The Bible teaches that when people die, they sleep in their graves till the Resurrection Day (Psalm 13:3; Daniel 12:2; Acts 7:60; Job 14:12; 1 Corinthians 15:18). Jesus Himself called death a state of sleep (John 11:11-13). So, what happens at death? The Bible tells us, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
But what is the “spirit” that returns to God at death? According to James 2:26 and Job 27:3, the spirit that returns to God at death is the breath of life. Nowhere in all of God’s book does the “spirit” have any life, wisdom, or feeling after a person dies. It is the “breath of life” and nothing more.
When God first created man, the Bible says, “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” (Genesis 2:7). So, man became a living soul when God breathed a breath of life in the dust. This breath of life is also called a spirit. The words “spirit” and “breath” are the same thing and are used in the Bible interchangeably.
Genesis 2:7 tells us that man is a soul and according to God’s Word, souls do die. Man is mortal (Job 4:17). Only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15, 16). The concept of an undying, immortal soul goes against the Bible, which teaches that souls are subject to death (Ezekiel 18:20).
The Bible teaches that people don’t go to heaven or hell whey they die. Rewards and punishments are given only at the Second Coming not at death. Jesus said, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:12).
In fact, the Bible mentions that David the prophet is not in heaven yet: “David … is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.” “For David is not ascended into the heavens” (Acts 2:29, 34).
In death, humans are totally unconscious with no activity or knowledge of any kind, “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.” “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10). “The dead praise not the Lord” (Psalms 115:17).
The dead sleep in their graves until the great day of the Lord at the end of the world. “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, … and the dead in Christ shall rise … and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17). At His second coming, “We shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, … and the dead shall be raised incorruptible. … For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53). There would be no purpose in a resurrection if people were taken to heaven at death.
The Bible teaches that for the believer, at the moment of death, the next conscious thought is his awareness of his glorified body at Christ’s coming because in death there is no consciousnesses of time (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
For a short study on what the Bible says about the state of the Dead, check The Intermediate State.
In His service,
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