What Happens After Death?

By COGwriter

What happens after someone dies?

Do you have an immortal soul?

Do many go to heaven and then return to tell about it?

Do the dead know what the living are doing? Does suicide "end it all"? Will you meet dead loved ones again? Did departed ones "pass away" to heaven, purgatory, or hades? Or will they somehow be resurrected and/or reincarnated?

WHY THIS MYSTERY about life after death? WHY so many beliefs of so many different religions? How can we know? Here is a link to a related sermon: What really happens after death?

Can YOU Believe What the Bible Teaches?

Can we believe God?

Adam and Eve didn't (Genesis 3). Few believed Christ-- that is, relatively few believed what He SAID! Could we believe God — if He told us?

Nearly all who claim Christianity believe that their understanding of what happens after death is consistent with teachings found in the Bible. But since there are many differences in doctrine related to this amongst the world's churches, perhaps many are unwilling to accept what the Bible actually teaches.

So, in the Bible let's start with something that the Apostle Paul wrote:

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Growing up as a Roman Catholic, that is not quite what I understood.

The teaching basically was that the wages of sin were a terrifying IMMORTAL LIFE, not death -- eternal life in gehenha/hades fire. But that is not what the Apostle Paul wrote. He wrote that we gain eternal life in Christ Jesus, not that we have it already as a sinner.

Like most who profess Christ, I thought I was an immortal should.

When I got a little older, for a year or two or so, I attended Salem Bible Church. The name implies that the church believes what the Bible teaches. One day, I noticed we were signing a song about what we would do in heaven. When I got a chance I asked the pastor about it. I said, "We just sung a song about what we all would do in heaven, but doesn't the Bible teach that the Holy City New Jerusalem comes down from heaven to the earth?"

He responded with, "Yes, but people like to sing that song."

Therefore, I stopped attending the Salem Bible Church while I continued to study the Bible to learn more about real Christianity.

So, more than forty years ago it became clear to me that various ones who claimed to get their teachings from the Bible, really did not.

I by then was convinced that the Bible as originally inspire (prior to translations) was the infallible word of God.

All should be willing to believe what God says in His Word.

What does the Bible say about life after death?

Soul Sleep? Death is Like Sleep

The Bible teaches that when people die, they basically are like being asleep.

So what the dead are now doing? The dead are dead. They are simply "sleeping" in their graves, unconscious, waiting to be called to resurrection.

They are not strumming harps nor feeling the torment of pain and torture.

Someone recently sent me a link to something that was opposed to Church of God doctrines, and used the intended pejorative term 'soul sleep' to denounce this doctrine it considered 'cultic.' Here is the logic another source uses to denounce the same doctrine:

Soul sleep is the teaching that when a person dies that his soul "sleeps" until the time of the future resurrection. In this condition, the person is not aware or conscious. ...

The primary verses used to support soul sleep are found in Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes must be understood in the context of its own commentary, which says at the opening of the book, "The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” 3 What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun?" (Eccl. 1:1-3). The writer is telling us how things are from the human perspective from "under the sun." He is not telling us doctrinal statements about whether or not the soul continues after death. Besides, it's a mistake to use the Old Testament to interpret the New Testament. It is the New Testament that sheds light on the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, we see Paul say in 2 Cor. 5:8, "we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." Paul is clearly telling us that when he dies that he will go and be with the Lord. Furthermore, at the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matt. 17:1-8), we see Moses and Elijah who were alive. There was no soul sleep with them.

Therefore, the doctrine of soul sleep is incorrect. (Slick M. President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. What is soul sleep? https://carm.org/soul-sleep accessed 01/13/16)

The above is wrong. It not only wants to discount the Book of Ecclesiastes, it misunderstands the Apostle Paul's writings, and misconstrues the Transfiguration. Plus it ignores the direct teachings in both the Old and New Testaments on the state of the dead.

Notice some passages from the Old Testament Book of Psalms:

5 For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks? (Psalm 6:5)

3 Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death; (Psalm 13:3)

6 At Your rebuke, O God of Jacob, Both the chariot and horse were cast into a dead sleep. (Psalm 76:6)

10 Will You work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise You? (Psalm 88:10)

17 The dead do not praise the Lord, Nor any who go down into silence. 18 But we will bless the Lord From this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 115:17-18)

The Book of Pslams, and not just the Book of Ecclesiastes, teaches that the dead no nothing and that death is like sleep. The dead must be resurrected to praise God, and that will happen (see also What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrections?).

What about the New Testament?

The idea that death is like sleep is what Jesus Himself taught:

18 While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, "My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live."

19 So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples. 20 And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment.

