Chapter 25: DEATH AND RESURRECTION


Seventh-day Adventists Believe...

The wages of sin is death. But God, who alone is immortal,

will grant eternal life to His redeemed. Until that day

death is an unconscious state for all people. When Christ,

who is our life, appears, the resurrected righteous and the

living righteous will be glorified and caught up to meet

their Lord. The second resurrection, the resurrection of the

unrighteous, will take place a thousand years

later.--Fundamental Beliefs, 25

 

DEATH AND RESURRECTION

The Philistine army moved into Shunem, set up its camp,

and made ready to attack Israel. His mood far from

optimistic, King Saul positioned Israel's army on nearby

Mount Gilboa. In the past, the assurance of God's presence

had enabled Saul to lead Israel against its foes fearlessly.

But he had turned from serving the Lord, and when the

apostate king had tried to contact God about the outcome of

the impending battle, God had refused to communicate with

him.

The ominous fear of the unknown morrow weighed heavily

upon Saul. If only Samuel were here. But Samuel was dead and

could no longer counsel him. Or could he?

Locating a medium who had escaped his earlier witch

hunts, the tall king stooped to inquiring through her about

the outcome of the next day's battle. He requested, "`Bring

up Samuel for me.'" During the seance the medium "`saw a

spirit ascending out of the earth.'" This spirit informed

the hapless king that not only would Israel lose the war,

but he and his sons would be killed (see 1 Samuel 28).

The prediction came true. But was it really Samuel's

spirit that made the prediction? How could a medium,

condemned by God, have power over the spirit of

Samuel--God's prophet? And where did Samuel come from--why

did his spirit arise "out of the earth"? What had death

brought to Samuel? If it wasn't Samuel's spirit that spoke

to Saul, who was it? Let us see what the Bible teaches on

the subject of death, communication with the dead, and the

resurrection.

Immortality and Death

Immortality is the state or quality of not being subject

to death. The translators of Scripture used the word

immortality to translate the Greek terms athanasia,

"deathlessness," and aphtharsia, "incorruptibility." How

does this concept relate to God and human beings?

Immortality

Scripture reveals that the eternal God is immortal

(1 Tim. 1:17). In fact, He "alone has immortality" (1 Tim.

6:16). He is uncreated, self-existent, and has no beginning

and no end (see chapter 2 of this book).

"The Scriptures nowhere describe immortality as a quality

or state that man--or his `soul' or `spirit'--possesses

inherently. The terms usually rendered `soul' and

`spirit'...in the Bible occur more than 1,600 times, but

never in association with the words `immortal' or

`immortality'" (see chapter 7).(*1)

In contrast to God, then, human beings are mortal.

Scripture compares their lives with "a vapor that appears

for a little time and then vanishes away" (James 4:14). They

are "but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come

again" (Ps. 78-39). Man "`comes forth like a flower and

fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue'"

(Job 14:2).

God and human beings differ markedly. God is infinite,

they are finite. God is immortal, they are mortal. God is

eternal, they are transitory.

Conditional Immortality

At Creation "God formed man of the dust of the ground,

and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man

became a living being" (Gen. 2:7). The Creation account

reveals that humanity derived life from God (cf. Acts

17:25,28; Col. 1:16,17). The corollary of this basic fact is

that immortality is not innate to humanity but God's gift.

When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them free

will--the power of choice. They could obey or disobey, and

their continued existence depended upon continual obedience

through God's power. So their possession of the gift of

immortality was conditional.

God carefully spelled out the condition upon which they

would forfeit this gift--eating of "`the tree of the

knowledge of good and evil.'" God warned them, when "'you

eat of it you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17).(*2)

Death: The Wages of Sin

Contradicting God's warning that disobedience would bring

death, Satan asserted, "`You will not surely die'" (Gen.

3:4). But after they transgressed God's command, Adam and

Eve discovered that the wages of sin is, indeed, death (Rom.

6:23). Their sin brought this sentence: You shall "`return

to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you

are, and to dust you shall return'" (Gen. 3:19). These words

do not point to a continuation of life but to its cessation.

After giving this sentence, God barred the sinful couple

from the tree of life so that they could not "`eat, and live

forever'" (Gen. 3:22). His action made it clear that the

immortality promised on condition of obedience was lost

through sin. They had now become mortal, subject to death.

