The Human being-Origin, Nature and Destiny at Death
We must turn to the Holy Writ, the only trustworthy and infallible authority, to find out the truth concerning this important subject.
The Scriptures say that "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." Genesis 2:7. The elements contained in the human body are the elements existing in the earth, which means that man was made out of the earth. When God created man He did not put in him a soul, but breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Before the breath of life man was a dead soul. God breathed into the nostrils of this dead soul and he became a living soul, or a living creature. The Bible does not say that God put in man an abstract immortal entity which would continue to live forever, apart from the body, in a state of consciousness after his death. The life of man does not depend on this imaginary entity which generally people call soul, or spirit.
The life of all living creatures whether in the animal kingdom or in the plant depend on respiration. Plants have a vital principle upon which their lives are based. The effectiveness of this principle requires, among other things, the provision of carbon dioxide and oxygen. If these elements are taken away from plants the effectiveness of this vital principle ceases and consequently the life of the plant ceases. They die. This example gives us the idea of what constitute life and death. Let us illustrate this fact by the following: Suppose we have before us a lighted candle. The flame which gives light depends on the oxygen. If this element is missing the candle goes out, and the light disappears. The same way man possesses a vital principle given and maintained by God. The Bible calls this principle "spirit" through which man has life. This vital principle depends on respiration (breathing). Therefore the Bible calls the breath of man a "spirit" (Compare Ecclesiastes 12:7 to Genesis 2:7).
When God takes away the "breath of spirit of life" (Genesis 7:22 SV) from man, he dies. His vital principle goes out and his life ceases to exist, just as the light goes out when the candle is put out. No immaterial entity commonly called "spirit" or "soul" separates from man at his death. The Bible never uses these words in the same sense as people do, because there is no such thing as an immaterial conscious entity that separates from the body and keeps on living.
When man is born God gives him the "breath of spirit of life" (Genesis 7:22 SV). "He giveth to all life, and breath: (Acts 17:25). He "that created the heavens... giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein." (Isaiah 42:5). God grants the vital principle to every creature. In His hand "is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind" (Job 12:1). The Psalms writer confirms this when he says: "Into thine hand I commit my spirit... My times are in thy hand;..." (Psalm 31:5, 15). While man is alive God preserves the vital principle, the breath. "Thou didst bestow upon me life and love, my spirit was in thy charge and care." (Job 10:12 Moffat).
No man has the power to retain his breath. "There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit, neither hath he power in the day of death" (Ecclesiastes 8:8). The Psalms writer says, "when thou callest their breath, they die" (Psalm 104:29 Moffat). When man dies the spirit of breath of life goes out (Psalm 146:4). This breath is gathered unto God as the following statement proves: "If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust." Job 34:14, 15. Spirit and breath here are the same thing. The repetition is made just for the sake of emphasis. See examples in Psalm 79:4; 119:44; Isaiah 58:1; 60:2 etc. The wise king Solomon also confirmed that when man dies God gathers unto Him the breath: "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." Ecclesiastes 12:7. Solomon here makes reference to the element of which man was composed in the beginning-the "dust" which came out of the earth and the "breath" which came from God (Genesis 2:7). The text says that these two elements return to their original sources. This "spirit" or "breath" is not an immortal, intelligent entity, because if this would be the case the consciousness of a man would be in his nostrils. See examples in Genesis 2:7; 7:22.
The Bible writers connect the word "die" with exhalation. To exhale means to breathe out. In Bible times people used to say of a person that was sick and died that "his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him" (1 Kings 17:17). They understood that to exhale meant to die, and to expire is to let out the last breath. Then the breath (which is simply the air) is gathered unto God as the above mentioned texts confirm. In this sense the dying person asked God to receive his spirit or breath. When Stephen was stoned he expired and commended to God his spirit (Acts 7:59). And when Jesus was dying on the cross He exclaimed: "Father, I trust my spirit in thy hands, and with these words he expired" (Luke 23:46 Moffat). This however does not mean that the conscious ego or the individuality of Christ had gone up to heaven to the Father, because three days after His death Jesus declared: "Touch me not; for I am not ascended to my Father" (John 20:17).
The Holy Scriptures say: "For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast; for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" Ecclesiastes 3:19-21.
