Death of the sacrificial animal is the first thing that takes place in the court of the sanctuary. The word of God says,
Leviticus 3:2, “And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron's sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.”
Why did God want the sinner to see death every time he sinned and came to the court? God wanted the sinner to know clearly that sin kills; that death is in the bosom of sin, that the “the wages of sin is death” indeed (Romans 6:23). God wanted to remind every child of Adam, the same truth that he told Adam—that sin kills!
Two sermons from two preachers
There were two supernatural preachers in the Garden of Eden—God and Satan. God preached to Adam, and Satan preached to Eve. Both preached on the same topic of sin and death. Both were short and packed with information, as far as the scripture record goes. One preached the truth about sin and death; the other preached error on the same topic. God told the man,
Genesis 2:17, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
And the devil said just the opposite to the woman,
Genesis 3:4, “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die”.
Unfortunately, the devil’s sermon was believed because it was more appealing to the ears and eyes tough it wasn’t true at all. Adam and Eve were supposed to die that same day, according to the word of God, but they didn’t. Why? So did it prove that God was wrong and the serpent was right? No! Death crept in that same day.
Just like Barabbas, who was supposed to die, escaped because the Lamb of God took his place, on Golgotha, Adam and Eve escaped certain death that day because a lamb, symbolizing the Lamb of God, took their place that day in the Garden of Eden! That lamb was striped of its very skin to clothe their sin!
Genesis 3:21, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.”
In that animal that died that day, Adam and Eve saw, by faith, the death of “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
Sin indeed kills. The wages of sin is indeed death. It was not just told to Adam and Eve by God Himself, but they saw it with their own eyes that very day. Finally Adam, the head of the human race, died as well, after probation of 930 years.
Genesis 5:5, “And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.”
God’s sermon proved to be true. Death crept in that very day, in the form of a substitute. And after a life of probation, death crept upon the sinner himself, finally. God came back to continue His sermon to man on the topic to death. He told in plain words that cannot be mistaken,
Genesis 3:19, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
God alone is immortal
There is only One being in the universe who is immortal, who lives forever, who cannot die—and that is God. Inspiration says of God, “Who only hath immortality” (1 Timothy 6:16).
If God only has immortality, then no one else has immortality, apart from God. Jesus plainly said about the Father and Himself,
“For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” (John 5:26)
Apart from God, no one else has life in themselves—no one else has immortality in themselves. All the creatures in the universe are living because they are connected to God. The scripture says, Acts 17:28 “For in him we live, and move, and have our being”
Being disconnected from God there is no life possible. As it is true for the spiritual, it is true for the physical life, as well. Jesus said,
John 15:6 “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered”
Satan, in the Garden, was propagating a lie—that we can live a life disconnected from God. He was suggesting that it is not just that God is immortal, but all the creatures are immortal as well, having life in themselves. The father of lies, said,
“Ye shall not surely die… ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:4, 5).
The tree of life in the Garden was a symbol that man has no life in himself. To live forever he was dependent on something outside him. It symbolized that he was dependent on God for life. The reason God drove out the first transgressors of His law from the Garden is clearly specified. God did not want them to be immortal sinners.
Genesis 3:22-24, “And the LORD God said, … lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden…So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
Which sermon do you believe dear child of God—the sermon that God preached or the sermon that the devil preached in the Garden? Eve, for a moment, believed what the devil preached, and tragedy struck.
Those who think it is not vital for salvation to know doctrines of scriptures need to look at the fall of our first parents. It was a misconception of a doctrinal issue that brought their downfall!
Most people have not realized that the lie of the devil is still being believed in the world today, even in many Christian churches today, than the truth of God on the topic of death.
Have you ever heard of man possessing an immortal soul? What does immortal mean? Immortal means something that can never die. But we have seen that only God is immortal! And sinful man was stopped from eating of the tree of life, lest they be immortal sinners.