21 For she said to herself, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well."

22 But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, "Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well." And the woman was made well from that hour.

23 When Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, 24 He said to them, "Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping." And they ridiculed Him.

25 But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went out into all that land. (Matthew 9:18-26)

49 While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, "Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher."

50 But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, "Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well." 51 When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. 52 Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, "Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping." 53 And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead.

54 But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, "Little girl, arise." 55 Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. (Luke 8:49-55)

11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up."

12 Then His disciples said, "Lord, if he sleeps he will get well." 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.

14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead" (John 11:11-14).

In each of the above cases, the person was dead, but basically because this was NOT the permanent, second, death, Jesus said the person was sleeping. All who sleep in the grave will be resurrected and hear His voice (John 5:28). Jesus showed a foretaste of this by resurrecting those He did.

As far as the Transfiguration supposedly disproving this goes, notice what the Bible actually teaches:

1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. 7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, "Arise, and do not be afraid." 8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead." (Matthew 17:1-9)

Notice that Jesus said the Transfiguration was a VISION. Something related to the future. Not something that already happened.

Moses has not yet been resurrected nor has Elijah.

Consider that God called David "a man after His own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14). Yet, after Jesus was resurrected, notice what the Apostle Peter said:

29“ Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven ... (Acts 2:29-34, NIV).

David has not yet been resurrected, nor is he in heaven. Nor is anyone other than Jesus, the Father, and the angels.

But what about 2 Corinthian 5:8 and desiring to be being absent from the body? Does that not prove that 'soul sleep' was not taught?

No.

Notice what Pionius of Smyrna taught in the middle of the third century:

When Pionius had been nailed down the public executioner said to him once again: "Change your mind and the nails will be taken out."

But he answered: "I felt that they are in to stay."

Then after a moment's reflection he said: "I am hurrying that I may awake all the more quickly, manifesting the resurrection from the dead." (The Martyrdom of Pionius and his Companions, Chapter 21. Text from H. Musurillo, The Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Oxford, 1972), 137-167. http://archive.is/abf7S accessed 10/17/15)

Pionius desired to be with God quickly, but he understood that this would happen in the resurrection, which to him would seem to be the instant after he was killed.

As far as 'soul sleep' goes, notice what some of what the Apostle Paul was inspired to write:

29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. (1 Corinthians 11:29-30)

12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:12-23)

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).

14 Therefore He says:

"Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light." (Ephesians 5:14)

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18)

It is proper for Christians to teach and believe that death is like sleep. Christians are to be comforted by God's plan, which includes the dead being asleep until they are resurrected.

Those who condemn "soul sleep" are also condemning Jesus and the Apostle Paul.

Did early Christians and others who professed Christ continue to teach this?

Yes.

The Letter to the Corinthians, also known as 1 Clement (though it does not state that Clement wrote it) from the late first century, teaches the following:

24 Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising Him from the dead. Let us contemplate, beloved, the resurrection which is at all times taking place. Day and night declare to us a resurrection. The night sinks to sleep, and the day arises; the day [again] departs, and the night comes on. Let us behold the fruits [of the earth], how the sowing of grain takes place.

44 Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. (1 Clement, chapters 24, . Translated by John Keith. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 9. Edited by Allan Menzies. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1896.

Notice what bishop/pastor Polycrates of Ephesus taught in the late second century:

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead ? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man'...I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus (Polycrates as cited in Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book V, Chapter XXIV, Verses 2-7 . Translated by A. Cushman McGiffert. Digireads.com Publishing, Stilwell (KS), 2005, p. 114).

Notice that five times, Polycrates, who claimed his teachings came from the Bible and the Apostles Philip and John referred to death as being like sleep. Various leaders of the Greco-Roman churches (including Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox saints) also taught this in the second and third centuries (see Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?).

Hippolytus was one of the Church of Rome's greatest early theologians according to The Catholic Encyclopedia. Notice what he wrote in the early third century:

For concerning the general resurrection and the kingdom of the saints, Daniel says: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." And Isaiah says: "The dead shall rise, and those in the tombs shall awake, and those in the earth shall rejoice." And our Lord says: "Many in that day shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live" (Hippolytus. On the End of the World, Chapter XXXVI. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

The fourth century Greco-Roman bishop Ambrose of Milan taught that although some deny the resurrection, death is like sleep:

