The Rich Man and Lazarus

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

The above passages from the sixteenth chapter of Luke are cited as a sufficient case for rejecting two doctrines, namely the annihilation of the wicked and the sleep of the dead. These statements are taken to support the concept of the immortality of the soul, and therefore brought forth as proof along with an array of stock arguments to suggest that those who hold to contrary doctrines are nothing short of heretics. Therefore any further investigation into the matter of death or final punishments is effectively stifled, or so it would seem.

Many have been silenced by the above cited verses, shrinking at opposition thus encountered from those who cling to traditional views. Yet no one stops to ask much needed questions. If these statements of holy writ are indeed to be taken as though they support the traditional view of hell, does this then mean that the Bible contradicts itself? Do we as Christians run around with a contradictory Bible, which teaches one point and then turns around and teaches the opposite?

The prudent would admonish one to think on this matter carefully. In the book of 1st Timothy, we find passages which present glaring contradictions to the way in which the above statements from Christ have been interpreted. The passages read, “That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and Lord of Lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” – 1 Timothy 6:14-16

These verses from 1st Timothy are clear. Reading all of the surrounding details, it should be apparent that only God/Jesus is immortal. The words “Who only hath immortality” could not be a more straight forward declaration. With such clarity, the conclusion is inescapable. If only God is immortal, than obviously no part of man is immortal, which means that man does not possess some kind of immortal soul which separates from the body at death. This is what is required in order for a man to receive rewards or punishments immediately upon dying, or to be whisked away to some kind of conscious intermediate state. If man does not possess an immortal soul, then any of the previously listed states in death are impossibilities. In addition, the lack of an immortal soul means that one could not burn in the fires of hell for any length of time without being killed.

Thus a contradiction exists between 1 Timothy 6:14-16 and these statements of Christ. Further complicating the matter are Christ’s own teachings found elsewhere in the gospels. From the fifth chapter of John we find the following, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” – John 5:28-29.

These passages from John present a problem for the literal interpretation of the above words of Christ. The words “in the graves” present glaring contradictions for this kind of thinking. How is it that anyone could be ‘in the graves’ if they are in either heaven or hell, or some kind of vat for the supposedly conscious dead? Some might attempt to get around this by simply contending that these statements only reference the body, but this would be nothing short of eisegesis. The lack of references to the body present in these passages make any attempt to read the word “bodies” into the verse a clear case of twisting the scriptures. By placing everyone who has died unanimously in the graves, Christ’s words clearly reference the entire man, and cannot be applied to the body alone.

Those who believe that rewards are given at death are immediately confronted with the problem of resurrection. John 5:28-29 clearly gives two resurrections, one of life and the other of death. The titles attached to each indicate their purpose. Yet these would be made obsolete by the idea that when a man dies, he is whisked away to receive his rewards or punishments. It is nothing short of confusion to imagine the soul sent to hell, only to be placed back in the body, so that both soul and body can be raised up, only to be burned some more. Those who hold to this type of a position would do well to re-examine the foundations for their beliefs, while others who think the soul goes to a conscious intermediate state had better ask themselves why Jesus described anyone as being in the graves.

Yet there is one story in the book of John that complicates the matter further. Many Christians are perhaps familiar with the story of the resurrection of Lazarus, found in the eleventh chapter of John. The verses which most stand out in view of the words of Christ in Luke 16 read, “These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” – John 11:11-14.

In these verses, Jesus seems to cryptically state that Lazarus is asleep. The confused disciples responded by saying that “he shall do well”, in view of the fact that if he slept he would merely awaken and be fine. However, scripture is very clear that Jesus was mentioning Lazarus’ death. These passages generate the obvious inescapable conclusion that Jesus is here referring to death as a sleep. But why is it exactly that Jesus is doing this? For the simple fact that there is no consciousness in death, otherwise sleep would not be a fitting statement to attach to it. This would explain the expressions of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, where he clearly stated “the dead know not anything.”

These facts create serious problems for the literal interpretation of the Rich man and Lazarus. One of the largest is the name of the individual involved. Many Christians contend that the words of Christ in Luke 16 are to be read as a literal history. If this is indeed the case, than we are to believe that Lazarus both slept in his grave and went into the bosom of Abraham. Yet this cannot be possible, as the word “sleep” suggests unconsciousness. A lack of consciousness eliminates the idea that the ‘soul’ is to be immediately transported anywhere upon death, as the whole man sleeps until the resurrection. This fact can be made much more clear by comparing John 11:11-14 with John 5:28-29.

Due to the fact that these passages from the eleventh chapter of John strike directly at the heart of tradition, many might attempt to get around these verses. Some might go so far as to suggest that no consciousness in death is a heresy, and that the word “sleep” as used by not only Jesus himself but by the apostle Paul [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18] references the body alone. If one really contemplates such an idea, it becomes clear just how ridiculous the assertion sounds. Jesus clearly used the words, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth” before he said “Lazarus is dead.” Why did he not say, “Lazarus is in Abraham’s Bosom” or “Lazarus has gone to heaven” or perhaps even “His soul has gone to heaven, while his body sleeps..”? If we are to believe that the body sleeps while the soul goes somewhere else, would these not be more fitting statements? The fact of the matter is the words, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth” clearly is a reference to the entire man.

Even the concept of sleep itself creates problems for the literal interpretation of Christ’s words in Luke 16. Near the very beginning of the story, there are three passages that I would like to especially focus in on. They read, “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.” – Luke 16:22-24.

To begin, these verses have “consciousness” written all over them. This is evident by the fact that the rich man is described as lifting up his eyes and crying out to “Father Abraham.” Than if this part of the sixteenth chapter of Luke is to be read literally, a contradiction is created between the passages of Luke 16:22-24 and John 11:11-14, both of which contain the words of Christ. Unconsciousness in death would obviously eliminate any possibility of being able to cry out to any one, there being any torment for the rich man to experience when he died, or there being any ability to ‘lift up his eyes’. Yet Jesus clearly stated that death was to be compared to a sleep [which is unconsciousness], and then seemingly turned around and told a story in which a man was consciously transported to hell when he died.

The question therefore remains, does the Bible contradict itself? It is an unfortunate reality that such would cause Atheists to exult and exclaim that we as Christians have been lied to, and that we are foolish for believing in the scriptures. Therefore these contradictions must be resolved. In the very beginning of these statements from the sixteenth chapter of Luke, we find a certain recurring phrase that appears elsewhere in the gospels, usually in connection with parables. Two such examples may be seen below.

“And he said, A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.” – Luke 15:11-16

“Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:” – Matthew 21:33

The phrase “there was a certain” or “a certain man” is used by Christ frequently in connection with parables. As shown by the above examples, scripture sometimes directly identifies the parable and sometimes does not. Note that Christ used an obviously fictitious narrative in the fifteenth chapter of Luke as a teaching point. He describes a son, who takes his father’s goods into a far country and wastes “his substance with riotous living.” Most Christians recognize this as the parable of the prodigal son. We find a similar phrase occurring again in Matthew 21, this time connected with a clear statement that he is about to speak a parable.

Does this mean that since Jesus did not directly identify the prodigal son story as a parable, it must be read as literal history? Any Christian spoken to recognizes these descriptions given in Luke 15 as a parable, and will more than likely not take it as a literal history. Indeed, if we are to believe the story given is always literal merely because a clear statement that it is a parable is missing than perhaps we should believe that trees talk. One need only look in the ninth chapter of Judges to verify this fact. “And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.” – Judges 9:7-9

Christians recognize Jotham to be speaking a fable, which is also a fictitious narrative. Yet there are no clear indicators of this fact before he begins to speak. It is only evident from an obviously fictitious element present in the story, such as the concept of talking trees. Therefore the fact that a clear statement of “this is a parable” missing from the text before, after, or during the story does not necessarily mean it is to be taken as literal history. Yet quite a few Christians still mistakenly treat the story of the Rich man and Lazarus this way, thereby wresting it in support of tradition.