God meant that Adam and Eve and their offspring should live forever—be immortal. But immortality was based on condition to obedience to the test on forbidden tree. They failed the test and death was pronounced to them and not eternal life. Man possessing immortal souls is the first lie of the devil!
What is a soul?
The Bible is very clear that man is made up of only two entities—body (or dust) and breath (or spirit).
Genesis 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
Man did not posses a soul, man was not given a soul, but man became a living soul, when the body and breath were joined together. The word soul, in the Hebrew language, is “nephesh” which is translated as “life” in other parts of scripture. It just means man became alive. Another version reads, “Man became a living being” (NIV). So soul is not a third entity that God gave, it just means man now has life.
Even the New Testament is clear that there are only two entities that man possesses. When these two are disconnected the reverse of creation occurs. It is written,
James 2:26 “The body without the spirit is dead”. Yes the body with the spirit (or breath) is soul (or life), and the body without the spirit is death, the opposite of life, the opposite of nephesh or soul.
The spirit or breath of life in our nostrils is not a unique gift to man, even animals possess the same breath. Talking about the worldwide flood, inspiration says,
Genesis 7:21, 22, “And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.”
The difference between animals and man is not in the breath, but in the intellect and spirituality of man. Even the wise man wrote of animals and man. He said, “Yea, they have all one breath” (Ecclesiates3:19).
The word “soul” appears more than 400 times in the King James Version of the English Bible, and not even once the scripture mentions that man has an immortal soul. Rather the opposite is associated to the soul of man—death. The Lord said,
Ezekiel 18:4 “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”
The final Judgment
The Bible is clear that there is a day of judgment for all people. And the executive judgment is not at death, but on the last day—when the Lord returns. Paul wrote,
2 Timothy 4:1 “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom”.
Why would Jesus come to judge the dead if the dead go straight to heaven or hell at death? Is this a second judgment for them, or a verification of the first judgment to see if God made any mistake by sending people to the wrong side earlier? No! There is only one judgment and that is on the final day, and not at death.
Jesus told His very own disciples that He would go ahead to heaven and prepare places for all of them and then come back to take them to heaven, and not that they would come there at death! He said, John 14:3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
The man of God’s own heart, King David, is not yet gone to heaven according to the apostle Peter. Peter filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost said,
Acts 2:29, 34 “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….For David is not ascended into the heavens”.
If the man of God’s own heart, King David, has not gone to heaven yet, then how can anyone else go?
There are a few people, that the Bible mentions, who have gone to heaven like Enoch, Moses Elijah, our Lord Jesus, and the first fruits at the resurrection of Jesus. But they all went to heaven with a body, and not an immortal soul departing from the body!
Death is compared to sleep in scriptures. David wrote “Lest I sleep the sleep of death” (Psalm 13:13). That is why the Bible keeps using this phrase when people died. Of David it says,
1 Kings 2:10, “So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.”
Of Solomon is says,
1 Kings 11:43, “And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father”
Jesus too said Lazarus was asleep when actually he died. Jesus woke him up from sleep after four days. If Lazarus was conscious those four days, that is, if his soul had gone to its destination, then Lazarus should have said something about it. The man said nothing about heaven, if he were in heaven, or nothing about hell, if he were in hell! If he were in heaven he should have been upset with Jesus for bringing him down again, and if he were in hell, he should have profusely thanked Jesus for saving him from the fires of hell! But Lazarus said nothing about heaven or hell! Where was Lazarus those four days? He was sleeping in the grave!
One of the clearest passages of scripture about man’s condition at death is recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes.
Ecclesiastes 9:5, “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.”
Where do they go and what do they do at death? The wise man continues,
Ecclesiastes 9:6, 10, “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. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”
The psalmist says, the dead are silent in the graves.
Psalm 115:17 “The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.”
There are close to one hundred passages of scripture that clearly say that man is unconsciously sleeping in the grave waiting for the final day to be resurrected either for eternal life or eternal death. But now we shall consider some passages that seem to pose some problems—that seem to be supporting the concept of the immortality of the soul.
