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Builders of Faith Explorer I:  Exploring Bible Truth

Lesson 19—Are the Dead Really Alive?

 

 

1.  When God created man, did He give him an immortal soul?

 

“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 [soul].”  Genesis 2:7.  “…Who [God] gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it….”  Isaiah 42:5.

 

Answer:  First, note that the Hebrew word translated as “being” at the end of Genesis 2:7 is the word normally translated as “soul”.  Second, notice that God used the dust of the ground to form the first man (Adam), and then He breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.  According to the Isaiah text above, which is written in Hebrew poetry, the words “breath” and “spirit” are parallel to each other and thus synonymous.  Therefore, the breath, or spirit, of life is like electricity.  When it flows into a light bulb, the light appears.  So we may speak of mankind’s creation with the following mathematical equation:  Dust + Breath (Spirit) = Living Soul.  In other words, man is a soul; he does not have a soul!  Therefore, God did not give mankind an immortal soul.

 

 

2.  What happens when a person dies?

 

“Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.”  Ecclesiastes 12:7.

 

Answer:  When a person dies, the two elements that God used to create him are separated and return to their original source—the dust to the earth and the breath (or spirit) to God.  But since this spirit is the spark of life, it does not contain the essence of the person, nor is it an immortal entity.  When someone turns off an electric lamp, the light ceases to be; where does the electricity go?  It returns to its circuit without being connected to the light bulb.  The electricity of a specific light bulb does not exist as the essence of the light bulb.

 

 

3.  Do people and animals possess the same spirit, or breath, of life from God?

 

“…You take away their breath [spirit], they die and return to their dust.”  Psalm 104:29.  “For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them:  as one dies, so dies the other.  Surely, they all have one breath [spirit]; man has no advantage over animals….”  Ecclesiastes 3:19.

 

Answer:  The context of the Psalm text above is both land and sea creatures.  In both texts, the Hebrew word for “breath” is the normal word for “spirit”.  Unless one is prepared to argue that animals have an immortal spirit, then people do not have an immortal spirit either.

 

 

4.  How else are the Biblical words for “spirit” used in Scripture, and do they give any hint of an immortal part of mankind?

 

Answer:  The basic meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words for “spirit” is that of “wind” or “moving air”, which is why it is often used as “breath” or the principle of life.  But like most words in any language, the Biblical words for “spirit” are used in different ways—but none of their uses give any hint of a separate, conscious, immortal part of man’s nature that survives the death of the body.  The Bible texts in the following list are merely samples of a larger number of texts:

 

A.  Principle of Life (or Life):  See Genesis 2:7 and James 2:26.

 

B.  Center of Emotions:  See Joshua 2:11 and Luke 1:47.

 

C.  Spiritual Attitude Toward God:  See Psalm 51:10 and Romans 8:16.

 

D.  Holy Spirit:  See Psalm 51:11 and I John 4:2.

 

E.  The Whole Person:  See I John 4:1-3.  There is no Old Testament example here.

 

 

5.  How else are the Biblical words for “soul” used in Scripture, and do they give any hint of an immortal part of mankind?

 

Answer:  The basic meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words for “soul” is that of a creature or human ability “to breathe”.  Like the words for “spirit”, the words for “soul” never hint of a separate, conscious, immortal part of man’s nature that survives the death of the body.  The Bible texts in the following list are merely samples of a larger number of texts:

 

A.  The Whole Person:  See Ezekiel 18:4 and Acts 2:41, 43.

 

B.  Life (or Eternal Life):  See Exodus 4:19 and Matthew 2:20.  See also Mark 8:35.

 

C.  Center of Emotions:  See Job 19:2 and Matthew 26:38.

 

D.  Center of the Will or Intellect:  See Micah 6:7.  There is no New Testament example here.

 

 

6.  But didn’t Adam and Eve originally have to have immortality because death came only as a result of mankind’s sin?

 

“Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.  And now, lest he put out his hand take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’—therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden….  So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”  Genesis 3:22-24.

 

Answer:  Of course, before Adam and Eve sinned, they were immortal.  But notice in the passage above that their continued immortality depended upon their access to the Tree of Life.  That is the reason that God expelled them from the Garden of Eden after they sinned.  This is what scholars call conditional immortality—it was conditional upon their passing the loyalty test and thus having continued access to the Tree of Life.  But when they failed the test, they lost their immortality.  Therefore, God did not create them with innate immortality, i.e., with immortality as a permanent part of their nature.

 

 

7.  After they sinned, didn’t Adam and Eve lose only their bodily (or physical) immortality?

 

“…one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin….”  James 1:14-15.

 

Answer:  If sin only results in the death of the physical body—and an immortal soul or spirit lives on—then it must be that only his physical body is guilty of sin.  However, the text above tells us that sin begins in the mind.  The guilt of sin is primarily mental rather than physical, although the whole person is guilty of most sins.  Therefore, if God only deprived mankind of physical immortality because of sin, then God made a terrible mistake.  Because Adam and Eve were guilty as whole persons, God should have deprived them of immortality of their entire persons.  Of course, we know that God does not make any mistakes.  Thus we can be certain that mankind lost its conditional immortality, and that he does not have innate immortality, such as an immortal soul or spirit.

