The State of the Dead and Hope of the Resurrection


By K George

What is the best approach to Bible study? Do we search out Scriptures that prove what we already “know” to be true? Do we have one or more favorite commentators that we refer to find the meaning of difficult subjects or passages? Do we just pray over any topic or verse we are reading and expect immediate Divine revelation on the matter? If the latter is the case, why does 2 Tim 2:15 say? “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth.”

No, I think there is a more Scripturally sound approach to Bible study. First, we have a “God-breathed” book here, in which the Holy Spirit specifically chose the words used in the original Greek or Hebrew. If we want knowledge in His word, let us first gather all we can on a particular topic and let God speak for Himself. (1 Cor 2:13 KJV)

“Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

Secondly, we should always consider the full context of the passage, which would also include any dispensational boundaries, “rightly dividing the word of truth.”

This is the approach I try to stick to in my studies as much as I am able. The topic at hand is the state of the dead. In the first half of this study, I have tried to gather all that I can on this topic and let the evidence speak for itself. What does the Bible say about those who have died? Is tradition correct in purporting that death is only a door through which I pass immediately from death to life eternal? If so, what is the purpose of all the Scriptures regarding resurrection? When does resurrection occur, immediately upon death or at a later appointed time?

I believe that the Bible emphatically and repeatedly emphasizes that the dead are dead and unaware until an appointed time of resurrection. Our life is hid with Christ in God, both in this life and in death awaiting resurrection. However, what I think is completely meaningless, unless it is in full agreement with His Truth. My goal in this study is to be as complete as possible in the treatment of this important topic. In the first half of this paper, I try to present as many Scriptures as possible regarding death and resurrection. In the second half, I try to address commonly cited passages that would be used as objections to the dead being dead awaiting resurrection. Since we know that all Scripture is true, there can be no discrepancies or disagreements between passages, just our inability to understand. I certainly hold no corner on the truth, and am as prone to error as anyone. So let’s examine the word together, and let the reader search and see if these things are so.

State of the Dead

These first verses plainly state that the dead are not thinking, working, loving, hating, speaking, praising or celebrating God in any way, shape, or form. They are all silent and completely unaware. The first verse definitely refers to the wicked being silent in the grave. The next three verses do not specify whether they refer to believers or unbelievers. But the last six verses definitely deal with believers who cannot praise God in the grave. Where is the idea that these people are immediately in heaven upon death, enjoying the presence of the Lord?

(Psa 31:17 KJV) “Let me not be ashamed, O LORD; for I have called upon thee: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.”

(Eccl 9:10 KJV) “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no  work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”

(Psa 146:4 KJV) “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his  thoughts perish.”

(Eccl 9:6 KJV) “Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.”

(Psa 6:5 KJV) “For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall  give thee thanks?

(Psa 30:9 KJV) “What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the  dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?”

(Psa 88:11 KJV) “Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy  faithfulness in destruction?”

(Psa 115:17 KJV) “The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into  silence.”

(Isa 38:17-19 KJV) “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. {18}  For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down  into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. {19} The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I  do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.”

(Job 17:13-16 KJV) “If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the  darkness. {14} I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my  mother, and my sister. {15} And where is now my hope? as for my hope, who shall see  it? {1 6} They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust.” Sleep of death

Repeatedly in the Bible, a figure used for the death of a saint is sleep. In the Old Testament, three different words are used in this context: “shakab,” “yashen,” and “shenah.” In the New Testament, the Greek word “koimai” is used, and death as a figure of sleep is used there exclusively of believers. A Christian’s life is hid with Christ in God. Just as those who are alive and remain at Christ’s coming are changed in an instant, I believe that anyone who dies will only be aware of closing their eyes and then opening them at the appearing of the Lord.

However, if there were immediate passage from the moment of death to the glory of heaven beyond, then why would the figure of sleeping be used for believers who are dead? Furthermore, what would be the point of all the passages that speak of a resurrection day? No, just as in a deep sleep we are unaware until awakened, so is death. Let’s examine the evidence. I have divided the verses according to the original words used, but all 22 passages cited refer to death as sleep. Death as sleep is a theme that runs continuously throughout Scripture.

Old Testament References

“Shakab:” (This Hebrew word for sleep occurs 251 times, and it means to lie down. However, according to Welch, in his article entitled “Sleep” in the Alphabetical Analysis, Vol. 7, p. 256, the “actual act and fact of sleep is not inherent in the meaning of the word.” This word, “shakab,” is used both of the godly and the ungodly)

(Deu 31:16 KJV) “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold,  thou shalt sleep with thy  fathers;  and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.”

(2 Sam 7:12 KJV) “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.”

(1 Ki 2:10 KJV) “So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.”

(Job 7:21 KJV) “And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.”

“Yeshen:” This Hebrew word for sleep occurs 10 times, mostly in context of ordinary sleep, three times in the context of death.

(Psa 13:3 KJV) “Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep  the sleep of death;”

(Dan 12:2 KJV) “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some  to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

(Job 3:12-13 KJV) “Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck? {13} For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I  been at rest,”

“Shenah:” This Hebrew word occurs 24 times and is used of both ordinary sleep and the sleep of death, but it is only used in context of the sleep of death when speaking of godly, saved men.

(Psa 90:3-6 KJV) “Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. {4} For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. {5} Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. {6} In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.”

(This is such a common theme in Scripture. We are like the grass that perishes and as the following verse from Psalms says, we are soon forgotten in this world.)

(Psa 103:15-16 KJV) “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. {1 6} For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall  know it no more.”

The Witness of Job

(Job 14:7-15 KJV) “For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. {8} Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; {9} Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. {10} But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea,  man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?  {11} As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: {12} So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be  no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. {13} O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! {14} If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. {15} Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.”

Let’s take a moment to revel in a closer look at this remarkable passage. It is just too wonderful and full to gloss over it. Welch does a marvelous exposition of these verses both in his booklet entitled Job pp. 34-39, (also available in PDF format, pp.23-25 on this web site), and in his audio by the same title W-143-144. First, notice how Job starts the discourse with the poignant picture of a “cut down tree” which has the hope of sprouting again. This is a fitting picture of our hope of resurrection.

