(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the New International Version)
Hebrews 2:14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death —that is, the devil —
Hebrews 2:15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Death is the most dreaded event by humans, partly because of the uncertainties surrounding it. The fear of the unknown makes the thought of dying the most traumatic experience imaginable for any human being. Is death the end of all things concerning a person? Is there life after death? And if there is, what kind of life should people expect to have after dying? These are some of the questions that haunt people throughout life. The Bible provides answers to most, if not all, of these questions, and we would be wise to take time to find out the Biblical facts about the fate of the soul after death, for it’s something that concerns all of us, as the certainty of death is the only reality all men share in common.
When God made man, he made man’s body from the dust of the earth, and then breathed into him the breath of life, and the man then became a living soul. Man thus has two components- his body, which is made of dust of the earth, and the breath of life in him, which is his spirit/soul. When man sinned and death was pronounced upon him, God made it clear that at death, the body, which is dust, would go back to dust. It would decay and decompose and turn back to the very elements that it came from. But, what happens to the breath of life contained in that body at death? Since it’s not part of the dust that must return to dust, where does it go? The answer lies in understanding what death itself is. According to the Scriptures, physical death is simply the separation of the body from the spirit/soul (the breath of life). Once the breath of life permanently leaves a person, physical death is said to have taken place. Thus, physical death is the state of the body without the spirit or breath of life in it.
Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;
Genesis 2:17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Genesis 3:17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ’You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
Genesis 3:18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
Genesis 3:19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
James 2:26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
The Lord Jesus told us to fear only God, who alone can destroy both body and soul of man in hell. Thus, the concept of the dead ceasing to be aware of happenings around them speaks only of the dead bodies of people, not of their departed spirits/souls. The body decays and decomposes after a few days following death, and eventually disintegrates into its elemental components, going back to the dust from which it was made. The physical body thus becomes lifeless and loses consciousness and awareness at death. But, that doesn’t mean the individual has ceased to exist. He or she may no longer be in contact with the physical world, by virtue of the disintegration of the physical body, but the spirit/soul of the person lives on, in a new abode. Thus, the miracle of raising people up from the dead in the Bible was simply calling back their departed spirits to return into their lifeless bodies. The departed spirit would now leave its new abode and return back to the body, and the body would literally receive the breath of life again and live! That’s a preview of the final resurrection!
St. Matthew 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
St. John 11:17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.
St. John 11:18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem,
St. John 11:19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.
St. John 11:20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
St. John 11:21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
St. John 11:22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
St. John 11:23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
St. John 11:24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
St. John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;
St. John 11:26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
St. John 11:27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
St. John 11:28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.”
St. John 11:29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.
St. John 11:30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.
St. John 11:31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
St. John 11:32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
St. John 11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
St. John 11:34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
St. John 11:35 Jesus wept.
St. John 11:36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
St. John 11:37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
St. John 11:38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.
St. John 11:39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
St. John 11:40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
St. John 11:41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.
St. John 11:42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
St. John 11:43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
St. John 11:44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
St. John 11:45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
What exactly happens to the spirit/soul of the dead when they depart from this earth? Where do souls of dead people go to? The Lord Jesus told us, from the story of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus, that when people die, their souls either go to paradise or to hell, depending on the relationship they had with God while alive on earth here. If a person was saved and was in right standing with God, at death, their spirits/souls go to paradise, where they rest, while awaiting the resurrection of their bodies. Those who were not in right standing with God and were not saved go to hell or hades, a place of torment and sorrows, while awaiting the second resurrection and God’s judgement, and would eventually be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death. The soul’s destiny after physical death is thus contingent on its relationship with God while alive on earth. The wicked are cast into hell, as well as all the nations that forget God, while those who believe and trust in God and serve him faithfully end up in paradise. Paul talked about being absent from the body (physical death) and being present with the Lord as being a far better experience than being alive on earth. Death is simply the soul removing its garment of corruptible flesh, and putting on an immortal spiritual body.
St. Luke 16:19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.
St. Luke 16:20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores
St. Luke 16:21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
St. Luke 16:22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.
St. Luke 16:23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
St. Luke 16:24 So he called to him, ’Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
St. Luke 16:25 “But Abraham replied, ’Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.
St. Luke 16:26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
St. Luke 16:27 “He answered, ’Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family,
St. Luke 16:28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
St. Luke 16:29 “Abraham replied, ’They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
St. Luke 16:30 “’No, father Abraham,’ he said, ’but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
St. Luke 16:31 “He said to him, ’If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Psalms 9:16 The Lord is known by the judgment He executes;
The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.
Psalms 9:17 The wicked shall be turned into hell,
And all the nations that forget God (NKJV).
St. Luke 23:39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
St. Luke 23:40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?
St. Luke 23:41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
St. Luke 23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. “
St. Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
2 Corinthians 5:2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling,
2 Corinthians 5:3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.
2 Corinthians 5:4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
2 Corinthians 5:5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 5:6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:7 For we live by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Philippians 1:20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!
Philippians 1:23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;
Philippians 1:24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
Philippians 1:25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,
Philippians 1:26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
We can thus see that the souls of the dead do not sleep with the body at death. The souls of the dead are alive and active after death, in their various locations. They are conscious, feel pain and torment, as well as enjoy peace and happiness. The souls of the dead are knowledgeable and aware of their surroundings and recollect things that happened while in the body. The concept of soul-sleep (the souls of the dead being asleep and unconscious in death, along with the body) as propagated by some Christian groups is therefore wrong and unbiblical.Though the physical natural body disintegrates in the earth and turns to dust, the real individual (the soul) is alive, conscious and will eventually answer for the deeds done in this body. But first, the soul of each person will go to a resting place (paradise for the righteous, and hell/hades for the unrighteous), while awaiting the resurrection of the body and final judgement for those imprisoned in hell. The saints in paradise will rise first in the first resurrection, and will reign with Christ, while the rest of the dead will continue to remain where they are in hell/hades, and will arise in the second resurrection to face God’s judgement and be sent to their final and eternal destination in the lake of fire.
Revelation 6:9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.
Revelation 6:10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”
Revelation 6:11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.
Revelation 20:1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.
Revelation 20:2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
Revelation 20:3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
Revelation 20:4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
Revelation 20:5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.
Revelation 20:13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.
Revelation 20:14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.
Revelation 20:15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
In conclusion, physical death, which is the separation of the body from the soul, is a necessary end for all humans. The fear of death is universal, and mostly stems from the uncertainties surrounding death and the fate of the dead. The devil uses this fear of death to torment and hold many in captivity, subjecting them to a lifetime of fear and bondage. This need not be so. Death is not the end of a person, but an exit from this world into another. There is life after death, for the soul of man is eternal and does not die with the body at death, being made in the image and likeness of the eternal God. Each person’s destiny after death depends on the life one lived here and the relationship the person had with God. The souls of those who had a right standing with God in this life go to paradise after death, while the souls of the wicked who did not know God nor feared him end up in hell/hades, a place of sorrow and torment. The soul of man does not go to sleep after death, but is alive, conscious, active and relates with its new surroundings, capable of feeling both happiness and sorrows, depending on its location. Life therefore continues after death, as well as the opportunity to give an account of the lives we lived here on earth, and to receive the reward/ punishment for our labours.
Romans 14:7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.
Romans 14:8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
Romans 14:9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
Romans 14:10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister ? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
Romans 14:11 It is written: “’As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ’every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’”
Romans 14:12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.