By all means there is a great advantage of man over the unreasonable animals even after death, because while the beasts will not be resurrected man has the glorious hope of resurrection (John 5:28, 29). But there is no immediate advantage of man over the beasts when they die because both become dust. If the "soul" or "spirit" of man would go up to heaven at death, he should have a great advantage over the beasts, and in this case, the Bible declaration would not be true.
If the breath, or spirit, which man exhales at death goes up to heaven and this spirit or breath is an intelligent immortal entity, we come to the absurd conclusion that the breath of the beasts is also an intelligent, immortal entity, because man and beasts have the same breath.
In the original Hebrew the word rendered for "breath" in Ecclesiastes 3:19 is ruach: the same word is used in Ecclesiastes 12:7 which is rendered for "spirit". In both texts the word is ruach. This ruach of men, both of good and bad, as well as the ruach of the beasts go to God at death, because He breathed it into the nostrils of man. Where does the ruach of man go when it is gathered by God? Does it go to heaven? Not at all. If the breath of man would go up while that of the beasts go down, man would have little advantage over the beasts. But even man does not have this advantage over the beasts at death. "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" Ecclesiastes 3:21. Who can assure that?
God gathers the breath of all creatures, at death, to reintegrate it in the air. On the resurrection day God will act as He did at the beginning, that is, He will breath the breath, or spirit, from the air into the nostrils of the resurrected ones, according to what we read in Ezekiel 37:9, 10: "Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army." Notice that from one wind (In the original Hebrew is ruach) life was given to "an exceeding great army", and individual spirits were not coming down from heaven and resting upon the resurrected ones. This means that the dead will receive again the breath of life and they will become again "living souls".
IS THE "SOUL" IMMORTAL?
In the Old Testament the word "soul" comes from the Hebrew word nephesh, and in the New Testament from the Greek word psuche.
Nephesh occurs 745 times in the original Hebrew (OT) and it is translated "soul" 473 times.
Psuche occurs 105 times in the original Greek (NT) and it is translated "soul" 58 times.
The word "spirit" in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word ruach, and in the New Testament from the Greek word pneuma.
Ruach occurs 442 times in the original Hebrew (OT) and it is translated "spirit" 232 times.
Pneuma occurs 385 times in the original Greek (NT) and is translated "spirit" 291 times.
Not one of these references attributes immortality to either the "soul" or the "spirit".
Modern Christians believe that the souls is immortal not because they could find proof for this doctrine in the Bible, but because they inherited this belief from the Catholic Church, which in turn obtained it from the pagan philosophies in the first centuries, especially in the dark Middle Ages. As soon as Paganism entered in the Church the original doctrine of the Scriptures regarding the condition of man after death was changed for the heresy of the immortality of the soul.
It was the manifestation of Satanic agencies (fallen angels), disguised in bodiless spirits of deceased people that gave origin to the belief of the immortality of the soul. From the very beginning communications between such supposed spirits and the dead has been the basis for heathen worship. The doctrine taught by these evil angels is a falsehood by which Satan rekindles the torch of that great lie he invented at the beginning of the world; "thou shalt not surely die". Genesis 3:4.
Man does not possess innate immortality. When God placed the first man in the world He said: "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. But Satan contradicted this divine truth introducing another false proposition: "thou shalt not surely die". Here lies the foundation for the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. The life which God granted man was conditional. Continuing in obedience he could live; if he disobeyed he would certainly die. On that very day when he disobeyed God's clear command the death sentence was pronounced upon him: "for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Genesis 3:19.
When the death sentence was enunciated, measures were taken that man should not perpetuate his life, for God would not permit that men should become immortal sinners.
"And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." Genesis 3:22-24.
If man had inherent immortality, what was the need of eating of the tree of life in order to perpetuate his existence? If he already possessed immortality, what was the point of preventing man to obtain something he already possessed? If man was immortal, the sentence "unto dust thou shalt return" would be of no effect, because it would not reach the essence of man, the conscious, immortal soul. What is the good of destroying the husk if the grain cannot be destroyed? If man had an immortal soul the death of the flesh would not constitute the death of man. It would be just a continuation of his life in another form. But God said to the whole man, to the entire individuality of him, "thou shalt surely die". After his disobedience man could have become an immortal sinner if he could have access to the tree of life. But the way to it was kept by an angel, and no member of Adam's family, in their sinful condition, could eat of the fruit of the tree of life. Man, therefore, could not impart to his posterity that which he himself did not possess. Consequently, there is no immortal sinner.
According to the Bible "soul" is mortal. The words "corruption", "death", "to die", "perish", "to kill" are used in connection with the soul. We quote a few examples;
"Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers." Job 33:22.
"...he spared not their soul from death..." Psalm 78:50.
"...he saved my soul from death..." Job 33:28, Moffat.
"For thou hast delivered my soul from death..." Psalm 116:8.
"Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." James 5:20.
If the "soul" is immortal then it is not subject to death. There is no point in releasing something from that to which it is not subject.
"...dead body..." literally: the soul of the dead. Numbers 6:6; 19:13.
"...and he requested for himself that he might die." Literally, that his soul might die. 1 Kings 19:4.
"...he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live." Jonah 4:8.
Literally: he wished his soul to die.
"...Let my soul die the death of the right..." Numbers 23:10 SV-Margin.
"Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth, it shall die." Ezekiel 18:4.
"And will ye pollute me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to my people that hear your lies?" Ezekiel 13:19.
"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28.
Jesus declared that "soul" can be destroyed. If soul is liable to destruction it cannot be immortal. Man does not possess immortality in his present sinful condition. There is only On Who has immortality: "Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto: whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen." 1 Timothy 6:15, 16.
Eternal life is not a myth; it is a reality. At creation God's original plan was to make man a happy dweller on earth, in endless life, like other intelligent beings of other planets and like the unfallen angels. This happy existence was conditioned to obedience to the commandments of God. Angels who are superior to man in glory, honour, power and wisdom, obtained eternal life because they fulfilled this condition of obedience.
The gift of life which God granted man was lost because the first man, Adam, disobeyed God's command.
The Bible tells us:
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Romans 5:12.
Man became mortal. Now his nature was subject to death. The Lord says: "I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;" Isaiah 51:12.
There can be no mistake here. The word of God defines man as a mortal being. The doctrine of man's innate immortality is thereby refuted. It is evident that if man is mortal he cannot possess an immortal soul or spirit. This, however, does not mean that immortality could never be obtained. God made possible to obtain it. Eternal life is offered to every man. Thank God for such a wonderful provision made for all the children of Adam.
"Immortality" and "eternal life" mean the same thing. One who is immortal lives eternally, and whoever does not live for ever is mortal.
Eternal life, or immortality, is a "gift of God" (Romans 6:23) which is at the reach of every person, on condition of accepting the provision made through Jesus Christ and obedience to the commandments. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." John 3:16, 36. The doctrine of inherent immortality annuls the need of a Savior and the requirements of obedience to the commandments of God. "And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." Matthew 19:16, 17.
The apostle Paul writes: "But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath." Romans 2:5-8.
The fact that we should "seek" for immortality proves that we do not possess it. There would be no need to seek for that which we already have. Immortality will be granted to the righteous on the day of the "righteous judgment of God."
IMMORTALITY GRANTED TO THE RIGHTEOUS-WHEN?
People often think that if we do not have an immortal soul which goes to eternal joy when the body goes to the grave all our Christian experience on earth is in vain. This reasoning would be correct if we had not the glorious hope of a resurrection. If the dead would not be raised our faith would be in vain, and according to the words of the apostle Paul, "They also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." 1 Corinthians 15:18. If the righteous go to heaven at death why are they "perished"? We see by the words of the apostle Paul that his faith was built upon the hope of the resurrection, and not in continuation of life in another form, after death.
If there is no resurrection, and the souls of the dead are gone already to heaven, they would in no case be lost ("perished"). If the souls of the dead are enjoying themselves in heaven there would be no need for the resurrection either. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul does away with the glorious hope of a resurrection, but because there is no immortal soul, the faith which is established in the hope of a resurrection remains unmovable.
According to the words of the apostle Paul there would be no reward for those who died in Christ, if there was to be no resurrection. This proves that before the resurrection there is no reward whatsoever. The prophets and the apostles never hoped to go to heaven at death. They centralized all their hopes in the second coming of Jesus Christ when the righteous will be resurrected to receive their reward. Having this hope, Job declared:
"As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep." Job 14:11, 12. "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within men." Job 19:25-27. When Daniel the prophet ended his earthly race God did not take him to heaven, but the angel clearly stated his lot: "But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." Daniel 12:13.
The apostle Paul was awaiting anxiously the coming of Christ and the resurrection of the righteous because he hoped to receive the reward at that time: "But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead." 2 Corinthians 1:9. He counted everything he lost but dung, that "by any means", he said, "I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." Philippians 3:11. Just before his execution he referred to the promise of the reward saying: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." 2 Timothy 4:7,8. Another statement of the apostle Paul reads: "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." 1 Corinthians 5:5.
The spirit, or soul, or life (synonymous words) of the righteous are not saved at death; they will be resurrected "in the day of the Lord". In that day will the words of Jesus be fulfilled when He said: "...but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." Luke 9:24. Jesus also said that the righteous will receive the reward in the future: "And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just." Luke 14:14.
The reward of all prophets, apostles and saints from all ages are related to the time of the end of the world, the coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead. John the revelator looked prophetically to that time, and in heavenly vision he heard the twenty four elders saying: "And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth." Revelation 11:18.
A sincere Christian who reads these words cannot expect to receive his reward immediately after death. There is no Bible verse, not even one, which promises entrance in heaven at the time of one's death. If such a test exists, where is it?
The apostle Peter in one of his discourses said: "For David is not ascended into the heavens." Acts 2:34 (first part). David declared about himself: "I go the way of all the earth:" 1 Kings 2:2 (first part). From this statement we understand that the "way of all the earth" (all human beings) does not lead to heaven at death. If the theory that man has an immortal, abstract and conscious soul is true, according to the immortalists, then this "David" must have been his soul, not his flesh. The flesh, would be only the dwelling place of "David" but never the real "David". There can be but two conclusions drawn from this statement: 1) that man does not possess such a "soul", or 2) that if he possesses an immaterial "soul" this does not go to heaven at the death of the flesh. If the theory that the righteous go to heaven when they die is true we have to conclude that either Peter or David uttered a lie. But the Bible does not contradict itself. If contradiction is apparent then it is the result of confused minds. Men dare to contradict the Bible saying that the just go to heaven at death.
Eternal life or immortality will be granted to the righteous at the occasion of the coming of Christ, and the resurrection of the righteous, when they will be taken to heaven. The apostle Paul wrote about this event:
"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory?" 1 Corinthians 15:51-55.
The fact that the righteous will be clothed with immortality only at that time proves that they do not possess it now. If they possessed inherent eternal life they would not need to be changed from corruptible into incorruptible, at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
It is commonly believed that after death the righteous take the spiritual nature of the angels and immediately they associate with them. Many affirm that the "ministering spirits" sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14), whom the apostle calls "angels" (verse 13) are the "spirits of just men made perfect" (Hebrews 12:23). According to popular teaching the spirit which is disconnected from the body at death is a conscious, abstract entity, because "a spirit has no flesh and bones" (Luke 24:39). And because angels are called "spirits", by the same reasoning, they are of the same nature. That which has no flesh and bones must be abstract. This is what many believe.
In order that we may see the failure of this reasoning we may ask anyone, even a child, to mention something that is concrete which has no flesh and bones. He will find thousands of such objects. He may probably point to a car, a book, a house, etc. We can ask him whether these things he pointed out are abstract because they have no flesh and bones. In his simplicity he will tell us the truth. He may probably understand better the truth in many points than the so called "theologians" of these last days. It is beyond discussion the fact that the righteous will become like the angels, but when does this occur? "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven." Matthew 22:30 (see also Luke 23:35, 36).
We will be like the angels at the resurrection of the just. But the angels are not immaterial as many may think. Neither shall we become immaterial when we come out of the grave. Jesus said:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 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 5:25, 28, 29.
"And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." Matthew 25:32, 46.
At the second coming of Christ the righteous shall "go into life eternal" which means that they will not possess it up to that day. They will be called "unto the resurrection of life", and this proves that they do not possess innate life from their birth. Daniel the prophet also confirmed that the righteous will be resurrected for life. (Daniel 12:12).
The apostle John wrote the following: "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." 1 John 5:12, 13.
John does not mean by these words that a Christian is clothed with eternal life from the very moment he accepts Christ. Those believers to whom he addressed his words "ye have eternal life" are dead for nearly two thousand years. But they have had eternal life in promise, that is, they have had eternal life warranted to be obtained on the resurrection day, at the second coming of Christ. He explained this when he said: "And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life." 1 John 2:25. Now, if we have a promise of obtaining eternal life, we do not possess it in reality. God's promises are not inconsistent neither shall fail. If we are faithful to the end we will receive eternal life. It is ours for God has promised. At the present time we have only the promise and the hope of eternal life as the apostle explained: "That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:7.