The phrase “there was a certain rich man” indicates that the story of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable. This is demonstrated by the fact that Jesus used similar statements and phrases in connection with fictitious narratives in various locations in the gospels. For more evidence that this story is not to be taken literally, one need only look to the obvious fictitious elements present in the story. The story furnishes us with details such as the Rich man calling out to ‘Father Abraham’ and a request for water to cool the Rich man’s tongue. If one was ablaze in fiery torment, a drop of water for your tongue wouldn’t be very helpful. Additionally, what would be the use in calling out to ‘Father Abraham’? What authority does Abraham have to really do anything? It is obvious that there wouldn’t be much good done in calling out to him.

Even beyond this, Abraham and the Rich Man are described as talking to each other. This conjures the horrific thought that while the saved are in heaven, the lost are burned in full-view of the saved. They are apparently even capable of hearing the shrieks and cries of the lost as they burn throughout all eternity. Yet if that were the case, how would the promise of Revelation 21:4 find it’s fulfillment? [“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” – Revelation 21:4] Enjoying the abodes of heaven is an impossibility with the thought of your suffering friends and loved ones ever before you, much less having to hear it on a day-to-day basis. Unless one holds to the inhumane sadistic conclusion that the saved will find the suffering of the lost “most entertaining” [hint: this position is not found anywhere in the Bible], these facts cannot be observed as anything other than an obvious fictional element.

These fictional elements, taken together with the obvious contradictions, indicate strongly that this story from the sixteenth chapter of Luke is just a parable. As such, interpreting these passages as a literal history is nothing short of a fallacy, if not eisegesis. Worse yet, the literal interpretation of the story creates a paradox between the literal resurrection of Lazarus and the story told by Christ in Luke 16, namely that one was resurrected and the other clearly was not. Therefore how could this parable be taken as literal history? One must think on this carefully, as the word “Lazarus” standing alone does not leave much room for differentiating between characters, if the story is to be read literally. This means that were this a literal history, it would be impossible to take it as referencing anyone other than the Lazarus mentioned in John 11:11-14, therefore creating the paradox of “Was he resurrected…or not?” [See Luke 16:28-31.]

The sheer weight of the contradictions and paradoxes crushes any possibility of basing one’s conclusions of the afterlife on this parable alone. It therefore cannot be taken to be teaching about final punishment, man’s state in death, or some kind of post-death vat for the conscious dead. Others who have sought to answer this and other stock arguments have expounded upon the true meaning of the parable. As for us, we would counsel students of the word who have held to traditional viewpoints to avoid building doctrines off of one or a few obscure verses. It is prudent to line up every single passage on the subject in question, in order to help avoid errors and misunderstanding and to gain a clearer picture on the subject.

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They Know Not Anything

“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.” – Ecclesiastes 9:5

Death is a foreign invader. It was never meant to be a part of this world. It does not belong. The masses are sensitive to this fact. Death is regarded as an object of fear. There are few who can state that they do not fear it without speaking lies. To close one’s eyes in darkness and pass from the land of the living is a thought which many regard as unpleasant. It would seem a natural thing to regard it as undesirable.

As though we have been programmed with self-preservation mechanisms, we find ourselves seeking to avoid it at all costs. We as a species pursue an endless quest for longevity, executing every means within our power to increase the length of our lives. Although not all of us do this, many may still be found in pursuit of immortality; seeking out every means within reach to end aging and demolish disease. It is because death is a foreign invader that does not belong on this world that we as human beings do this.

This did not always exist. In the book of Genesis we read, “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” – Genesis 3:22-24.

When mankind was created, he was placed in the garden of Eden. In this garden there was something called the “tree of life.” As long as human beings ate from it, they were enabled to have immortality. Were access to the tree to be cut off, mankind would no longer be immortal. Mankind only had access to the tree so long as he was obedient to God. We as a species lost access to the tree of life when we transgressed God’s commands in the beginning, thereby resulting in our banishment from the garden of Eden and the entrance of death into our world.

