(33) We have seen that the scriptures teach an intermediate state, a time of waiting between death and the reward. A great many students of the Bible have come to this conclusion, but unfortunately many of them still cling to the erroneous idea of the natural immortality of the soul. Therefore they believe that the soul during this intermediate state is conscious, that it can think and feel, and that it knows even more after death than it knew before. Let us inquire into this also.
(34) Do the scriptures declare that after death, the soul knows more than it did before its death? Look at Ecclesiastes 9:5: "The dead know not anything"; also the tenth verse: "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in Sheol (the realm of death -- Sheol will be discussed later), where you are going." Then we look at the prayer of Hezekiah: "Sheol cannot thank you, death cannot praise you: those who go down in the pit cannot hope for your truth. The living, the one living, he shall praise you, even as I do this day." (Isaiah 38:18,19) Again the Psalmist tells us in the 146th Psalm 4th verse, that when a man dies, "he returns to his earth, and in that very day his thoughts perish." Does that look as if he knew more than he did before? In Psalm 6:4 we read: "Return, O Yahweh, deliver my soul: O save me for your mercies' sake." Then verse 5: "For in death there is no remembrance of you; in sheol who shall give you thanks?" Is it not clear then, that the soul during this intermediate state is in a condition of unconsciousness, waiting for the resurrection awakening?
(35) It is only when we understand what death is that we can realize the beauty of that figure which is so often used throughout both the scriptures written before and after Jesus' arrival, the sleep of death. Our Lord, speaking to his disciples, said: "Our friend Lazarus is sleeping," and when his disciples did not understand him, "then Jesus said to them plainly: Lazarus is dead.' " (John 11:11-14) Death is likened to sleep because it is a state of unconsciousness to be followed by an awakening.
(36) Perhaps, you, like so many of us, have had an experience where you have come home very tired and sleepy. You sit or lie down to rest somewhere. You shut your eyes then open them again, thinking to yourself: I was nearly asleep that time.' On looking at the clock however, you are surprised to see that you have been asleep for an hour! You thought you had simply closed my eyes for moment, and could hardly believe that any interval had elapsed. Why was that? Because the interval was a state of unconsciousness. You were asleep, and your sleep was a sound sleep because you were tired. It was as sound as death. That is the condition of the dead. When a person dies he closes his eyes, passes into a state of unconsciousness, and an interval elapses; it may be weeks, years, centuries, or even millenniums; but no matter how long, to that person the period is a complete blank. It is just like that hour of sleep mentioned above. In other words, to each one who is awakened on the resurrection day, it will be as if he had simply closed his eyes and the next moment opened them. That is the condition of the dead. They are completely unconscious. They "know not anything." -- Ecclesiastes 9:5.
See our study: Under the Sun -- What Does It Mean?
See our study: Under the Sun -- What Does It Mean?
(37) Some would like for us to believe that when Jesus and others likened death to sleep, that they only meant that they were no more active in the world which they left, but they insist that the dead are active while death. Such can nowhere be found in the Bible! It is strange that many can refer to the scriptures that speak of those in death as being unconscious (Psalm 30:91; 115:17; 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Isaiah 38:18,19) and yet read added-on philosophy into those scriptures so as to deny their plain statements. They argue: "Nowhere does Scripture say that the soul of the departed one falls asleep. It was the person who fell asleep, not necessarily the soul." Thus they would separate the soul from the person. Yet Genesis 2:7 plainly states that "man became a living soul [Hebrew, nephesh, Strong's #5315]." 1 Corinthians 15:45 agrees with this. Thus the Bible speaks of the soul dying and of "dead" souls (Ezekiel 18:4,20; See Leviticus 21:11; Numbers 6:6; 9:7 where the Hebrew word nephesh is translated "body," in the King James Version, thus hiding the fact that the Bible speaks of dead souls.) While it is true that the Bible does not directly say that the soul sleeps, the Bible does say that the soul dies. Since Jesus and others referred to death as sleep, the soul therefore enters the state of inactivity spoken of in the scriptures cited earlier. However, nowhere does the Bible say that the souls of redeemed ones enter into paradise or heaven at death.
(38) There are those who, in trying to hold to the idea that we do not really die, argue, via imagining beyond what is actually written (1 Corinthians 4:6), that after Lazarus died, the Lord, knowing beforehand that after just a few days he was going to raise his friend from the dead, kept his soul in a state of unconscious repose. Thus they claim that such an exception (and a few similar exceptions) would not prove the rule. An additional argument, again, which has to be assumed beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6), is that Lazarus and others who were raised from the dead could have gone to heaven and yet were not permitted or not able to talk about their glorious experience. The Bible on the Life Hereafter, page 55.
(39) Of course, such reasoning does not do away with several facts: 1) No scripture speaks of the soul going to heaven at death. 2) Many scriptures speak of the soul dying at death. 3) Many scriptures describe death as a state of unconsciousness. 4) One has to keep adding more and more into the scriptures beyond what is stated in order to have the scriptures harmonize with the "immortal soul/spirit" doctrines.
(40) But what if Lazarus did go to heaven when he died? Would not Jesus actually have done him a disservice instead of a service to bring him back into the present evil surroundings? Or suppose Jesus had kept the soul of Lazarus in a state of unconsciousness so that he could not go to heaven, as has been suggested? Would not such interference have also been a disservice on the behalf of Jesus? Either assumption would present, not only an addition to what God has reveled by means of His Holy Spirit, but also an unreasonable act by Jesus.
(41) But the "hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth." (John 5:28,29) Notice that Jesus did not say: "all that are in eternal bliss and in eternal torment," but, "all that are in the graves," the death-state. "Ah, yes," some will say, "that means the bodies of the dead, it does not refer to their souls; it means that when Jesus calls, the souls of the saved and of the lost will fly back and re-inhabit their bodies. It is the bodies which are to rise, for it is only the bodies which pass into the death-state." But that was not what Jesus said. Again, such represents a spirit beyond what is written, which has to be imagined, assumed, and added to what is written. We have the united testimony of both science and the scriptures that the bodies will not be resurrected in the "last day". Science demonstrates that the bodies are at death disintegrated into its various elements. The elements then may be recycled into plants are other substances. In turn the plants may be eaten by man or beast, thus forming a part of a new body, etc. It is then manifestly impossible for the same body to rise. But we do not need to rely on the testimony of science alone. The apostle Paul in answering this question: "How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?" did not say: "That is a peculiar question! Why do you ask: How are the dead to be raised, and with what strong>BODY do they come'? Do you not know that the soul never dies, and that it is only the body which dies and requires to be resurrected?" No! What Paul did say was: "You foolish ones!...You do not sow that body that will be . . . but God gives it [the seed/grain of the new creature] a body as it has pleased him, and to every seed his own body." (I Corinthians 15:35-38) What could be plainer than that? It is not merely the body but the soul that dies, as we read in Isaiah 53:12, of the Messiah: "he has poured out his soul unto death." It is not the body, therefore, but the soulthat is to be resurrected; and God shall give to each soul a body as it pleases him, according to what was sown in this lifetime.
"Hope of Life After Death" was originally published in 1997 as a small book; it has been updated several times since; last update of this section: 5/19/2014.