Beyond Death: What the Bible Says
Between Death and the Two Resurrections
Heb 9:27 states, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment”, we know the Great White Throne judgment doesn’t appear to happen until after the thousand-year reign of Christ (Rev 20:7-12). Where do our souls exist in the meantime? Are we simply dead with no spiritual existence or do our souls survive our physical bodies to dwell someplace? Let’s look at what the Bible says.
Ecc 3:20-21 state "All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast (animal) descends downward to the earth?" Well, animals have life, too ~ given to them by God, yet their breath returns to the earth when they die*. However, the breath of God made man a living soul (Gen 2:7); therefore, this breath that returns to God appears to be the soul of man. However, as we will see, the soul of man returning to God does not mean he will dwell in the kingdom of God, unless he is saved.
Psa 16:10, David says, "For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol (hell-Hades); neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One (Jesus) to see decay." However, in Acts 2:34, Paul states, "For it was not David who ascended [bodily] into heaven." Furthermore, Acts 13:36 states, "For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers, and underwent decay;" The reason our bodies are said to be "asleep" is because our corruptible bodies have yet to be raised one day as incorruptible in the resurrection(s).
Understand that the word "ascended" is that of going upward into heaven. David's soul was not abandoned in the grave, yet his body saw corruption. We will get a better understanding of this as we read on...
The Apostle Paul said 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." Some doctrinal teachings state that the soul stays with the body until it is resurrected. This is false, or Paul's statement is false. We cannot be absent from the body if we stay with our body at all times.
Here's a passage we must ALL consider! Who showed up in Mat 17:1-9 on the Mount of Transfiguration? And furthermore, had Jesus died yet? No! Surely, Jesus told Peter, James and John not to tell anyone about what they saw until after He was raised from the dead. Who did they see? MOSES and ELIJAH! Moses DIED long before Christ Jesus came to us (Deut 31). Elijah is said to have not died (2 Kings 2:11); Enoch is also recorded as having not died (Heb 11:5). I can guarantee you, Moses' bones were still in the grave when the transfiguration took place. So, to say there is no separation of soul/spirit from the dead body is absolutely FALSE. Truly, those saved in the Old Testament, before Christ died on the cross, were SAVED BY FAITH in the coming Messiah (Heb 11), just as we today are SAVED BY FAITH in the Messiah who came! Heb 9:26 "but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."
In Rev Chapter 20, we see accounts of two separate resurrections of physical bodies. The first resurrection (the saints) happens when the dragon (Satan) is bound and cast into the “bottomless pit” (an abyss or a prison, well, pit) for a thousand years. This is also when the Antichrist and False Prophet are cast into the the Lake of Fire (Geenna). The second resurrection (the unsaved) happens after the thousand-year reign when the Great White Throne judgment takes place. Satan will then be cast into the Lake of Fire along with all those whose names are not written in the Lamb's Book of Life.
*Isaiah 11:6-9 There will be animals in heaven!
Those Who Die in Christ Jesus
Let's look at the words of Jesus in John 11:25-26: "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?'"
Regarding those who have died and will die in Christ, we see three accounts of where saved souls abide after physical death. It’s a place called “Paradise” written about in the New Testament only. The original word for “Paradise” is the Greek word “paradeisos” (par-ad’-i-sos); of Oriental or. [comp. 6508]; a park, i.e. (spec.) an Eden (place of future happiness, “paradise”):-paradise.
Luke 23:43 is when Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “This day you shall be with Me in Paradise.” 2 Cor 12:4 states that Paul knew a man in Christ that was “caught up into Paradise”, also referred to as “the third heaven” in verse 2. And finally, in Rev 2:7, “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.” The tree of life is also described as being in the “holy city, the New Jerusalem” (Chapter 21). Considering the New Jerusalem comes down drom God out of heaven after the final judgment, can you believe the saints who have gone before us are dwelling there NOW?
Paradise is a place of rest. In Dan 12:13, after revealing to him the end-time prophecies, the angel says to him, “But as for you, go your way to the end; then you [soul] will enter into rest [Paradise] and rise again [resurrection of body] for your allotted portion at the end of the age." We also see in Rev 6:11 that the souls of the saints cried out, impatient for God's vengeance upon the earth, in the presence of God and the Lamb, and are told to “rest for a little while longer…” Because this takes place before the wrath of God is poured out on the earth in the "Day of the Lord", this also contradicts teachings that man's soul is not in the presence of God while his/her body is "sleeping" (dead) in the grave.
I invite you to read my hub Our Heavenly Home!