Our bodies at this time began their slow break down. Aging entered the scene and men could now kill one another. These things did not exist prior to mankind’s banishment from the garden of Eden. The death that came upon the scene at this time was in no sense a “spiritual death” as some claim in order to escape conviction that their traditions are false, but was the literal death which we as a species know in our world today. This is made obvious by the words of scripture, “and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.” The obvious purpose of our removal from the garden was so that we as a species would no longer be enabled to posses immortality.

The entrance of death into our world has resulted in the insatiable craving for that which we have lost, which was everlasting life. This longing for immortality that many possess generates the inevitable inquiry, “what happens after death?” The fearsome prospect of the abyss connected with the grave forcibly produces this question like some cry of anguish under torment. In search of answers, the masses engage in tireless research.

It is unfortunate that too often the wrong answers have been found. There are a variety of them from “ye shall return as a cow” to “your soul goes to heaven or hell.” When there seems to be so many answers, what exactly are we to believe? What is the truth? The scriptures give several definitions for truth, one of which is most pertinent to the subject in question.

In the book of John we read, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” – John 17:17. In this text, Jesus is speaking [see John 17:1], and he is praying to our heavenly Father. He has here defined the truth as God’s word, thereby making the scriptures or rather the Bible as being the truth. As looked at previously, Isaiah 8:20 defines the Bible as the detector of error for the Christian. We are therefore to reject anything which is not found in the testimony of God’s word, which is the truth.

You would have a difficult time proving from scriptural sources that anyone would return to life as a cow or some other animal. This type of thinking is usually found in other religions of the world, and creates a rather undesirable cycle with no end to it. Who would want to return to life as a cow only to be eaten, then to come back and potentially repeat the process as either a cow or another animal? Even more awful is the thought of endlessly returning to this world of pain and suffering.

By process of elimination, we find ourselves left with answers such as “your soul goes to heaven or hell.” Answers of this class can usually be found in Christian circles, and sometimes other religions. The idea is that you possess an immortal soul, which cannot be killed and which separates from the body at death to be taken to whatever place of reward you are to receive. This is a popular teaching which exists in the Church at this time. Yet we have already seen that other popular theories found in the Church do not pass the test of Isaiah 8:20, thereby showing us that popularity does not prove the truthfulness of doctrine.

Do these popular teachings with regards to the soul pass the scrutiny of scripture? It is at this point that the immortal soulist brands the believer in non-immortality as a heretic, classing him with groups that mainstream Christianity regards negatively [such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, of which I am not]. Such a label is attached to a man merely because he asked questions, or found something in scripture which contradicts traditional thinking. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is my hope that you will lay all preconceived opinions and traditions at the door of investigation and seek to understand what the scriptures truly teach on this subject.

In the book of 1 Timothy we find a passage which reads, “Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the king of kings, and Lord of Lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” – 1 Timothy 6:15-16.

We have examined the above passages before. To refresh your memory, these passages speak of Jesus or in fact God. The statement “Who only hath immortality” shows us that only God is naturally immortal. All other beings in existence are therefore mortal. They can be either destroyed or their bodies break down over time and they die. In view of this fact, how is it that anyone can claim you have an immortal soul? This thought is a massive contradiction to passages presented. If you possess an immortal soul, this means that a piece of you is naturally immortal. According to these passages this is a complete impossibility.

If this is in fact the case, why does the Bible use the word ‘soul’? Or what about the word ‘spirit’? The term ‘soul’ may be traced back to Genesis. In the second chapter we find the following, “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. This passage of scripture is the Bible’s first use of the term. It also furnishes us with a proper definition as to exactly what a Soul is.

The combination of the breath of life with the dust of the ground is comparable to a battery powered cellular device. The breath of life is like the battery. Taking the battery out of your cell phone causes your phone to have no power. You cannot make calls or send text messages. If a man were to have the breath of life removed from him, he would no longer be alive. Piecing these two things together causes a man to have life and thus to become a ‘living soul.’ The logical conclusion is that you do not have a soul in the traditional sense, but rather you are a soul.

