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Bible teaching about Life after Death

The Bible contains some very clear passages about the state of death.

"But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun."

       (Ecclesiastes 9:4-6)

This passage is absolutely explicit. The dead do not know anything. All their emotions and their thoughts are gone. They are unconscious.


This picture is picked up again further down the chapter:

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going."                    (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

It would be difficult to be clearer than this. The word “Sheol” means the grave; this is where we are going and when we arrive there will be nothing we can do, we will not think, nor will we know anything. The dead do not think or feel. They have no consciousness. This point can be illustrated by a passage from the prophecy of Isaiah.

"For Sheol does not thank you; death does not praise you; those who go down to the pit do not hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness."                                           (Isaiah 38:18-19)

Those in the grave (Sheol) do not praise God. The question is why this would be. If the dead have their reward in some kind of afterlife they would praise God. But if they are unconscious, sleeping the sleep of death, they can do nothing and even praising God would be beyond them. Why can’t the dead praise God? Because they are unconscious.

The New Testament uses a rather significant phrase to describe those who have died. It describes them as having “fallen asleep”. This phrase is used on ten occasions; here is one of them.

"For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep."                 (1 Thessalonians 4:14,15)

The point about these words is that sleep is a state we all know. When we are asleep we know nothing until we wake up. The same is true of death. When we are dead we know nothing until we are raised from the dead on the day of judgement.

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