|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
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
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?
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'"
God and human beings differ markedly. God is infinite,
they are finite. God is immortal, they are mortal. God is
eternal, they are transitory.
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"
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"
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
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
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'"
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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'"
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 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
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
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
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.
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,
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,
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
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
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.