the body, where does the soul go? In other words, where do we go when we die? Of course, that depends on our relationship to God. We are all familiar with heaven and hell. But very few people are familiar with a place that was called paradise. Some call it Abraham's bosom. We find mention of this place in Luke 16:19-26.
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which woul d pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence." I will be coming back to this verse of scripture for some commentary.
You will notice that both the righteous and the unrighteous went to the same place in death. But this place called sheol was divided into two parts. One side was the temporary holding place of the righteous until the death, burial, and resurrection of Messiah should be fulfilled. The other side was, and still is, the temporary holding place of the unrighteous. Why do I say hell is a temporary holding place? It's not because it gets better, it's because it gets worse for the scriptures say in Revelation 20:13-14, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." According to the scriptures, hell is a temporary place of punishment which ends in the lake of fire after the great white throne judgement described in Revelation 20:11-12. That will be their final and permanent state.
But what about the other side of Sheol? What's the story on that? Did the old covenant believers believe in such a place? Before we look at that, I must point out something on the word, "grave", in order to avoid confusion. It is better for us to look at the words in Hebrew for a clearer picture. There are two Hebrew words that are used for "grave" as a place of burial. They are, hrwbq (qeburah), or rbq (qeber) or some derivative thereof, and then there's lwav (sheol) where people went when they died. Using the term, qeber, as representing the other words for grave as a burial place, in the Hebrew scriptures a human body never goes to a sheol but in 37 places it is placed in a qeber. Sheol is never spoken of as being on the surface of the earth, but 32 times in the scriptures it's on the surface of the earth. Nowhere do we find someone being buried by another in a sheol. But there are 33 places where one is buried by another in a qeber. Nowhere do we see someone digging a sheol. Bu t in 6 places we see someone digging a qeber. We also never find a person able to touch a sheol, but 6 times one was able to touch a qeber. The same applies to the greek words for hell and grave in the Brit Chadasha ( New Covenant scriptures). Just look up the words in a Strong's concordance.
So having cleared that up, we will see that the Old Covenant believers believed that there was a part of Sheol that they expected to go to after death. Genesis 37:32-36, "And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son's coat or no. And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard." Notice Jacob, thinking his son Joseph to be dead, said, I will go DOWN INTO Sheol unto my son. In Jacob's mind, Joseph went down into sheol and Jacob would be able to follow him there.
David also believed as did Jacob. In 2 Samuel 12, the son that was born to David of Bathsheba died. The event is recorded as follows: "And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."
Now let's look at 1 Samuel 28:5-19, "And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee. And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die? And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing. Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David: Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.
You will notice that 5 times Samuel is referred to as coming UP out of the earth. Samuel was not buried in Endor; 1 Samuel 25:1 "And Samuel died; and all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah." So we are not talking about his body coming up out of a grave. This woman was able to contact demons who impersonated the dead but when, to her surprise, the real Samuel came up, she screamed (cried with a loud voice). She realized that this was greater than her. But how was she able to tell the real Samuel from a conjured up imitation? We do not know all this woman saw but we do know one thing; when Saul asked her what she saw she said she, "saw gods ascending out of the earth." The word "gods" in the Hebrew is, Elohim. I am, at least, suggesting that it is possible that she saw God Himself ascending up out of sheol with Samuel for it is not likely that Samuel could have done this on his own. The scriptures do not suggest that this perso n was anyone less than the real Samuel. Samuel finishes by saying, "to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me". And where was Samuel? Down in Sheol. What happen to Saul and his sons the next day? They died in battle. But they were not buried in Samuel's grave.
That Samuel would say, tomorrow you will be with me, is like Jesus telling the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43, "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." Where was this paradise that Jesus spoke of? Where would the repentant thief be with Jesus on that very day? Matthew 12:40, "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." I can not explain the physics of that, other than to say it must be some kind of reality that is not known to us. Perhaps some sort of parallel dimension or something. I am not so naiive as to think I know or understand everything. But there was a place called Paradise in the heart of the earth.
