I found a pamphlet in my door the other day left by a neighboring religious group in my county. I’ve had a few conversations with them in the past, and I suppose I will do so again in the future if the opportunity arises, but this time I wasn’t home so the “paper work” got left behind.
The pamphlet addresses several spiritually natured questions inside. The title is actually labeled “Would You Like to Know the Truth?” So that at least lets me know what they intend for me to learn from its pages, and on the front page they do reference the right source for finding the truth (the word of God, the Bible – John 17:17) so I’ll give them that much – but one thing that the pamphlet does not give is the truth concerning the answers to the questions that it addresses.
For example, one question that it asks and answers is “What Happens to Us When We Die?” Here’s the excerpt from the pamphlet that deals with that issue:
WHY THE QUESTION ARISES: Most of the world’s religions teach that something inside a person continues living after death. Some hold that the dead can harm the living or that God punishes the wicked by condemning them to eternal torment in a fiery hell.
WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES: At death, humans cease to exist. “The dead . . . are conscious of nothing at all,” states Ecclesiastes 9:5. Since the dead cannot know, feel, or experience anything, they cannot harm-or help-the living. – Psalm 146:3,4.
see also Genesis 3:19 and Ecclesiastes 9:6,10
There is one statement/sentiment in this quote that I take no issue with. Although I strongly believe in life after death, I don’t believe in “ghosts” in the way most of the world believes in them so with I’ll agree with them on that topic for the most part. Although I do wonder how they deal with Acts 19:13-16. But anyways, that’s where the no issue and the big issues begin and end.
Here’s what I want you to get from the point that the pamphlet was trying to make. When a person has to lean heavily on the book of Ecclesiastes to support their doctrine concerning life after death and the condition of the soul that should be an indicator. I’m not putting down the inspiration of Ecclesiastes at all. I’m just saying that Christianity is a religion that is based upon a certain individual who died and then rose from the dead to die no more! You would think that this person’s point of view and teaching on the subject would carry a little more weight in this pamphlet. And I suppose it would if it weren’t for the fact that the words of Jesus would be too much weight for their answer to support.
Jesus himself drew a clear line in the sand when he boldly said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28 – NKJV) Sounds like this one verse knocks out both claims: 1) something does in deed live on after death, and 2) there is a place of punishment for the wicked called hell.
But now you may be quick to point out that the pamphlet never denied that we will eventually live again after death, or that the pamphlet didn’t deny the existence of Hell, it only addressed the duration of it. Fair enough point, so let’s keep listening to what Jesus said concerning those two issues.
So, does a person continue to live after death, or do they, as the pamphlet suggests, cease to exist only to be brought back to existence at a later time (a doctrine also known as “soul sleeping”). If one were to continue to study the totality of Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels (and the rest of the New Testament) they would find multiple examples that indicate a continued existence after death. I’ll give you a few examples.
1) Martha, the sister of Lazarus and Mary, once told Jesus that she believed her dead brother, “[would] rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24 – NKJV). The false witnesses of Jehovah have no problem with that, and in fact this pamphlet probably would’ve quoted her if it weren’t for the next two verses where Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 – NKJV) According to this pamphlet a “Jehovah’s Witness” would have to answer in the negative because they do not believe the soul continues to live after the body dies! But Jesus said that a person who believes in Him will never die. Jesus wasn’t talking about the death of the body – Jesus was talking about the soul that lives within the body. It’s the body that dies, but the soul continues to live (James 2:26a).
2) In another plainly told, and revealing story, about life, death and life after death, Jesus described the blessedness and the burden of dying in a righteous and unrighteous state. In Luke 16:19-31 we learn that the righteous continue to live in comfort after death while the unrighteous continue to exist in a stage of torment. Both Lazarus and the rich man were completely aware of who they were, where they came from and why they were there. They felt emotions and sensations. Jesus doesn’t describe anything close to what the pamphlet taught about what happens when we die. Yes, the great point of the story told by Jesus is about doing right spiritually, and following Jesus – but does not the greater point involve a spiritual reason to do right?! To die in a right state spiritually leads to the blessing of knowing we are right with God, knowing who we are and knowing that staying faithful was worth it. When we close our eyes we will open them again because to be absent from the body is not to be absent from reality. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, simple enough (2 Corinthians 5:8, Philippians 1:23).
As to the duration of eternal punishment – well, let’s just call it what the Bible calls it: eternal (Mark 3:29). Now you may say you have no qualms with the doctrine of eternal destruction (which is what the pamphlet is really promoting), but your qualm lies with the doctrine of eternal punishment in the place called hell. Well, the pamphlet may promote the short-lived idea of once dead always dead for the soul (which sounds really Sadducee like – Mark 12:18), but Jesus taught another eternal idea altogether. Again, let me give you a couple of examples of how the pamphlet’s teachings contradict the doctrine of Jesus.
1) Unlike what the pamphlet teaches, according to Jesus there is Someone, something and someplace to fear after death for those who are not in a right relationship with God (Luke 12:4-5). If a person ceased to exist after death there would be no one, nothing and nowhere to fear! But the fact of the matter is that once a person dies we all find ourselves in the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:28-31). And with this living God there is reward and retribution. Death is not the end of reality, death is the beginning of it.
2) As to the duration of Hell, there is the grave that we all face, but then there is the Gehenna that only the wicked endure. And for those who love to kill time there is no better place to do that than in eternity. As surely as the Bible teaches that the final reward of God is eternal it teaches that the final punishment is just as enduring. Jesus described the sad side of the great and final day of judgment by saying, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:” (Matthew 25:41 – NKJV). Now how long will those eternal flames burn? Incase you missed it, a few verses later Jesus gives the emphasis again by saying, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46 – NKJV) As surely as the bush burned without being consumed (Exodus 3:2) there is a place described as furnace of fire that burns eternally, a place where the flame is not quenched (Matthew 13:42, Mark 9:47-48, Matthew 25:41).
The pamphlet quotes John 8:32 which says, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” But they fail to let the one who said this give the answers the questions they address. So when it comes to the question “What Happens to Us When We Die?” who should we listen to? To a temporary paper pamphlet, or to the word of God which lives abides forever? (1 Peter 1:23-25) Don’t let the pamphlets in the door keep you from listening to the Door that leads to life (John 10:7-11).
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25 – NKJV)