Christ and the apostles always refer to eternal life as something to come but never as something already obtained in reality. Paul says: "...having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." 1 Timothy 4:8. "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." Romans 6:22. Christ declared: "Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting." Luke 18:29, 30.
The holy Scriptures refer to salvation, or eternal life, as a future event. Our hope is centralized in our future eternal life. Paul said: "And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." Romans 8:23-25. "...we shall be saved by his life." Romans 5:10. "...now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." Romans 13:11. "...for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." 1 Timothy 4:16. "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." Matthew 24:13. "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." 1 Peter 1:5.
ARE THE DEAD CONSCIOUS?
In these last days it is commonly taught by the nominal Christians that the dead are conscious. This is in direct opposition to the testimony of the Bible. It is strange that those who profess to take the Bible as their guide and rule could believe in this delusion. Instead of saying that the dead are conscious, the Scriptures say that they know not anything. No proof can be found in the Bible for the doctrine of the consciousness of the dead.
"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 portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun." Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6.
If the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is true, and the dead are conscious, then the righteous dead are in heaven and the wicked in hell, but they do not know anything, according to the Bible declaration. Therefore the just have no joy in heaven, they don't know where they are, but the wicked have no pain nor suffering in hell, and they would not know that they are in hell. They have neither love nor hatred. The consciousness of a man is found in his brain, and not in some strange, abstract, immortal, conscious entity, a substance which people call "spirit" or "soul". Such a thing does not exist. If a man would posses such an imaginary conscious substance, his mental faculties would never stop working after his death.
Let us think about a practical example: If a man receives a hit on his head he loses his consciousness. In case the stroke is stronger he may die instead of becoming only unconscious. If this occurs, would he recover his consciousness after his death? Another example: A man that is very sick may fall into a state of coma. His consciousness disappears. He is not dead; he breathes, his heart still works, but his mind doesn't. When his consciousness returns he does not know what happened while he was unconscious.
If such entity would exist, he should know where he was, what he had seen, etc. Suppose that they delay medicating him and he dies. Would his consciousness return immediately when he dies? If man possesses such a supposed immaterial and immortal entity ("soul" or "spirit") which could survive separated from the body, then the consciousness of a person would be in such an entity. In this case, how could a physical defect in the brain affect their psychic faculties and cause mental illness? How could such a person lose his thinking capabilities?
Another interesting thought: How can the doctor apply anesthetic not only to the body but also to the "spirit" or "soul"? When he is under the effect of the anesthetic he is completely unconscious of everything around him.
We have to either reject the theory of the consciousness of the soul after death, or the plain declarations of the Bible, because they conflict with each other. The Bible insistently tells us that the dead cannot exert their mental faculties. Isaiah says that "Abraham be ignorant of us." Isaiah 63:16. He does not know anything about us. Job says that after a man dies he has no knowledge whatsoever about what goes on around him. "His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them." Job 14:21. What happens to the thoughts of him who dies? "In that very day his thoughts perish." Psalm 146:4. If the imaginary "soul" or "spirit" would be the thinking, intelligent entity, wherever it might go, it would think no more because the thought is extinguished at death. The Psalmist says: "For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?" Psalm 6:5. According to popular beliefs the righteous continue praising God in heaven after death. This, however, is a strong contradiction to the clear statement which says that "The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down in silence." Psalm 115:17.
The doctrine that the righteous dead are in heaven is a tale which has no foundation in the Holy Scriptures. The word of God tells us that the dead are in the dust, and they will remain there, unconscious, until the day of resurrection.
"If a man die, shall he live again?... So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep." Job 14:14, 12.
"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.
"And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose." Matthew 27:52. These saints were not in heaven but sleeping in their dusty beds.
"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." Ecclesiastes 9:10.
Speaking of Lazarus, Martha and Mary's brother, who had been sick and died, Jesus declared: "These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, 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 rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead." John 11:11-14. Four days had past since his death, but he had not yet gone up to heaven. He was sleeping in the grave. Jesus Christ did not call him down from the heavenly glory to this dark, gloomy, sin-stricken world. He did not say: "Lazarus, come down from heaven", but He ordered to remove the stone and shouted with a loud voice: "Lazarus, come forth." John 11:43.