As for the term ‘spirit’, there is a fascinating passage in the book of Ecclesiastes. When compared with Genesis 2:7 and two other passages, it sheds some light on this concept for 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

“All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils;” – Job 27:3

“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

In Genesis 2:7, the breath of life is said to be breathed “into his nostrils” [referring to man.] Later in Job 27:3 we see that the ‘spirit of God’ is defined as being in Job’s nostrils. This statement is given right next to his statement that his ‘breath’ is in him. Both statements seem to quite obviously target the same thing. Their obvious relation to nostrils connects the passage of Job 27:3 back to Genesis 2:7, which mentions the breath of life.

It would be pure ridiculousness to take Job 27:3 as though you either have a disembodied being in your nose, or as though the Holy Spirit resides in your nostrils. Neither of these are what Job is here referencing. It would be logical in this case to connect the term “spirit of God” as it is used in Job 27:3 to Ecclesiastes 12:7, which in this case would make the term “Spirit” a reference to the breath of life. This fact is made obvious by the connection of the term “spirit of God” with the word “breath” in Job 27:3.

These are facts which are sufficient to put the concept of an immortal soul into question. The second answer which is so popular throughout Christian churches is therefore not the correct answer. If this is indeed the case, than what do the scriptures really teach in regards to death? What happens after a man dies? In the book of Genesis, we once again find an answer to this question which is so often overlooked by many. The passage reads, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” – Genesis 3:19

“Thou” is an old english word meaning “you.” This passage therefore references the entire person, and not simply just the body as some may attempt to argue in defense of tradition. Previously you were shown to be defined as a living soul, while the spirit was proven to be the breath of life. Such a conclusion is therefore impossible. The verse goes on to state “till thou return unto the ground.” When a man dies, he goes down into the graves and his body returns to dust while the breath of life, according to Ecclesiastes 12:7 returns to God.

But what is to happen after this? Does a man stay in the grave with no hope of eternal life and only darkness to engulf him? In the book of 1 Thessalonians, Paul spoke of this very topic. He is found stating, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

In these passages from 1 Thessalonians, Paul speaks about death in an unmistakeable fashion. He says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” The term “sleep” as is used in this passage at first glance might generate confusion. Why on earth would sleep trigger sorrow? The thought of a man sorrowing because of a loved one literally going to sleep is a point of sheer confusion. The answer is first found one passage beneath, in which Paul mentions that Christ died and rose again, and sets Jesus in contrast with them who ‘sleep in Jesus.’ The contrast should be a clear indicator that Paul is here referencing death.

If we take this thought and then apply it to the first passage, than Paul’s admonition to refrain from sorrowing ‘as others which have no hope’ makes much more sense. As we continue to examine the passages, notice that the term “sleep” or “asleep” is used multiple times throughout 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Every single time Paul is referencing death. This is made much more apparent as you reach verses fifteen through sixteen, which state that “we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the with trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:”. First Paul makes the reference of those that are asleep, and then immediately follows up with the statement that “the dead in Christ will rise first” in the passage that follows, leaving the strong impression that the dead are asleep.

Yet there are even more interesting facts about these passages. The events described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 are actually the resurrection of life spoken of in John 5:28-29, a fact which is made obvious by the statement “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” That statement alone is sufficient to indicate that a resurrection is taking place in the passages, especially in view of the fact that the living and dead are described in the final verses as being together in the clouds. Paul ends by saying, “wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

These statements from scripture target loss, and are meant as a comfort to those who might be sorrowing over deceased loved ones. We might therefore ask why Paul does not attempt to comfort people by saying, “your loved ones are in heaven now” or “they are watching over you in heaven”? Why does Paul not say, “their souls have gone to heaven and when you die you shall be with them too”? The facts are that these passages contradict traditional thinking, that an individual receives reward at death and immediately goes to heaven or hell when they die.