The figure of resurrection as being awakened out of a sleep of death appears there in verse 12, but this verse is even more fantastic when you can see the original intent of the words used. Welch explains that the key to the phrase “when the heaven be no more” is contained in original wording in the LXX, which reads literally “until the heavens become unstitched or unsown.” When do the heavens become unstitched ? These end- time passages give the answer.

(Isa 34:4 KJV) “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be  rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.”

“And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” (Rev 6:14 KJV)

Therefore, just as Elihu makes reference to the beginning when God stretched out the heavens (Job 37:18), so Job knows that the hope of his resurrection is expected at the time when Christ returns and the heavens are rolled away!

Furthermore, look at how Job declares in verse 13 and 14 that God will remember him and resurrect him at a set and appointed time. At that appointed time, not an immediate passage from death to life, Job expects his change to come.

(Job 14:13,14) “thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! {14} If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change  come.”)

How reminiscent is this of 1 Cor. 15: 52 which plainly states the same hope in very similar words?

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:52)

Also, Job, what else did you say in v.13?O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret…” Job’s life like ours is hid with Christ in God.

Now consider the last verse of this extraordinary passage. “{15} Thou shalt call, and I  will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.” Just as in the case of Lazarus, the dead are raised by the voice of Christ calling their individual names. This amazing point is reiterated in John 5:28-29.

(John 5:28-29 KJV) “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are  in the graves shall hear his voice, {29} And shall come forth; they that have done good,  unto the resurrection of life;  and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

Finally, as Welch points out, there is an even more fantastic aspect to this last verse, which casts a beautiful glimpse of the compassionate, loving nature of our God. When verse 15 says that God will have a “desire” to the work of His hands, the original Hebrew word used is “kasaph” from the word “keseph” meaning silver or to turn pale. The idea is that God Himself, the Omnipotent; Holy Creator of the entire Universe is turning pale with an intense desire for the restoration of his suffering follower. Welch’s words in his booklet “Job” are well worth quoting in their entirety here:

“What Job said was to the effect that so intense was the desire of God for the restoration of the work of His hands, that He “turns pale with the intensity of His feelings” a figure-of-speech truly, but what a figure! Other translations of this same word are “to long sore” for something (Gen.3 1: 30) as the exile longed for his father’s home, or “to long” even unto fainting, as the believer did for the courts of God’s house (Psa. 84:2). When we think of Job stricken down in body and mind, an awful spectacle to behold, a wreck of a man, bewildered and perplexed, wondering most of all why it should be that God Himself seemed against him, can we not rejoice at such a glimpse of the heart of God, longing more intently than Job’s heart could ever yearn to pour out upon the stricken man His pent-up love and to raise that broken body to more than its original dignity.” (C.H. Welch, Job p.37)

New Testament References

Koimai (This Greek word for involuntary sleep or the sleep of death is used exclusively for believers in the New Testament. The unbeliever perishes, although he still has to face a resurrection of condemnation to a second and final death. However, upon death, as believers, we are asleep with our lives completely hidden in the safest place in all the universe-in Christ! What comfort!


(John 11:11-14 KJV) “These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. {12} Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. {13} Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. {14} Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.”

(Notice that the Lord Himself uses the sleep of death figure. Neither Lazarus nor any of those raised from the dead by Christ is recorded to have any fantastic stories of heaven to relate. No, they were asleep and unaware.)


(Acts 13:36-37 KJV) “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God,  fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: {37} But he, whom  God raised again, saw no corruption.”

(Acts 2:29-30 KJV) “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.”

(Acts 2:34-3 5 KJV) For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, {35} Until I make thy foes thy footstool.”

(How much more plainly spoken can that be about David’s state? As all believers, David is dead, awaiting resurrection. His body, unlike Christ’s, saw corruption: dust-to-dust.)


(Acts 7:59-60 KJV) “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. {60} And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”


(Mat 27:52 KJV) “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which  slept arose,”

(1 Cor 11:30 KJV) “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”

1 Cor. 15 is the great chapter of the resurrection, which will be covered in depth in the next section. But for the verses cited here, notice the emphasis on the sleep of the believer awaiting resurrection.

(1 Cor 15:6 KJV) “After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.”

(1 Cor 15:16-21 KJV) “For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: {1 7} And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. {18} Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. {19} If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. {20} But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. {21} For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.”

(1 Cor 15:51-57 KJV) “ {51} Behold, I show you a mystery;  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, {52} In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be  changed.

(Eph 5:14 KJV) “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”

(1 Th 4:13-18 KJV) “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are  asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. {14} For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. {15} For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

{1 6} For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: {1 7} Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. {18} Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

Notice the great emphasis in this last passage on the “sleeping” (dead) believer who is raised upon the Lord’s Second Coming. Our hope lies in the resurrection, just as the next section of Scriptures emphasizes.

Our Hope: Resurrection

Again, what need is there of resurrection if everyone is immortal, and people pass directly through the door of death to the other side of glory or condemnation? No, the resurrection of the dead is in perfect harmony with the rest of the plain teaching of the state of the dead in all the other Scriptures. The resurrection is our hope, and as I Cor. 15 says, if the dead are not raised then we have no hope. But, praise God, because He lives, we shall live also!

(1 Cor 15:12-23 KJV) “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? {13} But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: {14} And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. {15} Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he  raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. {1 6} For if the dead rise not, then is not  Christ raised: {1 7} And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.  {18} Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. {19} If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. {20} But now is Christ  risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.  {21} For since by man  came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. {22} For as in Adam all die,  even so in Christ shall all be made alive. {23} But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”

(1 Cor 15:35-57 KJV) “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? {36} Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: {37} And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: {38} But God giveth it a  body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. {39} All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. {40} There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. {41} There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. {42}  So also is the resurrection of the dead.  It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: {43} It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: {44}  It is sown a natural  body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. {45} And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. {46} Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. {47} The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. {48} As is the earthy, such are they also  that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. {49} And as  we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. {50} Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. {51} Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all  sleep, but we shall all be changed, {52} In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the  last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible,  and we shall be changed. {53} For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this  mortal must put on immortality. {54} So when this corruptible shall have put on  incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought  to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. {55} O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? {56} The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. {57} But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

There are several important points to notice about this very plainly written passage concerning the need for resurrection. These verses answer the what, why and when of resurrection from the dead. First, notice there is absolutely no idea of disembodied spirits waiting for a body. Verses 35, 38, and 44 all emphasize that a new body is given at the resurrection, which is unlike the natural (literally “soulical” body of this flesh.)

