Bible Pathways in Picture and Word

Characteristics of Death 

 One of the most misunderstood subjects today is the subject of death. Everyone at some point in their life, thinks about this subject and asks themselves the question - "What will happen to me when I die?" 

In order to understand this subject, we should look back in history and see where "Death" first came into the picture.

Notice that in Genesis chapter 1, mankind is created by God - 

Gen 1:27-31  "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them...And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day." 

Also notice that this is before death & sin comes into the picture, because it states that "everything that he had made" was "very good!"

Now the Bible even gives the description of "how" God created man.

Gen 2:7  "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."

In this verse, we see what basically amounts to a mathematical equation in the making of mankind.  

Dust + Breath = A Living Soul

So for mankind to come into existence, there has to be a combination of the "Dust" of the ground and the "Breath" of life - and these two components when combined equals "A Living Soul".

But God gave man a warning.

Gen 2:17  "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." 


Then in Genesis 3, we have the entrance of sin/death with the disobedience and fall of man.

Gen 3:19  In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return

God specified to man that if he disobeyed and ate from the forbidden tree, he would bring the sentence of death upon himself. But Satan succeeded in getting man to doubt God by giving the very first lie ever recorded:

Gen 3:4-5  And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 

So what we have here is two different mathematical equations.

Life - - - Dust (Body) + Breath (Spirit) = A Living Soul

and the reversal of that equation

Death - - - Dust (Body) - Breath (Spirit) = No Soul

Now this is an extremely important equation to understand for several reasons.

For one, there is a teaching that is gaining momentum today, that a person's soul continues to live on after their body dies. But as you can see from this equation, death results in the "soul" ceasing to exist.

In simple terms, the "soul" is the "life" - which, at death, ceases to exist!

There are other problems with this doctrine of an "immortal soul" as well. The Bible states that God is the only one who naturally has immortality.

1Timothy 6:16  "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."

If the Creator is the only one who has immortality, then how do humans get immortal? The answer is simple, it is a gift that is given by God to His people (those who accept His gift). But does mankind have that gift now? No! The Bible is clear that that gift is given to the righteous - at the resurrection.

1Cor. 15:51-54  "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."

We also see this same concept in Romans 6:23  "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." 

Notice that the wages (penalty) for sin is "death" - but God promises to give the gift of immortality to those who accept Jesus Christ.

Ezekiel 18:20  "The soul that sinneth, it shall die..." 

Romans 5:12  "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

The Bible is very clear, that the soul can die and that there is no such thing as the "natural immortality of the soul" - that doctrine is a repeat of Satan's first lie! It is merely an attempt to do what Satan has always tempted man to do - to try to become "like God"!


Now if man doesn't keep living after they die, then what is death like?

Well, notice that this last verse gives us a clue - it refers to "sleep." We also see that Christ Himself referred to "death" as "sleep".

John 11:11-14  "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 of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead."

 When you go to bed at night, you close your eyes, and suddenly the alarm clock goes off. You have just passed through many hours of sleep, yet you were not aware of any passage of time. This is what death is like. 

When you die, you close your eyes and the next thing you are aware of is the sound of the trumpet and the Creator's voice calling the dead in Christ to "wake up." Several thousand years may have passed on planet earth since you died, but to you it is only a moment!

Now someone may say, "Well that is the soul, but the Bible says that the spirit goes back to God - which means that the spirit of a man goes and lives in heaven."
This is the text that they are referring to.
Eccl. 12:7  "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." 

But in order to understand this verse, we only have to look back at the original equation in Genesis.

God formed man's body from dust and breathed into him the "breath" of life. This word that is translated "breath" is also translated as "spirit" and "blast" and it literally means "wind". We also see this concept referred to in Job 27:3  "All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils;"

The "spirit" referred to is simply the "breath." It is NOT some sort of ghost or intelligent being that resides in the human body. Otherwise, Job would have had a ghost living in his nose!

This breath is simply "air". If you look at Eccl. 9:5-6 you will notice that when a person dies, they cease to have any knowledge.
"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." 

Another text that shows this is
Psalm 115:17  "The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence."

So in other words, when a person dies, his breath or "spirit" (air) returns to God who gave it to him in the first place, and his body decomposes in the earth, and his soul ceases to exist. At this point, the only place that he exists is in the mind or memory of God - because God is the one who designed and made him in the first place - that is how, at the resurrection, God recreates the person, by remaking the body and reuniting the breath with it.

We also see that a person does not go immediately to heaven at death because after Christ was resurrected 3 days after his death He states that He had not yet been to heaven.
John 20:17  "Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." 

There is also no record of Lazarus complaining that he had to leave heaven in order to come back to earth!
John 11:43  "And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth." 

Notice that Christ calls Lazarus to "come forth" - He doesn't call him to "come down". And what kind of blessing would it have been for Lazarus if he arrived in that heavenly paradise just in time to have to come back to this old sin infested planet? 