It is a cause for wonder that though they do not believe in the resurrection, yet in their kindly care they make provision that the human race should not perish, The immortality of the soul may be believed by those who deny the resurrection of the body, and was taught by many philosophers amongst the heathen. The resurrection of the body is a matter of divine revelation, and the very highest and best amongst the heathen seem not to have admitted it even as a speculation. and so say that souls pass and migrate into other bodies that the world may not pass away. But let them say which is the most difficult, for souls to migrate, or to return; come back to that which is their own, or seek for fresh dwelling places. But let those who have not been taught doubt. For us who have read the Law, the Prophets, the Apostles, and the Gospel it is not lawful to doubt. For who can doubt when he reads: “And in that time shall all thy people be saved which is written in the book; and many of them that sleep in the graves of the earth shall arise with one opening, these to everlasting life, and those to shame and everlasting confusion. And they that have understanding shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and of the just many shall be as the stars for ever.”Well, then, did he speak of the rest of those that sleep, that one may understand that death lasts not for ever, which like sleep is undergone for a time, and is put off at its time; and he shows that the progress of that life which shall be after death is better than that which is passed in sorrow and pain before death, inasmuch as the former is compared to the stars, the latter is assigned to trouble...We have seen, then, how grave an offence it is not to believe the resurrection; for if we rise not again, then Christ died in vain, then Christ rose not again (Ambrose of Milan. Book II. On the Belief in the Resurrection, verses 65-66,102).

Protestants may wish to consider what Martin Luther wrote on 13 January 1522:

It is probable, in my opinion, that, with very few exceptions indeed, the dead sleep in utter insensibility till the day of judgment... On what authority can it be said that the souls of the dead may not sleep out the interval between earth and heaven... (Luther M. Translated by W. Hazlitt. The life of Luther written by himself. M. Michelet, ed. Bohn's Standard Library. G. Bell, 1904, p. 133)

So, even Martin Luther somewhat understood that death is like sleep.

The Bible teaches “the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).

Sadly, even some who were sabbath-keepers opposed the sabbath-keepers who taught against the concept that death was like sleep. This is was one of the reasons for the split between the Church of God and the group that ended up calling itself Seventh Day Baptists.

A recorded letter of William Davis, a Sabbatarian Baptist, in apparently the 1700s states the following:

"Now all this enmity among seventh-day men arose against me originally from a noted seventh-day man and soul sleeper in this country, who above twenty years ago opposed me about my principles of immortality of human souls, and afterward proceeded to differ with me about my faith in Christ and the Trinity, who, having poisoned several other seventh-day men with the mortal and atheistical notion, and set them against me, he secretly conveyed this drench over to Westerly to the persons beforenamed, who, complying with him in their judgments in the Socinian and Anti-Trinitarian error, drank it greedily down before I came among them . . . ." -- Idem, p. 108, Vol. 2, No. 3. (Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed. Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day). 1990 reprint, p. 277).

In 1825, the Seventh Day Baptist church also temporarily put out of the ministry, one who taught against the immortality of the soul (Randolph C.F. A History of the Seventh Day Baptists in West Virginia, 1905. Reprint 2005. Heritage Books, Westminster (MD), p. 87).

Another reported:

...the Cottrell family left the Seventh Day Baptists because the Cottrells refused to believe in the immortality of the soul. Original Sabbatarian Baptist (Church of God) leaders were outspoken against the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and were derisively termed "soul sleepers" by their opponents (Nickels R.C. Six Paper on the History of the Church of God. Giving & Sharing, Neck City (MO), 1993, pp.161-162).

According to A.N. Dugger, there were three unique doctrines that separated the COGs from Protestant sects: The observance of the seventh day Sabbath, nontrinitarianism, and teaching against the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.

According to A.N. Dugger, only the COGs held ALL three of those doctrines (Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed. Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day). 1990 reprint, p. 278). And he may have been correct in that.

Now, nearly all the Greco-Roman (including Protestant) faiths teach against what the Bible teaches regarding the state of the dead.

But some do know the truth.

The following is from an interview by Time with N.T. Wright, a high-ranking bishop in the Church of England:

Wright: …St. Paul is very clear that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead already, but that nobody else has yet. Secondly, our physical state. The New Testament says that when Christ does return, the dead will experience a whole new life: not just our soul, but our bodies. And finally, the location. At no point do the resurrection narratives in the four Gospels say, “Jesus has been raised, therefore we are all going to heaven.” It says that Christ is coming here, to join together the heavens and the Earth in an act of new creation.

TIME: Is there anything more in the Bible about the period between death and the resurrection of the dead?

Wright: … Paul writes that …it will be like being asleep. The Wisdom of Solomon, a Jewish text from about the same time as Jesus, says “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,” and that seems like a poetic way to put the Christian understanding, as well (Van Biema D. Christians Wrong About Heaven, Says Bishop (N.T. Wright). Time, February 7, 2008. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1710844,00.html viewed 02/08/08).

Those who believe the Bible realize that it teaches that death is like sleep.