Let us examine these apparent contradictions found in scriptures.
Spirits in prison
The apostle Peter wrote about the spirits in prison in the days of Noah and how Jesus ministered to them. This is what Peter wrote.
1 Peter 3:18-20, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”
Many people believe that this passage teaches that Jesus did a special preaching during the three days between His death and resurrection reaching out to the spirits of the dead, the people who died during Noah’s flood. Does the passage say that? No! It is just interpreted that way. We know that the Bible is clear about the condition of a dead person.
Ecclesiastes 9:5, “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.”
If they know not “anything”, and if their memory is “forgotten”, and while they are dead they have no “reward” how can they be preached to? Also Isaiah is very clear that there is no hope of receiving the truth, or the gospel, once they are dead. (Isaiah 38:18) “They that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.”
In the light of the above scripture passages we understand that Jesus would never do that! In those three days Jesus was dead too!
Yes, Peter mentioned about “spirits in prison” in the “days of Noah”. Also he talked about the flood and said that “eight souls were saved by water”. The rest of the people were drowned in the flood. And yes, Peter said that Jesus “went and preached unto the spirits in prison”, that is to the people who lost their lives in the flood. But when did Jesus preach to them? After the flood came and drowned them, after they died? No! Read carefully as to what Peter says, and when did Jesus preach to them. Peter said, Jesus preached to them, “while the ark was a preparing”. While Noah was preparing the ark, Jesus was preaching to them. While Noah was preparing the ark, those people were alive, and not dead, because the flood did not come while the ark was in the process of it being built. If the flood came while Noah was still preparing the ark, Noah and his family and all the animals too, would have been dead, with the rest, and you and I would not be around today!
Also Peter never said that Jesus preached to them during those three days between His death and resurrection. He just said, “being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached”. The text simply says how Jesus preached to them, and not about when He preached to them! By the same Holy Spirit that resurrected Him, Jesus preached to the people in Noah’s day, Peter said.
Doesn’t Jesus still minister to us, the believers living 2000 years after His resurrection, through the Holy Spirit? Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “For he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:14). Even in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was ministering unto the people on behalf of our Lord. The flood story clearly records the Lord striving through the Holy Spirit to convert those people.
Genesis 6:3, “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh”.
The phrase “spirits in prison” does not mean the people were dead in the grave. The prison in scripture means the prison house of sin. The psalmist wrote. (Psalm 142:7) “Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name”
Even when Jesus was on earth He was ministering to the people in prison, who were captive to sin, through the same power of the Holy Spirit.
Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives”.
Rich man and Lazarus
Was the narration of the rich man and Lazarus, told by Jesus, a historical story or was it only a parable? If it was a historical event then indeed it contradicts the rest of the scripture. But if it was only a parable then there is no problem at all because parables are not taken literally, but the intent of the parable is only taken. Going by logic and reason we can conclude that this has to be a parable because the scripture cannot say the two opposites. Even if one wants to believe that this passage of scripture is historical and true, the narration of the rich man and Lazarus still poses a lot of problem.
One, Lazarus is seen by the rich man to be sitting “in his bosom” (Luke 16:23), that is in Abraham’s bosom. If it is a literal and a historical story then we need to take that phrase literally as well, which means Abraham’s bosom is the seating place for Lazarus and probably for all the millions of Abraham’s children! This means he has a massive and rock solid bosom! And if people are sitting upon Abraham in heaven, poor Abraham has to be stationary all the time!
Two, the people who believe in immortal souls going to heaven and hell instantly at death also believe that paradise is way above—in the 3rd heaven were God lives—and hell is way inside the earth. But if you take the narration of the rich man and Lazarus as a historical fact, then we have to conclude that heaven and hell are so close to each other, because the people from both the camps could see each other and talk to each other as well!
