Section A: From Paradise to Paradise
When Adam and Eve sinned, they became mortal, or subject to death. Their previous immortality was conditional on their obedience to God, who gave them access to the tree of life. The Lord had told them that if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would surely die. To Adam and Eve, who had never witnessed death in any area of life, it must have been heart-rending to see the leaves begin to die and fall from the trees, and the lovely roses fade and fall dead to the ground. Later, when their son Cain killed his brother Abel, they were brought face to face with the stark reality of the sorrow death brings to the human race.
Death is a mystery
The problem of death has always been a mystery to mankind. From the earliest times, man has wondered, “What comes after death?” Efforts made to lift the veil that surrounds death have resulted in varying opinions, from the most primitive representations of heathenism to the later theories of the theologians and the modern doctrines of spiritualism.
In all of man’s speculations regarding death, the idea of the natural immortality of the soul (or the belief in a conscious existence immediately after death) plays an important role. In reality, however, the only true source of information about what takes place when a man dies is in the Bible.
What does the Bible teach about death?
1. Man is mortal, or subject to death. “Shall mortal man be more just than God?” Job 4:17.
2. Actually, contrary to common belief, only God is immortal or not subject to death. He lives forever. “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.” 1 Timothy 1:17. “The King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality,” 1 Timothy 6:15, 16.
3. Man seeks for immortality, or eternal life, because he is mortal. “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life.” Romans 2:7.
4. At creation, DUST + BREATH OF LIFE = A LIVING SOUL. “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.” Genesis 2:7.
5. At death, THE LIVING SOUL – BREATH OF LIFE = DUST. “…dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return…” Genesis 3:19. “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7.
6. Man is not conscious in death. His thoughts perish. Psalm 146:4. The dead know nothing; their love, hatred, and envy perish. Ecclesiastes 9:5,6. The dead do not praise the Lord. Psalm 115:17.
7. Death, then, is like a sleep. David spoke of the sleep of death. Psalm 13:3. Solomon slept with his fathers. 1 Kings 11:43. Many bodies of the saints which slept arose at Christ’s death. Matthew 27:52. Jesus Himself spoke of death as a sleep, referring to the death of Lazarus. John 11:11-14. “But man dieth, …” “So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.” Job 14:10,12. David is not ascended into the heavens. Acts 2:29,34.
8. All men go to the grave. “What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?” Psalm 89:48
A Warning against spiritualism
God, from the earliest times, has denounced communication with familiar spirits, supposed to be the “dead.” Read Deuteronomy 18:9-12, and you will find a severe warning against black magic, calling on evil spirits or fortune tellers, being a serpent charmer, medium or wizard, or calling for the “spirits of the dead.” The dead are asleep in their graves, so any such attempt to communicate with them is futile. Satan and his evil spirits, however, are glad to personate the dead; this is spiritualism, which in all its myriad forms seeks to draw people away from the clear truths of the Bible and to make them believe the first lie which the devil told Eve in the garden of Eden, “Ye shall not surely die.” Genesis 3:4. He has been telling this same falsehood ever since, under a cloak of religion, education, amusement, or any guise which will deceive people.
The Bible foretold just such things. “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:14,15 . See also 1 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 16:14. We are admonished to “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1. It is impossible to play with fire without getting burned, and therefore we are strongly warned against experimenting with any and all forms of spiritualism and the occult.
The resurrection – man’s only hope
The sorrow and mystery surrounding death need not make us afraid or unsure of the future. The Scriptures make this fact very plain: Those who love and serve the Lord in this life, but who die before His coming, shall receive eternal life in the resurrection at Christ’s second coming! Precious promise! Wonderful hope! “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23 . When Jesus was here on earth, He left this comforting promise: “Let not your heart be troubled: …I go to prepare a place for you. …I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:1-3.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:15,16, and you will see the picture of this wonderful resurrection. The dead in Christ shall rise first. They are raised incorruptible and put on immortality. 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 . “Marvel not at this: 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 damnation.” John 5:28,29. (The resurrection of the wicked will be discussed in a later lesson.)
When Jesus comes, He brings His reward with Him for every man. Revelation 22:12. Thus our only hope regarding death lies in the resurrection, for only then is eternal life bestowed. Job realized this fact when he said, “If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” Job 14:14. “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.” Job 19:25,26.