What About Souls?

Many think that the soul is immortal and canot die.

But that is NOT what the Bible teaches.

Ezekiel recorded:

4 Behold, all souls are Mine;
The soul of the father
As well as the soul of the son is Mine;
The soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4).

Notice that Ezekiel says that souls that sin shall die. But since it is appointed unto men once to die (Hebrews 9:27), is this talking about the first or second death (Revelation 2:11;20:6,14;21:8)?

Well, notice the next several verses from Ezekiel:

5 But if a man is just And does what is lawful and right; 6 If he has not eaten on the mountains, Nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, Nor defiled his neighbor's wife, Nor approached a woman during her impurity; 7 If he has not oppressed anyone, But has restored to the debtor his pledge; Has robbed no one by violence, But has given his bread to the hungry And covered the naked with clothing; 8 If he has not exacted usury Nor taken any increase, But has withdrawn his hand from iniquity And executed true judgment between man and man; 9 If he has walked in My statutes And kept My judgments faithfully — He is just; He shall surely live!" Says the Lord God. NKJV (Ezekiel 18:5-9).

Ezekiel is obviously talking about the first death.

Why?

Notice that the just man shall live. This is in contrast to the one who practices sin, who shall die. And, think about this point, the just man was already alive, hence the fact that he shall live suggests that God will resurrect him so that he can live forever.

Ezekiel basically continues and again warns:

20 The soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20).

While some discount the passages from the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel, the New Testament teaches the same basic doctrines as the Old Testament, but tends to expand on them.

Jesus confirmed that souls can and will be destroyed when He taught:

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell {Gehenna} (Matthew 10:28).

Perhaps the most famous passage in the New Testament is John 3:16. It states:

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Notice the contrast above. Humans would perish (and this means eternally, since all die physically) if God had not loved the world enough to send Jesus so that the believers could have everlasting life.

Paul taught that he still did not have it made:

I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended (Phillipians 3:8-13).

Thus, the immortality attained at the resurrection is not something that Christians have today.

Furthermore, all humans cannot possible possess immortality now.

The first recorded lie in the Bible was when Satan told Eve that she would not die (Genesis 3:4). Disturbingly, she believed Satan over God. Jesus called Satan the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).

Look at what the Apostle John taught:

...you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:15).

Since many people are or have been murderers, this proves that not all humans possess immortality.

Currently, look at who only has immortality:

15 He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:15-16).

Thus, Jesus is the only one who was born human that who alone currently possesses immortality.

After death the soul awaits the resurrection as it is in a sleep-like state.

But souls will be resurrected.

Since Jesus said that souls can be destroyed, when does that happen?

It happens to those who experience what the Bible calls the second death.

The wicked who will not repent will be totally destroyed:

1 Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb. ... 9 For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, They shall inherit the earth. 10 For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more. ... 20 But the wicked shall perish; And the enemies of the Lord, Like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish. Into smoke they shall vanish away. ... 28 For the Lord loves justice, And does not forsake His saints They are preserved forever, But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off. ... 38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; The future of the wicked shall be cut off. (Psalm 37:1-2,9-10,20,28,38)

2 As smoke is driven away,
So drive them away;
As wax melts before the fire,
So let the wicked perish at the presence of God. (Psalm 68:2)

1 "For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,"
Says the Lord of hosts,
"That will leave them neither root nor branch.
2 But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
3 You shall trample the wicked,
For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
On the day that I do this,"
Says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 4:1-3)

The Bible calls this the 'second death':

11... He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:11)

6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (Revelation 20:14)

8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)

Thus, it is a type of death, but permanent. It is not eternal torturing like many claim. Jesus came so we would not have to PERISH THAT WY, but have eternal life (John 3:16)

Only the Good Die Young?

The Bible indicates that people in this age would tend to live between 70 and 120 years of age:

3 And the Lord said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." (Genesis 6:3)

9 For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh. 10 The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. (Psalm 90:9-10)

This presumes that they did not die in childhood, get various diseases, or get killed by others, of course.

But not all live that long.

Years back, there was a popular song that attempted to encourage fornication on the radio. While that, of itself, sadly is not unique, its most repeated lyric seemed to be "only the good die young."

Some wonder why Christians are seeming good other people die early.

There are two clues in the Bible:

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

1 The righteous perishes, And no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away, While no one considers That the righteous is taken away from evil. (Isaiah 57:1)

God's people sometimes die early, because they have built the type of character that they were to build as well as to protect them from events that apparently would not help them that way.

Did Anyone Come Back from the Dead?

Did anyone ever die and then actually experience a life after death and go to heaven?

The answer is YES.

