A father and son were walking along a beach when they came upon a dead bird.
The lad asked, “What’s that, dad?”
The father replied, “A seagull. It died and went to heaven.”
A few moments later, the boy said, “Did God throw it out of heaven, Dad?”
This story shows some of the confusion that exists when someone dies. Who has not heard that a person has died and gone to heaven? But have they?
I have been volunteering at the Amazing Facts Ministry (see channel 49 at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Pacific time on Sundays) at the Cavell Street office here in Creston for the last year and am surprised at the amount of interest with people wanting to know the truth about what happens when we die.
As God is the Creator, we should learn from His word. So what does the Bible teach?
“In the beginning God created man from the dust of the earth and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7)
Thus a soul is the combination of breath (spirit) and dust. Dust plus breath equals soul. It is like a computer: You have the CPU (the dust) and turn the electricity (the breath of life) on and lo, the computer works. Turn the switch off and the computer “sleeps” until the electricity is reconnected and it becomes alive again. Take light bulb (dust) and electricity (breath of life), add the two and you get light (living being or soul).
Death is the opposite of life. “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes12:7)
In Job 3:17-21, the same Hebrew word is translated as “breath” and “spirit”, and that is consistent as it is God’s spirit or breath that gives life to man.
The Bible teaches that “the soul that sins will die.” (Ezekiel 18:20) So where do people go when they die? Satan’s first recorded lie is found in Genesis 3:4, “You will not surely die,” and ever since then we have heard echoes of that lie for God had clearly said, “You will die.”
Do good people go to heaven when they die? Let us look at David, a man after God’s own heart, one surely who should be in heaven. “David is both dead and buried and his tomb is with us to this day. … For David did not ascend into the heavens.” (Acts 2:29, 34)
Thus we can conclude that good people do not go to heaven when they die, nor do the bad go to the other place!
The Bible is clear that “the dead know nothing.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10) and “the dead do not praise the Lord.” (Psalm 115:17)
David spoke of “the sleep of death.” (Psalms 13:3) All throughout the Old Testament, when kings died, they “slept with their fathers.” (1 Kings 2:10)/ The same is true in the New Testament.
Jesus said that Lazarus, after he had been dead for four days, was sleeping. And after the disciples replied that he would get better, Jesus said plainly, “Lazarus is dead,” and that He would wake him from the sleep of death. (John 11) Jesus claimed that He was the resurrection and the life. Thus, death is but a sleep, for Jesus will resurrect all. And Lazarus had nothing to say about his time dead!
Those who believe and trust can look forward with eager anticipation to the day when Jesus returns and calls His people from the graves, and the righteous living, to everlasting life with Him. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-8 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-55)
The Christian hope is the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection. When our Lord returns, “the dead in Christ shall rise. … So shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17) Paul said Christians will “be with the Lord” when He returns. Jesus taught the same thing when He promised His disciples, “I will come again, and receive you to myself.” (John 14:3)
Contact Amazing Facts Ministries at 250-428-9993 for further details.
Ian Cotton is the retired pastor of the Creston Seventh-day Adventist Church.