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The Moment of Truth - Lesson 15

After Death...

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We invite you to pray with us:

O Lord, our God,

Today, we have a very important question to ask You: what happens after death?

There are so many theories about this subject, but we now want to turn to You to obtain at last an answer which will be trustworthy.

Please guide us in our study of Your Holy Word, by the power of Your Holy Spirit.

This is our prayer, in Jesus Christ.


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Job 14:10

Man dies, and wastes away: yes, man gives up the ghost, and where is he?


Just like Job, we have all wondered what happens after death.

Do we go straight to heaven? To hell? To purgatory? Do we disappear?

Let us see what the Word of God teaches on this subject.

(It is very important to review the previous lesson, entitled «Body, Soul and Spirit», in order to have a proper understanding of this lesson.)

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Genesis 2:17

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.


Romans 5:12

By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned.


We have already seen that immortality of man was conditional to his constant communion with God, the Source of life.

By disobeying God, that is, by sinning, man became a mortal creature, therefore doomed to die.

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Ecclesiastes 12:7

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.


We have also seen that man is made of a body taken from the earth, and the breath of life, or spirit, coming from God.

This combination of body and spirit gives a living soul (please review the lesson «Body, Soul and Spirit» for more details).

Conversely, the soul ceases to exist when this combination is broken: the spirit (breath of life) then returns to God, and the body returns to the earth. It is death, the subject of this lesson.

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Job 3:11,13

Why died I not from the womb? (...)

For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest.


Psalm 13:3

Lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.


First surprise: the Word of God compares death to a sleep!

We will see that the Bible uses this comparison many times, in a very clear way.

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The Word of God describes death as a sleep:

«They have slept their sleep (...). At Your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep.» (Psalm 76:5,6)

«[Stephen] cried with a loud voice, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was consenting to his death.» (Acts 7:60 to 8:1)

«“They shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake,” said the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts.» (Jeremiah 51:57)

«I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.» (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

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John 11:11-14

[Jesus] said to them, «Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.»

Then said His disciples, «Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.»

However, Jesus spoke of his death: but they thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.

Then said Jesus to them plainly, «Lazarus is dead.»


The words of Jesus are in complete agreement with the teachings of the Old Testament: when a man dies, he falls into a state of sleep, waiting for the day of his resurrection.

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Psalm 94:17

Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelled in silence.


Psalm 115:17

The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.


The dead therefore end up in a state of complete sleep: they stay in the grave in silence.

The Word of God is straightforward on this point: when we die, we fall into a state of total unconsciousness.

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Ecclesiastes 9:5,6,10

For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

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. (...)

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go.


This passage is so obvious that some people, wishing to deny the unconsciousness of the dead, declare that the book of Ecclesiastes is not inspired...

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Ecclesiastes 12:10

That which was written was upright, even words of truth.


2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.


Unfortunately for the detractors of the book of Ecclesiastes, God anticipated their trick! He made sure that the Bible confirms the truthfulness of this very book.

Having said this, let us note that many other books of the Word of God clearly teach the total unconsciousness of the dead.

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The Bible teaches that the dead are in a state of total unconsciousness:

«So man lies down, and rises not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. (...) His sons come to honor, and he knows it not; and they are brought low, but he perceives it not of them.» (Job 14:12,21)

«You shall be gathered into your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring on this place.» (2 Kings 22:20)

«For in death there is no remembrance of You: in the grave who shall give You thanks?» (Psalm 6:5)

«[Man’s] breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.» (Psalm 146:4)

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Still other verses showing that the dead are totally unconscious:

«Will You show wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise You? Shall Your loving kindness be declared in the grave? Or Your faithfulness in destruction? Shall Your wonders be known in the dark? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?» (Psalm 88:10-12)

«The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.» (Psalm 115:17)

«For the grave cannot praise You, death can not celebrate You: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for Your truth. The living, the living, he shall praise You, as I do this day.» (Isaiah 38:18,19)

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John 3:13

[Jesus said,]

«No man has ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.»


Acts 2:29,34

Let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us to this day. (...)

For David is not ascended into the heavens.


The belief that the righteous ascend to heaven at the moment of death has no biblical foundation.

The dead rest in the grave, completely unconscious.

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Job 17:13,16

If I wait, the grave is my house: I have made my bed in the darkness. (...)

They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust.


Genesis 37:35

I will go down into the grave to my son mourning.


Job and Jacob knew that at their death, they would not ascend to heaven but would go into the grave, the abode of the dead (in Hebrew, «Sheol»; in Greek, «Hades»).

Indeed, the Sheol-Hades never means «Paradise», «Purgatory», or «Hell with eternal sufferings».

It rather means «grave», «tomb».

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John 14:2,3

[Jesus said,]

«I go to prepare a place for you.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.»


Now that we understand that the dead do not ascend to heaven, but rest quietly in the grave, Jesus’ words make more sense.

Indeed, how could He come again to take His children with Him if they were already in heaven since the day of their death?

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2 Samuel 12:22,23

While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said,

«Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live?»

But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?

I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.


Let us note the verse above: when we pray, we must do it only on behalf of the living.

It is totally useless to pray for the dead: their eternal destiny is already fixed, according to their own choice made during their life.

Our prayers cannot change this choice, however hard we pray.

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Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (NKJV)

There shall not be found among you (...) a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.

For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord.


We have already studied that we must pray to God and God alone (see the lesson «Using God’s Hot Line»).

Since the dead are unconscious, we can understand that praying to them is completely useless.

However, God goes even further, and warns us severely against invoking the dead.

Why is it so dangerous?