It was Jesus Christ Himself who died and was really DEAD for three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40; Romans 14:9). But later He rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, came back, and was seen by MANY -- including His disciples (Acts 1:3; 13:1), who had been with Him for three and a half years before He died, and forty days after His resurrection. And they went about loudly proclaiming that they were eyewitnesses of His LIFE AFTER DEATH.

In 1 Corinthians 15:22-23, we read: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order..."

Now the Bible does NOT teach that the order for humans is to die, come back alive on the earth in this age, then tell what happened, so one would die again.

Various Protestants have claimed 'near death experiences.' Some claim to have been pulled toward Hades while they wanted to go to heaven. Many claim something angelic helped them. Many say they saw a great light. Many claim that they saw or heard Jesus. Some claim that they got some type of message or informatio that they otherwise could not have known. Some claims to have seen loved ones. Many give their accounts of how they viewed heaven.

Yet Jesus said:

3 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. (John 3:13)

Despite Protestant claims, even some Protestant writers realize that the idea of 'near death experiences' and going to heaven is not biblical.

Notice the following in a commentary on the 2014 movie, Heaven is For Real:

Four biblical authors had visions of heaven—not near-death experiences. Isaiah and Ezekiel (Old Testament prophets) and Paul and John (New Testament apostles) all had such visions. Two other biblical figures—Micaiah and Stephen—got glimpses of heaven, but what they saw is merely mentioned, not described (2 Chronicles 18:18; Acts 7:55).

Only three of these men later wrote about what they saw—and the details they gave were comparatively sparse (Isaiah 6:1–4; Ezekiel 1, 10; Revelation 4–6). All of them focused properly on God’s glory. They also mentioned their own fear and shame in the presence of such glory. They had nothing to say about the mundane features that are so prominent in modern tales about heaven (things like picnics, games, juvenile attractions, familiar faces, odd conversations, and so on). Paul gave no actual description of heaven but simply said what he saw would be unlawful to utter. In short, the biblical descriptions of heaven could hardly be any more different from today’s fanciful stories about heaven. http://christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/2014/heavenisforreal2014.html?zoom_highlight=heaven+is+real viewed 04/24/14

Notice also what the Old Testament teaches:

14 If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, Till my change comes. (Job 14:14)

While I do not doubt that various could not have had an encounter with demonic sources that gave them information, they were not in heaven (see also Did Early Christians Teach They Were Going to Heaven?). God was not going to bring someone there and send them back like the 'near death' people claim.

Since the brain and nervous system are actuated by electrical signals and impulses, science has found that when circulation and respiration are impaired, even for a few minutes, strange things can happen. Some believe that lights, perception, and some things commonly believed to be related to 'coming back from the dead' can be attributed (for some at least) who undergo severe trauma.

The Bible itself does not endorse the idea of 'near death experiences,' going to heaven, and then returning to earth. Near death experiences that some people claim to have had are not like the resurrections described in the Bible.

The fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is known as the "resurrection chapter" of the Bible. Its main subject is the resurrection to LIFE, after death! But there is, in God's Master Plan an order — or succession — of resurrections.

Continuing in that verse: "Christ the first fruits" -- this occurred almost 2000 years ago --"afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end" (verses 23-24).

Those "that are Christ's" are Spirit-begotten Christians. But what of the others?

The same ALL who die in Adam, it says, "in Christ shall ... they be made alive"-- by a resurrection from the dead. Verse 23 says, ". coming" -- now imminent -- in our present generation. "Then cometh the end" (verse 24) -- but the details of the resurrection of others -- the overwhelming majority of all who ever lived -- are recorded elsewhere.

In the first part of Revelation 20, we find two resurrections alluded to:

4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)

Notice that in verse 4, the saints who are Christ's are to live and reign on the earth with Christ for one thousand years. Satan will be put away (verses 1-2) but the rest of those who have died will not live again until after that thousand years (verse 5).

Then, beginning with verse 11 we read of the second resurrection:

11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. (Revelation 20:11-12)

This will be by far the GREATEST resurrection, in numbers resurrected. It will include the MULTIPLE BILLIONS who have lived CUT OFF from God — who were not then judged. Since they are taking on flesh, this could, in that sense, be considered as a type of reincarnation. These individuals will be physical and live for one hundred years (Isaiah 65:20-25).

But now, in this Great White Throne resurrection, along with all other peoples who had been CUT OFF from God, these Israelites (including those who were uncalled even after Christ came), would be resurrected to mortal, breathing, flesh-and-blood life. They all, hopefully, are then to come to really KNOW that the Eternal is Lord, and He shall, upon their eventual conversion, put His Holy Spirit within them. They, too — along with all of every nation, who had not been specially called prior to the Millennium, shall live again physically in this resurrection.