And because Adam could not transmit what he no longer

possessed, "death spread to all men, because all sinned"

(Rom. 5:12).

It was only God's mercy that kept Adam and Eve from dying

immediately. The Son of God had offered to give His life so

that they might have another opportunity--a second chance.

He was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world"

(Rev. 13:8).

Hope for Humanity

Although people are born mortal, the Bible encourages

them to seek immortality (see, e.g., Rom. 2:7). Jesus Christ

is the source of this immortality: "The gift of God is

eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23; cf. 1

John 5:11). He "has abolished death and brought life and

immortality to light: (2 Tim. 1:10). "For as in Adam all

die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Cor.

15:22). Christ Himself said that His voice would open graves

and resurrect the dead (John 5:28,29).

If Christ had not come, the human situation would have

been hopeless, and all who died would have perished

eternally. Because of Him, however, no one need perish. Said

John, "`For God so loved the world that He gave His only

begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish

but have everlasting life'" (John 3:16). So belief in Christ

not only abolishes the penalty for sin, but it also secures

for believers the priceless gift of immortality.

Christ brought "immortality to light through the gospel"

(2 Tim. 1:10). Paul assures us that it is the Holy

Scriptures that are able to make us "wise for salvation

through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15). Those

who do not accept the gospel will not receive immortality.

The Receiving of Immortality

The moment of the bestowal of the gift of immortality is

described by Paul: "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall

not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--in a moment, in

the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the

trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised

incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible

must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on

immortality. So when this corruptible has put on

incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then

shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: `Death

is swallowed up in victory'" (1 Cor. 15:51-54). This makes

it very clear that God does not bestow immortality upon the

believer at death but at the resurrection, when "the last

trumpet" sounds. Then "this mortal" shall "put on

immortality." While John points out that we receive the gift

of eternal life when we accept Jesus Christ as personal

Saviour (1 John 5:11-13), the actual realization of this

gift will take place when Christ returns. Only then will we

be changed from mortal to immortal, from corruptible to

incorruptible.

The Nature of Death

If death is the cessation of life, what does the Bible

say about a person's condition in death? What makes it

important that Christians understand this Biblical teaching?

Death Is a Sleep

Death is not complete annihilation; it is only a state of

temporary unconsciousness while the person awaits the

resurrection. The Bible repeatedly calls this intermediate

state a sleep.

Referring to their deaths, the Old Testament describes

David, Solomon, and the other kings of Israel and Judah as

sleeping with their forefathers (1 Kings 2:10; 11:43; 14:20,

31; 15:8; 2 Chron. 21:1; 26: 23; etc.). Job called death a

sleep (Job 14:10-12), as did David (Ps. 13:3), Jeremiah

(Jer. 51:39, 57), and Daniel (Dan. 12:2).

The New Testament uses the same imagery. In describing

the condition of Jairus' daughter, who was dead, Christ said

that she was sleeping (Matt. 9:24; Mark 5:39). He referred

to the deceased Lazarus in a similar manner (John 11:11-14).

Matthew wrote that many "saints who had fallen asleep were

raised" after Christ's resurrection (Matt. 27:52), and in

recording Stephen's martyrdom, Luke wrote that "he fell

asleep" (Acts 7:60). Both Paul and Peter also called death a

sleep (1 Cor. 15:51,52; 1 Thess. 4:13-17; 2 Peter 3:4).

The Biblical representation of death as a sleep clearly

fits its nature, as the following comparisons demonstrate:

1. Those who sleep are unconscious. "The dead know nothing"

(Eccl. 9:5). 2. In sleep conscious thinking ceases. "His

breath goeth forth,...in that very day his thoughts perish"

(Ps. 146:4, KJV). 3. Sleep brings an end to all the days

activities. "There is no work or device or knowledge or

wisdom in the grave where you are going" (Eccl. 9:10). 4.

Sleep disassociates us from those who are awake, and from

their activities. "Nevermore will they have a share in

anything done under the sun" (verse 6). 5. Normal sleep

renders the emotions inactive. "Their love, their hatred,

and their envy have now perished" (verse 6). 6. In sleep men

do not praise God. "The dead do not praise the Lord" (Ps.