Secondly, why does this occur? Because Christ was the firstfruits of those raised from the dead and we are in Him. (v.12-23, 45-50, 57) Thirdly, does this occur upon the immediate death of the believer? No, like all the other passages, it is at the Second Coming (v. 52). This leads us to our next stop.

Resurrection at His Appearing

The hope of our resurrection is very much associated with this great appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ as the next three verses also demonstrate.

(2 Tim 4:8 KJV) “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

(Titus 2:13 KJV) “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;”

(2 Tim 4:1 KJV) “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing  and his kingdom;”

The Greek words for appear here are “epiphania” and “phaneroo,” meaning to be made suddenly manifest in a blaze of glorious light. The root, “phan” means to shine, and “epi” means upon. The Greek word “epiphania” is also translated brightness in the following verse and is also associated with the Second Coming.

(2 Th 2:8 KJV) “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:”

Therefore, when the Lord is suddenly manifest in a blaze of glorious light, we will appear with Him. It is then that He will awaken us from the sleep of death or change us if we are still alive. This is only one aspect of the Second Coming. The fine points of the “three aspects of the Lord’s second coming” are covered in depth by many fine audios by C. H. Welch available on this web site. (W-320, W-5-8, W-205-223.

Resurrection at the “last day,” associated with the Second Coming, is the theme of resurrection in John. In accordance with all other Scripture, this is not upon the death of an individual believer, but rather; it is at an appointed time.

(John 6:39-40 KJV) “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. {40} And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

(John 6:44 KJV) “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

(John 6:54 KJV) “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

(John 11:24-26 KJV) “Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. {25} Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life:  he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: {26} And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”

The following verses are general references to the need of resurrection, both involving the just and the unjust.

(Acts 24:15 KJV) “And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.”

(John 5:28-29 KJV) “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are  in the graves shall hear his voice, {29} And shall come forth; they that have done good,  unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of  damnation.” (Of course, we have all done evil, but for those who have accepted Christ, their sins are forgiven and forgotten and they have the imputed righteousness of the Lord Himself.)

(Acts 4:2 KJV) “Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”

(Acts 26:8 KJV) “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?”

(Rom 6:5 KJV) “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we  shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:”

(Rom 8:11 KJV) “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”

(1 Cor 6:14 KJV) “And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by  his own power.”

(2 Cor 1:9 KJV) “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:”

(2 Cor 4:14 KJV) “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us  also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.”

(Eph 2:5-6 KJV) “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) {6} And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:”

(This is our eventual physical destiny, but God, in His mercy, already counts it as done on our behalf.)

(Rev 20:5-6 KJV) “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. {6} Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”

(Welch points out that the word “first” in these verses should actually be rendered former, because there are two companies of people involved here. The former or first resurrection is for faithful overcomers who will reign with Christ during the thousand- year reign. The rest of that particular company is raised after the thousand-year reign. More information on this point can be found in several of Welch’s audios on this web site including W-240, and W-432-435.)

Part II: Objections

I have tried to be thorough in presenting as much positive proof as possible supporting what I feel is overwhelming evidence on the state of the dead and the need for a future resurrection. Still, I am acutely aware that for a particular viewpoint to be true, it must be in full agreement with all Scripture. There is never any discrepancy in the word of God, only our inability to interpret it correctly. Therefore, I have devoted the second half of this paper to the common objections to the dead being dead and unaware until the resurrection. My goal is not to ignore or “explain away” all the opposing views but to gather all the evidence and to search and see. With that said, I’ll start by quoting a friend of mine who once said, “Yeah, but what about the Rich Man and Lazarus?”

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Often, the most common obstacle to believing in the unaware state of the dead awaiting resurrection is the traditional teaching of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. This topic could easily be a full study in itself. However, in the interest of completeness and its importance, I’ll try to present the key points in what I feel is the true interpretation of this story. For a more complete examination of Luke 16, I would direct the reader to C.H. Welch’s study entitled “Hell or Pure from the Blood of all Men” available both in booklet form and in PDF format on this web site pp. 25-29. The same article is contained under the title “Hell” in An Alphabetical Analysis, Volume 6, pp. 265-271. Also, a confirming viewpoint is reiterated and expanded slightly in the booklet titled, “The Rich Man and Lazarus,” by Otis Sellers. Finally, the margin notes of Luke 16 by E.W. Bullinger in the Companion Bible contain some added points. These are all available through a link on this web site. This topic is also treated briefly in my brother’s study entitled “Hell” on this web site.

Every passage in the Bible must be studied in terms of who is being addressed and its context. The entire chapter of Luke 16 is directed in a very cutting and satirical way toward the hypocritical and traditional teaching of the Pharisees. Bullinger does an excellent job of presenting the structure of the entire chapter in this alternating form:

A. v. 15. What the Pharisees esteemed (God’s abomination)

B. v. 16, 17 The Law and the prophets proclaimed

A. v. 18-30 What the Pharisees taught(God’s abomination)

B. v.31 Moses and the prophets

The first parable of Luke 16: 1-8 tells of a master who mistakenly commends an unjust steward. The Lord’s response to this unjust steward is puzzling, until you realize there is a translation problem. (Luke16:9) “And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” This should be translated as Christ asking “Do I say make friends of unrighteousness; that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations? This is a rhetorical question that has an emphatic “No!” as its implied answer, as verses 10-13 show.

(Luke 16:10-13 KJV) “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. {1 1} If therefore ye have not been  faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? {12}  And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that  which is your own? {13} No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

Bullinger points out that the Pharisees were the ones who coveted money so much that “though they were ashamed to beg (v. 3), they were certainly not ashamed to embezzle.” Therefore, Luke 16:1-13 is the first jibe directed at the Pharisees. In verse 14 and 15, Christ further challenges their false teaching and faithless ways. These two verses are the central section and purpose of this entire chapter.

(Luke 16:14-15 KJV) “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided Him. {15} And He said unto them, Ye are they which justify  yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed  among men is abomination in the sight of God.”

Christ contrasts the true teaching of the law and the prophets with that of the Pharisees in next two verses: (Luke 16:16-17 KJV) “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. {1 7} And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.”

