Lesson 11
Part ll


From Daniel, we learned that the judgment of the human race began in 1844.  The great courtroom scene began with the Ancient of Days taking His seat.  The books of record were opened and a review of each person who had died commenced.

The importance of 1844 will develop even further as we continue our study in Revelation.  However, the fundamental issue of what happens to a person when he dies must be addressed because death, judgment and reward are connected.  The truth on this subject is very important, for it is directly connected to the climactic story of Revelation.

A number of the Eastern Mystic religions believe in the transmigration of the soul.  This concept teaches that the soul was once a lower form of life before entering the human being, and at death, life moves to a higher or lower form depending on how on lived in this life.  Many Christians have a theology that parallels this concept.  The basic difference between Christians and those believing in the transmigration of the soul is that Christians believes life begins with conception in the womb.  On the other hand, many Christians and Eastern Mystic religions believe the soul is immortal and thus not subject to death.  Both ideas are plainly contrary to the scriptures. The soul can die!  God says, “…The soul who sins is the one who will die.”  Ezekiel 18:4 If the soul is immortal, when is immortality bestowed upon it?

When does life begin?

The Bible tells us, “And 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

A living being is a combination of two elements:  the body and the breath  (power) of life.  Separate these two elements, and you don’t have a living being!  Life may be thought of as a light.  Connect a light bulb with electricity and there is light.  Separate the electricity from the bulb and there is no light.

Some people believe that when a person dies, the spirit (the soul) returns to God.  Solomon said, “Remember him (our Creator) – before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”  Ecclesiastes 12:6,7 From this scripture, it is clear that the spirit returns to God who gave it.  This is true of both the righteous and wicked!  The word translated spirit in Ecclesiastes 12:6,7 is the identical word used for breath in Job 27:3 Notice what Job said, “…as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness…” Job 27:3,4 In other words what returns to God is the power to live.

God grants breath to all that live. This is true of animals and man.  Of Noah’s flood it is said, “Every living thing that moved on the earth perished – birds, livestock, wild animals, and all creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind.  Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died.”  Genesis 7:21,22

The Greek and Hebrew words for spirit mean wind or breath. The Hebrew word “rauch” and the Greek word, “pneuma” does not refer to some intelligent entity free of the body.  Rather, these words simply apply to the breath of life.  The word for breath is often translated spirit and vice versa.  The point is a soul does not exist when the spirit or breath is separated from the body!  When breath and a body are brought together, the result is a soul.  Our example of the light bulb demonstrated this.  When power is applied to the bulb we have light.  When power is disconnected, there is no light.  In the same way, when the breath of life is connected to a body, we have an intelligent soul – whether animal or man. When the breath of life is taken from the body, there is no soul.

The Hebrew word for soul is “nephesh” and the Greek word is “psuche.”  Both of these words mean to imply that a living being is a soul!  Solomon wrote,  “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both; as one dies, so dies the other.  All have the same breath (spirit), man has no advantage over the animal…” Ecclesiastes 3:19

Other Bible writers agree

Adam and Eve were expressly driven from their Eden home so that they could not eat from the tree of life and live forever!  After Adam and Eve sinned, Jesus said, “…the man has now become like one of us, knowing good from evil.  He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Genesis 3:22 The point here is that Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden for the express purpose of death. As long as they could eat of the tree of life, they would live. So they had to be removed from the garden.

The Bible says that the ability to exist forever comes only through Jesus.  John says, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

1 John 5:12

In Paul’s day, many of the early Christians sorrowed thinking there was no resurrection – no life hereafter.   To set the matter straight, Paul said, “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…Therefore encourage each other with these words.”  1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 Paul did not comfort those grieving for their deceased friends with the notion their friends were in heaven.  No.  He pointed them forward to the resurrection.

The devil started it

The one who brought confusion to this point in the very beginning was the devil.  Satan told Eve she wouldn’t die if she disobeyed God.  Today, Satan has twisted the meaning of death 180 degrees so that many people believe that death means life!  King David knew the dead weren’t in heaven praising the Lord for he said, “It is not the dead who praise the Lord, those who go down to silence; it is we who extol the Lord…” Psalm 115:17

The apostle Peter also knew the dead weren’t in heaven praising the Lord.  In his famous sermon on the Day of Pentecost he quoted a number of references from the Old Testament where King David had prophesied about the coming Messiah.  Then Peter concluded by saying that David was not in heaven.  He said, “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day…For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord:  Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ “ Acts 2:29,34

King David knew the dead were not in heaven playing a harp and singing praises to God.  He wrote, “No one remembers you (God) when he is dead  Who praises you from the grave?” Psalm 6:5 Solomon understood death just like his father, David.  He wrote, “Whatever your hands finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”  Ecclesiastes 9:10

Daniel saw the great resurrection at the end of time.  He clearly states that some of the dead will awake to everlasting life and others will awake to shame and everlasting contempt.  “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”  Daniel 12:2

There is consistent harmony throughout the Bible on the nature of death.  Man is mortal and death is like a sleep.  Man is unconscious of anything that goes on.  The dead are dead!  The dead simply remain in a state of unconsciousness.  They rest from their labors until the resurrection morning.

