Where are the dead? A Sunday School Lesson


Most Christians hold the belief that on the day they die, those who belong to Christ are immediately received up to the Great Hereafter, commonly called Heaven or Paradise, to appear before the Father. There they are alive and conscious and have a joyous existence with Him and their loved ones who have gone on before. Such a belief is contrary to the teachings in the Word of God, for if a person immediately after expiring is taken to eternal bliss, why is the return of Christ and/or the resurrection necessary? If after death the Christian is already alive and with Him, why should Christ return to gather His Church (born-again believers)? [1 Thessalonians 4:16-18]. When Christ returns, He will gather all His believers, first the dead and next the mortals (living at the time) that have put on immortality [1 Corinthians 15:51-54], to meet the Lord in the air. Much later, there will be a resurrection for the good (just) and another for the evil (unjust). [John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15].

According to Genesis 4:8, the first human to die was Abel. So, where is the place for every dead person’s soul between Abel and those appearing in last week’s obituary column (save Jesus)? That place is in the “grave.” The Hebrew word for grave is sheol and the Greek word is hades. The grave (or gravedom) is the state in which all dead dwell; it is not a qeber, a spot where the body is buried on land or sea. You should be happy to learn that the dead are not aware that they are dead because there is no consciousness in death. Therefore, they are not thinking anything, they know nothing, they have no memory, they are not working, they have no knowledge nor wisdom, etc. [Psalm 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:5. 6, 10].

Because there is no consciousness in death, there is no awareness of time for the dead person. Thus the moment of a man’s death becomes, in a sense of time for him, the moment of the return of Christ. Paul well understood that in his conscious mind, the split second after he died, he would see the face of Jesus. [2 Corinthians 5:8 and Philippians 1:23 mention no time element]. If Christ returned tonight, I might think the first question Paul would ask Jesus would be, “Lord, how long have I’ve been dead?” Paul might be amused to learn he’s been dead (unconscious) for over 2,000 years. Similarly, why do many of you readers take a glance at a clock upon returning to bed from a bathroom in the middle of the night? Is it because you are not aware of how much time has elapsed since you fell asleep?

Where are the dead? Where has Paul’s unconscious soul been for 2,000 years? It descended into gravedom, sheol. See Psalms 89:48…hand of the grave [sheol]; Psalm 49:15…power of the grave [sheol]; Job 21:13…down to the grave [sheol]. But in Paul’s conscious mind, he will have gone immediately to Heaven. King David and the thief on the cross and Jesus Christ likewise descended into gravedom when they died. [Acts 2:34]. If anyone should have gone to Heaven immediately after death, surely it should have been Jesus. But even He went to sheol or hades. For 3 days and 3 nights He had no consciousness. See Acts 2:31…His soul was not left in “hell” [hades should have been translated “the grave”]. If God had not awakened His Son, there would be no Jesus today. He would still be asleep and His body would have returned to dust.

Satan wants Christians to believe that death is a welcoming friend and that the sooner they die, the sooner they’ll be with Jesus and have a glorious reunion with friends and kin. That is contrary to The Word! Death is not a friend as 1 Corinthians 15:26 pointedly states: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Satan knows that dead Christians can no longer be ambassadors for Christ, doing good works for His church.

The following is an example of what we learn from the Word of God: When a sheep dies, she is dead forever and never awakes. Both man and animals perish in the grave, sheol. [Psalms 49:12, 14]. When a person dies, he is temporarily dead (in a deep sleep) and will be awakened by Christ Jesus when He returns. Presently, Jesus is the first (first fruits) and the only human who has died and been resurrected into Heaven. [Like 24:51]. Not even David, the apple of God’s eye [Psalm 17:8], has ascended. [Acts 2:34]. Since the dead are unconscious, there are no means by which the living can commune with them. Satan will very cleverly produce counterfeit supernatural phenomena to convince the unknowing that such communication is possible.

Review Kings 2:10, 11; Daniel 12:2; Luke 8:49-56; John 11:11-17, 43, 44; Ephesians 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:18-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18.

Wherefore comfort one another with these words. Amen

Sidney Terhune

P. O. Box 6, Wash. C.H., OH

By Sidney Terhune

Religion Columnist

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