The Mystery Of Death
Throughout human history, people have refused to accept the finality that death brings to life. They have tried to deny the reality of death by teaching various forms of life after death. A key component of this teaching has been the belief in the survival of the soul apart from the body at the moment of death.
The popularity of this belief can be attributed, not only to the traditional teachings of Catholic and Protestant churches, but also to such factors as the polished image of mediums and psychics, the sophisticated “scientific” research into near-death experiences, and the popular New Age channeling with the alleged spirits of the past.
Ever since Satan deceived Eve into accepting his counterfeit doctrine that sin does not lead to death, he has succeeded in convincing unconverted men of this error. However, it was the Greek philosophers who popularized in Europe the notion of human immortality.
The Greek philosopher Socrates (470-399 B. C.) traveled to Egypt to consult the Egyptians on their teachings on the immortality of the soul. Upon his return to Greece, he imparted this teaching to his most famous pupil, Plato (428-348 B. C.).
There are two basic views in the Christian church the first is based on the belief of the immortality of the soul, and the second on the belief of the resurrection of the body.
The first view derives from Greek philosophy in the belief of the immortality of the soul, apart from the body which is a false belief as we shall see in a further study of the scriptures.
The second is from the teaching of the bible the correct teaching where the whole person, body and breath, is resurrected to receive either eternal life or eternal death. In Classical Greek thought that human nature has both a material and a spiritual component. The material component is the body,which is temporary and essentially evil; and the spiritual component is the soul (psyche) or the mind (nous), which are eternal and good.
The the pagan Greek philosophy teaches That at death, the soul is released from the prison house of the body where it was entombed for a time.
But as responsible Christians we are to always go to God’s word for the true correct understanding of human nature.
The true biblical view of human nature is nothing like the Greek philosophy human beings do not possess a mortal body and an separate immortal soul; they have a wholistic mortal body and soul (breath of life) which can become immortal.
In order to have the correct understanding of human nature we have to look at one of the most important verses in the bible that deal with the creation of man found in Genesis 2:7.
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.
Sadly this text has been read by the majority of Christians with the Greek classical understanding. It has been assumed that the breath of life God breathed into man’s nostrils was simply an immaterial, immortal soul that God implanted into the material body.
What does it mean in Genesis 2:7 man became a living soul? It Certainly dose not mean that man obtained a living soul but rather it means that as a result of God’s divine inbreathing of the “breath of life” into the lifeless body, man became a living, breathing being. Meaning the heart began to beat, the blood to circulate, the brain to think, and all the vital signs of life were activated no more, no less.
What is the “breath of life” that God breathed into Adam’s nostrils? Some assume that the “breath of life” is the immortal soul that God implanted into Adam’s material body. This interpre-tation cannot legitimately be supported by the Biblical meaning and usage of the “breath of life,” because nowhere in the Bible is “the breath of life” identified with an immortal soul.
In Scripture, the “breath of life” is the life-giving power that is associated with the breath of God. We can find this truth taught in the book of Job 33:4: “The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life
The breath of life is the gift of life imparted by God to His creatures,because breathing is a vital sign of life. A person who no longer breathes is dead. Let’s take another look at the soul or the breath of life in a person wen they die.
In the book of Genesis 35:17-18 we find the story of Rachel Jacob’s wife going through a bad experience in child labor and she dies.
17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also.
18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died).
Now there’s two ways of interpreting this passage of scripture one way of interpreting and reading this incident is through the eyes of pagan Greek philosophy by reasoning that her soul was departing” meaning that Rachel’s immortal soul was leaving her body while she was dying but that would be contrary to the consistent teaching of the Old Testament that the person dies completely with the body.
The correct way to interpret and understand the phrase “her soul was departing”is to understand it in its right meaning that “her breathing was stopping,” or we might say, she was taking her last sigh. It is important to note that the noun “soul–nephesh” in Hebrew derives from the verb by the same root which means “to breathe,” “to respire,” “to draw breath.”
The inbreathing of the breath of life resulted in man becoming a living soul, a breathing organism. So the departing of the breath of life results in a person becoming a dead soul (“for she died”).The departure of the soul is a metaphor for death, associated with the interruption of the breathing process.
Another example we must look at in the bible that deals with the the soul or breathing restored to a young boy After he died.
The story of the raising to life of the widow’s son at Zarephath by Elijah the prophet, 1 Kings 17:20-22 says: “Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, let this child’s soul come into him again.’ And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.”
In verse 17, the death of the boy is described as the cessation of breathing: “There was no breath left in him.”