115:17). 7. Sleep presupposes an awakening. "`The hour is

coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His

voice and come forth'" (John 5:28,29).(*3)

The Person Returns to Dust

To understand what happens to a person at death, one must

understand what makes up his or her nature. The Bible

portrays a person as an organic unity (see chapter 7 of this

book). At times it uses the word soul to refer to the whole

person, and at other times to the affections and emotions.

But it does not teach that man comprises two separate parts.

Body and soul only exist together; they form an indivisible

union.

At humanity's creation, the union of the dust of the

ground (earth's elements) and the breath of life produced a

living being or soul. Adam did not receive a soul as a

separate entity; he became a living soul (Gen. 2:7:see also

chapter 7 of this book). At death the inverse takes place:

the dust of the ground minus the breath of life yields a

dead person or dead soul without any consciousness (Ps.

146:4). The elements that made up the body return to the

earth from which they came (Gen. 3:19). The soul has no

conscious existence apart from the body, and no scripture

indicates that at death the soul survives as a conscious

entity. Indeed, "`the soul who sins shall die'"

(Eze. 18:20).

The Abode of the Dead

The Old Testament calls the place where people go at

death sheol (Hebrew), and the New Testament hades (Greek).

In the Scripture, sheol most often simply means the

grave.(*4) The meaning of hades is similar to that of

sheol.(*5)

All the dead go into this place (Ps. 89:48), both the

righteous and the wicked. Jacob said, "`I shall go down into

the grave [sheol]'" (Gen. 37:35). When the earth opened "its

mouth" to swallow the wicked Korah and his company, they

went "`down alive into the pit [sheol]'" (Num. 16:30).

Sheol receives the whole person at death. When Christ

died, He went into the grave (hades) but at the Resurrection

His soul left the grave (hades, Acts 2:27,31, or sheol, Ps.

16:10). When David thanked God for healing, he testified

that his soul was saved "from the grave [sheol]" (Ps. 30:3).

The grave is not a place of consciousness.(*6) Since

death is a sleep, the dead will remain in a state of

unconsciousness in the grave until the resurrection, when

the grave (hades) gives up its dead (Rev. 20:13).

The Spirit Returns of God

Though the body returns to dust, the spirit returns to

God. Solomon said that at death "the dust will return to the

earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave

it" (Eccl. 12:7). This is true of all, both the righteous

and the wicked.

Many have thought that this text gives evidence that the

essence of the person continues to live after death. But in

the Bible neither the Hebrew nor the Greek term for spirit

(ruach and pneuma, respectively) refers to an intelligent

entity capable of a conscious existence apart from the body.

Rather, these terms refer to the "breath"--the spark of life

essential to individual existence, the life principle that

animates animals and human beings (see chapter 7 of this

book).

Solomon wrote, "`Man's fate is like that of the animals;

the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the

other. All have the same breath ["spirit," margin; ruach];

man has no advantage over the animal....All go to the same

place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows

if the spirit [ruach] of man rises upward and if the spirit

[ruach] of the animal goes down into the earth?'" (Eccl.

3:19-21, NIV). So, according to Solomon, at death there is

no difference between the spirits of man and beast.

Solomon's statement that the spirit (ruach) returns to

God who gave it indicates that what returns to God is simply

the life principle that He imparted. There is no indication

that the spirit, or breath, was a conscious entity separate

from the body. This ruach can be equated with the "breath of

life" that God breathed into the first human being to

animate his lifeless body (cf. Gen. 2:7).

Harmony Through the Scriptures

Many honest Christians who have not studied the complete

teaching of the Bible on death have been unaware that death

is a sleep until the resurrection. They have assumed that

various passages support the idea that the spirit or soul

has a conscious existence after death. Careful study reveals

that the consistent teaching of the Bible is that death

causes the cessation of consciousness.(*7)

Spiritualism

If the dead are completely insensate, with whom or what

do spiritualist mediums communicate?

Every honest person will admit that at least some of

these phenomena are fraudulent; but others cannot be

explained as such. There obviously is some supernatural

power connected with spiritualism. What does the Bible teach

on this point?