Next, the Lord makes a statement that seems completely out of place at first, but not when you fit it into the purpose of the entire context. (Luke 16:18 KJV) “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”

In his notes on this verse, Bullinger explains that in the first parable, the Lord was exposing their false teaching on the subject of money, which ignored the true teaching of the law and prophets. Here in verse 18, He further accuses the Pharisees of nullifying the Law with their traditional teaching concerning justification for divorce. Finally, the Lord makes a rigorous and complete derision of their hypocritical teachings on the subject of death by this very sarcastic story of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

As Welch points out, the Pharisees themselves originally developed these traditional teachings on death and hell from the Greek Platonic philosophers. Bullinger further points out that many of their teachings also have their roots in Babylonism, which Israel would have picked up in their long captivity there. Josephus, who was a Pharisee himself from the age of nineteen, explains the Pharisees’ traditional teaching in his writings. Once you know the Pharisees’ beliefs and teachings, the light begins to dawn. It becomes clear why this story disagrees with what the rest of Scripture says on these subjects of death and hell. It is because the Pharisees’ teaching did ignore and distort true Scripture, and as verse 15 says this is an “abomination in the sight of God.”

Christ knew that the Pharisees used these false teachings to oppress the poor and excuse themselves from helping them. They taught that to be poor in this life meant automatic riches and heaven in the next. Christ uses obvious logic to show that if this is what the Pharisees believe, then the reverse must also be true. To paraphrase what Christ is saying to them through this story: “Fine, if to be poor now means glory later, then the opposite would be true for you rich Pharisees. Since you are all so rich, then your version of hell must be what you will face later. But this is not the teaching of the Law and the Prophets. You won’t believe their witness, and you won’t believe the greater witness of the One who will rise from the dead.”

Let’s look at this story line by line, and I’ll include a summary what Bullinger, Welch and Sellers’ research reveal about this satirical expose’ of the Pharisees’ teachings on death.

(Luke 16:19-31 KJV) “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: (The Pharisees lived like kings (“purple”) and usurped the office of the priests (“fine linen,”) and they lived separate and richly apart from the common people (“fared sumptuously”)

{20} And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, (Lazarus means “God, a help.” Often, Pharisees would devour a widow’s property, and then make long prayers for God to help her. The care of the poor was Scripturally set upon the rich (“laid at his gate”). Yet, they laid it all on God and abused the very people they were commanded to help. They further taught that the poor were being punished, and they would be rewarded and recompensed in the next life for their poverty. Therefore, they argued it would actually be doing the poor a disservice to help them.)

{21} And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. (This is another stinging attack on the Pharisees for neglecting to follow the law about purposely leaving enough for the poor to glean (Deut. 15:7,8). Also, there is the further insult that it was often the Gentiles, considered “dogs” by the Pharisees and Jews, who helped the poor.)

{22} And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; (The Pharisees teaching in the Talmud and records of Josephus are the only place outside of this passage that talk of “Abraham’s bosom.” This is unknown to Scripture, outside of Luke 16. The Pharisees also taught that there were three sets of angels for wicked men and others for good men.

They claimed that the angels carried a “transmigrated soul” into a place of waiting called
Abraham’s bosom. They would say of the dead, “This day he sits in Abraham’s bosom.”)

{23}     And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (The Pharisees taught that seeing the “Fathers” of their nation afar off further punished those condemned. They also taught that Hades was a place of detainment and temporary punishment, and that people would be full of fear and torment in expectation of the punishment soon to come.)

{24}   And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. (The Pharisees taught that two people could be “coupled together” after death and see the other’s state. Moreover, as the next verse continues, the Pharisees made up long imaginary conversations between such people. They also said that angels would drag the condemned near the flames, and they would be further tormented by the noise and heat of what they knew was to come.)

{25}     But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. (Notice that the rich man ends up in “hell” and the beggar in “Abraham’s bosom,” but there is absolutely nothing within the confines of the story itself that says that the beggar was good and the rich man evil, just that they get the opposite of what they had in their earthly life. In fact, notice that there is nothing at all in this story of salvation through grace, or faith, or the gospel in any form. Plus, there is the added irony that the rich man goes to “hell” while the poor man ends up in the “bosom of Abraham,” who was an exceedingly rich man himself in his lifetime!)

{26}     And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. (They taught that there was a great gulf where two people in opposite states could see each other and talk, but they could never cross.)

{27}     Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: {28} For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. {29} Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. {30} And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. {31} And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (The Pharisees were always demanding a special sign from heaven. The Bible’s testimony was not enough. Here, the Lord is turning back to the fact that the Pharisees preferred their fallacious traditions to the true testimony of Moses and the prophets, who always confirmed the teaching and person of the Lord. No, as Christ accuses them, they would never believe, though One should rise from the dead, as He certainly would!)

Therefore, the Lord’s satire is complete and piercing. Christ uses their own false teachings to turn the tables on their true hypocrisy. He has beaten them at their own game, even using their own words. Knowing all this, you can almost see the smoke rising from the collars of these pompous Pharisees. And you can almost hear the common people delight in this One who spoke with such authority!

God of the living not the dead

I have heard some people use the following verse to try to prove that everyone passes directly through the door of death to life with Christ. (Luke 20:3 8 KJV) “For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.”

But let’s look at the entire passage in context and research the original a bit and see what the study yields.

(Luke 20:27 KJV) “Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him…”

(Luke 20:35-3 8 KJV) “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: {36} Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. {37} Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. {38} For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all  live unto him.”

This story of the Sadducees’ question and the Lord’s reply is repeated almost identically in Matt. 22:23-32 and Mark 12:18-27. But what about the emphasis in this very passage on the need for resurrection? Can it be that these verses disagree with all the others that speak pointedly of the sleep of the saints and a future resurrection? No, I don’t believe there is any problem.

The word for “living” and “life” in verse 38 is the common Greek word for life “zao.” This word is used in almost all contexts of life, but it is also commonly used in terms of life subsequent to the resurrection.” It is used in this way in many passages, including the following Matt. 9:18, Acts 1:3, 9:41, Rom 6:10, 2 Cor. 13:4, Rev.1:18 and many others. However, perhaps the most pointed passage in which this word “zao” is used in this context is John 11:25,26:

(John 11:25-26 KJV) “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: {26} And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”

When “shall he live,” though he be dead? The answer is in the resurrection of course, by the power of the One who is the resurrection and the life! The last phrase of v. 26 “shall never die” must be speaking of the second death for unbelievers, since v. 25 says they are dead, and most obviously Christians do die in this life as everyone else.

