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Bible Basics (5th. ed.)



4.4 Death is Unconsciousness

From what we have learnt so far about the soul and spirit, it should follow that while dead, a person is totally unconscious. Whilst the actions of those responsible to God will be remembered by Him (Mal. 3:16; Rev. 20:12; Heb. 6:10), there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that we have any consciousness during the death state. It is hard to argue with the following clear statements concerning this.

§         “(Man’s) spirit (breath K.J.V.) departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day (moment) his plans perish” (Ps. 146:4).

§         “The dead know nothing...their love, their hatred, and their envy is now perished” (Ecc. 9:5,6). There is no “wisdom in the grave” (Ecc. 9:10) - no thinking and therefore no consciousness.

§         Job says that on death, he would be “as though he had not been” (Job 10:18-19); he saw death as the oblivion, unconsciousness and total lack of existence which we had before we were born.

§         Man dies as the animals do (Ecc. 3:19); if man consciously survives death somewhere, so must they, yet both Scripture and science are silent about this.

§         God “remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Ps. 103:14-16).

That death is truly unconsciousness, even for the righteous, is demonstrated by the repeated pleas of God’s servants to allow their lives to be lengthened, because they knew that after death they would be unable to praise and glorify God, seeing that death was a state of unconsciousness. Hezekiah (Is. 38:17-19) and David (Ps. 6:4,5; 30:9; 39:13; 115:17) are good examples of this. Death is repeatedly referred to as a sleep or rest, both for the righteous and the wicked (Job 3:11,13,17; Dan. 12:13). When David’s infant child is about to die, David reverses the usual mourning ritual- he mourns before the child dies, in the hope that God will be gracious; rather than mourning after the child’s death, as was usually done, in the hope that a deity will accept the supposed immortal soul of the child.

Sufficient evidence has now been produced for us to state bluntly that the popular idea of the righteous going to a state of bliss and reward in heaven straight after their death, is simply not found in the Bible. The true doctrine of death and man’s nature provides a great sense of peace. After all the traumas and pains of a man’s life, the grave is a place of total oblivion. For those who have not known the requirements of God, this oblivion will last forever. Never again will the old scores of this tragic and unfulfilled natural life be raised; the futile hopes and fears of the natural human mind will not be realised or threaten.

In Bible study, there is a system of truth to be discovered; yet, sadly, there is also a system of error in man’s religious thinking, due to inattention to the Bible. Man’s desperate efforts to soften the finality of death have led him to believe that he has an ‘immortal soul’. Once it is accepted that such an immortal element exists within man, it becomes necessary to think that it must go somewhere after death. This has led to the thought that at death there must be some difference between the fates of the righteous and the wicked. To accommodate this, it has been concluded that there must be a place for ‘good immortal souls’ to go, called Heaven, and another place for ‘bad immortal souls’ to go, called hell. We have shown earlier that an ‘immortal soul’ is a Biblical impossibility. The other false ideas inherent in the popular reasoning will now be analysed.

1. That the reward for our lives is given at death in the form of our ‘immortal soul’ being assigned to a certain place.

2. That the separation between righteous and wicked occurs at death.

3. That the reward for the righteous is to go to heaven.

4. That if everyone has an ‘immortal soul’, then everyone must go to either heaven or hell.

5. That the wicked ‘souls’ will go to a place of punishment called hell.

The purpose of our analysis is not just negative; by considering these points in detail, we believe that we will express many elements of Bible truth which are vital parts of the true picture concerning man’s nature. And again, we’re not alone in these conclusions:

"The Bible nowhere says that we go to heaven when we die, nor does it ever describe death in terms of going to heaven. In the Old Testament, you went to sheol when you died". John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich, On Being The Church In The World (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1960) p. 156.

"Of a natural 'immortality of the soul' in the sense which our thought has inherited from Plato, Paul knows nothing. The race of Adam is doomed to death; life must be the gift of God". C.H. Dodd, The Epistle Of Paul To The Romans (London: Fontana, 1959) p. 141.

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