(The author once visited with a man that claimed to have died on the operating table for 5 minutes.  He reported that he had an out-of-body experience in bright lights.  Does a hallucinogenic experience validate or invalidate the scriptures?)

What about mediums?

Jesus clearly told the Jews to have nothing to do with mediums or spiritists.  These are people who practice and promote communication with the dead.  Jesus said, “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them…a man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death.  You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.”  Leviticus 19:31, 20:27

King Saul finds an unhappy medium

A special story is preserved in the Bible to demonstrate 3 important things.  Its conclusion is found in 1 Samuel 28.  In brief, King Saul, the first king of Israel, had repeatedly failed to obey the Lord.  He was disobedient and rebellious.  One day Samuel was sent to Saul telling him the kingdom would be taken from him and given to another. That promised “other” was a young Shepard boy named David.  Saul remembered these words from time to time.  Time passed, and Samuel died.

One day the Philistines assembled at Shunem to fight the Israelites. When Saul saw the size of their army, he became afraid and terror filled his heart.  The Bible tells the rest of the story, “He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. Saul then said to his attendants, ‘Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.’  ‘There is one in Endor,’ they said.  So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman.

‘Consult a spirit for me,’ he said ‘and bring up for me the one I name.’  But the woman said to him, ‘Surely you know that Saul has done.  He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land.  Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?’

Saul swore to her by the Lord, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, you will not be punished for this.’  Then the woman asked, ‘Whom shall I bring up for you?’  ‘Bring up Samuel,’ he said.  When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice to Saul and said, ‘Why have you deceived me?  You are Saul!’

The king said to her, ‘don’t be afraid.  What do you see?’  The woman said, ‘I see a spirit coming up out of the ground.’  What does he look like?’ he asked.  ‘An old man wearing a robe is coming up,’ she said.  Then Saul knew it was Samuel, he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.

Samuel said to Saul ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?’ ‘I am in great distress’ Saul said.  ‘The Philistines are fighting against me and God has turned away from me.  He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams.  So I have called on you to tell me what to do.’

Samuel said ‘Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has turned away from you and become your enemy?  The Lord has done what he predicted through me.  The Lord has torn your kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors – David.  Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord will hand you over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.  The Lord will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines.’

Immediately, Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of Samuels’s words…” 1 Samuel 28:6-20

Three important points are made:

  1. The Lord had turned his back on Saul and refused to answer him by prophets or dreams.  Neither did the Lord answer Saul through the medium of Endor.  In his desperation, Saul sought out the devil.  What he saw and heard was a demon in the form of Samuel the deceased prophet.
  2. Notice that Satan’s remarks were quite accurate about Saul’s conclusion.  Even though Satan doesn’t precisely know the future (he is not omniscient), he is very smart.  He had carefully studied Saul and in the medium’s house he succeeded in destroying whatever courage the abandoned king may have had.
  3. Satan clearly gave Saul the idea that Samuel was in the grave (not in heaven or in hell) and that he would soon join Samuel in death.

The doctrine that deceased people are in heaven or hell opens the door to communication with spirits.  The Bible is absolutely clear that such communication is not with angelic beings but with demons.

Jesus – now alive forever and ever

In Revelation, Jesus told John,”Do not be afraid.  I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever!  And I hold the keys of death and Hades (the grave),” Revelation 1:17,18   Jesus clearly holds the keys to death and the grave.  He has the power of life within Himself!  Jesus will use the keys of death and open the graves of the righteous at the resurrection during the second coming.  Paul said, “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.” I Thessalonians 4:16,17

Problem texts

There are two texts in the Bible that can be particularly confusing on the matter of death.  We’ll look at these briefly:

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.  He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built…” I Peter 3: 18-20

Some people interpret this text to mean that Jesus, during the time He was dead, went to prison where evil people had been held since the flood and there preached forgiveness to them.

Such a view opens up insurmountable questions.  For example, after a person is once consigned to hell, can he be set free?  The Roman Church taught for centuries that freedom from hell was possible for a contribution to the Church.  But look at the flip side of the coin.  Suppose you were in heaven and for a fee, someone that didn’t like you could send you to hell?  As you quickly see, the actions of other people cannot determine nor control your eternal destiny whether in heaven or hell.

Consider this too.  What would be the point of Jesus preaching forgiveness to people who had been burning in hell for 2,000 years?  Can they now repent and go to heaven?  Jesus preaching repentance to someone burning in hell for 2,000 years is anticlimactic isn’t it?  How persuasive would Jesus (or anyone for that matter) have to be to persuade those burning in hell for 2,000 years that they need to repent?  The whole idea is absurd.  The Bible teaches that we have only one chance for salvation.  It is during this life.  Hebrews 4:7

Peter, in our problem text, is making the point that Jesus was put to death in the body and made alive by the Spirit of God.  By this same Spirit, Jesus patiently waited for 120 years in the days of Noah to save any and all who would get on board. (See Genesis 6:1-8)  Then Peter says, “For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.” I Peter 4:6 In other words, Peter says the gospel is preached to those who are now dead to spiritual things (Jews) so they might see their need to live in harmony with the spirit and receive life and the approval of God!  The true meaning of I Peter 3 does not conflict with other scriptures on death when rightly understood.  There is harmony in the sum of the parts!

The rich man and Lazarus

No parable has caused more discussion than this one.  Luke records the story.  “There was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.  Even the dogs came and licked his sores.  The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.

In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers.  Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’  Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  He said to him,’ if they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”  Luke 16:19-31

A casual look at the story raises several questions:

1. Assuming there are people in heaven and hell, can they actually carry on a conversation?

2. Can people in heaven carry water to those in hell?

3. Do the rich go to hell and the poor go to heaven?

Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived shortly after Christ, tells us the story was in vogue at the time of Christ.  It’s a tale of theological contrasts within Judaism.  For example, the Sadducees rejected the idea of a resurrection believing that one went straight to their eternal reward at death while the Pharisees believed in the resurrection. (See Acts 23:6-9)  The Pharisees believed a wealthy person was blessed of God for his righteousness while a poor person was rewarded for some evil, either hidden or hereditary.  See John 9.

Jesus took this well-known tale of many opposites and tied it together with some very important points – none of which has to do with burning in hell or dancing in heaven.  Notice:

1.      The Jews were wealthy.  They had been given God’s richest blessings.  They had been enlightened with truth.  They had been chosen as a special people.

2.      The poor Gentiles did not have the opportunities of the Jews.  But circumstances do change!  The Jews would become destitute and the Gentiles would become enlightened!  (Remember the end of the 490 years, 34 A.D.?)

3.      With roles and opportunities exchanged, the converted Jew in torment cries out to the Gentile in heaven, “I have 5 brothers.  Go warn them of things to come.”  “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’  ‘No father Abraham,’ he said,’ but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”  Luke 16:19-31

Jesus concludes the tale by placing Himself in the heart of the story saying, “even if someone rises from the dead, they will not be convinced – they are that hard-hearted.”

Like Peter’s vision of the unclean animals, the story of the rich man and Lazarus is designed to teach an important lesson.  It is not designed to confirm a theological point.  As we have seen in the series of studies, the Bible offers a consistent message.  Its inspiration comes from One that changes not.

The destiny of the wicked

Since the Bible says burning in hell forever is not the penalty of sin, what is the penalty of sin?  The Bible says, “…The wages of sin is death.”  The Bible clearly says there will be a hell fire!  “…But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.  And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur…” Revelation 20:9,10

Malachi, the Old Testament prophet, saw the total destruction of the wicked.  He writes, “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace.  All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty.  ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them.  But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.  And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.  Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things, ‘says the Lord Almighty.  Malachi 4:1-3

Two more difficult texts

Revelation 20:10 say, “…They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” And Revelation 14:11 says, “…And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever…”

Do these texts imply an eternally burning hell?  At first glance they seem to!  Will Jesus burn and scorch people forever and ever?  Is this the unquenchable wrath of God?

First, we have determined that the wages of sin is death.  Death, by definition of many Bible writers, means sleep or a state of unconsciousness.  The destruction of the wicked cannot last eternally because in this scenario, they would never die, thus the penalty of sin is never paid.

The second text (Revelation 14:11) literally indicates that the smoke from the destruction of the wicked rises forever and ever.  If the complete destruction of the wicked means an end to sin and sinners, the scripture then indicates that the smoke of their torment cannot be put out.  The lake of fire will consume sin and sinners until nothing remains.