17 And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him.
The lack of neshamah [breath] causes the departure of life which returns when the prophet prays to God and God answers and gives the child breath again. This is a perfectly intelligible way of understanding the text and is consistent with the rest of the Old Testament teaching.
Big Time Interest In the Public
There has been a major interest in the public now a day’s in the belief of a person continuing to live apart from Their body after death. This spark of interest in the public has come about not only by the false teachings of Catholic and Protestant Sunday keeping churches, but also through various attempts to communicate with the spirits of the dead through mediums, psychics, “scientific” research into near-death experiences, and New Age channeling with the spirits of the past.
Today our society is flooded with mediums and psychics who advertise their services nationwide through TV, magazines, radio, and newspapers. People have been giving widespread attention to the idea of communicating with the spirits of the dead by the deception of many claiming to communicating on a regular with deceased loved ones.
Surveys show a high percentage just in America of people who engage in the services of mediums to communicate with the spirit of their deceased loved ones. Satan’s lie “You shall not die” (Gen 3:4) has lived on in different forms throughout human history, especially through the belief in the immortality of the soul and its separation from the body at death.
Virtually all paganism is impregnated with devil worship and as-sociated with spiritism.
All spiritism comes directly from Satan in the Old Testament times anyone involved in this matter was sentenced to death.
And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people. (Leviticus 20:6)
A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:27)
There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divina-tion, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD
thy God doth drive them out from before thee. (Deuteronomy 18: 10–12)
If people could commune with individuals after their death, God would not have forbidden the practice in such serious terms. Many today are wholly ignorant of God’s prohibition in seeking mediums, psychics to supposedly communicate with the dead.
This is a serious matter because people that engage in this practice of supposedly communicate with there dead loved ones really are communicating with demons and the Devil.
The word of God warns us that this would be happening even more in our time.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. (1 Timothy 4:1)
People claiming to have seen or spoken to a deceased loved one have actually seen demons working miracles appearing as deceased loved ones.
This is nothing new Satan has been working in this deceptive way for many years now for a perfect example we have the apparition of Samuel the prophet by Satan found in
1 Samuel chapter 28.
The evidence is very clear that the apparition who spoke as Samuel was a deception. Because God had ceased to communicate with Saul in any manner that’s why Saul had to go seek a witch.
6 And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.
7 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.1 Kings 28:6-7
The circumstances of the appearance of this supposedly appearance of Samuel presents some questionable aspect.
First the witch tells Saul she saw “gods ascending out of the earth”.
the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. (1 Samuel 28:13)
Nowhere in Scripture is God represented as emerging from the earth. Nor does the Bible support the concepts of multiple gods.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD. (Deuteronomy 6:4)
Second we have the record of (1 Chronicles 10: 13, 14 clearly stating that by Saul seeking a witch Saul was not seeking information from God but from Satan and was lost.
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, to inquire of it; and inquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse. (1 Chronicles 10: 13, 14)
The holy word of God warns us that demons can work miracles.
For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles. (Revelation 16:14)
God warns us in his word continually that Satan will do such miracles prior to the Second Coming of Christ is fully documented in Scripture.
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2: 9, 10)
Now how these false teachings of the immortality of the soul at death entered the church is very interesting. It came about by the Writings of apostate Christians beginning from the latter part of the second century. The most influential promoters were Tertullian (155-240), Origen (ca. 185-254), Augustine (354-430) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) their false teachings gained influence in the churches and still have been influential to this day.
The belief in the survival of the soul contributed to the development of the doctrine of Purgatory, in the Roman Catholic Church.
Purgatory is supposedly a place where the souls of the dead are purified by suffering the temporal punishment of their sins before ascending to Paradise. This widely believed doctrine burdened the living with emotional and financial stress.
As Ray Anderson puts it, “Not only did one have to earn enough to live, but also to pay off the ‘spiritual mortgage’ for the dead as well.” Ray S. Anderson, Theology, Death and Dying, 1986, p. 104.
The Reformers of the Protestant reformation rejected the Roman Catholic teaching of Purgatory as unbiblical and unreasonable the practice of buying and selling indulgences to reduce the stay of the souls of departed relatives in Purgatory.
When we search the Bible for a description of the nature of death, we find many clear statements that need little or no interpretation. In the first place, Scripture describes death as a return to the elements from which man originally was made. In pronouncing sentence upon Adam after his disobedience, God said: “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for . . . you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19).
This graphic statement tells us that death is not the separation of the soul from the body, but the termination of one’s life, completely which results in the decay and decomposition of body. “Since man is created of perishable matter, his natural condition is mortality (Gen 3:19)
It’s important that the churches of to day understand that there is no remembrance of the Lord in death.