 

 

8.  What is the Bible’s favorite metaphor for the death of people, and what does this further suggest?

 

“So man lies down and does not rise.  Till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep.”  Job 14:12.  “…‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.’  Then His disciples said, ‘Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.’”…“Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead.’”  John 11:11-12, 14.

 

Answer:  Death is described as sleep at least 66 times in 17 books of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.  Those who teach the immortality of the soul believe that the body sleeps but not the soul.  But it’s never appropriate to say that the body, apart from the mind, is unconscious because the issue of consciousness and unconsciousness especially concerns the mind of the person.  Thus, it is the whole person who sleeps in death, although it is a dreamless sleep since there are no brain waves operating.  Therefore, any supposed essence of the person—like a soul or spirit—cannot be awake either.  Some call our view “soul sleep” but that supposes a dualistic view of body and soul.  The best description is simply to say that the whole person sleeps in death.

 

 

9.  Doesn’t the “sleep” of death suggest that the person will eventually be awakened?

 

“…‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.’”  John 11:11.  

 

Answer:  In the greatest resurrection chapter in the Bible, I Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul uses a Greek verb which literally means “to awaken from sleep” 19 times, although the New King James’ Version (NKJV) translates it variously as rise, rose, raised, and risen.  If death were really the separation of the soul from the body, and the resurrection were the reuniting of the soul with the body, why does Scripture never use that language?  The contrast between death as a sleep and resurrection as an awakening strongly implies that it is the whole person who is sleeping in death, just as it is the whole person who is resurrected from it.

 

 

10.  Do the dead praise God or know and do anything at all?

 

Answer:  It should be quite obvious that the dead are not living.  But for those who believe in an immortal soul, death is simply the separation of the soul from the body.  And because the soul is supposed to be the essence of one’s personality, emotions, and will, then the dead would really be alive and could praise God and know and do things.  But read the plain testimony of Scripture in the following representative passages:

 

A.  Ecclesiastes 9:5-6:  “For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing….  Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished….”—This text speaks for itself.

 

B.  Psalm 6:5:  “For in death there is no remembrance of You [God]….—Note that if we had an immortal soul or spirit, then death would not eliminate our memory or knowledge of God.

 

C.  Psalm 115:17:  “The dead do not praise the Lord….”—If the dead have an immortal soul or spirit, then the souls of the righteous would indeed praise the Lord.

 

D.  Psalm 146:4:  “His spirit [breath] departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish.”

 

 

11.  How else do we know that death is not the separation of a conscious soul or spirit from the body?

 

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23.

 

Answer:  If death were the separation of the soul or spirit from the body, then Paul would be a liar because death is not life somewhere else.  Rather, he contrasts death with life, which means that when he says the wages of sin is death, he means that the whole person dies.  Also, note that eternal life is a gift from God—not something that humans possess inherently (or innately) in their nature.

 

 

12.  Who alone has innate immortality, and when will God’s people receive this gift?

 

“…He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality….”  I Timothy 6:15-16.  “…eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality….”  Romans 2:7.  “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.  But each one is his own order:  Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.”  I Corinthians 15:22-23.  “…For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.  For this corruption must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”  I Corinthians 15:52-53.

 

Answer:  God alone has innate immortality within His very nature.  Meanwhile, Christians seek immortality, which means they don’t have it now.  But they will receive immortality at the Second Coming of Jesus.

 

 

13.  Without the resurrection of Christ, what hope would the Christian believer have?

 

“And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!  Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.”  I Corinthians 15:17-18.

 

Answer:  If Paul understood the deceased saints had immortal souls, then we should have expected him to state that their souls would remain bodiless forever—presumably in hell.  But instead, he said that the saints “have perished”, obviously forever since they would then have no hope for heaven.  The verb “have perished” here means “to destroy fully”.   Thus it is evident that Paul believed that the whole person would have perished forever without the resurrection of Christ.

 

 

14.  What is one of the important reasons for the Second Coming of Jesus?

 

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”  John 14:2-3.  “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”  I Thessalonians 4:15-18.

 

Answer:  One of the important reasons for the Second Coming of Jesus is to enable all of His people—those who have died and those alive at that time—to go and be with Jesus forever.  If the souls of saints who have died are already in heaven, then why would Jesus need to return to get them?  It makes no sense whatsoever.

 

 

15.  What is the purpose of resurrection if people have immortal souls or spirits and go to their reward at death?

 

“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”  John 5:28-29.