And after a period of growth and overcoming, then shall come their spiritual salvation — with no Satan around to deceive them!

Now back to Revelation 20. Verses 13 to 15 indicate that there will then be a last, final resurrection which will include the incorrigible who have rejected the eternal salvation offered them. They, with any such sinner living at the end of the 100 year period after the millennium (Isaiah 65:20), will then die the second death — utter extinction — in the lake of fire, described by Peter as the face of the earth becoming a molten mass.

The late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote that Obadiah 1:16 applied to those who experience the second death"... and they shall be as though they had not been" (Armstrong HW. Worldwide Church of God. Life After Death? 1978).

But, what in the meantime — what between the second of one's death and the resurrection? The Bible teaching, contrary to much religious and church teaching — that is the WORD OF GOD teaching — is that the dead ARE DEAD — utterly unconscious. Notice the inspired wisdom of Solomon:

5 For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing ... (Ecclesiastes 9:5)

The DEAD KNOW NOTHING. They are not looking down on their living relatives.

Suicide?

What about suicide?

The Bible teaches that one is not to murder (Exodus 20:13). And that includes murdering oneself. Notice also the following:

Is suicide a crime?…

God commands: “THOU SHALT NOT KILL” (the sixth commandment). Webster defines the word kill as “to deprive of life.” To commit suicide, then, is breaking one of the Ten Commandments -and is definitely condemned by God. Paul admonishes us saying, “Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

If any man DESTROY (KJV margin) the temple of God, him shall God DESTROY; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Cor. 3:16,17 ) . “What, know you not that your BODY is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?” (I Cor. 6: 19). No murderer-or suicide-has eternal life abiding in him (I John 3: 15). He has no hope unless and until in the general resurrection after the millennium he repents of his sin (Matthew 11 :20-24). (Plain Truth. January 1960, pp. 15-16)

It is sad and disturbing when people commit suicide or commit other forms of murder.

Decades ago, a Worldwide Church of God minister told of experiences he had with three successive would-be suicides. Each time he said to them, "Well, go right ahead — but first you'd better learn what happens at the moment you die. So far as your consciousness goes, the next fraction of a second you will wake up in the resurrection — and if you commit this self-murder, you'll still be facing all your problems, and the guilt of this SELF-MURDER crime in addition. Why not solve the problems NOW, before you commit this murder?" Not one of the three went on through with his intended suicide!

So, there's nothing to gain by "ending it all," thinking that is the easy way out. Death only brings instant awakening in the resurrection. You will know absolutely NOTHING from the second you die, till the second you awake in the resurrection. These men, the minister explained, had supposed that suicide would END IT ALL — and they'd be out of their troubles, but when they learned they would still have their troubles plus a MURDER charge against them in THAT JUDGMENT, it no longer seemed that suicide was the "quick way out of it all."

No, death is not a friend to solve problems. Christ came to DESTROY DEATH -- to make a happy, peaceful, abundant life possible for all -- for each in his own due time. He came that we might have LIFE, "and have it more abundantly."

There is Life After the Resurrection from the Dead

There most certainly is life after death -- and Christ made possible a transcendent human potential so great it seems incredible. He came to DIE in our stead -- to pay the penalty we have incurred for us, and to GIVE US LIFE!

(Normally, this is discussed in a CCOG funeral as well--see also Marriage should involve a proper ceremony--for details, check out the article Ceremonies: Marriage, Funeral, Baptismal, and Laying on Hands.)

Christ Himself taught that there is LIFE AFTER ONE IS RESURRECTED FROM THE DEAD.

The prophets knew this would happen:

2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever. 4 "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." (Daniel 12:2-4)

19 Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; For your dew is like the dew of herbs, And the earth shall cast out the dead (Isaiah 26:19).

Humans will arise from the dust.

This is something that Polycrates knew about. He knew the dead turned to dust. He clearly knew that various saints were dead asleep awaiting the resurrection.

Jesus said to the Pharisee, Nicodemus:

5 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)

He taught Nicodemus, but Nicodemus didn't believe Him! Jesus said to him:

12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? (John 3:12)

Why do people not understand those words today?

Jesus had earlier said to him:

3 ... "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)

Notice carefully that being "born again" has a vital connection with the Kingdom of God -- with THE FACT that it is not of this time -- this age.

But Jesus' abrupt opening statement left Nicodemus confused. The religious leaders and the hundreds of denominations and sects professing Christianity today are confused and deceived! Today's religionists put a different twist on it than did Nicodemus, however.