Along these same lines, another objection to a yet future resurrection is that Moses was already raised up and appeared with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. Therefore, some might say that this proves the dead are already raised. But, does the possibility that Moses was already resurrected at the transfiguration prove that all believers everywhere are immediately raised from the dead?

(Mat 17:1-3 KJV) “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, {2} And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. {3} And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.”

Granted, Moses may have been already resurrected to appear with Christ there, but Scripture definitely leaves the possibility of earlier resurrections as a reward for special faithfulness. Consider the following passages.

(Phil 3:10-14 KJV) “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; {11}  If by any  means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. {12} Not as though I had already  attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. {13} Brethren, I count not myself to have  apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, {14} I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Could anyone imagine that the great apostle Paul did not feel assured of attaining the general resurrection unto life eternal? If he couldn’t be sure of this, can any of us? No, as Welch points out in many of his works, including the article entitled “The Prize” in volume 3 pp.272-279 of The Alphabetical Analysis, an earlier resurrection is implied in the original wording. It is an earned reward for faithful service. The original Greek wording is “ten exanastasin ten ek nekron” means literally, “the out-resurrection that which is out from dead ones.” This same phrase in Mark 9:10 confused the disciples when they questioned, “what rising from the dead should mean” when Christ said this of Himself. Literally, Christ had said, “til the Son of Man were risen out from dead ones.” Hence, He would experience an earlier, special resurrection.

An earlier, special resurrection is what Paul hoped to be counted worthy of attaining. This same doctrine for a different calling is also contained in the book of Luke and Hebrews.

(Luke 20:35 KJV) “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:” (The original is resurrection out from the dead. Notice too, “they are accounted worthy.”)

(Heb 11:35 KJV) “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:”  (Again, the concept is that God may grant an extremely faithful witness an earlier resurrection.)

In view of all this, it does not seem at all surprising that God would resurrect faithful Moses earlier than the last day and have Him appear on the Mount of Transfiguration. This is accordance with the possibility of an earlier resurrection.

It is also possible that the transfiguration itself was a vision of yet future event. In the margin of the Companion Bible, Bullinger proposes that the transfiguration of Christ gives a glimpse of Christ at his Second Coming; with Moses representing the Law and those who are dead and raised at His coming, and Elijah representing the Prophets and those who are alive and are changed at His coming (1 Thes.4: 16-17). Either way, the sight of Moses and Elijah with Christ on the mount does not prove that all people everywhere pass immediately from death to life. As we have seen, that doctrine of immediate passage is in disagreement with a huge scope of Scriptures.

Today in Paradise?

(Luke 23:43) “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

There are many who would say that this proves that a believer passes directly from moment of death to the paradise of heaven. However, let’s look the facts:

Christ rose from the dead on the third day, not the day of His death.

(Mat 12:40 KJV) “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

(1 Cor 15:4 KJV) “And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day  according to the scriptures:”

Christ was in the grave, and saw no corruption those three days.

(Acts 2:27 KJV) “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (grave), neither wilt thou  suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”

If Christ was in the grave those three days, how could the thief be with Him in paradise on the day of their death? Further proof that the Lord had not ascended until the third day is in the following verse, which Christ spoke to Mary in the garden on that morning of His resurrection.

(John 20:17 KJV) “Jesus saith unto her, 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.”

Since it is really abundantly clear from Scripture that Christ did not ascend to heaven and raise up until the third day, what is the explanation for what He said to the thief on the cross? Actually, the problem is only a misplaced comma. There is no punctuation in the original. Therefore, it makes much more sense for the verse to read: “Verily, I say unto  you today, thou shall be with Me in paradise.” Consequently, there is no disagreement

in this verse with the scope of Scripture concerning Christ’s resurrection, or the state of the dead, and our hope of resurrection.

Absent from this body, present with the Lord

(2 Cor 5:1-10 KJV) “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were  dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the  heavens. {2} For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: {3}  If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. {4} For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. {5} Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. {6} Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: {7} (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) {8} We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to  be present with the Lord. {9} Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. {1 0} For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

This passage does not teach that there is some intermediate state in which disembodied spirits are present immediately with the Lord upon death. Look at the obvious parallels in the passage. This fleshly body in which we live is spoken of as tabernacle, which is literally “a tent (Greek: skenos).” We groan in this body. As Welch points out, the Greek word for groan is “stenos,” and it implies a cramped-desiring to fly free, such as butterfly would when released from its chrysalis. In verse 4 of this passage, are we groaning to be resurrected without a body? No, verse 2 emphatically addresses this. We are groaning to put on a new body that is eternal and made in the heavens. All this is so that our mortality (original: the mortal thing) might be swallowed up in life. These words “swallowed up” are the exact Greek words used in I Cor. 15:54 where death is swallowed up in victory when the mortal has put on immortality. Both 1 Cor. 15 and this passage address the same issue of the need for a resurrection body. Finally, the word “absent” in verses 6, 7 and 8 is the Greek word “ekdemeo.” The prefix “ek” means out of, and according to Bullinger in his note on this verse in The Companion Bible, “the demos was the township to which an Athenian citizen belonged.” So then, when you are out of the citizenship to this present fleshly body, you are into the citizenship of the new eternal body. This occurs upon death and subsequent resurrection.

However, just like the next verse cited, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is an immediate transfer from one body to the next with no interval or sleep of death, just that resurrection is the next thing to be experienced. If I close my eyes in the sleep of death, the next thing I’m aware of is the promised glory with Christ, whether the interval is one second or ten-thousand years, it will seem but a twinkling of an eye.

(Phil 1:21-24 KJV) “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. {22} But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. {23} For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: {24} Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”

Welch uses the analogy that even in the normal course of conversation, you might say you are departing now to be with your family. Does that mean that there is no interval or journey between where you are and where you are going? Of course not, just that it’s the goal of your trip home. Such is the meaning of this verse, which in no way disagrees with the vast array of Scripture that speaks of the state of the dead and the hope of the resurrection.