1. The basis of spiritualism.

Spiritualism originated with Satan's first lie to

Eve--"`You will not surely die'" (Gen. 3:4). His words were

the first sermon on the immortality of the soul. Today,

throughout the world, religions of all sorts unwittingly

repeat this error. For many, the divine sentence that "the

soul who sins shall die" (Eze. 18:20) has been reversed to

say "the soul, even though it sins, shall live eternally."

This erroneous doctrine of natural immortality has led to

belief in consciousness in death. As we have seen, these

positions directly contradict the Biblical teaching on this

subject. They were incorporated into the Christian faith

from pagan philosophy--particularly that of Plato--during

the time of the great apostasy (see chapter 12 of this

book). These beliefs became the prevailing view within

Christianity and continue to be the dominant view today.

Belief that the dead are conscious has prepared many

Christians to accept spiritualism. If the dead are alive and

in the presence of God, why could they not return to earth

as ministering spirits? And if they can, why not try to

communicate with them to receive their counsel and

instruction, to avoid misfortune, or to receive comfort in

sorrow?

Building on this line of reasoning, Satan and his angels

(Rev. 12:4, 9) have established a channel of communication

through which they can accomplish their deception. Through

such means as spiritualistic seances they impersonate

departed loved ones, bringing supposed comfort and assurance

to the living. At times they predict future events, which,

when proved to be accurate, give them credibility. Then the

dangerous heresies they proclaim take on the patina of

authenticity, even though they contradict the Bible and

God's law. Having removed the barriers against evil, Satan

has free rein to lead people away from God and to certain

destruction.

2. Warning against spiritualism.

No one need be deceived by spiritualism. The Bible

clearly exposes its claims as false. As we have seen, the

Bible tells us that the dead do not know anything, that they

lie unconscious in the grave.

The Bible also strongly forbids any attempt to

communicate with the dead or the spirit world. It says that

those who claim to communicate with the dead, as

spiritualistic mediums do today, are actually communicating

with "familiar spirits" that are "spirits of devils." The

Lord said these activities were abominations, and that those

who perpetrated them were to be punished by death

(Lev. 19:31; 20:27; cf. Deut. 18:10,11).

Isaiah expressed well the foolishness of spiritualism:

"When they say to you, `Seek those who are mediums and

wizards, who whisper and mutter,' should not a people seek

their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the

living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not

speak according to this word, it is because there is no

light in them" (Isa. 8:19,20). Indeed, only the teachings of

the Bible can safeguard Christians against this overwhelming

deception.

3. Manifestations of spiritualism.

The Bible records a number of spiritualistic

activities--from the magicians of Pharaoh and the magicians,

astrologers, and sorcerers of Nineveh and Babylon to the

witches and mediums of Israel--and condemns them all. One

example is the seance the witch of Endor conjured for Saul

with which we began this chapter.

Scripture says, "When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord

did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the

prophets" (1 Sam. 28:6). God, then, had nothing to do with

what happened at Endor. Saul was deceived by a demon

impersonating the dead Samuel; he never saw the real Samuel.

The witch saw the form of an old man while Saul only

"perceived" or concluded that it was Samuel (verse 14).

If we are to believe that that apparition truly was

Samuel, we must be prepared to believe that witches,

wizards, necromancers, sorcerers, spiritualists, or mediums

can call the righteous dead from wherever they go when they

die. We must also accept that the godly Samuel existed in a

conscious state in the earth, because the old man ascended

"out of the earth" (verse 13).

This seance brought Saul despair, not hope. The next day

he committed suicide (1 Sam. 31:4). Yet the so-called Samuel

had predicted that on that day Saul and his sons would be

with him (1 Sam. 28:19). If he were correct, we would have

to conclude that after death the disobedient Saul and the

righteous Samuel dwelt together. Instead, we must conclude

that an evil angel brought about the deceptive events that

occurred at this seance.

