Questions and Answers about Death and the State of the Soul

(Be sure to first read "Death and the State of the Soul")


Question:  Do not the spirit of man and animals go to the same place?

Answer:  The verse usually sited to teach there is no difference between man and animals as to their destiny is Ecclesiastes 3: 19, 20. Both man and animal have "one breath" (vs. 19, nephesh or soul). Here, the Hebrew nephesh is used for life (cp. Gen. 1: 30). In the matter of death, man has "no preeminence over a beast." Both man and animal "go to one place," both return to the dust (vs. 20). The wise man then wrote, "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" Some have translated this question as asking whether or not the spirit goes upward or downward instead of knowledge of the spirit itself that goes upward or downward (ASV). There is manuscript support for the King James (quoted). However, in view of Ecclesiastes 12: 7, the body of man shall return to the dust, but the spirit shall return to God.

Question:  How can I know if soul (Hebrew nephesh and Greek psuche) in a given usage is referring to simply life or to the eternal part of man?

Answer:  The only way to know is by the specific usage and the context. As just seen, it is evident that "soul" in Ecclesiastes 3: 19 is used in the sense of life or breath and not eternal spirit.

Question:  If death is when the spirit departs, would not life be when the spirit enters man?

Answer:  James 2: 26 is correctly used to establish the meaning of death and by reversal application and deduction, the verse can be used to determine when there is life. James 2: 26, then, is important in a discussion of abortion. The only reasonable conclusion is life begins at conception (click on "Abortion, the Scourge of America" to read more).

Question:  Does Matthew 22: 32 have any relevance in a discussion of the state of the soul or spirit after death?

Answer:  Jesus said the following in Matthew 22: 32: "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died many aeons before Jesus' statement. However, Jesus said they were presently alive or living. Some, as the Sadducees, have mistaken views about the spirit upon death. The Sadducees were materialists in that they denied the resurrection (vs. 23-31). Jesus showed that even before the resurrection, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were living. Others who hold modified materialistic views, explain that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were living but were unconscious. However, Abraham is not presented as unconscious, but aware and rational (Lk. 16: 19-31).

Question:  Does not the Bible say, "the dead know not any thing?

Answer:  Ecclesiastes 9: 4-10 has been used to teach the annihilation of the spirit. Some use the text to teach the unconsciousness of the spirit. It is true that the writer said "the dead know not any thing" (Eccl. 9: 5). Many times, Ecclesiastes speaks of "under the sun" (cp. 1: 3, 9; 2: 11, 18, 22; 3: 16; 4: 3, 7; 5: 18; 6: 5, 12; 7: 11; 8: 15; 10: 5). "Under the sun" is an expression used to identify this earth or physical life (cp. 11: 2). The description of the dead in chapter nine pertains to their total inactivity in matters pertaining to this life. The expression "the memory of them is forgotten" is referring to even the fact of their previous existence on earth is not remembered (Eccl. 9: 5). The writer makes it plan that he has in mind the dead from the perspective of this life or life on earth when he stated, "neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun" (vs. 6). The lesson is, make use of this life while you are here because there will be no opportunities, regarding this life, after death (vs. 10).

Question:  Does not the Bible refer to the dead as those asleep and is not sleep unconsciousness?

Answer:  Sleep and unconsciousness are not the same condition. In fact, I do not know of sleep ever being defined as unconsciousness. To answer this question, I shall present comments from W. E. Vines regarding two of the verbs translated "asleep" and "sleep":

Verb, 2518, katheudo
"to go to sleep," is chiefly used of natural "sleep," and is found most frequently in the Gospels, especially Matthew and Luke. With reference to death it is found in the Lord's remark concerning Jairus' daughter, Matt. 9:24; Mark 5:39; Luke 8:52. In the epistles of Paul it is used as follows: (a) of natural "sleep," e.g., 1 Thess. 5:7; (b) of carnal indifference to spiritual things on the part of believers, Eph. 5:14; 1 Thess. 5:6,10 (as in Mark 13:36), a condition of insensibility to Divine things involving conformity to the world (cp. hupnos below).

Verb, 2837, koimaomai
is used of natural "sleep," Matt. 28:13; Luke 22:45; John 11:12; Acts 12:6; of the death of the body, but only of such as are Christ's; yet never of Christ Himself, though He is "the firstfruits of them that have fallen asleep," 1 Cor. 15:20; of saints who departed before Christ came, Matt. 27:52; Acts 13:36; of Lazarus, while Christ was yet upon the earth, John 11:11; of believers since the Ascension, 1 Thess. 4:13-15; Acts 7:60; 1 Cor. 7:39; 11:30; 15:6,18,51; 2 Pet. 3:4.

Note: "This metaphorical use of the word sleep is appropriate, because of the similarity in appearance between a sleeping body and a dead body; restfulness and peace normally characterize both. The object of the metaphor is to suggest that, as the sleeper does not cease to exist while his body sleeps, so the dead person continues to exist despite his absence from the region in which those who remain can communicate with him, and that, as sleep is known to be temporary, so the death of the body will be found to be. ...