Nicodemus did understand clearly what is meant by being born. He knew it meant being delivered from his mother's womb. It meant being delivered into the whirled! Today's religious leaders read into it a different meaning! What Nicodemus could not understand was how — in what manner — anyone could be born AGAIN! And of course, being carnal-minded, he could only conceive of a second physical birth. But he knew what being born meant!

Puzzled, he asked:

4 ... "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" (John 3:4)

He was not confused about what is meant by being BORN. What Nicodemus could not understand was a second birth. He thought Jesus was talking about a second human birth.

He was unable to conceive of any but a second physical birth. His mind could not grasp various aspects of spiritual things.

Now Jesus had made clear that the Kingdom of God is something that can be seen — but not until or UNLESS one is "born again." Not during his physical lifetime! Also, verse 5, the Kingdom of God is something a man may enter into — but not until after he is born AGAIN — another and entirely different birth (see also the article Born-Again).

Here is the crux point that explains it all: Jesus said:

6 That which is born of the flesh IS flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit IS spirit. (John 3:6)

Human beings are now flesh.

As the KJV teaches, "Dust thou art," said God to Adam, "and unto dust shalt thou return." Again, "And the [Eternal] 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 3:19; 2:7 KJV).

Even in Jesus' day, there were religious leaders who did not believe that the Bible truly taught a physical resurrection:

23 The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection (Matthew 22:23).

But look at what Jesus said to them:

29 Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." 33 And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. (Matthew 22:29-32).

Hence, Jesus confirmed the idea that Jewish leaders, just from the Old Testament, should have understood that there would be a physical resurrection.

Jesus Himself also taught about multiple resurrections:

14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14:14)

24 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:24-29).

Jesus specifically taught that there would be multitude resurrections (the term 'condemnation' is better rendered as 'judgement'). Notice that Jesus taught that the type of judgements would differ:

23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you (Matthew 11:23-24).

But Jesus also taught that this aspect of the second resurrection would be a hidden mystery to many:

25 At that time Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. (Matthew 11:25-26)

Most who profess Christianity do not know the truth about what happens after death.

Some Early Writings: Are the Deceased Now in Heaven?

Are the deceased now in heaven?

Notice what the Apostle Paul wrote:

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Specifically notice that Paul realized that he would not get the reward until the time of Jesus' return. That is also consistent with his other writings (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

What did people believe for the first century or so after the New Testament was finished?

Well, other than the Gnostics that most have condemned as not really being Christian, they did NOT teach going to heaven upon death.

Polycarp of Smyrna was an early Christian leader, who was a disciple of John, the last of the original apostles to die. Polycarp, around 110-135 A.D. taught:

Knowing, then, that “God is not mocked,” we ought to walk worthy of His commandment and glory …For it is well that they should be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, since “every lust warreth against the spirit; ” and “neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God,” nor those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter V. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).

Polycarp taught that Christians would inherit the kingdom of God. This understanding was based on the Bible. Notice some scriptures:

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:50-53)

Notice that Polycarp clearly taught the idea of a resurrrection, not that the soul and body are in heaven or paradise now:

I bless you for because you have considered me worthy of this day and hour, that I might receive a place among the number of martyrs in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection to eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14:2. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI), 2004, p.239).

An anonymous, likely first century, document sometimes called I Clement states:

The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both therefore came of the will of God in the appointed order. Having therefore received a charge, and having been fully assured through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed in the word of God with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth with the glad tidings that the kingdom of God should come. (42:1-3).

The kingdom of God is to come and dead Christians will be resurrected to become part of it.

Although he had a lot of heretical views, Justin Martyr (considered to be a saint by both Catholics and Protestants, but not by those of us in the Church of God) in the second century wrote:

“For I choose to follow not men or men’s doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians” (Justin.  Dialogue with Trypho. Chapter 80).

While certain Greek philosophers and Mithraism taught going to heaven (see Do You Practice Mithraism?), the reality is that this was not a teaching of the New Testament nor early professors of Christ. 

The modern doctrine of going to heaven upon death simply was not part of early Christianity or taught in the New Testament. Christians taught the resurrection (see What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrection?) and did not teach that souls were, of themselves, immortal (see Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?).

(Some might wonder about the so-called "thief on the cross." To find out more about him, etc., check out the article Did the "Thief on the Cross" enter PARADISE immediately?)

Can You Speak to the Dead?

Some want to speak to the dead.