4. The final delusion.

In the past the manifestations of spiritualism were

confined to the realm of the occult, but more recently

spiritualism has taken on a "Christian" appearance so that

it might deceive the Christian world. In professing to

accept Christ and the Bible, spiritualism has become an

extremely dangerous enemy to believers. Its effects are

subtle and deceptive. Through the influence of spiritualism

"the Bible is interpreted in a manner that is pleasing to

the unrenewed heart, while its solemn and vital truths are

made of no effect. Love is dwelt upon as the chief attribute

of God, but it is degraded to a weak sentimentalism, making

little distinction between good and evil. God's justice, His

denunciations of sin, the requirements of His holy law, are

all kept out of sight. The people are taught to regard the

Decalogue as a dead letter. Pleasing, bewitching fables

captivate the senses and lead men to reject the Bible as the

foundation of their faith."(*8)

Through this means right and wrong become relative and

each person, or situation, or culture becomes the norm as to

what is "truth." In essence each person becomes a god,

fulfilling Satan's promise that "ye shall be as gods"

(Gen. 3:5, KJV).

Before us is "`the hour of trial which shall come upon

the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth'"

(Rev. 3:10). Satan is about to use great signs and miracles

in his final effort to deceive the world. Speaking of this

masterful delusion, John said, "I saw three unclean spirits

like frogs....They are spirits of demons, performing signs,

which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole

world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God

Almighty" (Rev. 16:13,14; cf. 13:13,14).

Only those who are kept by the power of God, having their

minds fortified with the truths of Scripture, accepting it

as their only authority, will be able to escape. All others

have no protection and will be swept away by this delusion.

The First and Second Deaths

The second death is the final punishment of unrepentant

sinners--all whose names are not written is the book of

life--that takes place at the end of the 1000 years (see

chapter 26). From this death there is no resurrection. With

the destruction of Satan and the unrighteous, sin is

eradicated and death itself is destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26; Rev.

20:14; 21:8). Christ has given the assurance that everyone

"`who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death'"

(Rev. 2:11).

Based on what Scripture has designated the second death,

we can assume that the first death is what every

person--except those who are translated--experiences as a

result of Adam's transgression. It is "the normal outworking

on humanity of the degenerative effects of sin."(*9)

Resurrection

Resurrection is "the restoration of life, together with

fullness of being and personality, subsequent to

death."(*10) Because humanity is subject to death, there

must be a resurrection if they are to experience life beyond

the grave. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God's

messengers have expressed hope in a resurrection (Job

14:13-15; 19:25-29; Ps.49:15; 73:24; Isa. 26:19;1 Cor. 15.).

The hope of the resurrection, for which we have solid

evidence, encourages us that we can enjoy a better future

beyond this present world in which death is the destiny of

all.

Christ's Resurrection

The resurrection of the righteous dead to immortality is

closely associated with Christ's resurrection because it is

the resurrected Christ who eventually will raise up the dead

(John 5:28,29).

1. Its importance.

What would have happened if Christ had not been

resurrected? Paul summarizes the consequences: a. There

would be no use in preaching the gospel: "If Christ is not

risen, then our preaching is vain" (1 Cor. 15:14). b. There

would be no forgiveness of sins: "And if Christ is not

risen,...you are still in your sins!" (verse 17). c. There

would be no purpose in believing in Jesus: "And if Christ is

not risen, your faith is futile" (verse 17). d. There would

be no general resurrection from the dead: "Now if Christ is

preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some

among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?"

(verse 12). e. There would be no hope beyond the grave: "If

Christ is not risen,...Then also those who have fallen

asleep in Christ have perished" (verses 17,18).(*11)

2. A bodily resurrection.

The Christ who came from the tomb was the same Jesus who

lived here in the flesh. Now He had a glorified body, but it

was still a real body. It was so real that others did not

even notice a difference (Luke 24:13-27; John 20:14-18).

Jesus Himself denied that He was some kind of spirit or

ghost. Speaking to His disciples He said, "`Behold My hands

and My feet...Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have

flesh and bones as you see I have'" (Luke 24:39). To prove

the physical reality of His resurrection, He also ate in

their presence (verse 43).

3. Its impact.

The Resurrection had an electrifying impact on Christ's

disciples. It transformed a group of weak and frightened men

into valiant apostles ready to do anything for their Lord

(Phil. 3:10,11; Acts 4:33). The mission they undertook as a

result of it shook the Roman Empire and turned the world

upside down (Acts 17:6).

"It was the certainty of Christ's resurrection that

brought point and power to the preaching of the gospel (cf.

