What is 'death'? What happens to us
when we draw our last breath and leave this earth? Is it
the end? The beginning? Do we immediately go from this
life to the next?
Do we 'sleep' until the Rapture or the Great White
Throne Judgment? Or is it all a comforting myth?
The Old Testament prophets shared a belief in a final
resurrection and judgment. But that is about as much as
God gave them to understand:
"If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed
time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call,
and I will answer Thee: Thou wilt have a desire to the
work of Thine Hands." (Job
"For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the
latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin
worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see
God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall
behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed
within me." (Job
"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." (Daniel
But does that mean that our consciousness ceases at
physical death until the resurrection? There are some
Christians who argue that to be the case, drawing on the
New Testament for Scriptural support.
"If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall
ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man
hath ascended up to heaven..." (John
"...for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves
shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that
have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they
that have done evil, unto the resurrection of
"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
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the
Taking those verses, particularly when taking them out
of the full context of Scripture, it would seem to
suggest that when we die, we go into some kind of 'soul
sleep' until the Resurrection. But is that true?
Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, physical
death, particularly as it applies to the saints, is
characterized as 'sleep'.
"Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I
sleep the sleep of death." (Psalms
"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:" (Acts
"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." (1st
So, it would seem, at least by a cursory examination of
the Scriptures, that when we die, we stay dead until the
But that is not entirely accurate.
The Bible is a series ofprogressiverevelations.
That is to say, eternal truths were revealed, slowly,
over time, according to God's plan.
As Paul explained, "For now we see through a glass,
darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but
then shall I know even as also I am known." (1st
As early as Job's time, God had revealed the existence
of the Redeemer Christ, and the PHYSICAL resurrection of
the dead. Job not only expected to see Christ with his
PHYSICAL eyes, (Job
19:25-27) but he expected his physical body
". . . all the days of my appointed time will I wait,till
my change come. . . " Job awaited the call
of the trumpet at the Rapture, thousands of years before
it was generally known as doctrine. "Thou
shalt call . . ." (Job
But in all these Scriptures, the reference is to the
PHYSICAL body which is 'asleep' -- and NOT the spirit.
Solomon addressed the eventual end of both body AND
spirit. "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it
was: and thespirit
shall return unto God who gave it." (Ecclesiastes
Physical death is NOT the end of consciousness. The
Apostle Paul spoke of physical death as the time when
the spirit is "absent from the body" but "present with
Jesus Himself explained what happens to us spiritually
when we experience physical death.
"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. . ." (Luke
Lazarus the beggar died PHYSICALLY, but his spirit was
carried by the angels into Paradise. The rich man died
PHYSICALLY and was buried, but his spirit was very much
conscious in hell.
"And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth
Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." (16:23)
Note the following facts from this passage of Scripture.
Lazarus, Abraham and the rich man were all there, and
they were all conscious of their surroundings.
"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." (16:24)
The rich man was conscious of his torment, was capable
of addressing Abraham, and was aware of Lazarus.
Abraham was equally conscious of HIS surroundings, as
well as those of the rich man, and was capable of giving
"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.
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." (16:25-26)
Not only that, the rich man, (who was NOT in the Lake of
Fire, but hell, which establishes this story as being in
real-time and before Christ's resurrection -- and not
some point after the Great White Throne Judgment), was
not only conscious and aware of his surroundings, but
his earthly memories remained intact:
"Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest
send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren;
that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into
this place of torment." (16:27-28)
The rich man remembered (and still cared for) his father
and his five brothers as living individuals that he knew
from his earthly life.
His PHYSICAL body was dead (or 'asleep') but his soul
was very much 'alive' in the sense of his consciousness.
So, what happens when we die? We become absent from the
body, but there is no cessation of consciousness until
When John writes: "But the rest of the dead lived not
again until the thousand years were finished. This is
the first resurrection," (Revelation
20:5) he is addressing the PHYSICAL
resurrection of the dead whose consciousness remains
awake in hell with the rich man until final judgment.
Once the resurrected body and spirit are reunited at the
Great White Throne, they are cast, both body and soul,
into the lake of fire. John says, "this is the second
death," since it refers to both the physical and
spiritual separation from God for eternity.
As to the 'dead in Christ' -- they are also conscious,
but in Heaven in the presence of the Lord from the
moment of physical death until the Rapture.
Furthering Job's theme of 'the change' Paul writes,
"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep,
but we shall all be changed, 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. (1st
At the Rapture, some believers will not yet have
experienced death. They shall be instantly changed into
their incorruptible bodies. Those who have experienced
physical death will be reunited with their bodies, which
will be raised and changed.
But their spirits and consciousness are already awake
and alive and in the presence of the Lord.
Those who are 'asleep' in Christ are those who have
experienced PHYSICAL, but not conscious death.
At the Rapture, 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 (physically incorruptible) first: Then we which are
(physically) alive and remain (in our natural bodies)
shall be caught up together with them (changed and
incorruptible) in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the
air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (1st
Our loved ones who have gone home to the Lord are
ALREADY in His Presence, enjoying Heaven and its
unimaginable joy and riches. They are NOT mouldering the
grave, unconsciously awaiting the call of the Trumpet.
They are alive and aware and eagerly anticipating the
opportunity to meet with us in the air and embrace us