Benjamin Franklin once said “nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes”. I’d respectfully like to add to his list of certainties the love of God and His promises that are sure! Now with a more full list of things that are certain in this life we unfortunately know all to well about taxes… but what happens when we die? Should we be afraid of death and what has happened or will happen to our loved ones who have passed away? Can we have peace and comfort in this area of uncertainty? And does it really matter what we know and believe in regards to this subject?
Today we will discover from the Bible yes it does matter if we know the truth. The Bible says “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”1. A lack of knowledge in this subject will be the downfall for many of God’s people in the last days but knowing the truth about death will bring us comfort, give us peace and draw us closer to Jesus. Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.”2
Let’s build our foundation on the rock today. Can we be free from fear even when facing death? Let’s discover what the Bible has to say.
But before we do let us ask for God’s guidance in prayer….
Dear Heavenly Father,
We come before you now, seeking your will and your truth. We ask that you guide our understanding, may we seek you with all our heart, may we find your mercy and love in this topic. And dear Lord we ask that you guide us into your truth, may we be faithful and enter your kingdom. Protect us from the snares of deception, that are even working their way even into some churches. We ask that you send your Holy Spirit to teach us now. We thank you for hearing our prayers and we ask all these things in the name of your Son Jesus, amen.
Question 1 – Ghosts and spirits are in television, movies and some have claimed to see them. Can we be haunted by the dead?
Let’s look up Ecclesiastes 9:5-6
For the living know that they will die,
but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
and even the memory of them is forgotten.
Their love, their hate
and their jealousy have long since vanished;
never again will they have a part
in anything that happens under the sun.
Answer: No we cannot be haunted by those who have passed away, the Bible says never again will they have a part in anything done under the sun. This is good news, certainly no one would want to be haunted by anyone!
2 – Can we speak to the dead? Pray to the dead?
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
Answer: The Bible says we have no wisdom or knowledge when we die. 5 verses earlier, in the previous verse that we looked up, Ecclesiastes 9:5 also told us that the dead know nothing. It is therefore impossible to speak to the dead, as they know nothing and there is no knowledge or wisdom when one dies. This is more good news. Why?
Logically if the dead could hear our prayers would they want to? Would we want to know about all the pain and suffering our relatives are going through? In God’s mercy He allows our thoughts to cease until a resurrection.
3 – What will heaven be like?
He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
Answer: Jesus has promised that there will be no more sorrow or crying. And there will be no more pain in heaven! If as some believe the saved go to heaven and hear our prayers how could Revelation 21:4 be accomplished? Would it be heaven if you knew all your relatives sins, pain, struggles etc? It is yet another comforting thought to know that once we die we do not know about all the things that go on in earth.
4 – What happens when we die?
But man dies and is laid low;
he breathes his last and is no more.
As water disappears from the sea
or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,
so man lies down and does not rise;
till the heavens are no more, men will not awake
or be roused from their sleep
Answer: The Bible says the dead know nothing, and here it says they will not awake until the heavens are no more. It also compares death to a sleep.
5 – When will the dead who are saved go to heaven?
Let’s look up 1 Corinthians 15:51-54
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory”
Answer: 1 Corinthians says in one single event at the last trumpet, all those who have died and have been faithful to Jesus will be raised incorruptible.
6 – When is the last trumpet and the resurrection of those who sleep? And what good news is there for those who die as faithful followers of Christ?
1 Thessalonians 4:13-4:18
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
Notice it says “will bring with”, not has already brought. 1 Thessalonians was written after the resurrection of Jesus. So Jesus will bring with Him those who sleep, or have passed away in Jesus. This, based on the text has not yet happened to those who have already passed away. So when will this occur?
If we keep reading…
According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18
Answer: Here we see that the Lord descends to earth with a loud shout, with that last trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ rise. As the dead in Christ rise those who are still alive and are left will be “caught up together” with those who are resurrected “to meet the Lord in the air”.
What a wonderful day that will be. To be reunited with those who have passed away and were faithful to Jesus! And to be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air! It is always painful to see a loved one who has died, but 1 Thessalonians says we have this hope, that one day when Jesus returns the dead in Christ will rise to receive everlasting life. There will be no more death, nor sorrow nor crying, there shall be no more pain. In fact there will be great joy! For many will be reunited who have been separated by death here on earth. And perhaps the greatest joy, as 1 Thessalonians 4 promises we will “be with the Lord forever”. There will no longer be any sin and separation between God and man, we will see Jesus our Savior face to face!
7 – Matthew 17 says Moses and Elijah are already in heaven. Does this contradict 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 which state that the dead in Christ are not resurrected until Jesus returns?