Three, also we need to conclude that hell fire is not really hot and scorching because the rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to cool him off, not with barrels of water, but only with a drop or two! He said, “That he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue” (Luke 16:24). And it looks like only his tongue was burning!
Four, we also see that the Rich man, Lazarus and Abraham are having—bosom, tongue, eyes, mouth, finger (Luke 16:22, 23, 24). This seems to be that they have gone to heaven or hell with their physical bodies, and not the so-called soul entity. And who can convince anyone that indeed their bodies have gone to heaven or hell, at death, for we all can see that once a person dies his body is still around on earth, left to rot and not transported to heaven or hell!
Well, it is easier to interpret this passage as a parable than as a historical fact, and interpreting it as a parable is right, and also it harmonizes with rest of the texts of sacred scriptures. But interpreting this as a historical story is very hard with the four points that we have shown. Also it then contradicts the rest of the Bible on the same topic, which then shows it is an unsound interpretation of scriptures.
The intent of Jesus in giving this parable was to teach a few things.
- Being rich is no indication that one is blessed of God, and being poor is no indication one is cursed of God. Finally, the poor man, in the parable, made it to heaven and the rich made it to hell.
- The rich man in the parable also symbolized the Jewish people who were rich in heavenly knowledge, and the poor man symbolized the Gentiles who were poor, and craving for the bread of life—the crumbs of bread falling from the rich man’s table.
- The believing Gentiles will sit down with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, while the unbelieving children of Abraham, in the flesh, will be lost because they did not live to the light they had, and did not share them as well.
- There is no hope for a person to change his destiny once he dies.
- The dead can’t return to earth to warn others of the future life,— the scripture is the only source of information for all.
- The scripture, symbolized by Moses and the prophets, is greater than miracles. One should not base their beliefs on miracles, but on the word of God.
g) Because the Jews placed miracles and signs above the word of God, they finally did not believe the greatest miracle that they could get, because they did not believe the word of God to be the foundation of their faith. Having the same name of the poor man in the parable—a real man called Lazarus was indeed raised from the dead; and not just that. The one who told this narration—our Lord Jesus—rose from the dead as well, and did the Jewish nation believe Him for the two greatest of miracles? No! Well, the conclusion of the parable was prophetic in nature. “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). And indeed they did not believe, and still don’t believe as a nation, after 2000 years!
Witch of Endor
Some believe that the story of the witch at Endor is a proof that the dead are not really dead. First of all, can a witch raise a prophet of God to life? The Bible says she was “a woman that hath a familiar spirit” (1 Samuel 28:7). She was not God’s agent at all. The “familiar spirits….are an abomination unto the LORD” (Deuteronomy 18:11, 12). The demonic spirits work through such mediums. Satan and his evil angels can imitate anyone they want to. The Bible says,
2 Corinthians 11:14, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”
He can come as a prophet, an angel, or as Christ himself. But a child of God will differentiate it! So that was not Samuel but someone who pretended to be Samuel!
Absent in the body
Some people quote 2 Corinthians 5 to prove that Paul believed in the concept of immortal soul. That Paul talked about being absent from the body and present with the Lord, at death, they say, let’s examine what Paul wrote,
2 Corinthians 5:8 “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
Paul was using a figure of speech to show how he desired and longed for the Lord to come even before he could die. He compared the present body as “our earthly house” (Verse 1); the future body as “our house which is from heaven” (Verse 2); and the in-between condition of death as “found naked” (Verse 3). He clearly expressed his desire of not dying but being translated without seeing death when he wrote, “not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life” (Verse 4). Also in his epistle to the Thessalonians church Paul clearly expressed his desire of being alive when Jesus comes, when he wrote, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). So the context of Paul making that statement of being with the Lord is not in the context of death, but in the context of the second coming of Jesus!