Resurrection in of itself is made obsolete by the thought that a man is to go to heaven when he dies. If you have already received your reward, what is the purpose in a resurrection? No one would argue against the confusion created by the thought that a man is to be sent to heaven at death, only to be brought back into his body, just so that he can be taken back up to heaven. It is clear that this type of thinking does not make sense and is contradicted by the testimony of the scriptures.

What of this word “sleep”? There are multiple locations across the scriptures in which the term “sleep” is used as a reference to death. One such occurrence may be found in the book of John. In the eleventh chapter of this book we may read, “These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” – John 11:11-14.

Jesus is here found referencing the death of Lazarus saying, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.” Due to the fact that he used these words instead of outright stating that Lazarus had died, the disciples were confused. They took the word ‘sleep’ in a literal sense, believing that Lazarus was resting as though he napped. Yet the scriptures are clear that Jesus was here speaking of Lazarus’ death. In view of their misunderstanding, Jesus had to be more plain with them stating “Lazarus is dead.” This entire sequence in of itself implies in a strong sense that death is a sleep. It would be difficult to conjure a more logical explanation of why Jesus used the term “sleep” to refer to death. This is a fact which further sheds light on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, making it clear that those passages also are referencing death.

The question then left to us is why? Why do the scriptures refer to death as a sleep? The most logical conclusion that can be drawn from such a picture is that there is no consciousness in death. Yet there is no direct statement of this thought in the passages examined. Is this therefore jumping to a conclusion, or are there passages elsewhere in the scriptures which may be produced to furnish evidence of this conclusion? Throughout the scriptures we find the following passages.

“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, 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.” – Ecclesiastes 9:5-6

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, wither thou goest.” – Ecclesiastes 9:10

“For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.” – Isaiah 38:18-19

“Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah. Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness destruction? Shall thy wonder be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” – Psalm 88:10-12

“For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.” – Psalm 143:3

In Ecclesiastes, a profound statement is made. It is said that “the dead know not anything.” If they know not anything, than the strong implication is that they do not possess consciousness. As if this statement alone were not enough, Solomon goes on to give a list of emotions such as ‘love’, ‘hatred’, and ‘envy.’ He closes by stating that these are ‘now perished’ and that ‘neither have they any more a portion for ever in anything that is done under the sun.’ The dead are not conscious of anything. Their emotions are ‘perished’, implying that they do not experience them. And they have nothing to do with anything that takes place on this planet. This implies that they do not get up and walk around, or come back to talk to the living.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 states that whatever we find to do with our hands should be done with all our might. The reason cited is that ‘there is no work, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, wither thou goest.’ If there is no work, than nothing may be done in the grave. No knowledge or wisdom ties in with the previous passages examined, which state that the dead ‘know not anything.’ This again implies that the dead are not conscious of anything.

We find this concept again in the book of Isaiah. It is said that the ‘grave’ cannot praise God and that death cannot celebrate him. The passage that immediately follows in the particular chapter then goes on to state that the living do all of the praising of God. The ‘grave’ here mentioned in Isaiah is an obvious reference to death, especially since it is set in contrast with death. The implication here is that there is no praising or celebration of God by the dead because they are not conscious and are therefore not capable of doing so.

Psalms 88:10-12 starts out with a similar concept as the passages from Isaiah. It begins by asking questions of, “shall the dead arise and praise thee?” The obvious answer that anyone in the right mind would produce in response to such a question is a solid ‘no’. The Psalmist however continues along the same line of questioning, asking “Shall thy wonder be known in the dark?” It is obvious at this point that this is a reference to the grave. This should be clear given the other passages examined in combination with the fact that the Bible references death as a sleep multiple times, however the fact that there has been no change of subject present in these passages should be sufficient evidence in of it self to prove this. This is yet another strong implication that the dead are not conscious of anything.

In Psalm 143, we find primarily poetic language. The primary subject in question is not death, and this should be obvious to anyone who reads the passage. However, this verse does in fact contain a reference to the dead. The psalmist says, “he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.” This implies that those who have been dead “dwell in darkness.” The obvious reason for this type of language is that there is no consciousness in the grave.

