Being a minister of the Gospel of Christ, I have been present when people died.
I was sleeping in the room in which my own daddy died. Before bedtime, we had been talking and when I awoke, he was sitting up in bed, but it really wasn’t him. It was just a shell; his soul had departed.
Death is something that is certain, just like the old joke goes: Death and taxes are two things that are certain. The Hebrew writer confirmed the death side of this statement: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). It touches the lives of everyone at some point in life.
The question often is asked, “What happens when we die?” The world ponders this question with fear and trepidation. Christians ponder this question with hope, knowing there is another place where the departed have gone.
As in any religious question, one must turn to the Bible for answers.
Death is a separation, James wrote. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). Life only exists while body and spirit are united. Death is the result of the spirit leaving the body. The body returns to the dust. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground, for out of it wast thou taken, for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19).The preacher wrote in the Ecclesiastes letter about the need to remember God in youth, while the pains and struggles of getting older are not so pronounced (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7).
Why does this thing called death exist? Death came into the world with Adam’s sin — spiritual death, with sin separating man from God, so that man needed a redeemer was also caused by man sinning. It needs to be understood that mankind did not inherit Adam’s sin; mankind commits sin. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20).
Physical death came at Adam’s sin because man was separated from the tree of life. Throughout the Scriptures, the departure of the spirit from the body is the occasion of death. In Genesis, one reads that Abraham “gave up the ghost” (Genesis 25:8) of Rachel. It was said that her “soul was departing” (Genesis 35:18). In the New Testament, Luke recorded that as Stephen was being stoned by the Jews, he called up on God to receive his spirit (Acts 7:59). When the spirit leaves the body, the body is no longer animated.
Death is not the annihilation or unconsciousness, for those who die continues to exist. In 1 Samuel, there is an account of how Samuel, who was a judge over Israel, had died. The king, Saul, understood he still existed. He desired to speak to Samuel, and God allowed it. Saul had gone to a woman who was said to have a familiar spirit and enquired about Samuel. When Samuel appeared by the power of God, it freighted the woman. She knew she had no such power. Saul and Samuel actually carried on a conversation (1 Samuel 28). Samuel existed in spirit.
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series. Part two next week.