But the Bible teaches against that:

10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you. (Deuteronomy 18:10-14)

27 'A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.' (Leviticus 20:27)

Now some have pointed to an event in 1 Samuel 28:8-15 about Saul calling up 'Samuel.' But notice how that was understood in the middle of the third century by Pionius of Symrna:

14. "For my part, this lie that is repeated now as though it were recent, I have heard uttered by Jewish people since I was a child. It is written that Saul inquired of a diviner, and that he said to the woman who was performing the necromancy, Bring up for me Samuel (1 Sam 28:11), the prophet. And the woman saw a man rising up wrapped in a robe, and Saul recognized that it was Samuel, and put to him the questions that he wanted.

"Well, then, was the diviner able to bring up Samuel or not? If they say she was, then they admit that wickedness has more power than righteousness, and then they are accursed. If they say that she did not, then they should not assert it of Christ the Lord. But the explanation of this story is as follows. How was this wicked diviner, herself a demon, able to bring up the soul of the holy prophet that was resting in the bosom of Abraham ? For the lesser is commanded by the greater. Surely then Samuel was not brought back, as these suppose ? Of course not. The truth is somewhat as follows. Whenever anyone revolts from God he is followed by the rebel angels, and demonic ministers assist him with every sort of drug, magician, priest, and wizard. And no wonder: for the Apostle says: Even Satan disguises himself us an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness? (2 Cor 11:14-15). Indeed, even the Antichrist will appear as Christ. So then Samuel was not brought up from the grave; but rather demons from Hell disguised themselves as Samuel and thus appeared to the diviner and to the faithless Saul. The Scriptures themselves will show you this. For Samuel in the apparition says to Saul: You too shall be with me today. How is it possible that the idolatrous Saul is found together with Samuel? Rather is it clear that he is with the wicked demons who have deceived him and have become his masters. Hence it cannot have been Samuel. But if it is impossible to bring back the soul of the holy prophet, how is it possible to see rising from the earth Jesus Christ who is in heaven, whom the disciples saw being taken up, and they died because they would not deny him.

"And if you are unable to maintain this against them, tell them: However it may be, we are stronger than you, who committcd fornication and worshipped idols without being forced to. Do not yield to them in despair, my brethren, but cleave to Christ by repentance; for he is merciful in receiving you back as his children." (The Martyrdom of Pionius and his Companions, Chapter 14. Text from H. Musurillo, The Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Oxford, 1972), 137-167. http://archive.is/abf7S accessed 10/17/15)

No one led by God prayed to the dead nor communicated with the dead. Saul was killed shortly after consulting with the medium.

The dead know nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Therefore, let me add that they also are not aware of treats or offerings brought to their graves. They do not hear nor answer prayers made to them.

The Bible says that there is one mediator between humans and God the Father, and that is Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). The dead are not looking down and seeing our mistakes, nor are the mediating/intervening for us.

The dead do not see candles lit up for them, etc. We should not pray to them (more on prayer is in the free booklet Prayer: What Does the Bible Teach?).

Of course, we can look forward to seeing our beloved friends and relatives in the resurrection! And it is certainly right to honor the memory of a deceased family member or friend at a funeral service, including for the sake of the mourning relatives. We "honor the memory" of our deceased parents and grandparents (cf. Exodus 20:12) not by leaving trinkets at their graves, but rather by trying to by bring honor to their memory by how we live. (Here is a link to an outline of a CCOG funeral service).

Closing Comments

The Bible teaches that being dead is like being asleep.

What really happens when you die is that you lose consciousness and await one of the resurrections.

The dead do not know anything. They are not in anguish or torment. They are not getting rewarded in paradise. They are not in heaven.

They are in their graves or dissolved/burnt up.

But God has a plan for the dead.

It is called the resurrection (see also What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrections?).

It does not matter if one has been embalmed, buried, cremated, or otherwise handled after death. All Jesus said:

25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. ... 28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:25; 28-29).

Some will be part of the first resurrection (Revelation 20:5). Some will be part of the second resurrection (Revelation 20:12). And some will be part of the third resurrection (Revelation 20:13-15).

Notice the plan for those who were converted as well as for those who will refuse to convert:

6 And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:6-8)

Those souls that refuse to repent after the second resurrection will die and be no more.

If that were not the case, the following would not be:

3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." (Revelation 21:3-5)

There still could be crying and pain if the incorrigible were not destroyed.

The dead in Christ await the first resurrection and are doing so peacefully.

As far as others go, those who did not have a true opportunity for salvation will be given it, but that is the subject of another article (see Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis).

So, what really happens after death?

The dead are all currently asleep. They do not know anything. All the dead are awaiting resurrection.

And for Christians, we await the glorious first resurrection.

Here is a link to a related sermon: What really happens after death?

Thiel B. What Happens After Death? http://www.cogwriter.com/what-happens-after-death.htm COGwriter (c) 2016 2017 0619

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