"That the body alone is in view in this metaphor is evident, (a) from the derivation of the word koimaomai, from keimai, to lie down (cp. anastasis, resurrection, from ana, 'up,' and histemi, to cause to stand); cp. Isa. 14:8, where for 'laid down,' the Sept. has 'fallen asleep;' (b) from the fact that in the NT the word resurrection is used of the body alone; (c) from Dan. 12:2, where the physically dead are described as 'them that sleep (Sept. katheudo, as at 1 Thess. 5:6) in the dust of the earth,' language inapplicable to the spiritual part of man; moreover, when the body returns whence it came, Gen. 3:19, the spirit returns to God who gave it, Eccl. 12:7.

"When the physical frame of the Christian (the earthly house of our tabernacle, 2 Cor. 5:1) is dissolved and returns to the dust, the spiritual part of his highly complex being, the seat of personality, departs to be with Christ, Phil. 1:23. And since that state in which the believer, absent from the body, is at home with the Lord, 2 Cor. 5:6-9, is described as 'very far better' than the present state of joy in communion with God and of happy activity in His service, everywhere reflected in Paul's writings, it is evident the word 'sleep,' where applied to the departed Christians, is not intended to convey the idea that the spirit is unconscious. ... (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).

Question:  Will there be the recognition of others in the spirit world?

Answer:  It would appear from such texts as Genesis 37: 34, 35 and Luke 16: 19-31 that there will be recognition in the intermediate state of the soul, hades. Some have wondered how there will be "no tears in heaven" if the saved will know their son or daughter, husband or wife is not present (Rev. 21: 3 ff.) Some have suggested that the bliss will be so complete that the knowledge of absent loved ones will not be an influence. Others have explained that God will blot out the memory retention of lost loved ones.

Question:  Why have an intermediate place for the soul if the lost and saved will go to hell and heaven after death?

Answer:  The fact of the presence of hades where all spirits of men go immediately upon death and that hades or sheol is not heaven or hell is clearly taught (Lk. 23: 43, Acts 2: 31, Jn. 20: 17, Lk. 16: 19-31, etc.). Hades is the waiting place for all souls (cp. 2 Pet. 2: 4, 9). While in this waiting or holding place (waiting the official sentencing of the Judgment), the saved will be comforted and the lost tormented (Lk. 16: 19-31). Some have suggested that hades is a type of the antitypes heaven and hell. If this is true, heaven and hell will be comparatively more blissful and horrible, respectively, than the place of comfort and torment in hades.

Question:  When you use Luke 16: 19-31 to teach soul consciousness, etc., are not you taking the teaching beyond its intended use?

Answer:  I understand that there are often incidental matters in both parables and non-parabolic teaching. However, the fact of soul consciousness, separation of the two classes, and corresponding comfort and torment are basic and essential points.

Question:  Does not Paul's desire to depart and be with Christ prove the saved go immediately to heaven upon death?

Answer:  As noted, the scriptures plainly teach the spirit goes to hades or in the case of the saved, to paradise or Abraham's bosom, not to heaven (Lk. 23: 43, Acts 2: 31, Lk. 16: 19-31, Jn. 20: 17; Rev. 20: 14 ff.). Paul's statement in Philippians 1: 23 is general (no specificity). Exactly speaking, being with Christ will occur after the resurrection (cp. I Thes. 4: 17, compare also Psalms 139: 8).

Question:  Does not such verses as 2 Peter 3: 9 teach the anniliation of the soul of the wicked?

Answer:  Verses such as 2 Peter 3: 9 and Matthew 10: 28 use the word "perish" or "destroy" and materialists contend that the original word means to cease to exist. Consider Vine's comments on the word used:

Verb, 622, apollumi a strengthened form of ollumi, signifies "to destroy utterly;" in Middle Voice, "to perish." The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being. This is clear from its use, as, e.g., of the marring of wine skins, Luke 5:37; of lost sheep, i.e., lost to the shepherd, metaphorical of spiritual destitution, Luke 15:4,6, etc.; the lost son, Luke 15:24; of the perishing of food, John 6:27; of gold, 1 Pet. 1:7. So of persons, Matt. 2:13, "destroy;" Matt. 8:25, "perish;" Matt. 22:7; 27:20; of the loss of well-being in the case of the unsaved hereafter, Matt. 10:28; Luke 13:3,5; John 3:16 (ver. 15 in some mss.); 10:28; 17:12; Rom. 2:12; 1 Cor. 15:18; 2 Cor. 2:15, "are perishing;" 2 Cor. 4:3; 2 Thess. 2:10; Jas. 4:12; 2 Pet. 3:9. Cp. B, II, No. 1. See DIE, LOSE, MARRED, PERISH (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).