Marvin L. Weir
Often times in this world when one suffers terribly with painful ailments or a dreaded disease and then finally slips from this life someone will say, “But now we know they are better off.” Or, one may say, “At least they are now no longer suffering.” The sad truth is that these answers are incorrect in the majority of instances. People who live their lives in sin and devoted to the pleasures of this world and die in such condition will be in agony throughout eternity in the torments of hell. Physical death for the unrighteous will guarantee far more pain and agony throughout eternity than could ever be experienced in this life.
The Bible account of the rich man and Lazarus teaches “un-get-aroundable” truths about the soul’s awareness and existence after death of the body. This account given for the benefit of mankind is found in Luke 16:19-31. The Bible says:
Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day: and a certain beggar named Lazarus was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table; yea, even the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things: but now here he is comforted, and thou art in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they that would pass from hence to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from thence to us. And he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house; for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. But Abraham saith, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one go to them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, if one rise from the dead.
Many people have bought into the false teaching that when one dies he becomes as the proverbial dog Rover—dead all over! The theories of annihilation (or extinction) upon death are proved false by the Biblical accounting of the rich man and Lazarus as well as the notion that God arbitrarily chooses people to be either saved or lost. Regarding the latter, the rich man realizes once in “torments” (Luke 16:23) that his brothers will join him upon dying unless they can be persuaded to choose righteousness over unrighteousness. The condition of the rich man and Lazarus after death was decided by the way they had chosen to live while on earth. Wealth is not inherently sinful and neither is poverty inherently righteous. A failure, however, to seek first the Lord’s kingdom and righteousness (Matt. 6:33), while trusting in material riches and putting first in life even the morally decent pleasures of the world, is a recipe for spiritual disaster.
It is evident from the Scriptures that when one’s body dies his soul continues to live. At death, the body or “the dust returneth to the earth as it was, and the spirit returneth unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). As Jesus was dying upon Calvary’s cross He said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said this, he gave up the ghost” (Luke 23:46). Adam Clarke in commenting on this verse says, “Or, I will commit my spirit—I deposit my soul in thy hands. Another proof of the immateriality of the soul, and of its separate existence when the body is dead.”
Another proof that the soul continues to live after the death of the body is the Bible account of the first recorded Christian martyr, Stephen. He accused the Jews of being “stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart” and guilty of resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). After Stephen declared he saw an open Heaven with the Lord standing by the Father, the Jews cast him out of the city and stoned him. But as they stoned him, Stephen called upon the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Was Stephen under the impression that his spirit would become extinct? Did Stephen believe that his spirit would die and return to the dust from whence it came? No, Stephen was convinced that his spirit would not suffer annihilation or unconsciousness but would continue to live.
The spirit or soul of man is therefore conscious after death and has the ability to remember happenings that occurred while in the body. The joys of Paradise or Abraham’s bosom awaits the soul of the righteous (Luke 16:22). The horrors and pains of torments await the soul of one who does not know God and has not obeyed the gospel (2 Thess. 1:8).
One who will not believe God’s Word would not believe if one returned to them from the dead. May the truth be realized that no soul is better off or more comfortable having exited the body of one who failed to obey the gospel and then faithfully live the Christian life!
May those who choose to be obedient to the Lord and who strive to glorify Him in all things take comfort in the voice from Heaven that said, “Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them”