Some Facts About Death

By Wayne Jackson
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Death is an unpleasant subject. Unless one is in the “death” business (mortuaries, cemeteries, tombstones, etc.), he doesn’t like to talk about it—much less reflect upon his own demise.

Death has had a bad reputation throughout human history. It was pronounced as a penalty for Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:17), and all human beings (with the exception of Enoch and Elijah) have picked up the “tab” as well (Romans 5:12).

Eventually everyone will die, with the exception of those who are alive at the time of Christ’s return (Hebrews 9:27; 1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:15).

Bildad, Job’s friend, depicted death as the “king of terrors” (Job 18:14). A psalmist wrote of the “terrors of death,” and in connection therewith spoke of pain, fearfulness, trembling, and horror (Psalm 55:4). Even a New Testament writer tells of the “fear of death” that held all people in bondage prior to the redemptive work of Christ (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Exactly what is death? From the physical vantage point, death is the cessation of the biological functions of the body, with a subsequent disintegration of the flesh back to the dust of the earth whence it came originally (Genesis 2:7; 3:19; Ecclesiastes 12:7; 2 Corinthians 5:1).

Death is the release of one’s spirit from his body. At the point of death, the spirit (or soul), leaves the body (Genesis 35:18; James 2:26), and enters the appointed depository of spirits, the state of which depends upon the relationship of the deceased with God and his Son (cf. Luke 16:19ff). But the spirit does not fade into a lifeless nothingness.

Death is a sphere of consciousness. While death is sometimes described as a “sleep” (Daniel 12:2; John 11:11; 1 Corinthians 15:6ff; 1 Thessalonians 4:13ff), that expression applies solely to the temporary state of the body — not the soul.

The state of the spirit for those who die lost is one of “torment” and “anguish” (Luke 16:24-26), while the condition of the righteous is one of “comfort” (Luke 16:25). This is a state of “gain” that is “very far better” (Philippians 1:21-23) than the fairest scenes of earth’s environment. To be absent from the body is to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8), in a state of celestial “blessedness” (happiness – Revelation 14:13).

The dogma of “soul sleeping” is foreign to the Scriptures, though occasionally advocated by misguided professors of Christianity.

Death is a temporary phenomenon of the body. Even in its morbid disposition in the dust, it awaits the day of resurrection.

The concept of the bodily resurrection is found in both Testaments — though it is more prominent in the latter, since “life and immortality” have been brought into fuller view through the gospel of Christ (2 Timothy 1:10).

Daniel spoke of the resurrection of both the wicked and the faithful (Daniel 12:2), as did the Lord Jesus (John 5:28-29). Clearly, there is a destiny for both body and soul — hell for the wicked and heaven for the obedient (Matthew 10:28; 25:46; Mark 9:43-48).

There is a curious oddity in Hannover, Germany. A defiant atheist had his tomb covered with huge blocks of stone, bound with iron bands. There is this inscription: “This tomb is purchased for eternity; it will never be opened.”

Strangely, a poplar seed somehow was enclosed in the dark mold. Eventually, a mighty tree sprang up; it burst the bands asunder and moved the stones, as if waving leafy arms in defiance of the godless boast carved upon the marker. I have a photograph of this tomb with the protruding tree.

If a tiny seed can exert such force, think of the phenomenal demonstration, as the Creator of that seed demonstrates his power and all graves are opened.

We approach death with mixed emotions. We are grieved at the thought of leaving work undone and precious family behind.

On the other hand, for the child of God there is the tingling anticipation of being escorted by angels (Luke 16:22) into the blessed presence of Him who died for us, that we might be forever with the holy Godhead, the angels, the faithful of the ages, and our own loved ones who have died in Christ!

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.