The Dead are Unconscious
As we noted earlier, the sentence on the first pair and its inevitable outcome fell upon them and all their descendants. That is, they would all eventually die. Death marks the end of man’s existence, the end of all his pain and anguish as well as all his hopes and aspirations. The state of the dead is very clearly declared in the Bible, as the following references show.
Eccl.3:18-20. I said in my heart, “Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.” For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.
Eccl.9:4. But for him who is joined to all the living there is 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. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun.
Eccl.9:10. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.
People generally do not like this outcome and many religions, both ancient and modern, have invented concepts of a spiritual state of conscious existence after death in some realm or other. As appealing as this concept may be, it has no basis in the Bible’s teaching. Those references taken from the Bible that are often used to support the idea, are bent or twisted to fit another meaning other than their original context or the greater context of the Bible’s message. Most arguments assume rather than prove this idea.
The Promise of Resurrection and of Eternal Life
The Bible does contain the promise of life, but it is only to be obtained in the fullest sense after what is called in the Bible ‘the resurrection of the dead’. This teaching is implied and spoken of in the OT, and since the resurrection of Christ, was boldly proclaimed in some detail by the Apostles of Christ all through the NT.
Job.19:26-27. (Job said) And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
Dan.12:2. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.
Luke.14:13- “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. “And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Luke.20:34-38. Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”
Acts.24:15. (Paul said) “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.
This resurrection of the dead has not yet occurred (2.Tim.2:18), but is to happen on the day appointed of the Father in heaven. On that day, Christ is to return to the earth to raise the dead, and those who are found worthy will be given life eternal. Resurrection quite literally means ‘to raise up / to stand up again’, and contextually it almost always speaks of raising the bodies of those who are long dead, back to life again.
The apostles who followed Christ and witnessed his words, often at the cost of their own lives, were given a special promise to be fulfilled when the kingdom of God is set up. That promise involved sharing in Christ’s (earthly) throne and ruling over the restored Kingdom of Israel, which will be the nucleus of God’s kingdom on earth. This is a key part of the gospel message (cf. Acts.8:12, 28:31)
1.Thes.4:16. 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.
2Tim.4:8. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Matt.19:28. So Jesus said to them (the 12 Apostles), “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Bible’s teaching on the resurrection of the dead is quite contrary to other belief systems. Most teach that we humans, have an immortal soul or spirit in us which lives on consciously after we die. This is one of the reasons the Apostle Paul’s message was at times mocked and rejected in the first century. It was quite contrary to what people expected. Acts.17:17:31-33 is a good example of this. We also see it in the way some first century Christian’s erroneously bent the Apostle’s words, and tried to spiritualize the resurrection, by saying that is was already past, or even denying it all together.
2.Tim.2:17-18. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.
1.Cor.15:12. Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? .
Although these teachings on the hope of resurrection may at first seem foreign to us, they seamlessly compliment the rest of the Bible’s testimony. The great hope of the people of God, since the very beginning, has always been founded upon the certainty of the resurrection and the coming kingdom of God. It is only by physical resurrection that God’s purpose with man and with the earth can find completion. There is no denying the overwhelming weight of scriptural evidence that testifies to this. It is a sad fact that so many who call themselves religious have little or no understanding of this aspect of God’s plan and purpose with man and with the earth. They have not been taught faithfully.
The outcome of what is called ‘the resurrection of the just’ (Luke.14:14, Acts.24:15) is that they will be given eternal life. This is speaking of both the quality and quantity of their new life. This idea is seen in many scriptures, such as the following, which speak of the hope of sharing in God’s Divine Nature (God’s attributes of power and life). That does not mean that men become equal with God, but that people share in God’s undying and sinless nature. This is what Jesus meant when he spoke of being made equal to the angels (Luke.20:36).
2.Pet.1:3-4. … as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.