The Bible does not say that when man dies he is split into two parts: the dead matter and the living, conscious, immortal "soul", and that one of these parts goes to heaven or hell and the other part goes to the grave. Nothing is separated from man at his death except the breath of life which is the inhaled air. The individuality of man or his conscious, thinking "ego" dies together with the body. If this so called "soul" would go to heaven, his wisdom and knowledge would continue there, but the Bible says that these things cease when man dies.
The word which corresponds to "grave" in Hebrew is "sheol" and the Greek is "Hades". These two words are sometimes rendered in English as "hell". Grave and hell are, in this sense, the same thing. The word "sheol" is often translated as "hell" but it never means to be a place of eternal torment. Such a place does not exist now. Nowhere in the Bible do we find such an imaginary lake of fire where the wicked are now being tormented.
Jacob was awaiting to go down to the grave ("sheol") at his death (Genesis 37:35; 42:38) where his son Joseph was. Would Jacob believe that his son was in the flames of a hell? Would he have a desire to be in the flames also? Even a little child can understand that he wouldn't.
The faithful patriarch Job desired to go down to the grave ("sheol"). He said: "O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!" (Job 14:13). Did Job have a desire to go to the flames of a burning fire? Not at all! He wished to rest in peace in the grave, free from suffering. When Jonah prayed to God from the belly of the big fish he said that he descended to hell from where he cried unto the Lord. Was the belly of the fish a lake of burning fire? He never meant that he was in the fire, but in the lower parts of the waters, in the belly of a fish. (Jonah 2:2).
The soul, which is the person himself, dies and is buried. "What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?" Psalm 89:48. No one can deliver the soul from the grave ("sheol"). The soul of Jesus Christ was also put in hell ("sheol") where from He arose on the third day. "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." Psalm 16:10. Jesus did not go to a lake of burning fire, but simply to the grave. The grave is the destiny of all men at death. "Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling." Psalm 49:14. If the grave is a place of burning fire, we are to believe that the sheep go to the fire when they die. This is too foolish and absurd to believe.
Every person whether he is good or bad goes to the dust of the earth, to the grave. However, not everything is finished for him. The faithful Christian rests in the blessed hope of the resurrection at the second coming of Jesus. David had this hope: "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me." Psalm 49:15.
THE DOCTRINE OF ETERNAL TORMENT-A HERESY
We have seen in the last chapter that the righteous do not go to heaven when they die. The wicked do not go to hell at death either; they are in the dust of the earth until the judgment day to receive their reward.
The Lord does "reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." 2 Peter 2:9. If the righteous dead would go to heaven and the wicked to hell, at death, there would be no need of appointing a day of judgment. The Bible tells us that the "dead" (Revelation 20:12) will be judged, and if this is so, for what purpose? Is it to determine whether they should continue in hell, or in heaven, or exchange place? Would the Lord say after the judgment to some: "Go out from heaven into hell" or "Come out of hell into everlasting joy, because you are in such a place by mistake"? What would you think about a judge who would imprison a man for about ten years to be judged only after that time, and when examining his case he finds out that the man does not deserve any punishment? Is this idea not repugnant? Notwithstanding many religious masters want to make us believe that the dead receive their reward at death, even before they are judged. The Scriptures declare that "it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment." Hebrews 9:27. No on can be condemned, or saved, before he is judged. Therefore the dead cannot be now in heaven nor in hell.
Jesus told the disciples that the people of the cities where He performed His greatest miracles did not repent of their evil ways, and pronounced the following sentence against them: "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." Matthew 11;21-24. How can honest and sincere readers of these words believe that the inhabitants of those wicked cities are now suffering in the fires of hell, even from the time of their death? Jesus says that all will receive their punishment on the judgment day.
On the day of judgment the punishment will be pronounced upon those "that have done evil", when the "resurrection of damnation" will take place (John 5:29). The wicked dead will remain in the dust until that day. They will not be punished before the "resurrection of damnation", because they had to be judged after their death. When they are judged and condemned they will receive their reward. There fore they are not yet in torment.
"After the fall, Satan bade his angels make a special effort to inculcate the belief in man's natural immortality; and having induced the people to receive this error, they were to lead them on to conclude that the sinner would live in eternal misery. Now the prince of darkness, working through his agents, represents God as a revengeful tyrant, declaring that He plunges into hell all those who do not please Him, and causes them ever to feel His wrath; and that while they suffer unutterable anguish, and writhe in the eternal flames, their Creator looks down upon them with satisfaction.