Spirit Returns to God

(Luke 23:46 KJV) “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”

The word for spirit is the Greek, “pneuma,” which is used in a wide variety of ways. It is also the ordinary word for breath, and the Bible frequently talks of taking away the breath as meaning to expire in death.

The original for “give up the ghost” is simply “ekpneu” from the Greek “ek” meaning “out” and “pneu” translated simply to “blow” in all its other New Testament uses. So literally translated, He “blew out” or in other words took His last breath.

When Christ says, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” is He referring to a conscious, disembodied spirit commonly taught as a person’s soul? If so, then we have a definite conflict with all the other afore cited Scriptures on the state of the dead. Let’s see if there are Scriptures that address this particular issue. The Greek and Hebrew words for spirit (Greek: “pneumo,” Hebrew: “ruwach”) are both used in vastly diverse ways. Therefore, we have to look for specific verses that deal with a spirit that is given by God and returns to God upon death. Please note that the following verses do not refer to the Holy Spirit or the new nature, which is also referred to as the spirit, which a person receives upon salvation. As you will see in these verses, there is no context of eternal salvation, only life on this earth. Furthermore, notice that even animals are included.

Here in the first verse, God gives the spirit in the first place, and it returns to Him upon death.

(Eccl 12:7 KJV) “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit  (ruwach)  shall return unto God who gave it.”

What is this spirit? I think the key is contained in the following verses. I believe that from the contexts of all of these verses, this spirit is that animating breath of life, that which makes the body alive. There are two Hebrew words concerning this breath of life. One is “neshamah” which God particularly breathed into man. This word is used exclusively of man, and seems to be linked to understanding, which only man possesses. The more general term for breath or spirit is “ruwach” and is used for both animals and people. When God sends forth His animating spirit, bodies are made alive. Upon death, the spirit of life returns to God who gave it. But no where does the context indicate that something peculiar to that person, such as the traditional definition of a soul is involved. Read the following examples carefully.

(Gen 2:7 KJV) “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed  into his nostrils the breath of life (neshamah); and man became a living soul.”

(Job 32:8 KJV) “But there is a spirit (ruwach) in man: and the inspiration (neshamah)  of the Almighty giveth them understanding.

(Gen 7:20-24 KJV) “Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. {21} And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: all in whose nostrils was the breath  (neshamah)  of life, of all that was in the dry  land, died. {23} And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. {24} And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.”

(Psa 104:10-30 KJV) “He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. {1 1} They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst. {12} By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. {13} He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. {14} He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; {15} And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart. {16} The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted; {1 7} Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house. {18} The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies. {19} He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down. {20} Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. {21}

The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. {22} The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens. {23} Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening. {24} O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. {25} So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.  {26} There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.

{27) These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. {28) That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. {29) Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath(“ruwach”)they die, and return to their dust. {30} Thou sendest forth thy spirit  (“ruwach”), they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.”

(Eccl 3:21 KJV) “Who knoweth the spirit (ruwach) of man that goeth upward, and the spirit (ruwach) of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?”

(This passage assumes that there is a spirit in man and in animals. However, according to Bullinger’s note on this verse in the Companion Bible the primitive text, the Chald., Sept., Syr., Vulg., Luther, the Geneva, and the R.V. all translate the verse as a question, “Who knows if the spirit of a man goes upward or if the spirit of a beast goes downward?” The context of the verse is death as the great equalizer of all creatures if all we had to look forward to were this life.)

This same concept of an animating spirit of life and understanding involving man is repeated in these verses as well.

(Isa 42:5 KJV) “Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth  breath (neshamah) unto the people upon it, and spirit (ruwach) to them that walk  therein:”

(Job 27:3 KJV) “All the while my breath (neshamah) is in me, and the spirit (ruwach)  of God is in my nostrils;”

(Job 33:4 KJV) “The  spirit (ruwach) of God hath made me, and the breath  (neshamah) of the Almighty hath given me life.”

In all of these verses, life is a direct result of God’s breath and spirit. Man has devised many inventions, but life is something only God can create. There is more involved here than simply breathing. In this modern age, it is quite possible to hook a completely dead person to a ventilator, which moves the air in and out, but that alone certainly does not make that person alive. Animating breath from our Creator is what makes all of God’s creatures alive. God gives it upon conception, and it returns to God upon death.

(Job 34:14-15 KJV) “If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit  (ruwach)and his breath (neshamah); {15} All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.”

(Here it is again. Without His spirit of life and his breath of understanding, we perish.)

Also, as the following verses say, our life is entirely in Christ, and He holds all things together by the power of His might. Not only is our eternal life and salvation in Christ, but also the very fact that flesh of every kind is alive at all is solely because He gives life. Moreover, the precise order, design, and maintenance of all of creation are held together moment by moment by Him alone.

(Acts 17:28 KJV) “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”

(Col 1:16-17 KJV) “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: {1 7} And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

Therefore, in view of all these cited passages, when Christ said, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” the real wonder of it was that He was voluntarily returning that animating breath of life back to God. Though wicked hands crucified Him (Acts 2:23), He died voluntarily. As John 10:18 says, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of  myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”

Immortal soul?

Many people would object to the concept of the dead being dead and unaware until resurrection based on the idea that the soul is eternal and must constantly live on somewhere. Traditional orthodoxy says that the soul is that unseen, real, inner being that only humans possess, and it is eternal. This line of teaching assumes that people must live on forever somewhere, either in the eternal bliss of heaven or the everlasting torment of hell. I believe that this teaching is straight from the mind of Plato and other ancient Greek philosophers, and is emphatically opposed to the true teaching of the soul contained in the Scriptures.

There are 754 occurrences of the Hebrew word for soul, “nephesh.” The corresponding Greek word is “psuche,” which occurs 105 times in the New Testament. That makes a total of 859 uses by the Holy Spirit. Surely, if we looked at all of these references, we would get an excellent idea of what God intends the word soul to mean. I would urge everyone to do just that. The word “nephesh” is translated soul 471 times, but it is also translated 33 different ways. The Greek word, “psuche,” is translated soul 58 times but also 6 other ways. As you know, translations are not inspired as such, so a study of the context and usage of the original terms is much more accurate. Use a Lexicon or “Quick Verse” program, and I think you will find that traditional “truths” on the subject of the soul are not in agreement with Scripture.

