Where does real wisdom come from? Real wisdom is the kind that guides one’s life through the turmoil of our world. Many may wonder exactly what happens as we close our eyes for the last time, slipping away from those at our bedside. The good news is that the wisest man in history shares his knowledge with us!
(Ecclesiastes 12:7)1NIV New International Version Translations – “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
Here is an explicit statement from Solomon on death and the afterlife. There is impressive consistency in the Scriptures as to the meaning of this verse from Ecclesiastes. Let’s look at a few of them.
(Genesis 2:7) – “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
God’s creation of Adam and his name carries some similarities to the word for earth in Hebrew. The Hebrew for a man (adam) sounds like and may be related to the Hebrew for ground (adamah). For the rest of creation, God had simply spoken things into existence (e.g., Genesis 1:3, 14, 20, 24), but God does things differently with Adam. God could have chosen to create humans in any way He desired. However, God used both natural, inert material (dust) and supernatural power (His breath) to give humans a unique composition in the universe. This simple fact of creation separates us from all forms of matter and life. God chose to create humanity to be unique!
Because of the recipe for humanity’s creation used by God, we are dependent on both the fragility of our world and on God Himself. Dust signifies a sense of insignificance here on earth. It is meant to bring about humility that we should never forget. Genesis 3:19 reiterates humanity’s dependence upon God and the fragile nature of human life: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Because we are completely dependent upon God for life, we are called to worship our Lord and to only serve Him. Again, Solomon is specific here, in Ecclesiastes 3:20, he states: “All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.” If King Solomon had ended there, the world would be filled with just atheists. However, there is a part two in Solomon’s statement that defines further the uniqueness of humankind. “The spirit returns to God who gave it.”
While we exist in this world, we are body and soul. The word “soul” in the Bible is a translation of the Hebrew word neʹphesh and the Greek word psy·kheʹ. The Hebrew word means “a creature that breathes,” and the Greek word means “a living being.” A soul, then, is part of the entire earthly creature. It is important to admit that the word “soul” is not merely a disembodied entity. In the Bible, the combined “body” and “soul” is defined as who you are!
(Matthew 10:28) – “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
We are left to sort out what happens to the soul, call it the spirit if you must. If the body returns to dust, where does the soul, the spirit go? In other words, where do YOU go after death? There is hardly anyone who is not afraid of death. The reason for this is that death is the end of life and existence as we see it. All that we enjoyed in this world, the precious moments we spent, our dear ones, our experiences, our memories – they all come to an end with death. Traditionally, science has viewed death as the end of life. According to science, if the brain functions and the heart beats, life exists. The moment the heart ceases and the brain function stop, a person is dead and that’s the end of their life.
The Christian then should ask what happens to the soul (spirit) after the death of the body? Just before Jesus was to die on the cross, He said to the thief dying next to Him, “… today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The term “Paradise” is used twice in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7) and it is about heaven. Jesus explicitly tells the thief that when he dies, his soul will be with Him in heaven. We can conclude, therefore, that when the body ceases to function, the Christian’s soul separates from the body and goes immediately into Jesus Christ’s presence. That is what the Bible is telling us. Yet we are also told that there is more to come. This leaves us to conclude that while we wait for the restoration of the world, we will be with Jesus, and this will be a good thing for all who are with Christ!
At the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the General Resurrection will begin. The redeemed bodies are rejoined with their eternal souls. The final Judgement takes place. Our Advocate, the Christ, stands up for us. Jesus’ atoning death on Calvary’s Cross provides the blood sacrifice of the one and only Son of God. Punishment for sins has been placed upon the Second Person of the One True and Holy God. The redeemed are acquitted, and the unredeemed are cast into eternal separation from God, Christ, and all that is eternally good.
(Revelation 20:11) – “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.”
The prophet Jeremiah points out that God had a plan for him, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5). The human soul, from its first breaths of life at conception to the eventual demise of the body, remains part of God’s plan. However, any soul without Christ is in peril. The soul of anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord to be saved will be gloriously transformed for eternity. This is the Good News of the Gospel’s message.
(John 5:24) – “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
But what about that last breath and what happens until Christ comes again? The Apostle Paul simply says, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). We will be with our Lord! God’s promises are our destiny. If we have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we will be in the arms of Jesus now and for eternity. We believe that while we wait, we will be comforted by Jesus Himself until the New Order of our world is created. “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”(Philippians 3:20-21)
(Psalm 16:9-10) – “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.”
(Acts 2:27-28) – “because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your essence.”
Whether you were David of the Old Testament or Luke of the New Testament, God remains responsible for the creation and protection of each human soul. Our prayer each day is to be confident in the knowledge that God will not abandon us and has a glorious plan for eternal joy awaiting each of us who trust His Word. However, there is one Truth that cannot be denied, “No Jesus, No heaven!” Oh, poor soul!
(1 Corinthians 15:17-19) – “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
- Do you think of yourself as existing without a body? A soul of sorts, somewhere else?
- Ideas to Explore: Where do our ideas of death, resurrection, and life after death come from? Who are the influencers of our thoughts? Are there any fears and, if so, what are they?
- How can you replace your fears of death with joy?
- Ideas to Explore: Do you understand why you believe what you believe? Which do you find more fearful, the world or the Bible? Why do you feel that way?
- Where does hope for eternal life come from?
- Ideas to Explore: Implanted by God; our families, experiences, the world?
- Jesus assures us there is a morning after death. Why do you believe Him?
- Ideas to Explore: How strong is your faith that Jesus is real? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? Is Jesus someone to be feared, revered, or both?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations