Where are the Dead?

Alive in Heaven?

Alive in the lake of fire?

Alive somewhere else?


Grave picture

There is only one correct answer.

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.

Jesus Likened Death to a Sleep

When upon earth, Jesus clearly referred to death as an unconscious state and called this state sleep. In speaking of His friend Lazarus, already dead, He said: “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said His disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” John 11:11–14. On another occasion, when raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead, He spoke of her being asleep (see Luke 8:52), though we know that she, like Lazarus, was dead.

In death, just as in sleep, one loses all of the attributes of his mind, such as love, hatred, and envy. “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” Psalm 146:3–4. The wise man, Solomon, put it this way: “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. 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.” Ecclesiastes 9:5–6. He then goes on to say: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Verse 10

In Psalm 6:5, David tells us that in death there is no remembrance. In fact, Psalm 88:10–12 refers to death as the “land of forgetfulness.” “Wilt Thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise Thee? Selah. Shall Thy loving kindness be declared in the grave? or Thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall Thy wonders be known in the dark? and Thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?”

Are Rewards Granted at Death?

Shortly before his death, David, a man after God’s own heart (see 1 Samuel 13:14), said: “I go the way of all the earth.” 1 Kings 2:2. But did David go to the place of reward at his death? Peter, speaking a thousand years following David’s death, says that he is “both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day.” He then adds, “David is not ascended into the heavens.” Acts 2:29, 34. If, however, there was a living, thinking entity that had been David—that part of him which was really important, which went to heaven at death, leaving only a body in the grave—Peter’s point could not have been a valid one.

But, some might ask, do not the Scriptures state that at death the spirit returns to God? Yes, they do. “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7. We must be careful, however, that we do not conclude that the wise man is contradicting what he has said but a few verses earlier. To do so could easily lead us to a conclusion that is not fully warranted by this statement of truth. Let us look closely at just what is meant by the spirit.

At Creation, when God formed man, the form was lifeless. Genesis 2:7 tells us: “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.” Notice carefully: It was when God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life that man became a living soul. It does not say that God put a soul in man but that when God put that breath in man that gave him life, man became a 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!

At death, the body returns to dust, and the breath of God that gives it life returns to our Maker.

Let us compare this with a text found in Job. “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils.” Job 27:3. Here Job equates the breath that is in him with the spirit of God being in his nostrils. The New King James Bible says: “As long as my breath is in me, and the breath of God is in my nostrils.” This is quite correct because the word here translated “breath” also translates as “wind” in some places and spirit in others. In other words, the spirit of man is that breath that gives him life. When he dies, that breath returns to God who gave it.

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.)

Pagan Religion and the Immortal Soul

The deception that when men die, they do not really die found acceptance in ancient times by pagan religions. Those who practiced these religions claimed to have communication with the dead. Very early in Bible times this concept was condemned by God. “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:19–20. (See also Deuteronomy 18:9–12.)

This practice of communing with the dead was abhorrent to God, and He commanded Israel that any who participated in this heathen practice were to be killed. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Exodus 22:18

Saul, the first king of Israel, repaired to the witch at Endor the night before his final battle. While to his human perception he was able to talk with Samuel,who was dead, 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 states that this was not the case. “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit [one who claimed to be able to communicate with the dead], to inquire of it; and inquired not of the LORD: therefore He slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.” This appearance of a being who appeared to be Samuel was not just some human imposture, but the king was actually in communion with a demon.

Warnings of Future Deceptions

Jesus recognized that this deception would find its way in among even His professed believers; and in the closing days of His ministry here on earth, He warned His disciples of these future deceptions. “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” Matthew 24:24. Not only will these deceiving spirits be able to work miracles by which they will seek to deceive, but they also will enable men under their control to work miracles. So deceived will men be that they will believe it is by the power of Christ that these things are done. Thus, many will be deceived. “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21–23

The day is rapidly approaching when nearly the whole world will be swept into a delusion, to a fatal security, by these contacts with the purported dead, only to be awakened by the outpouring of God’s wrath. Those who teach that when a man dies he goes to another existence somewhere else have laid aside the only protection that they have against this deception—the Word of God. When faced with the apparent incontrovertible evidence, they will have no defense, for having accepted tradition over the plain Word of God, their defense will have departed. Not having loved the truth, they will accept a delusion.

Truth Our Only Safety

Our only security will be in the knowledge that it is Jesus who holds the keys to death and the grave. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28–29. It is when Jesus returns to be united forever with His people that they receive the gift of life who have gone to sleep in His love and those who remain alive until His return. This reunion does not take place at death, but it is the grand climax of the ages toward which all other events have pointed.

We need not be deceived, but our faith must be built on nothing less than the Word of God. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20

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