I’ll briefly summarize my findings, but an extensive look at this topic would be at least as large as this entire paper is already. Moreover, there is really no substitute to examining these passages on your own, and I certainly may be wrong in some of my conclusions as well. Don’t take my word on this or anything, for that matter. Search and see for yourself.

Animals Called Living Souls

The very first thing that will strike you in a search of the word “nephesh” is that the first and second occurrence in the Bible of this term definitely refers to animals and is translated “creature.” In fact, “nephesh” is translated creature and obviously refers to animals more than 10 times in the Old Testament. Here are six such references just from the book of Genesis.

(Gen 1:20-21 KJV) “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. {21} And God created great whales, and every living creature  (nephesh) that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”

(Gen 1:24 KJV) “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature  (nephesh) after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.”

(Gen 2:19 KJV) “And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature (nephesh), that was the name thereof.”

(Gen 9:10 KJV) “And with every living creature (nephesh) that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.”

(Gen 9:12 KJV) “And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature (nephesh) that is with you, for perpetual generations:”

(Gen 9:15-16 KJV) “And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature (nephesh) of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. {16} And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature  (nephesh) of all flesh that is upon the earth.”

These New Testament passages also use “psuche” to refer to animals.

(Rev 8:9 KJV) “And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life (psuche), died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.”

(Rev 16:3 KJV) “And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man; and every living soul died in the sea.”

How can the Bible use such an important term as “nephesh” to refer to animals as living souls if “man alone possesses a soul?” It is abundantly clear that there are an incredible number of ways that man is superior and different from animals. Chiefly, man is made in the image of God. However, Scripture does not include that man alone “possesses” a soul. The Holy Spirit must be using the word soul in a different way than is commonly taught. Indeed, I feel very sure that this is the case. People and animals too in this case, do not possess a soul; they are living souls or they are dead souls.

Man as a Living Soul

Let’s look at the first occurrence of “nephesh” and “psuche” in relation to man.

(Gen 2:7 KJV) “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed  into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

(1 Cor 15:45 KJV) “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.”

Notice what the Gen 2:7 says. First, God formed man from the dust of the earth. Next, He breathed the spirit of life into man’s nostrils. This is the spirit that we examined in the last section, the breath of life, inherent and emanating from God. What then? Does man then possess a soul? No, he becomes a living soul. The Hebrew word for become is “hayah,” which corresponds to our English word “become.” This word is used in the following passage about Lot’s wife.

(Gen 19:26 KJV) “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”

Notice, she did not possess a pillar of salt, nor was she a pillar of salt prior to that moment. No, she actually became one.

In equation form, what does Gen. 2:7 say? Man (formed from dust) + breath of life = living soul. Soul then is not part of a person; it is the composite, living person. A living soul is an individual person with a unique personality and feelings and experiences. Hence, if you insert the idea of an individual person for the original words for soul (nephesh and psuche), it seems to make more sense what God intends soul to mean. Here are just a few examples of the hundreds of Scriptures you could use to test this definition.

(Gen 46:25-27 KJV) “These are the sons of Bilhah, which Laban gave unto Rachel his daughter, and she bare these unto Jacob: all the souls were seven. {26} All the souls that  came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were threescore and six; {27} And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.”

(Lev 5:1-2 KJV) “And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity. {2} Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.”

(Lev 5:4 KJV) “Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these.”

(Psa 57:1 KJV) “To the chief Musician, Altaschith, Michtam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave. Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul  trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.”

(Psa 57:4 KJV) “My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.”

(Psa 57:6 KJV) “They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. Selah.” (Mat 2:20 KJV) “Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life (psuche).”

(Mat 20:28 KJV) “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life (psuche) a ransom for many.”

(Acts 2:43 KJV) “And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.”

(Acts 27:37 KJV) “And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen  souls.”

The Feeling Soul

Just as we have many figures of speech in our language, so the words nephesh and psuche are used in close connection with our feelings, our desires and our earthly senses. This encompasses much of what a person is. In this life, we are very much feeling and sense-dependent as individuals. Therefore, many of the occurrences of these words are related to this. As individuals, we love, we hate, and we experience a wide range of emotional responses to our life’s events. A few examples include the following:

(Num 21:5 KJV) “And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.”

(Deu 12:15 KJV) “Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee: the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of the roebuck, and as of the hart.”

(Deu 14:26 KJV) “And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,”

(Job 10:1 KJV) “My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.”

(Psa 107:9 KJV) “For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.”

(Song 3:1 KJV) “By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.”

(Isa 29:8 KJV) “It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.”

(Mat 26:3 8 KJV) “Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.”

(John 12:27 KJV) “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.”

Since this pattern of usage is very frequent, it makes clearer what is meant by the common phrase in both the Old and New Testament, “And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” (Luke 10:27 KJV) Heart is often used in Scripture for motive, soul for feelings and senses; strength as physical or moral strength, and mind for your thought processes. Therefore, rather than this being a definition of the “parts” of a person, it simply means we are to love the Lord our God with all our motives, all our senses and feelings, all our strength and all our thought processes.


Moreover, since “psuche” is often used to refer to earthly senses and feelings, a Greek word “psuchikos” is used, which in English would literally be “soulical.” Instead of the traditional line that purports that the soul is that higher, spiritual inner self, Scripture uses it to mean the exact opposite. It is used in contrast to the spirit. The spirit corresponds to the new nature a person receives upon salvation. Look closely at the following Scriptures, which include all of the references of this word “psuchikos” (soulical).

(1 Cor 2:13-14 KJV) “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. {14} But the natural  (soulical) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

(1 Cor 15:44-49 KJV) “It is sown a natural  (soulical) body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural  (soulical) body, and there is a spiritual body. {45} And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. {46} Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural(soulical); and afterward that which is spiritual. {47} The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. {48} As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. {49} And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”

(James 3:15 KJV) “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual(soulical), devilish.”

Soul in Contrast to Spirit

Knowing that Scripture uses the word soul in contrast with the spirit or new nature, makes the following verse is a little easier for me to understand.

(Heb 4:12 KJV) “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

(God knows whether my desires, thoughts and intentions are “soulical” or spiritual in nature, and His quick and powerful word can discern these.)