Revelation 20:10 seems to say on the surface that the wicked are tormented day and night eternally.  Actually though, John was expressing two important ideas.  First, sinners burning differing lengths of time and secondly, while they burn, they feel the torment of their suffering.

From Malachi 4 we know the wicked will be eventually reduced to ashes.  From John, we know the wicked will be burned up and that there will be a new heaven and a new earth for the first earth is passed away!  Revelation 21:1 From II Peter 3 we know the earth and everything in it will melt and be laid bare with great heat.  From the weight of all the Bible evidence, John’s comments in Revelation 20:10 indicating the wicked are tormented day and night forever can be interpreted to mean “as long as they exist.”  Like marriage (forgive the comparison), the vow lasts forever as long as both parties live.

Hell fire is not the greatest punishment

In a later lesson, we will study the sequence of events that take place before the final destruction.  We will look further into the resurrections and the final death.

But the greatest punishment that Jesus gives to His created beings at the very end is not the hell fire.  Rather, the greatest punishment placed upon the wicked at the end of the millennium is a revelation of God’s tender love for each person.  Here’s the story:

1.      At the second coming, the saints are taken to heaven and the wicked remaining upon the earth are slain by the brightness of Jesus’ glory.  The earth is desolated by the splendor of righteousness!

2.      The saints (the resurrected and the living) are caught up with Jesus in the air and they return to heaven for 1,000 years.  The purpose of these 1,000 years is very simple:  Jesus wants each redeemed person to clearly see His decision on those not in heavens was fair.  In other words, the saints now get to review the books of record.  They learn, first hand, why a loved one or friend was not granted eternal life.  Every mystery will be laid open.  After reviewing each case to their satisfaction, all saints are convinced that Jesus was loving, just and merciful in His judgment on each person.

3.      At the end of the 1,000 years, the saints return to earth with Jesus.  Jesus resurrects the wicked.  They come forth to gaze upon the New Jerusalem and the saints within the city.  Satan, who was bound to the desolate earth, now stirs the wicked to attack the New Jerusalem and rob the redeemed of their home.  As the mob rushes towards the city, Jesus stops the vast throng just as he commanded the storm on Galilee to be still.

4.      Then every eye is drawn to the sky where a great panorama of salvation’s story is played.  Each person (saints and sinners) watches the drama, for the most incredible event to ever happen is now to take place.  The giant screen- play in the heaven not only tells the big story of God’s love; it replays each person’s life before its owner.  Both saint and sinner stand in awe.  Now they see as never before the extended mercy of salvation – the mystery of God.  Now they comprehend what they dimly understood before.  Now the saints see the humility of Jesus and sinners see Paradise lost.  The wicked behold the One who loved them beyond understanding, the One who died that they might have the opportunity of salvation!

5.      Every knee bows before Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit. They are righteous. They are fair. They are love! The wicked bow before their justice.  The saints bow before their mercy.  Now, at this grand moment, before all human beings that ever lived, the 7th and final seal is broken on the book of life.  The book is opened.  Now the multitudes beyond number understand a new dimension about God.  He foreknew all this.  His written record, sealed before the world was created, is exactly the same as the story contained in the books of record and reviewed in the sky!

6.      Now God is exonerated before His creatures.  God has been proven as a God of love.  He freely granted His creatures the power of choice.  Now, Satan stands before the vast multitude as a despicable liar.  The evidence clearly shows that God does not use His foreknowledge to manipulate or control the outcome of any event.  His creatures truly have the greatest power outside of divinity: the power of choice.  The saints rejoice with abounding joy at the choices they made: the choice to live by faith, the choice to follow Jesus, the choice to struggle against sin, the choice to be what Jesus wanted them to be, the choice to do what He wanted, and the choice to go wherever He directed!  Go-Be-Do!

On the other hand, sinners are crushed.  In despair beyond words they see the tragic result of their choices.  They look upon the Holy City, Jesus and the saints and a grief beyond comparison overtakes them.  They have no anger against the Godhead.  They are love and the wicked stand before God with regret beyond understanding.  Their regret is not based on heart-felt repentance; rather, it is based on the consequence of seeing what they have lost.  The seeds of rebellion are so deep that repentance is impossible.  In agony beyond description they turn upon each other to vent their anguish.  In mercy Jesus sends fire down from heaven and ends the nightmare.


1.      When does man become a living soul?

2.      When an evil person dies, what returns to God?

3.      See if you can find two scriptures in this lesson that call death “sleep”.

4.      What does God say about mediums?

Memory Verse: Romans 6:23  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”




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