One of the texts often used to try to promote the "Life after Death" scenario is this one.
Luke 16:19-31  "There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:  And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.  Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.  And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.  And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." 

First of all, it is important to understand that this reference is commonly understood to be a parable.
Mark 4:34  "But without a parable spake he not unto them:.."

According to Webster's dictionary, a "parable" is "A fable or allegorical relation or representation of something real in life or nature, from which a moral is drawn for instruction."
In other words, a parable is not necessarily a true or 'real life' story! It can be a short fictitious story given to illustrate a certain point.
What was the "Point" of Christ's parable here?
"If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." 

In other words, if the Jews would not follow and obey the instruction given in the writings of Moses and the prophets (the Scriptures), they would not even be convinced of the truth if Lazarus was raised from the dead.
And then, shortly after this parable, Christ "proved" His point, by raising a real Lazarus from the dead. And what was the Jews response? They not only plotted to kill Christ, but they also plotted to kill Lazarus as well.

To believe that this parable of the "Rich Man and Lazarus" is a true story, poses many problems.
If a person holds that this reference to heaven and hell is literally true - then by default, the whole story has to be understood as "Literal"!
This means that Lazarus is a poor beggar - yet the Biblical and historical evidence shows that Lazarus was actually a member of a "well-to-do" family.
This would also mean that Abraham is God - which is not sustained by Biblical evidence.
This would also mean that heaven is not a country but is "in Abraham's bosom" which is a slightly ridiculous concept. That would have to be a very large chest in order to house all the righteous people.
This would also mean that the the Rich Man and Lazarus are still alive, which is a direct contradiction to the rest of the Bible testimony, and that they can 'see' each other.
This would also mean that the Rich Man believes that a single drop of water will cool his tongue - yet a single drop of water, when placed in the vicinity of a hot fire, immediately turns into hot steam.
These beliefs that the soul is immortal and continues to live beyond the grave, or that the spirit is some ghost-like intelligent being that lives after death are the main factors in the creation and circulation of the believe in an eternally burning hell fire.
But if immortality is only possessed by God Himself, and is given as a gift to the righteous at the resurrection - then how could it ever be possible for the wicked to have immortality and live forever in hell? 

In reality, this doctrine of eternally burning hell was taken from ancient paganism and given a Christian coating by the papal church in order to frighten people into purchasing their indulgences. 

But what does the Bible teach about this doctrine?

Someone may say, "In Revelation it says that they will burn forever."

This is the text that they are referring to:

Rev. 20:10  "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."

But it is important to understand that the concept of "forever" does not necessarily mean what we think it does. 

Notice that the Bible uses the term "forever" in other ways.

Exodus 21:6  "Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever." 

1Sam. 1:22  "But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever."

Jonah 2:6  "I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God." 

Obviously, the term "forever" doesn't mean that the servant is still serving that master, or that Samuel is still in the temple of the Lord, or that Jonah is still in the belly of the fish.

The term "forever" simply means as long as the person shall live, or until there is a change in the circumstances.

This is also the case with the fires of hell. The wicked who are destroyed in the fire will only be "tormented" until they are totally consumed.

Mal. 4:1-3  "For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch...And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts."

Psalm 37:10  "For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be."

Psalm 37:20  "But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away."

Rev 20:9  And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. 

Even Satan and his angels will be totally burned up!

Ezekiel 28:18  "Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee." 

You see, the wicked do not get the "gift of eternal life"! 

You can also see, by these last two verses, that the fires of hell are "on" this earth - which reveals that hell is not burning now, but is a future event (as shown by Rev. 20:7).

Here is another verse that causes some people difficulty.

Mark 9:43  "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:"

These references are often used to try to prove that the fires of hell never go out. But that is not what the verse says. It says that the fire can not be quenched. That means that nothing can put out the fire. But that doesn't mean that the fire won't go out on its own accord - which is the natural result when all its "fuel" is burned up!

Here is a prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem.

Jer. 17:27  "But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched."

It says that Jerusalem was to be destroyed by fire that would not be quenched. Is Jerusalem still burning today? Of course not! But if you read the historical accounts of it's destruction, even the Roman soldiers could not put out the fire - but it went out on it's own, once everything that was burnable was burned up!

For fire to be "unquenchable" it only has to keep burning whenever someone tries to put it out. But once the fuel is all burned up and ashes are all that is left, the fire will simply go out on its own accord - yet it was never quenched!

It is the same thing with this text.

Jude 1:7  "Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." 

So Sodom and Gomorrha were destroyed with "eternal fire!" But yet, they are not still burning today. In fact, several archeologists believe they have found the sites of these ancient cities at the south end of the Dead Sea. The area is covered in ash and sulfer (brimstone).

2Peter 2:6  "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;" 


You see, it is the "results" of the fire that last "forever" and are "eternal" - not the fire itself!