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Isaiah 8:19,20

And when they shall say to you, «Seek to them that have familiar spirits, and to wizards that peep, and that mutter,» should not a people seek to their God? For the living to the dead?

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.


2 Corinthians 11:14

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.


By trying to call up a dead person, we give Satan the opportunity to impersonate this dead, and thus to deceive us, making us believe his lies.

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Job 7:9,10

He that goes down to the grave shall come up no more.

He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.


Thus, the haunted house phenomenon cannot be explained by the return of the dead, but rather by the power of Satan.

Indeed Satan wants to make us believe that we are able to communicate with the world of the hereafter, so as to deceive us.

We will talk about this in detail, in our lesson about spiritism.

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Malachi 4:5

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet.


Matthew 11:7,14

Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John, (...)

«And if you will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.»


Now, a few words about reincarnation.

Some people try to prove the truth of this belief with the Bible, quoting these words from Jesus, and claiming that they confirm that John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elijah (Elias).

But is it really what Jesus meant by these words?

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Luke 1:17

[John] will also go before [God] in the spirit and power of Elias.


John 1:21

They asked [John], «What then? Are you Elias?»

And he said, «I am not.»


Jesus called John the Baptist «Elias which was for to come», because John had the spirit and the power that characterized the prophet Elijah’s ministry.

Furthermore, John the Baptist himself denied being Elijah.

Having said this, what does the Word of God teach about the doctrine of reincarnation?

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Genesis 3:4

And the serpent said to the woman,

«You shall not surely die.»


Hebrews 9:27

It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment.


Satan’s first lie to man was to make him believe that he is immortal, whether he obeys God or not. The idea of reincarnation originates from that very first lie.

However the Bible is clear: man dies only once, and after his death his judgment awaits him, not another life on earth in another body.

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Luke 23:43

And Jesus said to [the malefactor],

«Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in paradise.»


Let us now see three classic objections to the unconsciousness of the dead: first of all, Jesus’ famous reply to the repentant thief.

We must note that in the original text there was no punctuation: the translator chose where to place commas, to make the reading easier.

Thus, this sentence could be read, «Truly I say to you today, you shall be with Me in paradise.»

Now, you will ask, which version is right?

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John 20:17

Jesus said to [Mary],

«Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father.»


After His resurrection, Jesus said that He had not yet ascended to Paradise, neither had He brought the repentant thief with Him to heaven.

The right version is therefore, «Truly I say to you today, you shall be with Me in paradise.»

This version respects both the declaration of Jesus and the general teaching of the Bible, according to which the dead rest in the grave, awaiting their reward which will be given to them at the end of the world, not immediately after their death.

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Revelation 6:9,10

I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.

And they cried with a loud voice (...).


Second classic objection: the souls crying under the altar.

It is important to note that we are here in the book of Revelation, a book with a very vivid and symbolic language, especially in the seven seals from which this verse is taken.

Could this image mean something different from the belief of the consciousness of the dead?

Let us see the next two verses...

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Genesis 4:10

And [the Lord] said [to Cain], «What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to Me from the ground.»


Hebrews 12:24

(...) the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel.


Just as Abel’s blood cried to God to testify to the crime of his brother Cain, the blood of the martyrs cries to God to testify to the crimes done against them.

Therefore the martyrs themselves do not cry, as the verses above show it, but rather their blood, a symbolic cry testifying to the harm that has been done to them.

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Luke 16:19-24

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores. (...)

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.

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, «Father Abraham, have mercy on me!»


Third and last classic objection: the parable of the beggar Lazarus and the evil rich man.

A parable is a story used to illustrate a lesson: it must not necessarily be interpreted literally.

A proof of that? See...

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Judges 9:7-9

Listen to me! (...)

The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them.

And they said to the olive tree, «Reign you over us!»

But the olive tree said to them, «Should I leave my fatness, with which by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?»


A literal interpretation of this parable would bring us to teach that the trees speak. Of course, this was not the author’s intention!

Likewise, with the parable of Lazarus and the evil rich man, Jesus wasn’t explaining what happens after death, but rather demonstrating the selfishness of the Pharisees.

We have already seen what Jesus was teaching about death: He compared it to a sleep.

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Acts 24:15

There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.


John 5:28,29

All that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.


Now, how this sleep of death come to an end?

The Bible teaches us that there will be two resurrections:

- first that of the righteous, at the second coming of Jesus;

- then that of the wicked, after the millennium (subject of a future lesson).

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Daniel 12:2

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.


Revelation 20:4-6

[The just] lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.

This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection.


There will be two resurrections: first that of the righteous, and 1000 years later, that of the wicked.

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1 Corinthians 15:53

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.


Revelation 2:11

He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death.


At the first resurrection, God will make the righteous immortal. They will thus inherit eternal life.

The second resurrection will bring the wicked before God’s throne for their judgment, and then they will suffer the «second death».

But what, exactly, is the second death? This will be the subject of our next lesson.

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A Little Summary about Death and Resurrection

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Revelation 21:4

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.


1 Corinthians 15:26

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.


May these wonderful promises from God be an inexhaustible source of encouragement for each one of us!

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Let us pray:

Our Father,

How can we thank You for having revealed us so clearly what happens after death? We now want to renew our covenant with You, in Jesus Christ.

Please forgive our sins, guide us at all times by Your Holy Spirit, and if we die before the return of Your Son, we ask You, as the repentant thief on the cross, «Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.» (Luke 23:42).

Awake us for the first resurrection, that we may inherit everlasting life. In Jesus Christ we pray.


The test of Lesson 15 is waiting for you!

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