Where are the dead?

Where are the dead? This is my question when grandfather died. During his

Let them rest in peace

funeral, I’d feel that the world will soon end to me. He was the only person that understands my feelings and sympathize with my sorrows. But when I learned the words of God, I decided to rest my case before Him.

My question regarding the place where the dead goes after death was already an old question in the Bible. Job, in the midst of his affliction, asked God;

But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? (Job 14:10)

There are many beliefs regarding to where the deceased went after their death. Catholics believe that there are three places beyond this life; wicked person goes to hell, good to heaven, and others to purgatory.  This belief was identical with non-Christian beliefs, particularly with those of ancient Greeks and Romans. Even Muslims believe with almost the same teachings. But actually, this kind of belief acts as door in order for necromancy and different types of divination find their way within Christianity. Necromancy is a form of magic in which the practitioner seeks to summon the spirit of a deceased person, either as an apparition or ghost, or to raise them bodily, for the purpose of divination. Because of the belief that the dead has an immortal entity that survives from their dead body and this entity has the ability to cross the mortal and the immortal world, the living are trying to seek different means to communicate with them by divination or rituals recognized by the Church. Yes, the Church. Because theologians believe that if the spirits of the dead are hovering about their friends on earth, why should they not be permitted to communicate with them, to warn them against evil, or to comfort them in sorrow?

In Catholic Church, necromancy was Christianized in form and gave rise to the doctrines of Communion of Saints, Purgatory and Prayers for the Dead. These doctrines became the foundation of veneration of saints and apparitions, specially of Mary. Protestant denominations were also seriously influenced by this “Christianized” necromancy. In fact, natural immortality or the immortality of the soul was regarded as one of the fundamental teachings of those Churches who openly attacked the Catholic Church for venerating Mary and the saints.

Where are the dead? How true that they know what happened to their loved ones who are still alive? Should we seek them for guidance? The Bible gave us clear views regarding the matters of the dead, and it says,

“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5,6)

The dead know not anything“, this is a clear statement that the deceased have no ability to know the conditions of their loved ones in earth, neither do they have the ability to express their thoughts in the world of the living. The belief that the dead can return to their family for a certain purpose was truly opposed by the Sacred Scripture.

“As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.

He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.” (Job 7:9,10)

“His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” (Psalms 146:4)

As believers in the words of God, we shouldn’t have in mind that the dead have another life beyond this earthly life. They were unconscious even to the things that happened to them. Their love, and their hatred, and their envy, all perished as smoke. Thus, from this day, let us rest all our concerns for our love ones to God, and let the will of God decide  for their cases in the great day of His Judgment.

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The Composition of Man

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The Biblical account of creation reports that at the end of the sixth day nature stood ready for Adam and Eve’s arrival. There was ample air for lungs, light for sight, food for a stomach. In Genesis 1:26, God, Himself, engages in family planning, and family making: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”1 Thus the mode of creation shifts from commanding creatures into existence to a direct forming, molding and breathing Adam and Eve into life. “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).

 

From these concise statements emerge several important characteristics of human nature. First, humans were not to be a result of random mutations, not an accident or a chance, nor even an impersonal response to a fiat command. If Adam and Eve came out of the Creator’s hands it was because they were willed, planned and provided for. (The arrival of a human baby into the world today may be a surprise, even an accident, but should never be treated as a nuisance, or a failure.) When Adam and Eve came out of the Creator’s hands they were completed, and whole, finishing God’s dream for His creation.

Body, Breath, and Soul

It must be admitted at the outset that the Biblical text presents a rich and complex picture of human nature. A neat and detailed outline is not as readily available as one would wish. For example, the Biblical witness recognizes dichotomous (body-soul Matthew 10:28 ), trichotomous (spirit, soul and body, 1 Thessalonians 5:23), and a variety of other structures of a human being, (heart, soul, and might, Deuteronomy 6:5); (heart and soul, Deuteronomy 30:6); (heart soul and mind, Matthew 22:37); (heart, soul, strength, and mind, Luke 10:27). Several questions need our attention here. First, how are we to understand such terms as body, breath, and soul (Genesis 2:7), at the very moment of the initial making of Adam? What is the nature of this composite human being? Are the constituent elements independent “parts,” free standing elements, as are the pieces that make up a watch?

Body

Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground . . .” (Genesis 2:7). The first act? The body. Adam formed from adama. No Biblical evidence exists to support the claim that dust used by God was some kind of “animated dust.” It was the “dust of the ground.” Humans hail from here: this planet is the home, and God evidently saw fit to make the material expression an indispensable aspect for being in His image. The act of handling of the dust, of shaping Adam’s body sends a strong signal that the physical and physiological dimension of our being are worthy of personal and immediate attention. The human body was included in the “very good” of Genesis 1:31. It is David, in Psalm139:13, who responds with awe and thanksgiving to God’s “weaving”( NASB), “knitting” (NEB) him. A distinctive characteristic of Christian theology is affirmation of the human body as given at creation affirmed in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, nourished by Christian Church, and to be glorified in the resurrection.3 “If we must abstain from overestimating the body (1 Timothy 4:8) we must all the more refrain from denigrating it, as so many mystics and ascetics have done. It certainly ought to be disciplined, (1 Corinthians 9:27), but by no means neglected or despised.” [translation mine]

