The State of the Dead
Part 1 – The Breath is the Spirit
How was man formed? (Body + breath = living soul)
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.
What is the breath? Breath is equated with the spirit of God.
Job 27:3 All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils.
At death the body returns to dust while the spirit is said to return to God who gave it. (Silver cord = spine, golden bowl = skull, pitcher = heart, wheel = lungs)
Ecclesiastes 12:6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
When we are born our breath, as drawn from the surrounding atmosphere, may be said to come from or be given by God and with the same propriety may it be said, when it leaves the body at death to return unto Him. At death the breath or spirit of man is said to be gathered unto God.
Job 34:14 If he set his heart upon man, if he [God] gather unto himself his spirit and his breath;
15 All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.
Christ understood that his spirit would return to God at death.
Luke 23:46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
Once a man’s spirit or breath is gone his thoughts perish.
Psalm 146:3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
The dead know nothing they are unconscious. All their thoughts and feelings are gone.
Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
Man is of so little account because his fragile life only remains while he has breath.
Isaiah 2:22 Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?
Man has no pre-eminence over animals. We all die the same. It cannot be proved whether the spirit goes up or downward. The pagan belief was that the spirit of man goes up and the spirit of animals goes down but Solomon says we have the same spirit as the animals and it can’t be proved where the spirit goes at death.
Ecclesiastes 3:19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.
20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.
21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?
The breath of life is the spirit which God has given both man and beast. It is common to all living things and is not a distinguishing characteristic of man. The dead cannot praise God.
Psalms 30:9 What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?
The dead cannot give thanks to God.
Psalms 6:5 For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
The dead are silent, they do not praise God.
Psalms 115:17 The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.
But God can reverse the death process by creating new bodies and renewing the spirit or breath in them.
Psalms 104:29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.
30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.
Part 2 – The Unconscious State of the Dead
Death is compared to sleep so there must be some analogy between a state of sleep and a state of death, and this analogy must pertain to that which renders sleep a peculiar condition. Our condition in sleep differs from our condition when awake simply in this, that when we are soundly asleep, we are entirely unconscious. In this respect death is like sleep; that is, the dead are unconscious. This figure is frequently used to represent the condition of the dead.
Daniel 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Matthew 27:52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
Christ himself represented death as a sleep saying Lazarus was asleep in death. Lazarus would have remained unconscious sleeping in the grave until the resurrection had he not been raised by Christ.
John 11:11 Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
At death Stephen commended his spirit to God. His spirit being departed he fell asleep becoming unconscious.
Acts 7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Christ slept in death being entirely unconscious in death.
1 Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
When Christ died He commended His spirit into the hands of His Father and gave ghost. But Christ did not ascend to the Father as a ghost or a spirit, otherwise after His resurrection He would not have said “I am not yet ascended to my Father.” Christ remained dead in the grave unconscious until He arose again.
Luke 23:46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost
John 20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.
Job 14:10 But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?
David did not ascend to heaven at death but is dead and buried.
Acts 2:29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
Some of the Christians who had witnessed Christ alive after his resurrection had themselves died. They had fallen asleep in Christ. But why were they not conscious and awake in heaven if that is where Christians go when they die?
1 Corinthians 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
Part 3 – The Resurrection
Paul told the Christians in Corinth to put their hope in the resurrection of the dead and that without a resurrection their faith was in vain. Paul told them that those who were asleep in Christ would be made alive at the Second Coming of Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
Christ promised his disciples that He would come again to receive them unto Himself. Was He lying to them? Why didn’t Christ say that they should come to Him instead in the form of some departed spirit?
John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
Paul told the Christians in Thessalonica not to sorrow about death as others do because at the Second Coming God would bring forth from the grave those who slept in Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 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.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 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.
16 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:
17 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.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Job says the dead are sleeping in the grave waiting for the appointed time. Waiting for the day of resurrection when the heavens are rolled together Rev 6:14 at the Second Coming.
Job 14:10-15 But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?
11 As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up:
12 So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.
13 O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!
14 If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
15 Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.
Paul preached the resurrection of the dead and not departed spirits to those who knew nothing of the gospel.
Acts 17:18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
Acts 17:32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter
Paul himself sought to attain to the resurrection of the dead. He did not seek to go straight to heaven.
Philippians 3:11 If by any means I [Paul] might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
1. Paul taught both the Christians in Corinth and Thessalonica that their hope was in the resurrection of the dead at the Second Coming.
2. Paul preached the resurrection of the dead to the Greek philosophers who knew nothing of the gospel.
3. Paul himself sought to attain to the resurrection of the dead.
Resurrection is God’s appointed method of bringing souls back to life.