Now as we return to Luke 16:19-31 we see it reveals alot to us about this place called Sheol which was separated by a great chasm into two parts. One part was the place of the righteous and the other part was the realm of the damned. "There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remem ber that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
There are several things to observe about this passage of scripture. First, it can not be a parable. Even if it were, what would the parable be signifying? But Jesus never spoke a parable using formal names. When Jesus uses names He has someone in mind. There are three names recorded in this verse of scripture. Abraham, Moses, and an unknown man named Lazarus. Second, the people in Sheol were totally conscious. They could recognize, remember, desire, speak, hear, see, feel, and reason etc. Third, the righteous and the condemned were separated from one another. This great gulf could not be crossed from either side. Abraham said, "beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence." You will notice that the population of both sides is referred to in the plural although the conversation was focused on Abraham and the rich man calling to each other across the gul f as Israel and Goliath did in the valley of Elah in 1 Samuel 17. In other words, they were not alone on either side. Fourth, when the rich man died the Bible says he was buried. While his body lay in a grave on the surface of the earth this event took place somewhere far down below.
But what happened to Paradise once the redeemed were taken out of it to heaven by Jesus? Ephesians 4:8-10 points out, "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)" We have seen from the Tenach, paradise was a place characterized as being "down", as was Sheol, or hell. In the Brit Chadasha, however, we see Paradise is now a place that is UP. Whereas Ephesians says, "Far above all heavens" Paul refers to this place as the third heaven and uses the term Paradise as a synonym.2 Corinthians 12:2-4, "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, o r out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." It is my opinion that Paul is speaking of his own experience when he was stoned at Lystra and left outside the city for dead, Acts 14:19. But keeping with the point I'm making, the Paradise that Jesus promised to meet the thief in that very day, which was in the heart of the earth, after Messiah's ascension became a place that was up. "The third heaven" as Paul refers to it.
What is meant by the "Third" heaven? I know the Mormons have fabricated an elaborate fable as to what they think the third heaven is. But we do not need to get technical or complicated for the answer is very simple. First, we DO know that the third heaven is a place called paradise and is a place one must be caught up to. In tracing this place through the scriptures to 2 Cor- inthians 12:2-4 , and knowing also that Paul heard unspeakable, or perhaps, even unspoken words, which a mere man was not allowed or able to utter, it must be referring to Heaven, the abode of God. I am reminded also of the Spirit of God who, "also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered;" - Ro 8:26.
Well, what, then, are the other two heavens? Does the Bible tell us. Of course! It is no secret nor anything mysterious. The first heaven is the sky. Genesis 1:20 says, "And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven." So in this first heaven you would expect to find birds, clouds, the rainbow, or in our day airplanes etc. The second heaven is interstellar space. Deuteronomy 4:19, "And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven."
Therefore, we must conclude that when a believer dies, he is released from his or her physical body and is caught immediately up to heaven where all the other believers are. However, when an unbeliever dies they too go immediately to that sheol where a man would give anything for just one drop of water on his tongue because of the torment of the flame. I know that the doctrine of hell is offensive to many but if the Bible teaches that there is such a place it doesn't matter if people don't like it, or whether they believe it or not. I confess, I do not exactly understand it all but I do have sense enough not to argue with God. You must make a choice: You have heard what God has to say about it, and you have heard what liberal thinking Bible critics have had to say about it but you must decide whose side you are going to be on. There is one sure thing, if you are a blood bought born again believer, you won't have to worry about it for yourself. For it is written in Psalm 116:15, "Preci ous in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." Since death is a departure of a person from this life and their physical body there must also be an arrival somewhere else. When Stephen was stoned to death, right before he died he, "... being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God;" - Acts 7:55. I believe Jesus stood up to welcome Stephen home. For those left behind it was a sorrowful departure. But in heaven, a glorious arrival.
One final thing. Sometimes death is called sleep. Why? Is there such a thing a soul sleep? In death, the soul does not sleep, it departs the body. It is the body that sleeps in the dust. I think it only necessary to point to three verses to help clarify this point. Not because there are no more, but remember, it is my aim in this web page to give you enough information as a basis for doing your own study. Don't just take what you learn here and think you know enough. Study further.