Phil. 3:10,11). Peter speaks of the `resurrection of Jesus

Christ from the dead' as producing a `lively hope' in

believers (1 Peter 1:3). The apostles considered themselves

ordained to be witnesses `of his resurrection' (Acts 1:22),

and based their teaching of the resurrection of Christ on

the Messianic predictions of the Old Testament (Acts 2:31).

It was their personal knowledge of `the resurrection of the

Lord Jesus' that gave `great power' to their witness (Acts

4:33). The apostles drew the opposition of the Jewish

leaders when they went forth preaching `through Jesus the

resurrection from the dead' (verse 2)....When arraigned

before the Sanhedrin, Paul declared that it was because of

his `hope and resurrection of the dead' that he had been

`called in question' before them (Acts 23:6; cf. 24:21). To

the Romans, Paul wrote that Jesus Christ was `declared to be

the Son of God with power...by the resurrection from the

dead' (Rom. 1:4). In baptism, he explained, the Christian

testifies to his faith in the resurrection of Christ

(Rom. 6:4,5)."(*12)

The Two Resurrections

Christ taught that there are two general resurrections: a

"`resurrection of life'" for the just and a "`resurrection

of condemnation'" for the unjust (John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15).

The 1000 years separates these resurrections (Rev. 20:4,5).

1. The resurrection of life.

Those who are raised in the first resurrection are called

"blessed and holy" (Rev. 20:6). They will not experience the

second death in the lake of fire at the close of the 1000

years (verse 14). This resurrection to life and immortality

(John 5:29; 1 Cor. 15:52,53) takes place at the Second

Advent (1 Cor. 15:22,23; 1 Thess. 4:15-18). Those who

experience it cannot die anymore (Luke 20:36). They are

united with Christ forever.

What will the resurrected body be like? Like Christ, the

resurrected saints will have real bodies. And as Christ

arose a glorified being, so will the righteous. Paul said

that Christ "will transform our lowly body that it may be

conformed to His glorious body" (Phil. 3:21). He calls the

unglorified body and the glorified one the "natural body"

and the "spiritual body," respectively; the former being

mortal and corruptible, the latter immortal and

imperishable. The change from mortality to immortality takes

place instantaneously at the resurrection

(see 1 Cor. 15:42-54).

2. The resurrection of condemnation.

The unrighteous are raised in the second general

resurrection, which takes place at the end of the 1000 years

(see chapter 26 of this book). This resurrection proceeds to

the final judgment and condemnation (John 5:29). Those whose

names are not found in the book of life will be raised at

this time and "cast into the lake of fire" and experience

the second death (Rev. 20:15, 14).

They could have avoided this tragic end. In unmistakable

language Scripture presents God's way to escape: "`Repent!

Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your

downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have

committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will

you die?...For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone,

declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!'"

(Eze. 18:30-32, NIV).

Christ promises that "`he who overcomes shall not be hurt

at all by the second death'" (Rev. 2:11). Those who accept

Jesus and the salvation He brings will experience an

indescribable joy at His climactic return. In never-fading

happiness, they will spend eternity fellowshipping with

their Lord and Saviour.

References

1. "Immortality," SDA Encyclopedia, rev. ed., p. 621.

2. Throughout the centuries prominent Christians of many

faiths--Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, Baptist,

Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc.--have

expounded the Biblical teaching of conditional immortality.

Among the most prominent were the following: sixteenth

century--Martin Luther, William Tyndale, John Frith, George

Wishart; seventeenth century--Robert Overton, Samuel

Richardson, John Milton, George Wither, John Jackson, John

Canne, Archbishop John Tillotson, Dr. Isaac Barrow;

eighteenth century--Dr. William Coward, Henry Layton, Joseph

N. Scott, M.D., Dr. Joseph Priestly, Peter Pecard,

Archdeacon Francis Blackburne, Bishop William Warburton,

Samuel Bourn, Dr. William Whiston, Dr. John Tottie, Prof.

Henry Dodwell; nineteenth century--Bishop Timothy Kendrick,

Dr. William Thomson, Dr. Edward White, Dr. John Thomas, H.H.

Dobney; Archbishop Richard Whately; Dean Henry Alford, James

Panton Ham, Charles F. Hudson, Dr. Robert W. Dale, Dean

Frederick W. Farrar, Hermann Olshausen, Canon Henry

Constable, William Gladstone, Joseph Parker, Bishop John

J.S. Perowne, Sir George G. Stokes, Dr. W.A. Brown, Dr. J.