Those Who Die Without Christ Jesus
Regarding those who have died and will die outside of Christ, Luke 16 tells us of a 'certain rich man' (sinner) who died and went to hell (Hades): "In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom." You might consider this passage a parable. I don't believe it is, and here's why:
- All parables are prefaced as such in the Bible. This passage is not.
- Jesus explained the meanings of all parables to His disciples in the Bible. This passage is not explained further by Jesus.
- All parables do not mention specific names or real people. This passage does. Jesus even goes so far as to say "certain rich man" and "certain beggar".
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word “Sheowl” (sheh-ole’) translates the same as the New Testament Greek word Hades (hah’-dace). While Sheowl means Hades, its definition means “the world of the dead (as if a subterranean retreat), including its accessories and inmates: grave, hell, pit. The Greek word for Hades translates “the place (state) of departed souls:-grave, hell”.
There is some information regarding the “deepest abyss of Hades”, which is known as Tartaroo (tar-tar-o’-o). 1 Pet 2:2 states that this is where the fallen angels who sinned before the flood are incarcerated. In Rev 9:11, there is a king of this abyss whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon/Apollyon in Greek (a detroying angel [son of perdition], who is the second beast or Antichrist). This bottomless pit is shown to have a cover, that when opened releases not only “smoke of a great furnace” (verse 2), but "locusts" (verse 7-9). This is the same bottomless pit in which the dragon (the serpent of old, the devil and Satan) will be bound during the thousand-year reign of Christ (Rev 20:3). The dragon will then be released from it once again, for a short time, and cast into the Lake of Fire (Geenna), along with those in Hades and Tartaroo (second resurrection of those whose names are not found written in the Lamb's Book of Life).
Soul Meets Body
How can it be then, that our souls dwell either in Hades (hell) or Paradise, but our bodies have yet to be resurrected? Again, this is why there are so many scriptures that state dead people are merely "asleep". Dead bodies have no consciousness because the spirit is gone! The body is said to be "asleep" because all bodies will indeed be resurrected at the appointed time.
Rev 20:13 states, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death [body] and Hades [soul] gave up the dead which were in them..." Death is speaking of physical bodies, which are in an earthly grave or buried in the sea.
The Bible says that upon resurrection, all corruptible (or corrupted) bodies will be changed into spiritual bodies (incorruptible) “in a twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor 15:52). Let's look at where Jesus' soul went while his physical, dead body was in the tomb. Eph 4:9 states, "'He ascended', what does that mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?' He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above the heavens, that He might fill all things." We know Jesus was not buried in the "lower parts of the earth". He was in a tomb.
What was He doing in the lower parts of the earth? In 1 Pet 3:19 the Bible states, "...He went and made proclamation (not 'preached') to the spirits (fallen angels that sinned prior to the flood) now in prison (Tartaroo),..." He proclaimed His victory that indeed He was not dead! He did this before He ascended. Therefore, His Spirit was reunited with his physical body (there is no body of Jesus to be found!) on the third day.
- If you question as to whether the spirits imprisoned in Tartaroo were fallen angels, 2 Pet 2:4 confirms this: "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell (Tartaroo) and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;" and also Jude 1:6: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."
Jesus was indeed resurrected in a physical body, one that could be touched (John 20:27). He even ate with the disciples (John 21:12-15). However, notice He appeared in an upper room that had locked doors (John 20:26) and also as a stranger, in "another form" in Mark 16:12. Based on these passages, Jesus’ body was indeed changed upon His resurrection and ascension into heaven. This is also confirmed in 1 Cor 15:42 "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown (buried) a perishable body, it is raised (resurrected) an imperishable body."
The Final Destinations
The Lake of Fire, which is the final destination for the second beast (Antichrist/son of perdition) and the false prophet (at the time of the thousand-year reign of Christ), and then for the dragon (the serpent of old, the devil and Satan) and those people whose names are not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life (at the Great White Throne judgment) is actually Geenna (gheh’-en-nah) used as a name for the place (or state) of everlasting punishment: - hell. Mark 9:49 describes it based on Isa 66:24, “where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.” Rev 14:10-11 also state, "...he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
The final destination for believers (saints) is the NEW Jerusalem (even now) and the NEW earth. Again, the Holy City comes down from God out of heaven to the New Earth, where the saints will continually come in and go out day and night to worship our LORD. This New Earth is a beautiful place of peace and worship, as it was in the beginning. For more information about the "first heaven and earth" and the "NEW heaven and earth" and those who dwell there, I invite you again to read my hub Our Heavenly Home!
Rev 21 states that “He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Chapter 22 states that there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne [singlular] of God and [kai - even, also, namely] of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him, and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.