A Quick Look
Many people feel, and indeed it is widely taught, both by those within and outside of religious belief systems, that there is a part of us that continues to live immediately after the death of our bodies, but we feel this is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible quite clearly states that death is the final end of this existence:
Ecc. 9:5 For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.
Yet it also tells us that God’s offer of salvation to those who believe involves living forever:
John 6:47 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.
Rom 6:22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.
So we need to ask when this eternal life will begin – immediately after death, or at some other future time. The Bible tells us that the resurrection from the dead for believers is at the time when Jesus returns to the earth to set up God’s kingdom here.
1Cor. 15:20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.
A Personal Analysis
Perhaps for most of us, the thought of death is something that we want to put off until we are old, since the majority of us do get old before we die, though old age is not guaranteed for anyone. But, however much we think about it, no-one can escape its inevitability. Death is the issue which pretty much all religion has something to say about and normally sets out to redress. Christianity is no exception to this, and has, as its basis, the offer of everlasting life to believers, even though not one of us deserves it, which is, I hope you agree, a pretty impressive hope. There is quite a wide range of views within Christianity about how these things come about, and we would like to suggest to you that the Bible has a clear teaching about this which is, in essence, extremely simple.
The Bible teaches, quite clearly, that Jesus died so that those who believe in him might have life. To ‘have life’ means to escape the power of death. But how exactly do believers do this? The Bible leaves us in little doubt that death is the final state of our mortal bodies and it is the moment when we no longer have that spark which we call life. Our body ceases to function and along with it all our organs, which includes our brain and therefore our consciousness. The Bible tells us that at the moment of death we cease to have knowledge. This means that death is the end. But it also means that our perception of the passage of time will cease, so when Jesus returns and we are raised from the dead, it seems reasonable to assume that it will seem like the next moment.
The Bible teaches really clearly that resurrection takes place when Jesus returns to the earth. There are aspects of it that are less clear – like exactly who will be raised and what process might take them to eternal life, but the timing is of no doubt.
More Detailed Bible Teaching
The Bible seems to us to be quite clear that death is the complete cessation of life – the removal of that breath that kept us alive – that breath which we believe comes from God. God gives life – and He takes it away. It seems clear that the end of our life is indeed the end, as far as life is concerned, and that nothing survives the process. As well as Ecclesiates 9:5, quoted above, we have:
Psa 49:10 For he sees wise men die; Likewise the fool and the senseless person perish, And leave their wealth to others.
11 Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever, Their dwelling places to all generations; They call their lands after their own names.
12 Nevertheless man, though in honor, does not remain; He is like the beasts that perish.
Ecc. 3:18 I said in my heart, "Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals."
19 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity.
20 All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.
1Pet. 1:24 because "All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away,”
The Bible’s hope is about resurrection from the dead, and this will take place, we are told, when, at the fulfilment of this part of God’s plan with the earth, Jesus returns to the earth to begin the process of the establishment of God’s glory in the whole earth, as was the plan from the start. As well as the quote above from 1Cor. 15:23, we also have
1Thess. 4:16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
1Cor. 15:24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.
25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.
26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
People who are raised to eternal life at that time, however, will have a different type of body from the one we each experience now. It will no longer be subject to death as our current one is, nor will our minds be subject to lusts which lead to sin. What an amazing promise.
1Cor. 15:42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body 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 became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.
So we see that it is necessary for our bodies to die, just like a seed dies in the earth to bring forth new life, so that we might be changed to have an immortal body – one which does not grow old and die. For that the current body must die (though there will be the special case of those who are alive when Jesus returns – they will not die but simply be changed to the new type of body).
1Cor. 15:51 Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
We see that the Bible very clearly talks of the raising of believers from the dead. This means that there need be no fear of death, because, although it is the complete and utter end of life as we know it, we can, and will, be raised again to a new life when Jesus returns.
Dan. 12:1 "At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book.
2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.