The first is found in Luke 9:28, "And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him."
That Moses and Elijah would appear together would, at least, suggest to me something other than , it just happened by chance. I believe there was a reason. First, it shows the supremacy of the Son of God over the Torah represented by Moses, and the Prophets represented by Elijah. Peter wanted to make three tabernacles thus bestowing equal honor on the three. But the Father spoke from heaven and exalted the Son above the other two. Second, Moses died and God buried him. Deuteronomy 34:5-6, "So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day." Nevertheless, there's Moses, alive and well on the mount of transfiguration even though his body lay in a grave somewhere in Moab. It is also interesting to me that the one, Moses, who died, was yet alive. The one who did not die, Elijah, was still alive. This sounds remarkably similar to the words of Jesus when He said, "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. Believest thou this?" - John11:26-27. Remember also the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, "But I would not have you to 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." What a great picture of the rapture combined with the fact that Jesus had called the disciples UP into a high mountain and they were covered by a cloud and they were all present with the Lord with one who had died and yet lived and one who had never died.
The Second verse of scripture to look at is found in Matthew 22:23-33. "The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, an d the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine." Moses, of course, on the mount of transfiguration, was living proof of this. God is not the God of the dead. He is the God of the living. His subjects are not dead bodies but living souls. And those souls who are present with the Lord are the ones who are absent from the body by means of death. We must also remember that though Abraham died and was buried, he was very much alive in Paradise as recorded in Luke 16. The same holds true for Samuel whom, though his body laid in a grave, God allowed to be called up by the witch at Endor. He too was very much alive without his body. And Jesus also, who was dead three days and three nights. Are we to assume He ceased to exist during that time? But as the body of Jesus was raised from the dead the time will come when God will resurrect the bodies of the righteous.
The third verse to consider is the raising of Lazarus in John chapter 11. Because of the length of this portion of scripture I would like to encourage you to take your Bible and open it to this chapter. I will only point out a few verses, verses 11-14. Jesus said concerning 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." Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead." So why did he say Lazarus was sleeping? The answer is in these words, " I go, that I may awake him out of sleep." Jesus said that Lazarus was dead. So He was not saying that He was going to shake him or something and wake him up. Jesus meant that He was going to resurrect Lazarus back to life even though he had been dead for four days already. In verses 23-25 Jesus communicated that intention. " Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life:" Jesus was talking about NOW, not some time in the future. In verses 39- 44 we read, "Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with gravecl othes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go."
So why did Jesus say Lazarus was sleeping? Because of the resurrection of the body. When we lay down to sleep at night we generally get up in the morning. And so it is with death. 1 Corinthians 15:35-44 puts it this way. " But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." Notice especially verse 44, "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." The word, "It", in these verses of scripture refers to the physical body. The word, "Sown", means to bury, and the word, "Raised", means to resurrect. The human body is buried as a natural corrupted, dishonorable, weak body. But that same natural human body is resurrected a incorruptible, glorious, powerful, spiritual body.
Paul concludes chapter 15 by further telling us in verse 49-54, "And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory."
When we die and go to heaven we can not take our bodies with us. They must either be changed in the rapture or in the resurrection. But until then we must leave them behind. But what about those who have been devoured by animals or burnt in accidents, or by evil men, as in the inquisition or the holocaust? It is my opinion that God will create for them a new body as He created a body for Adam. Did not our Saviour say in Matthew 10:28, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul:" And again in Luke 12:4, "And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do." There is nothing that men can do to thwart God's ultimate purpose. I know it's harder said than done but even in death there is victory. We sorrow because we know they will not come back to us and we will miss them dearly. But one day we will go to them. It is not something we look forward to but it will happen and we can't stop it. But then our race is run and nothing can hurt us anymore. But are you prepared to meet God? I conclude this article with the last verses of 1 Corinthians 15. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."