Agar Beet, Dr. R.F. Weymouth, Dr. Lyman Abbott, Dr. Edward

Beecher, Dr. Emmanuel Petavel-Olliff, Dr. Franz Delitzsch,

Bishop Charles J. Ellicott, Dr. George Dana Boardman, J.H.

Pettingell; twentieth century--Canon William H.M. Hay

Aitken, Eric Lewis, Dr. William Temple, Dr. Gerardus van der

Leeuw, Dr. Aubrey R. Vine, Dr. Martin J. Heinecken, David R.

Davies, Dr. Basil F.C. Atkinson, Dr. Emil Brunner, Dr.

Reinhold Niebuhr, Dr. T.A. Kantonen, Dr. D.R.G. Owen. See

Questions on Doctrine, pp. 571-609; Froom, The

Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers (Washington, D.C.:

Review and Herald, 1965,1966), vols. 1 and 2.

3. See "Death," SDA Bible Dictionary, rev. ed., pp. 277,

278.

4. R.L. Harris, "The Meaning of the Word Sheol as Shown by

Parallels in Poetic Texts," Journal of the Evangelical

Theological Society, Dec. 1961, pp. 129-135; see also SDA

Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol. 3, p. 999.

5. See, e.g., SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol. 5,

p. 387.

6. The only exception is when sheol is used figuratively

(see Eze. 32:21) or hades in a parable (Luke 16:23). Sheol

occurs more than 60 times in the Old Testament, but nowhere

does it refer to a place of punishment after death. That

idea was later attached to gehenna (Mark 9:43-48), not to

hades. There is only one exception (Luke 16:23). See also

SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol. 3, p. 999.

7. The following passages have been thought to pose

problems for this view of the Scriptures' teachings on the

nature of death. But a closer look shows them to be in full

harmony with the rest of Scripture.

a. Rachel's death. Referring to Rachel's death, Scripture

says that "her soul was departing" (Gen. 35:18). This

expression simply indicates that in her last moments of

consciousness and with her last breath she gave her son a

name. Thus other translations read: "As she breathed her

last" (NIV).

b. Elijah and the dead boy. When Elijah prayed that the

soul of the dead son of the widow of Zarephath would return,

God answered him by reviving the boy (1 Kings 17:21,22).

This was the result of the union of the life principle with

the body, neither of which was alive or conscious when they

were apart.

c. Moses' appearance on the mountain. Moses' appearance on

the Mount of Transfiguration does not provide evidence of

the existence of conscious spirits or the presence of all

righteous dead in heaven. Shortly before this event Jesus

told His disciples that before they would die some of them

would see the Son of man in His kingdom. This promise was

fulfilled to Peter, James, and John (Matt. 16:28-17:3).

On the mountain Christ revealed to them a miniature of

God's kingdom of glory. There was Christ, the glorious King,

together with Moses and Elijah--representatives of the two

types of subjects of the kingdom. Moses represented the

righteous dead who are to be resurrected from the grave at

the Second Advent, and Elijah represented the righteous

living who are to be translated to heaven without seeing

death (2 Kings 2:11).

Jude provides the evidence of Moses' special

resurrection. After Moses died and was buried (Deut.

34:5,6), there was a dispute between Michael and the devil

about the body of Moses (Jude 9). From Moses' appearance on

the mountain it can be concluded that the devil lost the

contest and Moses was resurrected from his grave, making him

the first known subject of Christ's resurrecting power. This

event does not provide evidence for the doctrine of the

immortality of the soul. Rather it presents support for the

doctrine of the bodily resurrection.

d. Parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Christ's story of

the rich man and Lazarus has been used to teach the

consciousness of the dead (Luke 16:19-31). Unfortunately,

those who interpret it in this way have not recognized that

this story is a parable that, taken literally in every

detail, would be absurd. The dead would go to their reward

as real beings with bodily parts such as eyes, tongue, and

fingers. All the righteous would be on Abraham's bosom, and

heaven and hell would be within speaking distance. Both

classes would receive their reward at death, in contrast to

Christ's teaching that they will receive it at the Second

Advent (Matt. 25:31-41; Rev. 22:12).