Breath

Genesis 2:7 describes the second event in creation of Adam with words “. . . [God] breathed into his [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life.” The word ruach translated in KJV by “spirit”( 232 times), “wind” (91 times), and “breath”(28 times), indicates a life principle. A man shape of dust, changes into human body as breath enters into it. Just as the forming of the dust of the ground is done by God himself, so is the life-giving breath God’s exclusive gift to humans. In the Hebrew context breath became a synonym for life itself. It served as an empirical evidence for life, and absence of it indicates death. In addition, breath came to denote other characteristics that accompany life, such as mind, intelligence, and the emotions, or disposition. In the latter sense it is simply translated “spirit” (Psalm 32:2; Isaiah 54:6; Daniel 2:1). Thus we notice divine intent of uniting the material element, dust of the earth which He created previously, with His life-giving breath. At that instant though, the inorganic mass became an organism.

Soul

But the next sentence reports a change infinitely more essential. Genesis 2:7 states it simply “and man became a living being (nephesh)”. This word in the Bible contains rich anthropological meaning. For example nephesh and psyche in Genesis 1:20, 24, 30, and Revelation 16:3 refer to animals, and in Genesis 2:7 and Matthew 2:20 to humans. Many times they mean simply “life” as in Job 33:18, 22 and Matthew 10:39, “persons”as in Genesis 46:26, and Acts 7:14, and “self” in Leviticus 11:43. Expressions “my soul” stands for “I,” “me,” “you,” and “he”. . . (Psalm146:1; Luke 1:46). When speaking about humans it usually refers to life of the whole human being. So, as God breathed the breath of life inorganic dust yields an organic body, which “became a living being.” It defies all human genius to imagine what Adam felt when he became soul, when light touched the eye nerve, when nerves transmitted messages to the brain, when feelings responded with a heartbeat, when conscious of himself and his environment he experienced his identity, his self. This was no “ensoulment”: God injecting, permeating, infusing him with a substance called “soul” so that from that moment on he had soul in his body. While there is an undeniable relationship between soul and body, the soul is not some spiritual substance ‘in’ the body as a fetus is ‘in’ the womb, nor is that substance diffused through the body as blood ‘through’ the veins. Rather the soul is just the personal self, the ‘I’ animating the body.

Adam “became a living soul.” Body + breath became more than the sum of the two, they became one: he, Adam. We know the origin of the body, and we know the origin of the breath of life, and when the two unite we know the beginning of the soul. The appearance of the soul identifies body, it is now Adam’s body, it identifies breath as Adam’s breath, until death do them part. But more than that, the soul also expresses individualized being: it affirms, and articulates
the “once-for-allness” of every person. When Mr. Hamish Carter won the gold in the 2004 Triathalon in Athens it was not Mr. Carter’s body that won! To be sure, the volume and tonicity of the muscles, the lightness of the bones, the volume of his lungs were all essential. Of course breath is crucial as well, because the organism needs oxygen, else it dies. It is the whole of him that clinched the victory. Not only body and breath needed each other, but Mr. Carter needed the will power, the resolve, the self-control while training, eating and drinking, which are the function of the inner core, the body + breath union, that is soul. Every cubic millimeter of his body, and every breath are his soul, and because they are so masterfully united, the things that happen in that unity transcend each. Otherwise he is no more.

What then of the spirit? Here again we recognize the richness of the original Biblical languages, and notice that besides “breath of life” and “wind,” ruah is sometimes translated “spirit of wisdom” (Deuteronomy 34:9), “determination” (Haggai 1:4), “courage” (Joshua 5:1), “compassion” (Zechariah 12:10), “faintness” (Psalm 77:3), “pride” (Psalm 76:12), and “jealousy”(Numbers 5:14). In the New Testament the function of the human spirit is focused more on relationship with God. So Paul speaks of “spirit of sonship” which overcomes the “spirit of fear.” “When we cry Abba! Father! It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:14-16).

For several reasons Seventh-day Adventists consider spirit (when it does not refer to breath, or wind) as a function of the human soul. (1) In several places soul and spirit are used interchangeably (Job 27:3; John 12:27; 13:21). (2) Soul as well as spirit are ascribed to animals (Ecclesiastes 3:21; Revelation16:3). (3) To lose the soul means to lose all (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36, 37). Henry C. Thiessen, concurs with Augustus Strong that rather than considering spirit as a constitutive element, it should be viewed as a higher function of the soul. “To the soul would belong man’s imagination, memory, understanding; to the spirit, his powers of reason, conscience, and free will.” This variation explains “how some Christians are ‘carnal’ and others ‘spiritual.’ It also agrees with the teaching that the present body is a ‘soul body’ and that the resurrection body will be a “spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:44).”

Whether we venture into details or not, it seems that the New Testament ascribes functional rather than constitutional roles to the human spirit. The apostle Paul contrasts between the natural (psychicos) and spiritual (pneumaticos) person in 1 Corinthians 2:13-16. The first does not “receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. For who has known the mind of God to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” Then in the very next verses of Chapter 3, Paul chides the Corinthians for not being spiritual but rather “fleshly”- soulful. However, if spirituality is the matter of constitution, of the makeup of human nature, then no reprimand, but rather sadness would be in order.