Paul never believed that man possesses immortality, because that same Paul said to “seek for… immortality” (Romans 2:7). Why would one seek for it if he had it in him! Paul clearly taught that immortality is given to man when the Lord returns. To the same believers in Corinth, he wrote earlier,
1 Corinthians 15:52, 53, “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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
Souls under the altar
I know of some believers who quote a passage in Revelation to prove that the dead are conscious and are not fully dead.
Revelation 6:9, 10, “And when he had opened the fifth seal, 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, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”
Where is this altar that the souls are residing in? In scripture there are only two altars that is associated with the sanctuary—the altar of burnt offering in the court, and the altar of incense in the holy place. Were these slain souls at the altar of burnt offering or at the altar of incense? If it is a reference to the altar of burnt offerings then it means these people died as martyrs on earth, just like Jesus died for us on the real altar of burnt offering, at Golgotha. These precious souls died for the truth of the gospel. Some suggest that these souls are in heaven—in the holy place of the altar of incense. This doesn’t really fit at all. For why would God take, people to heaven and then keep them “under the altar”? What is the purpose of taking them there and then lock them up under the altar to come out at a future date? In fact the same book of Revelation states about the altar of incense, and says no man was able to enter that place till the seven last plaques are over.
Revelation 5:8, “And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.”
The souls under the “altar”, has to be the altar of burnt offerings. These were martyrs for God on earth, during the period of the dark ages when their fellow brethren were killing them, just like Cain killed his brother Abel, for religious differences!
Like the blood of Abel spoke from the ground, figuratively speaking, these souls are crying for justice figuratively speaking. Of Abel it says,
Genesis 4:10 “The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.”
If someone wants to say that souls under the altar are conscious because they are speaking, then they have to also conclude that the blood can literally speak as well, from the ground. Like Abel’s blood cried from the ground, figuratively speaking, the souls under the altar just means, the people under the earth, that is the grave, are crying out figuratively speaking.
Can the dead literally people speak from their graves to God? No. The grave is a place of silence the scripture says.
Psalm 115:17 “The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.”
Gospel to the dead
Some quote a passage in the epistle of Peter to prove that the dead are conscious because they hear the preaching of the gospel. Peter wrote,
1 Peter 4:6 “For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead”.
Did Peter say that the gospel is preached to the dead? No! Notice the tense of the grammar in that sentence. He says, the gospel “was” preached and not the gospel “is” preached. Currently they “are” dead, but it “was” preached to them, when they were alive.
Aren’t there many who are dead in Christ today? When we say they are “dead in Christ” it means two things—they are now dead, but they have accepted Christ. It doesn’t mean they have accepted Christ after they died!
Body, soul and spirit
Some say the Bible does mention that man has three entities, and not just two. They quote the Apostle Paul, who wrote,
“I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 2:23).
Well if that statement is taken to mean that man has not just two distinct entities—body and spirit, in him, but three, the soul being the third, then how should we interpret what Jesus, the Creator of man, said in Matthew?
Matthew 22:37 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”
Because Jesus talked about “heart”, “soul” and “mind” does that mean that man has even more distinct entities in him? So do we conclude, putting all these texts together, that man has—body, spirit, soul, heart and mind—five entities? No! There are only two entities that man has—body, and spirit in our nostrils, as we have seen in the Genesis creation record. Soul, mind and heart all function within these two entities. What Paul meant when he wrote— body, spirit and soul, is man is three dimensional in nature. Man is a physical, mental and spiritual in nature, and not that he has three distinct entities.
Depart and be with Christ
Many quote the apostle Paul who wrote, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (phillippians 1:23).
Did the apostle say that at death he or other believers would be with Christ? No. On the other hand Paul clearly believed in the resurrection doctrine, the resurrection of the body, and not the immortality of the soul doctrine. In the same letter the Philippians he wrote,
Philippians 3:10, 11, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
Paul never taught that the resurrection takes place soon after a person dies, but rather he clearly taught the last day resurrection.
