Every time I go to a funeral I am reminded of several things: the pain of losing a loved one, that I (too) am mortal, and also of the conflicting beliefs about what happens when a person dies. This discovery is surprizing, yet comforting. Join me.
At one of the last funerals I attended, I heard the preacher said, “Don't cry dear friends, Sister M. is up there right now looking down at us from the bosom of the Lord. " At the same time, we were all there weeping our hearts out and wishing that she would come back from Paradise (or from the bosom of the Lord) to be with us again. Confusing!
Most people believe that a Christian goes to heaven when she or he dies. Maybe a minute, an hour, a day, three days after expiring the last breath - I don't know how soon after. But this notion raises several questions that had me searching my Bible. I will share some of what I have found with you here.
Questions, questions - any answers?
If my dad went to heaven when he died in 1997, shouldn't he be having “hell" up there watching all the troubles his loved ones endure down here on earth.
According to the Bible, heaven is a place of perfect bliss, where there is no sickness nor sadness. Luke 20:36 says of those who go to heaven, “Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. " So the question is, Was it fair for Jesus to raise Lazarus (John 11:43) if he (or his soul) had gone to heaven when he died?
What would be the point of calling the man (Lazarus, who was Jesus’ friend) back from paradise to live on earth again, to feel more pain, hunger, thirst, and heartache, and then to feel the sting of death one more time? That would not be fair.
In struggling with these questions I had to go back to Genesis chapters 1 and 2. I had to find out where my dad went when he died in 1997. I found out that the answer is consistently forceful throughout the whole Bible, actually.
In Genesis 2:7 we read, “the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. " (NIV) If you are a student who likes to analyze things, it is very clear that :
BODY + BREATH OF LIFE = LIVING BEING (SOUL)
When a person dies, therefore,
LIVING BEING (SOUL) - BREATH OF LIFE = BODY
The body is dust, so it returns to the ground (Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, and all the other elements) back to where they came from. The breath goes back to God (back to the atmosphere, actually) from which it came.
The idea that we have an immortal soul is a lie that is as old as the creation. First Timothy 6:16 describes God as the One “who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light. " In fact, God says in Ezekiel 18:20, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. "
The devil said it first
When the serpent tempted Eve in the garden the devil said, “you shall not surely die. " (Genesis 3:4) Somehow this seems to intimate that we can go on living forever, even though we sin. Well, could this be a reason some people think that suicide is a way out of their problems? You shall not surely die. But wait. . . here's how I know for sure that my dad never went to heaven when he died.
Even the “man after God's own heart" has not gone yet
God called David “a man after my own heart. " See Acts 13:22. Yet the Bible says that David is still in his grave today. Let's read it.
Acts 2:29, Peter preaching, said, “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. " Continuing, he talks about the resurrection of Jesus, then says this about David again in verse 34, “For David is not ascended into the heavens. . . " It cannot be clearer.
And think about Jesus. . .
If after the crucifixion His soul had gone to heaven why would he tell Mary on Sunday morning (the 3rd day) not to touch Him because He had not yet ascended to His Father? (See John 20:17)
So what happens when we die?
Our bodies go back to the earth - the ground, and our breath goes back to God. We rot and wait (unconsciously, of course) for the miracle of the resurrection. Jesus calls death a “sleep. "
John 11:11-14 reads;
11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up. "
12His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better. " 13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him. "
My dad fell asleep. He is dead, and will be sleeping until the resurrection. I am so glad he is not in heaven witnessing his loved ones suffer sickness and pain. But he won't be sleeping forever.
Concerning the resurrection, the Bible says, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout. . . and the dead in Christ shall rise first. " (First Thessalonians 4:16-17).
This was my father's favorite Bible verse. That's why he never feared death. He knew where he was going when he died AND he also knew what would happen to him next.
Copyright © 2006 by Bentley Thompson
Read other articles by Bentley at his websites: http://www.anti-diabetes-diet-supplements.com and http://www.heavenshope.com