The Bible never contradicts itself. Sometimes situations like this can be confusing, but if we dig deeper into the Bible we will always find that the answers are there. The Bible mentions by name three faithful followers who are already in heaven. Enoch, Elijah and Moses. Enoch and Elijah never died, they were uniquely taken to heaven before death. (See 2 Kings 2:11 – Elijah, Genesis 5:24 – Enoch). Moses did die on a mountain. (See Deuteronomy 34:1-7) However he had a unique burial, it is written…
He (God) buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. ~ Deuteronomy 34:6
So no one knew where Moses’ grave was. The book of Jude gives us some extra insight it says…
But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” ~ Jude 1:9
The book of Jude tells us that something unique occurred with Moses after he died for there was a specific dispute between the archangel Michael and the devil about the body of Moses. We can make an assumption that Moses was uniquely resurrected based on this verse but we know that Moses was uniquely resurrected not only based on Jude but specifically because He appears at the mount of transfiguration with Jesus and Elijah (Matthew 17, Mark 9).
The New Testament is clear that Moses and Elijah were unique events. Elijah was taken to heaven by God in a fiery chariot and Moses was buried by God. Elijah and Moses represent the two saved classes of people when Jesus returns. One class represented by Elijah are those who are faithful to Jesus and are alive when Jesus returns. They are taken to heaven without dying. Moses is a representative of those who have passed away and died faithful to Jesus. They will be resurrected. Time and time again God has shown that He can raise the dead, and that we don’t need to be afraid of God not fulfilling His wonderful promises. Another wonderful promise of God is found in 1 Corinthians 15:16-23 let’s look it up….
For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
Here again we see that God has promised that the saved who have passed away will be made alive at the last day, when Jesus returns.
8 – What about those who have claimed to die and seen heaven or hell? How can we reconcile died on the operating table experiences with the Bible?
A simple answer is found in the scripture referenced in questions #1, 2, 4, 5 & 6. The Bible says the dead know nothing. There is no wisdom in the grave. The Bible also says…
The dead do not praise the LORD,
Nor any who go down into silence ~ Psalm 115:17 (NKJV)
I’ve heard of a famous pastor who had a very realistic dream about heaven, everything seemed real except in the end of the dream Jesus returned in a bumper car. Because for that pastor, a bumper car was his ultimate symbol of fun! People have dreamed many things when the body begins to shut down but a dream is no substitute for the inspired word of God. We should be careful not to base our theology on a dream or near death experiences especially if it contradicts the Bible. There are a handful of people in the Bible who died and were brought back to life by God. Jesus speaks of one of these experiences in John 11:11-14….
After he (Jesus) had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead”
Jesus did not say Lazarus was in heaven or in hell but rather “our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep”. Also Jesus said “I am going there to wake him up”. Which means Lazarus could not have been awake in heaven, such a theory would make the words of Jesus incorrect.
Throughout the Bible various people are raised from the dead. Not one of them says one word about their experience in heaven or hell. Lazarus did not say “Lord why did you take me from heaven and bring me back to earth?”. There is good news found in John 11, as Jesus demonstrates that He can fulfill His promises, He raises Lazarus from the dead right there! Can you imagine a close relative dies and then Jesus returns after his death and brings him back to life! Such is not a mere possibility, it is a reality when Jesus comes again.
9 – If we die, is our soul immortal? What does the Bible say?
Immortality of the soul is found in a ton of movies let’s look up Ezekiel 18:4 to see what the Bible says…
For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.
A few verses later it again says…
The soul who sins shall die. ~ Ezekiel 18:20 (NKJV)
Let’s also look up 1 Timothy 6:15-16
…God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
If a soul were immortal, there would be no need for a resurrection! There is no verse in the Bible that says that man or his soul is naturally immortal. The Bible says God alone is immortal. God grants everlasting life to the followers of Christ when He returns the second time at the last day.
10 – Many pastors preach to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Is this found in the Bible?
Let’s look up the verse, found in 2 Corinthians 5:8
We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Answer: Amazingly that verse doesn’t say when you die absent from the body present with the Lord, but rather that we would prefer to be away from the body and be in heaven. However for those who die as faithful followers of Jesus, their next thought will be seeing the return of Jesus! The writer of 2 Corinthians also wrote 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians, and from the previous verses we have covered the Bible is clear that the dead sleep until Jesus returns.
11 – Who was the first teacher of immortality of the soul and why is such a teaching dangerous?
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.
Answer: Satan was the first to teach that the soul was immortal. He used such a teaching to deceive a follower of Christ, Eve, into sin and destruction… and it worked! Could it be that Satan is trying a similar tactic today?
12 – What about those who have see manifestations of dead relatives and who may have even talked with them?