1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17, “For 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 first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
The dead and the living saints go to heaven together at the second coming of Jesus, and not at death. Paul too expected to be with the Lord and receive his reward, not at death, but on “that day”, the day of the Lord’s “appearing”. He wrote,
2 Timothy 4:6-8 “For, I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
So what did Paul mean when he wrote, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:23)
He just meant that he was longing to be with Christ. Though the apostle longed to be alive when Jesus comes, he clearly knew he won’t be alive when the Lord returns, because he talked about his time of departure was at hand in 2 Timothy chapter 4:6-8. When he, or any person who is in the faith, departs at death, the next moment of consciousness, the believer would be with the Lord, because death is an unconscious sleep. Whether one is dead for two days or two thousand years it is one and the same for them. The next moment of their consciousness they hear the voice of the Lord in the clouds of heaven, they see His beautiful face. So blessed is death for a believer! The next time he opens his eyes, he sees Jesus! This is what Paul meant of when he wrote,
“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:23).
The thief on the cross
Many people believe that the thief on the cross went to heaven on the day of his death itself, because Jesus said,
Luke 23:43, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (NKJV)
The above text does not just say that the thief would be in heaven alone that day, but that Jesus too would be with him in paradise—“you will be with Me in paradise”, He said.
For the thief to go to heaven on Friday itself, it means he has to die that day. Does the scripture say that the thief died that day? No! It simply says that his legs were broken that day and he was taken away, along with the other thief. Because the sacred hours of the Sabbath would commence at sunset the priests made the request to Pilate.
John 19:31, 32, “…besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.”
There is no scripture to show that the thief died that day. But we know from scripture that Jesus died that day. If the text in Luke is taken as it appears in our translations of the Bible, then it means Jesus too should have gone to heaven on Friday itself. But on the other hand the Bible is very clear that Jesus did not go to heaven till Sunday morning! On the day of His resurrection Mary Magdalene came to hold the feet of Jesus. And listen carefully to the reason Jesus gives her for not allowing her to touch Him.
John 20:17, “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father”.
If Jesus did not ascend to the Father on Sunday morning then how could He be in heaven along with the thief (who did not die) on Friday itself?
In fact the repentant thief knew that people go to heaven when Jesus returns the second time, and not at death. Therefore he made his request to be remembered at that point of time—when Jesus comes from heaven and not when Jesus goes to heaven. He said,
Luke 23:42, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (NKJV)
In the original Greek language, in which the New Testament was written, there are no punctuation marks as we have it in the English language. So when the scholars translated the Bible they had to place the punctuation marks because the English language demanded that. They have done an excellent job except for a very a few places where the punctuation marks are misplaced.
We know that even a misplaced comma can change the entire meaning of a sentence in English. For example consider the two sentences below where the comma is placed differently.
No price, too high (means, any price is affordable)
No, price too high (means, it’s too costly)
Let’s eat, grandpa! (means, inviting grandpa for dinner)
Let’s eat grandpa! (means, eating grandpa for dinner)
The apparent problem of Luke 23:43 can be solved if we reposition the comma in the sentence. Right now it reads,
Luke 23:43, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (NKJV)
This means that Jesus and the thief were to meet in paradise that Friday. Now let’s place the comma one word later, that is, instead of after the word “you” to after the word “today”.
Luke 23:43, “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise” (NKJV)
This means, Jesus assured or promised the thief, that day, that he would be with Jesus in paradise, not on that day, but at a later day. Only the promise was given that day!
How do we know that the comma is wrongly placed in this verse of Luke 23:43? Because we have seen that Jesus did not go to paradise till Sunday morning and also there is no record of the thief dying that day!
Yes, the dead are really dead. The entire Bible clearly says that, as we have seen. And the earthly sanctuary powerfully teaches us that lesson “the wages of sin is death”. (Romans 6:23). Also the heavenly sanctuary clearly states people enter the heavenly temple only after the 7 last plagues are over (that is at the 2nd coming of Jesus) and not before that.
Revelation 15:8, “And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.”