By Randall E. Ricker
October 26, 2013
There are various ideas on the subject of death as to what death is. It really comes down to what man is. People who think man is a highly evolved animal believe that when a person dies that’s just the end. Then there are those who believe a human has an immortal soul in a body and that the soul then goes to heaven, hell, or purgatory. Purgatory is supposed to be temporary. Referring to heaven or hell, you would be there forever. Other people choose not to think about it, of course. But then people will worry about themselves, such as, what’s going to happen to them, and they worry about others when they die. Something that is especially common around the time of a funeral and before, during, and after a funeral people might become very concerned about the person who died. Maybe they start thinking more about their own mortality.
THE TRUTH ABOUT DEATH
If we are going to understand the subject of death, we have to understand what man is. Turn your Bible to Genesis chapter 2, verse 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 being.”
In the King James Version it says soul. Man became a soul. This word soul or the word translated here “living being” is #5315 in the Strong’s Concordance, (1995). The Hebrew word is nephesh with an English spelling. It means a breathing creature. It comes from a word that means to breathe. It’s not saying that the soul means immortal spirit in a body. That’s not what it’s saying. It is just a breathing creature.
The same word in Genesis 1:24 is translated differently. Genesis 1, verse 24: “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind’; and it was so.”
Here that same word nephesh #5315 is translated as living creature. Let’s not put more meaning into this word “soul” than what the Hebrew word or the Bible intends.
As we are studying death, we go to Genesis 3:19. To understand what man is remember we read that man was created of the dust of the ground. In Genesis 3:19 we read this: “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”
Man is created of dust. When he dies, he returns to dust.
Studying this word “soul” that people think is immortal we read this in Ezekiel chapter 18, verse 4: “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die.”
That’s that same word #5315. That means breathing creature. It says, it shall die. It doesn’t say it shall live forever immortally as an immortal soul. It is repeated again in verse 20: “The soul who sins shall die.”
It is not an immortal soul. A soul is something that can die, and we have just seen that it is a breathing creature.
As we study death, one might wonder what happens to a person after they die? Do they know anything? If you go to Ecclesiastes 9:10 you get your answer. Ecclesiastes chapter 9, verse 10: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”
That’s a memory verse if you like memory verses, along with the verses in Ezekiel 18.
Consider this, that there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. There is no consciousness in the grave. There is no consciousness in heaven, hell, or purgatory as some people believe. That’s not where we go.
Some people say that when Solomon wrote this in Ecclesiastes toward the beginning of the book, he was still searching. You get the impression through the book that he was searching for the meaning of life. Some people say he was still searching when he wrote this, and therefore it should not be accepted or believed. I would ask, is it contradicted later in the book? There is one verse that is in some ways contradicted later in the book.
Turn to Ecclesiastes 9:9. It says, “Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.”
People have said that is the purpose of life. You just live joyfully with your family and work and die. At the end of the book Solomon realized there was more to it than that. Living with a family and working is very good, but it is not the whole purpose. Read the end of the book. This is Ecclesiastes 12, verse 13: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
This is really what we are supposed to be doing. We are to be keeping God’s commandments in all their intent, as well as in the letter. That includes living with a family, working, and all that but also so much more. Here we have something that is expanded upon and even contradicted to some extent as to what is the purpose of life. It is more than just what we have on this earth. We also have to fear God and keep His commandments. Ecclesiastes 9:10 is in no way contradicted by that conclusion. Solomon did not in any way contradict Ecclesiastes 9:10 where it says, there is no consciousness after death. That is an aside to help us understand Ecclesiastes 9:10 and to possibly refute arguments that may be thrown at us if we believe this is what Solomon understood.
We see death is the end of a physical being, but we do read in the Bible about life after death. We read about eternal life in the kingdom for most people, and destruction in hell fire for the few who will not live God’s way.
THE TRUTH ABOUT HELL
Let’s go on and talk about hell. Matthew chapter 18 is where we have the word hell used. We can explain what that is. Matthew chapter 18, verse 8: “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”
Before we get too far into this, we should explain about a hand or foot being cut off. Christ was not suggesting people should literally do any such thing physically. He says your hand. It is what you do with your hand. The hand is symbolic of what you do. It says your foot. It’s where you go with your feet and where your feet take you. If those things cause you to sin, avoid them. In other words, if what you’re doing is causing you to sin or where you are going is causing you to sin, avoid them. That’s what he is saying here. We repent. We quit doing those things that are sins. If we don’t, then we are in danger of hell fire.
That word “hell fire” is #1067 in the Strong’s (1995). It is gehenna: a valley of Jerusalem. The Companion Bible calls it fires of destruction. There was a valley of Jerusalem where there were fires burning and trash was burned. Sometimes even the bodies of criminals were burned, I have read. Do not conclude from this that a person will burn forever if they have not repented. It does not say that they are in forever. It is just talking about being cast into the fire. Hebrews chapter 10 explains further.
Hebrews chapter 10, verse 26: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”
It is talking about someone who sins willfully. This isn’t just stumbling once in a while which all Christians do. We know that. If we stumble, we have Christ’s blood that is used for our forgiveness. We get up and continue to walk in this way of life. This is called willful sinning where someone is rejecting God’s way of life. In verse 27 it says, “devour the adversaries.” It is becoming an adversary to God. Some people will do that. And if so, then they have this fiery indignation. In other words, they are cast into the lake of fire. It says, it will devour them. That word “devour” is #2068 in the Strong’s Concordance (1995), and it really means to eat, to devour, so it is to be eaten up by the fire. It is talking about a destruction and not talking about burning forever. Malachi chapter 4 also makes this clear.
Malachi chapter 4, and we will start reading in verse 1: “‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘that will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
It is talking about the proud and those who do wickedly. They are those who continue to do these things without having repented. It says, they will be burned up. Verse 1 says, “shall burn them up.” It doesn’t say, burn forever. It says, “shall burn them up.” Then in verse 3 it says, “they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet.” A person who has not repented and who will be burned up will become ashes. It doesn’t say, burn forever.
Another verse to explain this is Romans 6, verse 23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is another memory verse.
It says, the wages of sin is death and not eternal life burning in hell, but the gift of God is eternal life. God will give us the gift of eternal life if we grow, overcome, and endure to the end, but if not, then it’s death. It is not both.
Revelation 20 tells us when a person would be put into hell fire if they refused to repent. This is occurring after Christ has returned, and He has reigned for a thousand years on the earth. Revelation chapter 20, verse 12: “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”
Here you have the people having books opened, and what books could they be but the Books of the Bible. They are opened to them for the first time. If they act on what they have learned, then they are being judged by their actions after they have learned. Then they will be given eternal life because their name will be written in the Book of Life.
Continuing in verse 13 of Revelation 20: “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Some who were not put in the Book of Life because they were not living according to the books of the Bible, will be thrown into the lake of fire. It says, it’s the second death. It is a death. It is not being tortured forever in hell.
As we have studied today the subject of death and hell, we realize that death is the end of a physical being. There is no consciousness to it. There is a resurrection either to eternal life in the kingdom or to final destruction in hell fire if a person absolutely refuses to live God’s way of life. It is not to be burning forever.