All of these passages shed light on the reasoning behind scripture referring to death as a ‘sleep.’ Death is a sleep because there is no consciousness in the grave. If there is no consciousness in the grave, this means that the idea that a man goes to either heaven or hell immediately after he dies and spends eternity in bliss or misery from there is a false theory which is not supported in scripture. Concepts such as purgatory, the reception of men’s rewards at death, an eternally burning hell, and spirits of the dead coming back to visit the living all start to vanish under the weight and strength of scriptural evidence, and are exposed to be the false doctrines they are.

In view of all this, it is my desire to issue a warning. The majority of Christians have failed to see the danger of traditional thinking, and the position it places the believer in at the end of time. They have not discerned the first lie of the enemy. In the very beginning the serpent told Eve, “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die” – Genesis 3:4. This lie is the foundation upon which all of the concepts previously mentioned rest, and upon which we find something called ‘Spiritualism.’

Just what exactly is spiritualism? An internet dictionary provides us with the definition below.

spiritualism
[spir-i-choo-uh-liz-uh m]
Examples
Word Origin
See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
noun
1.
the belief or doctrine that the spirits of the dead, surviving after the mortal life, can and do communicate with the living, especially through a person (a medium) particularly susceptible to their influence.

Taking a close look at the definition provided, we notice that it bears similarities to what the majority of Christians believe. Most of Christianity at this point believes in the immortality of the soul, and that it separates from the body at death and goes to either heaven or hell, purgatory or some kind of intermediate state. Did anyone take notice of the fact that this means that almost all Christians have believed what can be best described as ‘half-spiritualism’? This is made obvious by the fact that their belief is that the spirits of the dead survive after death and go to any one of these places. The only components missing are communication through a medium, or just straight communication.

This is something which Christians should be alarmed by. They have bought into a deception which is against scripture and which places them in a position in which the stage is set for the enemy to introduce the missing components. We know that our foe is crafty and is more than capable of bringing error into the Christian church. It wouldn’t take much to introduce the most horrific heresies disguised with angel garbs so as to bypass detection, and deceive numerous Christians into swallowing sugar coated rat poison.

The practice described above is condemned in the scriptures. In the book of Deuteronomy we read, “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.” – Deuteronomy 18:10-12.

A ‘consulter with familiar spirits’ is an individual which was known in these times for calling up the spirits of the dead. They would act as a medium of communication between the spirit of a deceased person and some one who wished to speak with one of them. The practice is condemned and described as an ‘abomination.’ These passages from Deuteronomy condemn spiritualism. If this is condemned, why would anything close to spiritualism be permissible?

Yet if this were not alarming enough, we find the following in the prophecies of the scriptures. “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, workings miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” – Revelation 16:13-14.

These passages from the book of Revelation describe “unclean spirits” which are to come out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. Those spirits are defined as the “spirits of devils, working miracles.” They are described as going before the world to ‘gather them to the battle of that great day of God almighty.’ These passages speak of the end of time, and of the deception that the devil and his demons will bring the entire world under. They are described as working miracles in order to gather everyone to battle against God.

If the enemy is to go forth and work miracles at the end of time, how might he take advantage of traditional beliefs? If a believer holds to the doctrine that the spirits of the dead go to either heaven or hell when a person dies, than the stage is set for Satan to take advantage. He can then pose as a dead loved one, claiming to be happy in heaven, and then begin to spoon feed all manner of doctrine contradictory to scripture in the most subtle of manner to the believer. At that point, the likely hood of the believer swallowing the enemy’s deceptions is at its highest as the wonder worked to get their attention would be so powerful that few would stand against it.

There is no reason for the believer to hold to the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Plenty of answers may be found for those who have any further confusion on this subject. Than we might see that this concept falls apart under the weight and strength of scripture, and that the dead reside in their graves. They sleep and await resurrection, and may neither be found in heaven or hell, purgatory [a concept which I have never seen evidence for from Genesis to Revelation] or some kind of intermediate state. No one will come back as a cow or go to either heaven or hell at death, but will awaken in a Resurrection at the end of time; whether it be of life or death.