"Thus the arch-fiend clothes with his own attributes the Creator and Benefactor of mankind. Cruelty is satanic. God is love; and all that He created was pure, holy, and lovely, until sin was brought in by the first great rebel. Satan himself is the enemy who tempts man to sin, and then destroys him if he can; and when he has made sure of his victim, then he exults in the ruin he has wrought. If permitted, he would sweep the entire race into his net. Were it not for the interposition of divine power, not one son or daughter of Adam would escape.
"Satan is seeking to overcome men today, as he overcame our first parents, by shaking their confidence in their Creator, and leading them to doubt the wisdom of His government and the justice of His laws. Satan and his emissaries represent God as even worse than themselves in order to justify their own malignity and rebellion. The great deceiver endeavours to shift his own horrible cruelty of character upon our heavenly Father, that he may cause himself to appear as one greatly wronged by his expulsion from heaven because he would not submit to so unjust a governor. He presents before the world the liberty which they may enjoy under his mild sway, in contrast with the bondage imposed by the stern decrees of Jehovah. Thus he succeeds in luring souls away from their allegiance to God.
"How repugnant to every emotion of love and mercy, and even to our sense of justice, is the doctrine that the wicked dead are tormented with fire and brimstone in an eternally burning hell; that for the sins of a brief earthly life they are to suffer torture as long as God shall live. Yet this doctrine has been widely taught, and is still embodied in many of the creeds of Christendom. Said a learned doctor of divinity: 'The sight of hell-torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. When they see others who are of the same nature and born under the same circumstances, plunged in such misery, and they so distinguished, it will make them sensible of how happy they are.' Another used these words: 'While the decree of reprobation is eternally executing on the vessels of wrath, the smoke of their torment will be eternally ascending in view of the vessels of mercy, who, instead of taking the part of these miserable objects, will say, Amen, Alleluia! praise ye the Lord!'
"Where, in the pages of God's word, is such teaching to be found? Will the redeemed in heaven be lost to all emotions of pity and compassion, and even to feelings of common humanity? Are these to be exchanged for the indifference of the stoic, or the cruelty of the savage? No, no; such is not the teaching of the Book of God. Those who present the views expressed in the quotations given above may be learned and even honest men; but they are deluded by the sophistry of Satan. He leads them to misconstrue strong expressions of Scripture, giving to the language the coloring of bitterness and malignity which pertains to himself, but not to our Creator. 'As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?' Ezekiel 33:11.
"What would be gained to God should we admit that He delights in witnessing unceasing tortures; that He is regaled with the groans and shrieks and imprecations of the suffering creatures whom He holds in the flames of hell? Can these horrid sounds be music in the ear of Infinite Love? It is urged that the infliction of endless misery upon the wicked would show God's hatred of sin as an evil which is ruinous to the peace and order of the universe. Oh, dreadful blasphemy! As if God's hatred of sin is the reason why it is perpetuated. For, according to the teachings of these theologians, continued torture without hope of mercy maddens its wretched victims, and as they pour out their rage in curses and blasphemy, they are forever augmenting their load of guilt. God's glory is not enchanted by thus perpetuating continually increasing sin through ceaseless ages.
"It is beyond the power of the human mind to estimate the evil which has been wrought by the heresy of eternal torment. The religion of the Bible, full of love and goodness, and abounding in compassion, is darkened by superstition and clothed with terror. When we consider in what false colors Satan has painted the character of God, can we wonder that our merciful Creator is feared, dreaded, and even hated? The appalling views of God which have spread over the world from the teachings of the pulpit have made thousands, yes, millions, of skeptics and infidels.
"The theory of eternal torment is one of the false doctrines that constitute the wine of the abominations of Babylon, of which she makes all nations drink. Revelation 14:8; 17:2. That ministers of Christ should have accepted this heresy and proclaimed it from the sacred desk, is indeed a mystery. They received it from Rome, as they received the false sabbath. True, it has been taught by great and good men; but the light on this subject had not come to them as it has come to us. They were responsible only for the light which shone in their time; we are accountable for that which shines in our day. If we turn from the testimony of God's word, and accept false doctrines because our fathers taught them, we fall under the condemnation pronounced upon Babylon; we are drinking of the wine of her abominations." GC 534-537.