Soul that Dies

I have briefly tried to give an overview of what I have found concerning the soul. Let’s turn back to the theme of this paper. Is it valid to object to the dead being unaware and truly dead until the resurrection, based on what the Bible says about the soul? First, I would challenge the reader to cite one single verse in all Scripture that says that the soul is eternal. There is none. However, there are many Scriptures that plainly say that the soul can be killed and does die. If it is indeed true that man + breath of life= living soul, then it makes perfect sense that the opposite would be true as well. Living soul- breath of life= dead soul. Souls can be killed; souls can die; and in the eternal sense, souls can be forever destroyed. Let’s search and see.

(Ezek 18:4 KJV) “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the  soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

(Ezek 18:20 KJV) “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”

(Psa 33:19 KJV) “To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.”

(Psa 78:50 KJV) “He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence;”

(Psa 116:8 KJV) “For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.”

(Psa 22:20 KJV) “Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.” (If the soul is that spiritual, true inner self, how could it be even hurt by a sword?)

(Psa 22:29 KJV) “All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him:  and none can keep alive his own soul.”

(Psa 33:19 KJV) “To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.”

(Mat 26:3 8 KJV) “Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.”

Blood and the Soul

(Lev 17:11 KJV) “For the life (nephesh)  of the flesh is in the blood:

How can the blood be related to the soul? If the meaning of soul is the sum total of a person (the body formed from the soil plus the breath of life from God) then the blood is a good metaphor for the soul. To be alive from moment to moment, we depend entirely on a constant supply of blood to every organ and cell in the body. Blood carries both nutrients from the soil (in the form of food) and oxygen from the air; hence it is very natural to say that the blood is an essential, physical element that makes us a living soul. Christ’s precious blood was poured out in sacrifice unto death as atonement for our sins. This was necessary because “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Heb 9:22 KJV) We deserve to have our own blood spilled as the payment for our sins. Our souls (we, as individuals) deserve both death and destruction. But He took our place, suffering the just for the unjust. He laid down His soul that we might have eternal life. It is the original words, “nephesh and psuche” that are used in all of the following verses. Knowing this sheds more light on the nature of the soul, and the fact that the soul indeed can die.

(Lev 17:11 KJV) “For the life (nephesh)  of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh  an atonement for the soul.”

(Isa 53:12 KJV) “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

(Mat 20:28 KJV) “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life (psuche) a ransom for many.”

(John 10:15 KJV) “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay  down my life(psuche) for the sheep.”

(John 10:11 KJV) “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life (psuche) for the sheep.”

(1 John 3:16 KJV) “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life (psuche) for us: and we ought to lay down our  lives (psuche) for the brethren.”

(Rev 12:11 KJV) “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives (psuche) unto the death.”

(Mark 3:4 KJV) “And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life (psuche), or to kill? But they held their peace.”

The following is a very significant verse that is sometimes used to prove the traditional definition of the soul, but let’s take a careful look at it.

(Mat 10:28 KJV) “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the  soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

First, consider the context of the verse. Beginning at verse 17 of this chapter, Christ is warning the disciples that persecution of the vilest type is coming, and they will be tried before a court that may condemn them to death.

(Mat 10:19-22 KJV) “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. {20} For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. {21} And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. {22} And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”

However, they are told to fear not them which kill the body, but are not  able to kill the  soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

It is not killing the person as a living soul in the earthly sense that is in view here. The following Scriptures make this clear, because they talk about killing the soul.

(Josh 11:11 KJV) “And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire.”

(Num 31:19 KJV) “And do ye abide without the camp seven days: whosoever hath killed any person (soul), and whosoever hath touched any slain, purify both yourselves and your captives on the third day, and on the seventh day.”

(Num 35:11 KJV) “Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person (soul) at unawares.”

(Num 35:15 KJV) “These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person  (soul) unawares may flee thither.”

(Num 3 5:30 KJV) “Whoso killeth any person (soul), the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.”

(Deu 27:25 KJV) “Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person (soul). And all the people shall say, Amen.”

(Josh 20:3 KJV) “That the slayer that killeth any person (soul) unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.”

Now, how can Christ say in Matt. 10:28 that man is not able to kill the soul if all these other Scriptures say the opposite? The answer is again in the context of the verse itself. Man can kill the person in this worldly existence, but only in a temporary sense. We have the hope of resurrection, in which we will receive a new body, and be granted new life for that body. However, when that occurs, I am personally resurrected. It is not the creation of a brand new individual. It helps me to think again of the equation: Person + life = new, unique, living individual (living soul). That person – life = dead individual (dead soul). That particular, resurrected person +life anew = resurrected, living soul. That resurrected individual is still uniquely that person. In this sense, we have the hope a personal resurrection, and man does not have a destroying power over us.

Therefore, I believe the actual meaning of this verse may be paraphrased thus, “Don’t fear people who can simply kill you in this life, but fear God, who will resurrect you and then can eternally destroy your body and everything that makes you uniquely an individual person (soul).” If God destroys a person for the second death, he is dead indeed, gone forever and forgotten, never to rise again. I think that this concept of a soul being eternally destroyed is reiterated in the following verses as well.

(James 5:20 KJV) “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”

(Luke 9:56 KJV) “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives (psuche), but to save them…

This last section also falls heavily in the realm of the Scriptural concept of hell, which I plan to examine more in depth in a future study. For more reading on this topic now, I would suggest my brother, Jeff’s study or C. H. Welch’s excellent booklet entitled, “Hell or Free from the Blood of all Men” which are available on this web site. Also, the topic of the soul is lightly covered in W197-“What is man?” and W-457 “Finished work of Christ” by C.H. Welch, which are available now on this web site.


I feel thoroughly convinced that the word of God is fully on the side of the unaware dead awaiting a glorious resurrection, both in terms of a vast number of Scriptures that positively say so and even in consideration of verses used to prove otherwise.

As 1 Cor.15:13-14 says, if there is no resurrection, we have no hope. Still, we need not sorrow as those who have no hope. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9 KJV)

We will close our eyes in death, and in what will seem like a split second; we will awake in glory with Christ and with all our loved ones who are Christians, not just the ones who preceded us in death. This is such a blessed comfort and hope. Praise God indeed!

(Psa 17:15 KJV) “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”in my flesh shall I see God: {27} Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”

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