By Richard G. Mendoza, MPH, PhD
Those who came back to life told stories about what happened when they were dead. But they did not really die! They went through what is called a “Near Death Experience”.
An online encyclopedia explains that “a near-death experience (NDE) refers to personal experiences associated with impending death, encompassing multiple possible sensations including detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light. These phenomena are usually reported after an individual has been pronounced clinically dead or very close to death.”
What happens when a man dies? Does he go straight to heaven, to hell or to some other place? In the Bible, God told Adam after the fall in Genesis 3:18,19: “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”
Here is the key to understanding what death is all about and what God intends to do to save us from eternal separation from Him. The Bible says that man would return to the dust from which he was taken. Notice how Adam was created by God: “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living beHere is the key to understanding what death is all about and what God intends to do to save us from eternal separation from Him. The Bible says that man would return to the dust from which he was taken. Notice how Adam was created by God: “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)
God took the elements of the earth and made a body for man. But man, at that point was only a corpse. It took something more to make him a living being. It says here that God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.
Consider an equation like this:[Body + Breath = A Living Soul] or in death we might write
[Body – Breath = Corpse]. That is what the Wise man said in Ecclesiastes,
“Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it,” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Job also adds: “As long as my breath is in me, and the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness.” (Job 27: 3)
It is clear that in death, the body returns to dust and the spirit, also translated as breath of life, returns to God. Note that the word spirit is in small letter and is therefore not referring to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead. This spirit refers to what was breathed by God to the dust, to make it a living person. The breath of life is different from the oxygen given to patients in hospitals that won’t give life to a dead man; it only comes from God, the source of life.
Let’s take a look at another text.“Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish,” (Psalm 146:3,4). King David introduces something new here. He says that when the breath leaves the body and it returns to the earth that the conscience part of man or his thoughts perish! This harmonizes with what Solomon said: “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward , also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5,6) He knows nothing! This is in keeping with what the psalmist wrote, that the dead are not in heaven praising God.
Then where are they, you will ask. David makes it quite clear: “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor any who go down into silence.” (Psalm 15:17) “But man dies and is laid away; indeed he breathes his last and where is he? So man lies down and does not rise, till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep. For the memory of them is forgotten.” Here we have it from God’s own Word that man dies and lies down in the grave and does not rise until the resurrection day. The dead do not roam around as ghosts either, they are there at the cemetery! The breath of life also returns to God, does not roam around and it’s not a personality that is able to speak and think.
You will notice that Job used the term sleep in talking about death. That’s the same thing that other Bible writers say. David wrote: “Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” (Psalm 13:3) David was afraid of sleeping the sleep of death, he wanted to live! Daniel tells about the dead who will be raised just before the coming of Christ: “And, many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12: 2)
One of the most comforting truths in God’s Word is that when a person dies he or she rest quietly, undisturbed by the problems of life until the call of the Life giver. Is it any wonder that the Bible likens death to a sleep? The prophet Nathan told King David what would happen to him his time to die would come.“When thy days be fulfilled,… thou shalt sleep with thy fathers.” (2 Samuel 7:12) Jesus Himself called death a sleep. He used the same descriptive term to describe the death of His dear friend, Lazarus (read the story in John 11).
This is the message of comfort that the apostle Paul shared with the early Christians: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope!” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
Paul tells us what Jesus will do when He comes the second time: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Paul describes in detail the events that will occur when Jesus comes:
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed —in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51,52)
Jesus had told the disciples that all would be raised from the grave.“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come forth —-those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:28,29)
What about those who are still alive? “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
Try to analyze, if people went to either heaven or hell at death, why would there be any need for the resurrection of either the righteous or unrighteous?
Why would Jesus make this statement as He comes back the second time?
Stories told by those who went through near death experiences and were revived are therefore untrue. Science and medicine attributed those experiences as products of hallucinations when the dying lacks oxygen (hypoxia) on the brain or when there were surges of electrical impulses on the brain during NDE, but this is another subject matter to be discussed.
Remember we will die in this sinful world, but our hope lies in Jesus who says: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (John 11:25)
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