Where Are the Dead?
Lesson 22

The very first deception to fasten itself upon the human mind was the idea that man could live out of harmony with his Creator and never die. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.” Genesis 3:4. Though this assertion went directly contrary to that which God had stated, it was accepted in the place of God’s Word and acted upon.

In the beginning of the world, God told our first parents: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Genesis 2:16–17. Nothing could be more plainly stated: Obey and live; disobey and cease to live.

As our first parents listened to the words of the serpent, they accepted the idea that they could continue to live without obeying God’s revealed will. See Genesis 3:1–6. Though this assertion went directly contrary to that which God had stated, it was accepted in the place of God’s word and acted upon.

From our vantage point in the stream of time, it seems that we would have learned to recognize the obvious falsity of such a claim; but the painfulness and heartbreak which attends death adds to our willingness to grasp any assurance that offers us hope of evading this ultimate enemy. Although the evidence available to us gives a much different picture, Satan’s original lie has echoed and re-echoed with the passage of time, and is still being repeated. Oh, the wording is somewhat modified to allow for the obvious fact that life as we know it now does not continue, but we are inclined to believe that there is a part of every person that continues to live on in another form. In the minds of many, death has come to mean a continued existence as a conscious entity, though not in a form such as we now have. But, can we justify this conclusion? What evidence have we that this is the case?

1. Of what substance was man formed in the beginning?

Genesis 2:7

2. What act of God made him a living soul?

Genesis 2:7

Note: It was not a living soul that was put into man, but the breath of life. When you put breath from God into a body, you then have a living soul. We might write it like a mathematical equation: Breath + Body = Living soul.

We might liken life to a light bulb. When you turn off the light, the light bulb is still in the socket, but the power necessary to make light happen is gone. All that is left is the bulb with the wires, socket, switch, etc.; but these are not the light. The electricity by itself is not the light. Electric light is but the combination of all of the above plus the hand to turn on the switch!

3. What happens to the soul that sins?

Ezekiel 18:20

4. With what did Job compare the spirit from God that is in man?

Job 27:3

5. When a man dies, what happens to this spirit?

Ecclesiastes 12:7

Note: This verse shows us that the spirit of life by which the man lived, and which was lent to him from God, goes back to God, the great Author of life. It was God’s to begin with, and when a man dies, it returns to his Maker. At that time, the dust, which in the beginning was made a “living soul,” goes back as it was, to the earth.

6. How did Jesus refer to death?

John 11:11–14; Luke 8:52

Note: In a sound sleep one is wholly lost to consciousness; time goes by unnoticed; and the functions of the mind are suspended for the time being. If Lazarus was really in heaven when Jesus said he was asleep, calling him to life was robbing him of the bliss of heaven that rightly belonged to him.

7. What becomes of a person’s thoughts at death?

Psalm 146:3–4

8. Do the dead know anything at all?

Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10

9. Where do the dead sleep?

Daniel 12:2

10. How long do they sleep there?

Job 14:12

Note: 2 Peter 3:3–4, 10 tells us that it is at the coming of Jesus that the heavens will be no more.

11. Is it possible for the dead to praise the Lord?

Psalm 115:17

Note: There is not even a remembrance of God in death. As we have already seen, the Bible everywhere presents the dead as sleeping. If a person went either to heaven or hell when he died, this could not be true.

12. What must take place before the dead can praise the Lord?

Isaiah 26:19

13. If there was not an awakening of the dead, what would be the result?

1 Corinthians 15:16–18

14. When does the resurrection of the dead take place?

1 Thessalonians 4:16

15. Then are the righteous dead now in heaven?

Acts 2:34

16. Who only has immortality (never dies)?

1 Timothy 6:15–16

17. Is it possible for us to receive immortality?

1 Corinthians 15:52–53

18. How do we receive this life?

Romans 6:23

19. To whom is this gift of life given?

Matthew 19:17

Note: Because of disobedience it became man’s portion to die. How unreasonable to believe that all that was lost may be regained while still disobeying God!

20. On what basis do they receive this gift?

1 John 3:4–6

Note: Jesus came that He might overcome Satan and, by His Spirit living in us, give us that same power to overcome. See Hebrews 2:14–15. For us to continue to live out of harmony with His expressed will—His law—reveals that we really have no living connection with Him, the Source of all life.

Adam’s sin resulted in bringing death upon the whole human race; all alike go down into the grave. At the resurrection, however, a distinction will be made; all will fall into one of two categories. See John 5:28–29. Those who have not through repentance and faith secured pardon, renouncing their sins and by the power of Christ’s indwelling Spirit lived lives of obedience, must receive the penalty of transgression—“the wages of sin.” Since it is impossible for God, consistent with His justice and mercy, to save the sinner in his sins, He deprives him of the existence which his transgressions have forfeited and of which he has proved himself unworthy.

During His last days on earth, Jesus told His disciples: “I go to prepare a place for you. 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.” John 14:2-3. If, as many suppose, Christians go to be with Christ at death, why would we have Christ telling His disciples that He would return to receive them unto Himself? Would they not have, in fact, been with Him since death? If, after all, it was only their bodies they were coming to receive, why would they want to come back after bodies left here? Could not the Creator supply them with a far better one? As a matter of fact, Paul does teach that the resurrected righteous receive a different body, a spiritual one rather than a fleshly one. See 1 Corinthians 15:42–44; Philippians 3:20-21.

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