“But man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more.” (Job 14:10)
There is none who has never experienced sadness and pain. Death is the saddest thing among these. Everyone has to die whether he is rich or not. Therefore the problem of death is a really important thing for everyone to consider.
The problem of life and death is to be treated with importance. This is the basic object of philosophy and science. Why do people feel afraid of death? Maybe it is because they don’t know what really happens after death or because they have the wrong idea about it. Some may think that they dont care. But this is the wrong attitude. We must understand that our attitude about life is shaped by our knowledge of what happens after death.
Every one has his own opinion, which differs from that of others. It is true that religion rules over people’s minds. However, people may have different opinions, even though they have the same religion. Some people think they will go to heaven after they die. Others think that people are doomed to go to purgatory in order to be forgiven for their sins.
Among various ideas, we can summarize the problem of life and death like this. Do human beings still have a spirit after death? And if so, what’s the form that these spirits take? These two questions show us the essence of the problem. Almost all religions teach this about eternal life and the immortality of the soul. Even though the Bible denies the immortality of the soul, many Christians still believe in this doctrine. It is an odd phenomenon.
We must notice that behind false beliefs or doctrines there is the clever disguise of Satan. According to chapter 4, at the beginning of the world, God said to Adam “you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die”(Genesis 2:17). Satan made Adam betray God by using temptation. Satan made human beings fall into this temptation by saying “You will never die” (Genesis 3:4). If we believe the words of Satan, we aren’t obeying the holy phrase “the soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). When we think like this, we focus on worldly things and on ourselves. If we believe that we will never die, we have no need for God. This is exactly what Satan wants.
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in Him will not die but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
This phrase is famous for its simple expression of the importance of Christianity. It shows that human beings are destined to perish. But people who have immortal souls, cannot put much value on the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. So Christians should not believe in the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, because it belittles the purpose of Jesus. Someone who believes in Jesus, cannot believe in the doctrine of immortality of the soul, it is wrong and paradoxical.
We must consider life in itself to know what death is. The Bible says, “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
This phrase tells us the key point of the constitution of the human body. First, man was made from the earth, but he didn’t have life. It was not a real man until God breathed life into the loam. He could think and his organs could function well. It is like a lamp. As the lamp and the light have a deep relationship-breath of life is essential to the human body. So when a human being loses his life, he has only his body. It is not that the soul goes to another place. The soul and spirit are always with the human body. It is not something that is separated from the body.
Death is the opposite of life. The author of Psalms said, “when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust” (Psalms 104:29). And Solomon said, “and the dust returns to the ground, where it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
The term spirit means breath or wind and it comes from Ruach, a Hebrew word. In the orient people think the spirit can be isolated from the body. But the Bible doesn’t support that idea. We can paraphrase the spirit into the soul. You can see the fact from this sentence. In the Korean translation it says, “in his hand is the spirit of every creature and the souls of all mankind” (Job 12:10). But when we read it in the Japanese Bible, it says, in his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
In the New Testament the spirit or the soul also means the wind and respiration. It comes from Pneuma (a Greek word) and it is equal to Ruach. Let’s change spirit into respiration, for example. So then, as the body without the spirit (respiration) is dead, also faith without action is dead(James 2:26).
We can find the basic meaning by paraphrasing. The spirit or the soul in the Bible has to be regarded as breath or life, not something personal that exists after death. The essence of death is that the breath of life returns to God. In the long run, people lose their mechanical functions and return to the dust.
What do we have to talk about more if there is nothing left after death? Well the Bible describes the things after death in detail. How does the Bible describe this?
When Lazarus died, Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up“ (John 11:11). His disciples replied; “Lord, if he sleeps he will get better.“ “Lazarus is dead“, He said.
It says sleep instead of die 53 times in the Bible. It means that someone will be sleeping until he is resurrected. Even though a person may be sleeping for thousands of years, he can’t feel anything because he’s unconscious.
For example, Lazarus rose from death after four days but he didn’t have any memory of those days.
Peter spoke to the multitude about David’s death; “Brothers, I can tell you confidently the patriarch David died and was buried and his tomb is there to this day…. For David did not ascend to heaven” (Acts 2:29, 34).
Jesus himself didn’t ascend to Heaven right after He died. Three days after he was buried, God resurrected Him. When Mary came to Him, He said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father” (John 20:17).
A dead person knows nothing, just as we dont know anything when we are sleeping. In the Bible, it says, “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun”(Ecclesiastes 9:5-6).
“The living know that they will die but the dead know nothing.” It is the fundamental difference between the living and the dead. When people die, they disappear without consciousness or feelings. It is not true that the soul of the dead becomes a ghost and acts revengeful or something.
Job said, “If his sons are honored, he does not know it; if they are brought low, he does not see it”(Job 14:21).
Even though parents love a child greatly, after they die they won’t know about anything that happens to him. In Psalms, it says, “It is not the dead who praise the Lord, those who go down to silence”(Psalms 115:17).
Even though a person was a faithful Christian during his life, he can’t praise the Lord after death.
Paul said, “just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”(Hebrews 9:27). Every man will die someday, whether he is good or evil. Because humans are mortal they can’t have the conditions of immortality.
At the beginning, God created humans and commanded, “you are free to eat from any tree in the garden but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die”(Genesis 2:16, 17).
But Adam and Eve disobeyed the command, so they became mortal. We, as their descendants, have lost the power to obey God and have become fastened by death. We can have eternal life when we have obedience. In this way, God forbids human beings to go to the tree of life and make themselves immortal. God doesn’t want the sinful human beings to keep living their unhappy lives in this world any longer.
In any case, humanity doesn’t have immortality from the beginning. A graceful God opens the way to eternal life to poor human beings. Only God can show us the way.
He gave us His only Son in order to save every one of us, and whoever believes in Him has eternal life. Jesus came to this world as a man and fulfilled the prophecy as a man. And He died on the cross for the redemption of sinners. Therefore, a person who honors God and accepts the redemption of Christ can be accepted like a person who obeys the commandments.
We can have eternal life by our faith. This satisfies the condition of immortality- obedience. John said, “this is the testimony; God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life”(1 John 5:11-12).
But we can’t have an immortal body or the privilege of immortal life just by believing. This can only be accomplished on the day of Jesus’ second coming, when He rewards all this faithful children with eternal life.