This story, however, is a parable--one of Christ's

favorite methods of teaching. Each parable was meant to

teach a lesson, and what Christ was teaching had nothing to

do with the state of the dead. The moral of this parable is

the importance of living by the Word of God. Jesus showed

that the rich man was preoccupied with materialism and

neglected to care for those in need. Eternal destiny is

decided in this present life and there is no second

probation. Scripture is the guide to repentance and

salvation, and if we will not heed the warnings of God's

Word, nothing can reach us. Thus Christ ended the parable

with the words "`"If they do not hear Moses and the

prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise

from the dead"'" (Luke 16:31).

Christ simply employed elements of a common Jewish story

in which the dead carry on a conversation. (The parable's

concept of Abraham's bosom and Hades was very similar to

Jewish tradition. See "Discourse to the Greeks Concerning

Hades," Josephus' Complete Works, trans. by William Whiston

[Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1960], p. 637.) Similarly we find in

the Bible a parable in which trees talk (Judges 9:7-15; cf.

2 Kings 14:9). No one would use this parable to prove that

trees can talk. So one should refrain from giving Christ's

parable a meaning that would contradict the abundant

scriptural evidence and Christ's personal teaching that

death is a sleep.

e. Christ's promise to the thief. Christ promised the thief

at the cross "`Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be

with Me in Paradise'" (Luke 23:43). Paradise obviously is

synonymous with heaven (2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7). As the

translated text reads, Christ would go to heaven that Friday

to be in the very presence of God, and so would the thief.

Yet on Resurrection morning Christ Himself said to Mary as

she fell at His feet to worship Him, "Touch me not; for I am

not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and

say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and

to my God, and your God" (John 20:17, KJV). That Christ

remained in the grave over the weekend is indicated by the

words of the angel: "`Come, see the place where the Lord

lay'" (Matt. 28:6).

Did Christ contradict Himself? Not at all. The solution

to the understanding of the text involves its punctuation.

The early manuscripts of the Bible did not have any commas

or spaces between the words. Insertion of punctuation and

word divisions can make considerable difference in the

meaning of the text. Bible translators use their best

judgment in placing punctuation marks, but their work is

certainly not inspired.

If the translators, who did such excellent work in

general, had placed the comma in Luke 23:43 after "today"

instead of before it, this passage would not contradict the

teaching of the rest of the Bible on death. Christ's words

would then be properly understood to mean: "Assuredly, I say

to you today [this day, when I am dying as a criminal], you

will be with Me in Paradise." In harmony with the Biblical

teaching, Jesus assured the thief that he would be with Him

in Paradise--a promise that will be fulfilled following the

resurrection of the just at His second coming.

f. To depart and be with Christ. "For to me, to live is

Christ, and to die is gain," Paul said. "For I am hard

pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be

with Christ, which is far better" (Phil. 1:21,23). Did Paul

expect to enter heaven immediately at death?

Paul wrote much on the subject of being with Christ. In

another letter he wrote about those "who sleep in Jesus." At

the Second Advent, he said, the righteous dead will be

resurrected, and together with the living righteous they

will be "caught up together...to meet the Lord in the air.

And thus we shall always be with the Lord"

(1 Thess. 4:14,17).

Against this background we see that in his letter to the

Philippians, Paul is not giving a detailed exposition on

what happens at death. He is simply expressing his desire to

leave his present troubled existence and to be with Christ,

without giving any reference or explanation to the period of

time between death and the resurrection. His hope is

centered on the promised personal companionship with Jesus

throughout eternity. For those who die there is no long

interval between the time when they close their eyes in

death and when they open them at the resurrection. Since the

dead are not conscious and so have no awareness of the

passing of time, the resurrection morning will seem to come

the moment after death. For the Christian, death is gain: no

more temptations, trials, and sorrows, and at the

resurrection the gift of a glorious immortality.

8. White, Great Controversy, p. 558.

9. "Death," SDA Bible Dictionary, rev. ed., p. 278; cf.

Questions on Doctrine, p. 524.

10."Resurrection," SDA Bible Dictionary, rev. ed., p. 935.

11.Questions on Doctrine, pp. 67,68.

12."Resurrection," SDA Bible Dictionary, rev. ed., p. 936.