 

Answer:  Those who believe that people have immortal souls or spirits also believe in a bodily resurrection because the Bible is so clear about a bodily resurrection.  They have to believe that when Jesus returns, He resurrects the physical bodies, brings the souls of the saved from heaven and the souls of the lost from hell, and reunites the souls with the correct bodies—and then returns both bodies and souls to hell or to remain with Him.  But if the souls of the saved have no bodies in heaven (as some believe), why burden them with a physical body?  Or, if the souls of the saved have celestial bodies in heaven (as some believe), then why do they need their original bodies back, even though God makes those bodies perfect.  None of this makes any sense at all.  Either the hope of the saved is the resurrection or it is an immortal soul or spirit.  Plainly, all of the evidence points toward no immortal soul or spirit.

 

 

16.  What is the purpose for giving people their rewards at the Second Coming of Jesus if people go to their eternal reward immediately at death?

 

“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”  Matthew 16:27.  “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”  Revelation 22:12.

 

Answer:  The texts above make it quite clear that Jesus will bring His rewards for people at His Second Coming.  But if people have an immortal soul or spirit, then they would go to their reward immediately after death—making the texts above completely unnecessary and nonsensical.  The Bible’s claims about the Second Coming, the resurrection, and the giving of rewards confirms our conclusion that the dead—both righteous and wicked—are really dead until the resurrection.

 

 

17.  Why is this truth important?  Won’t we all find out what happens when we die?

 

“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception….”  II Thessalonians 2:9-10.  “…For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.”  II Corinthians 11:14.

 

Answer:  As the Second Coming of Jesus draws nearer, Satan and his demons will pull out all the stops to deceive people.  As spirit beings, they can take on any form they wish to.  Therefore, if you believe that the dead are really alive in their immortal souls or spirits, then Satan will probably use that false belief to appear as a “dead loved one” in order to teach and deceive you into making the wrong eternal decision.  That’s why we cannot trust our senses—but only a “Thus saith the Lord”!

 

 

Quiz for Lesson 19—Are the Dead Really Alive?

 

1.  When God created mankind, He gave them an immortal soul. (1)

  True

  False

Answer

False

2.  Which of the following were the major elements that God used to create mankind? (2)

  Dust of the ground

  Immortal spirit

  Breath of life

  Electricity 

Answer

Dust of the ground
Breath of life

3.  How are the Bible words for spirit and soul used in the Bible. (4)

  Principle of Life (of Life)

  The Whole Person

  Center of Emotions

  Breath

  Immortal entity

Answer

Principle of Life (of Life)
The Whole Person
Center of Emotions
Breath

4.  Which statements below describe the condition of Adam and Eve before they sinned. (2)

  They had innate (intrinsic) immortality.

  They had conditional immortality.

  They were subject to dying from the very beginning.

  Their immortality depended upon their continued access to the Tree of Life.

Answer

They had conditional immortality.
Their immortality depended upon their continued access to the Tree of Life.

5.  What is the Bible’s favorite metaphor for the death of people? (1)

  Dreamless Sleep

  Normal Sleep

  Separation of the Soul from the Body

  The Soul Sleeps but the Body is only Inactive

Answer

Dreamless Sleep

6.  What happens when a person dies? (3)

  His soul separates from his body and lives either in heaven, hell, or purgatory.

  His body decays and returns to dust, while the spirit returns to God.

  It is similar to what happens when an electric light bulb is turned off:  the light ceases to exist, and the electricity returns to its circuit.

  The whole person is dead in the grave and waiting for the resurrection.

Answer

His body decays and returns to dust, while the spirit returns to God.
It is similar to what happens when an electric light bulb is turned off:  the light ceases to exist, and the electricity returns to its circuit.
The whole person is dead in the grave and waiting for the resurrection.

7.  What is the Bible hope of the Christian who dies? (1)

  The resurrection at the Second Coming of Jesus

  The separation of the soul from the body and its journey to heaven

  The immortal spirit returns to God and enjoys the blessings of heaven

  His soul goes to heaven, where he praises the Lord

Answer

The resurrection at the Second Coming of Jesus

8.  The wages of sin is everlasting life in hell, but the gift of God is everlasting life with Jesus. (1)

  True

  False

Answer

False

9.  Identify the 3 teachings of the Bible that would be completely unnecessary IF a dead believer’s soul went straight to heaven at the death of the body. (3)

  The Second Coming of Jesus

  The resurrection of the body

  The millennium

  Jesus bringing His rewards to give people at the return of Jesus

Answer

The Second Coming of Jesus
The resurrection of the body
Jesus bringing His rewards to give people at the return of Jesus

10.  Which of the following statements about the subject of death are true? (3)

  We cannot trust are our senses.

  It really doesn’t make any difference what you believe about death, because we will all know when we die what the truth is.

  Satan and his demons might appear as dead loved ones to deceive people.

  Knowing what the Bible teaches is the only sure way to be safe.

Answer

We cannot trust are our senses.
Satan and his demons might appear as dead loved ones to deceive people.
Knowing what the Bible teaches is the only sure way to be safe.