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. ~ 1 Timothy 4:1
For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. ~ Revelation 16:14 (NKJV)
Answer: Spiritual manifestations are on the rise and are often very real. The Bible says demons can perform miraculous signs and wonders. In fact it specifically mentions that in the last days demons will perform miracles and even some Christians will “abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits” and be lost. Don’t think that Satan will only attempt these deceptions much later in the future and only target non-Christians. I have some Christian friends who told me they had see many times their dead relatives. They looked, spoke and even smelled like their relatives when they were alive; a carbon-copy of what their relative looked like. And these spirits sometimes had messages for them. Do you think they believed the message that those spirits said? Of course! A spiritual manifestation is quite convincing. But the Bible says something quite different, as we covered in answer #1 and #2, the dead know nothing and never again will have a part in anything done under the sun. So who then were these messengers? The Bible says it could not have been their relatives who have passed away. Is there someone who knew what your relatives looked like? Maybe even had heard a secret that only you and that relative knew? Angels can take the forms of men (Genesis 19:1,5), and therefore fallen angels can do so as well to deceive.
Although many of these apparent visions are sleight of hand, the Bible says some of these manifestations are real. 1 Samuel 28 is just one instance where a demon attempts to impersonate the prophet Samuel who has already passed away. The pretended visitants from the world of spirits sometimes utter cautions and warnings which prove to be correct. Then, as confidence is gained, they present doctrines that directly undermine faith in the Scriptures. With an appearance of deep interest in the well-being of their friends on earth, they insinuate the most dangerous errors. The fact that they state some truths, and are able at times to foretell future events, gives to their statements an appearance of reliability; and their false teachings are accepted by the multitudes as readily, and believed as implicitly, as if they were the most sacred truths of the Bible. The law of God is set aside, the Spirit of grace despised, the blood of the covenant counted an unholy thing. The spirits deny the deity of Christ and place even the Creator on a level with themselves. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. ~ 2 Corinthians 11:14
God doesn’t lie and neither would his messengers. If we receive a vision from a “dead relative” we know it is not from God!
13 – What is our defense against lying signs, wonders and miracles?
When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. ~ Isiah 8:19-20
The Bible is a light unto our path protecting us from deception. And a message from God will never contradict His word, the Bible. The good news is that the story of my Christian friends doesn’t end there. After we studied the Bible and read some of the verses that we have already covered, through prayer, faith in Christ and trusting in the truth of His word, such demonic deceptions no longer appear. You see, our greatest protection from demonic forces is in Jesus Christ and His promises. Because Jesus Christ is stronger than all the fallen angels combined. One of the greatest accounts in the Bible is found in Mark 5, which records the historical encounter between Jesus and a demon-possessed man. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. ~ Mark 5:3-5
But one day this man who was tormented by demons met Jesus.
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” ~ Mark 5:9
A roman legion is between 4,200 to 5,200 soldiers, and so it stands to reason that Jesus was facing between 4,200 to 5,200 demons! But with Jesus on our side do we need to be afraid of demons? What happened between those thousands of demons and Jesus? It is written…
The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. ~ Mark 5:12-13
There is no question that Jesus is stronger than all the forces of evil combined for the demons begged Jesus that they might not be tortured3. If we are faithful to Jesus, He has promised to protect us “For the LORD will go before you, And the God of Israel will be your rear guard.4” God has promised to watch your back.
So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. ~ Mark 5:14-15
The man possessed by a legion of demons was extremely messed up, he ran around naked, cut himself and lived in a tomb but the account in Mark shows that no matter how much the devil has messed you up, Jesus Christ can restore you. And no matter how much the devil has messed you up, Jesus Christ is willing to restore you. Satan is trying to bind us up in errors, through the teaching of the natural immortality of the soul, through lying wonders and by twisting scripture he is trying to hold us captive in deception. But Jesus said “If you abide in my word you are my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.“5
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:38-39
You don’t need to be afraid of death or demons because you can have freedom from fear through Jesus Christ. Not even all the combined forces of evil can separate us from the love of God if we only put our trust fully in Jesus and His word! Why be afraid of death if we are faithful to Jesus? For if we die, our next thought will be the wonderful resurrection when Jesus returns and to see Jesus face to face! And why be afraid of the deceptions of Satan if we know and continue to seek for the truth in the Bible? For if we continue in the truth of God’s word and cling the Jesus “the way, the truth, and the life6” He has promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you7.”. What exceedingly great and precious promises we have from our loving Savior! I’m thankful for the truth about death and God’s precious promise of a soon resurrection! It’s my prayer that we always follow the word of God, that we follow Jesus even above what popular opinion may say. If that is your prayer as well then I invite you to close our study in prayer and may God bless you as you follow Him!
1Hosea 4:6 KJV (partial quotation of verse)
2Matthew 7:24-25 NKJV
4Isaiah 52:12 NKJV
5John 8:31-32 NKJV
6John 14:6 NKJV
7Hebrews 13:5 NKJV
Additional verses not footnoted are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.
Words in blue are from the Bible.