“For in death [maveth] there is no remembrance of thee; in Sheol (grave) who can give thee praise” (Ps 6:5).
The reason for no remembrance in death is simply because the thinking process stops when the body with its brain dies. “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that day his thoughts perish” (Ps 146:4).
Since at death the “thoughts perish,” it is evident there is no conscious soul that survives the death of the body. If the thinking process, which is generally associated with the soul, survived the death of the body, then the thoughts of the saints would not perish. They would be able to remember God.
But the fact is that “the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing” (Eccl 9:5).
There is no praise of God possible in death or in the grave. “What profit is there in my death [maveth], if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise thee?
Will it tell of thy faithfulness?” (Ps 30:9). By comparing death with dust, the Psalmist clearly shows that there is no consciousness in death because dust cannot think. The same thought is expressed in Psalm 115:17: “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence.” Here the Psalmist describes death as a state of “silence.”
What a contrast with the “noisy” popular vision of the afterlife where the saints praise God in Heaven and the wicked cry in agony in Hell!
Death is described as a “sleep.” “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death” (Ps 13:3). This characterization of death as “sleep” occurs frequently in the Old and New Testaments because it fittingly represents the state of unconsciousness in death.
In several places, maveth [death] is used with reference to the second death.
“As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ez 33:11; cf. 18:23, 32).
Here “the death of the wicked” is evidently not the natural death that every person experiences, but the death inflicted by God at the end the final judgment on the un repented sinners.
Death is described as sleep in the New Testament more frequently than in the Old. The reason may be so that the hope and the truth of the resurrection my be established in the mind of the believer.
At the time of Christ’s crucifixion, “many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep [kekoimemenon] were raised” (Matt 27:52). In the original, the text reads: “Many bodies of the sleeping saints were raised.” It is evident that what was resurrected was the whole person and not just the bodies. There is no reference to their souls being reunited with their bodies, obviously because this concept is foreign to the Bible.
Speaking figuratively of Lazarus’ death, Jesus said: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep [kekoimetai], but I go to awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11). When Jesus perceived that He was misunderstood, He “told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14). Then Jesus hastened to reassure Martha: “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23).
This episode is significant, first of all, because Jesus plainly describes death as “sleep” from which the dead will awaken at the sound of His voice. Lazarus’ condition in death was similar to a sleep from which one awakens. Christ said: “ I go to awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11). The Lord carried out His promise by going to the tomb to awaken Lazarus by calling: “‘Lazarus, come out.’ And the dead man came out’” (John 11:43-44).
The awakening of Lazarus out of the sleep of death by the sound of Christ’s voice parallels the awakening of the sleeping saints on the day of His glorious coming. They, too, shall hear the voice of Christ and come forth to life again.
“The hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth” (John 5:28; cf. John 5:25).
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, . . . And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess 4:16).
“The dead in Christ will rise first” from their graves (1 Thess 4:16) and will not descend from heaven. There is no hint that the bodies rise from the graves and the souls descend from heaven to be reunited with the bodies such a teaching is foreign to the Bible.
If Paul really believed that “the dead in Christ” were not really dead in the grave but alive in heaven as disembodied souls, he would have capitalized on their blissful condition in heaven to explain to the Thessalonians that their grieving was senseless.
Why should they grieve if their loved ones were already enjoying the bliss of heaven? The reason Paul did not give such an encouragement is obviously because he knew that sleeping saints were not in heaven but in their graves.
Immortality in the Bible is not an innate human possession but a divine attribute.
Nowhere dose the Bible suggests that immortality is a natural quality or right of human beings. The presence of the “tree of life” in the garden of Eden indicates indicates that immortality was conditional to the partaking of the fruit of such tree. Scripture teaches that “immortality is to be sought (Rom 2:7) and “put on” (1 Cor 15:53).
It is, as ‘eternal life,” the gift of God (Rom 6:23) to be inherited (Matt 19:29) by knowing God (John 17:3) through Christ (John 14:19; 17:2; Rom 6:23). In Paul’s view immortality is tied solely to the resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15) as the ground and pledge of the believer’s hope.
Those who insist in finding the philosophical idea of the immortality of the soul in the Bible, ignore God’s revelation and insert dualistic Greek ideas into the Biblical faith.
The purpose of this study is to help sincere people recover the true Biblical view of human nature and destiny, and thus dispel the spiritual darkness perpetrated by centuries of false teachings.This is the challenge of Advent Messenger Church to fulfill this holy work by divine grace.
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