Most Christians hold the belief that upon death, those who belong to Jesus are immediately received up into glory, commonly called Heaven or Paradise. There they are alive and conscious and enjoying the Great Hereafter with Christ and their loved ones. 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 (1 Thes 4:16, 17; 1 Cori 15:21-23 KJV)? If after death the Christian is already alive and with Him, why should Jesus need to return to gather His Church?
If death is the entrance to eternal happiness with the Lord, then death is not an enemy but a welcomed friend. If death brings us into the immediate presence of Jesus, then the Scriptures are void and our believing vain. But death is not a friend as 1 Cori 15:26 pointedly states: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” The enemy death will someday be destroyed but, obviously, it is not yet as witnessed by the fact that funeral directors are not lacking for business.
Since death has not been destroyed and since those who have died are not already alive and in Heaven, where are the dead? What is “death?”
The word death in the Bible is the Greek word “thanatos,” which is defined as “the natural end of earthly human existence.” Thanatos is not merely an instantaneous occurrence when one expires but a continuing state. Release from this continuing state of death hinges upon the return of Jesus.
If release from death comes with the return of Christ, where are the dead until that time? The Bible says they are in the “grave” (HADES in Greek; SHEOL in Hebrew). These words are interchangeably translated “hell, grave and pit.” Hades or sheol is never the place of destruction—it is always the continuing state of the dead. The most accurate translation of hades and sheol would be “gravedom.” 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. The Biblical description of gravedom (the kingdom of all those in the grave—the dead), sheol or hades, is a place where there is no consciousness and thus no remembrance (Psalm 6:5, 146:4, Eccl 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 Jesus. I cannot help but think one of Lazarus’ first questions to Jesus was, “How long was I dead? (John 11:43, 44).” Within the dimension of time, the moment of a man’s death is neither his gathering together unto Christ nor his resurrection. In a sense of time, he does not go immediately to Heaven but descends into gravedom, sheol. In every one of the Scriptures Job 21:13; Psalms 16:10, 49:15, 89:48, the Hebrew word sheol is used for grave and hell.
A Roman soldier killed Jesus. If a man can kill a God, then he is more powerful than that God, which cannot be. The phrase Jesus as “Son of man” appears over 80 places in the Bible. “Son of God” over 60 places. “God the son” zero.
Jesus Christ likewise descended into gravedom when He died. If anyone should have gone to Heaven immediately after death, surely it should have been Jesus. For 3 days and 3 nights He had no consciousness as Matt 12:40 and Acts 2:30-32 state.
Just as all men who die, Jesus also went to hades. What then happens in hades? All is corruption and decay (Gene 3:19; Acts 13:36). As all who go to the grave, Jesus too would have totally decayed if God had not raised Him from the dead (Psalm 16:10; Acts 13:34, 35).
God raised Jesus from hades and its corruption. If He had not been raised, Jesus would still be dead 2000 years later and not be coming back again; and without His coming back, there would never be a release for any of mankind—Christian and non-Christian, saved and unsaved—from gravedom and corruption. Amen.
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