WHAT HAPPENS TO A BELIEVER AT DEATH? (PART 2 Of 2)

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DOES THE DEAD KNOW WHAT IS PRESENTLY HAPPENING ON THE EARTH?

Can the dead watch our every move, and do they think about us?

A) THOSE WHO BELIEVE THEY DO

Some people believe that the dead do indeed see what is happening here upon the earth. In other words, our dead loved ones know the intimate details as to what is taking place in our daily lives. The biblical arguments for this idea are as follows:

1) The Rich Man Could See Lazarus

The Scripture says that the rich man in Jesus’ story could see the dead beggar Lazarus in the unseen world. We read of this in Luke’s gospel:

“In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side” (Luke 16:23 NRSV).

Lazarus was visible to the rich man. The fact that the dead can see others apart from themselves may indicate the dead can view what the living are doing.

2) Abraham Knew Details Of The Life Of The Rich Man And Lazarus

Also in this account, we find that Abraham was aware of details of the life of the rich man as well as the beggar Lazarus. We read the following:

“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish’” (Luke 16:25 ESV).

Abraham knew that Lazarus had suffered while the rich man lived in comfort without any regard for the needs of others. The fact that he knew these details may give further indication that the dead know what the living are doing.

3) There Is A Cloud Of Witnesses Watching Us

The writer to the Hebrews says that the people who are presently living are surrounded by a number of witnesses. He put it this way:

“Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1,2 CSB).

The witnesses are able to see the believers who are on the earth. Consequently, they know what is happening to us.

4) The Martyrs Knew What Happened On The Earth

The Bible says that the martyrs in heaven knew what was happening on the earth. We read of this in the Book of Revelation:

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been” (Revelation 6:9-11 ESV).

They wanted to know how long it would take for victory to be granted, for their lives to be avenged. They were told to rest a while longer because the number of the future martyrs was still incomplete. It seems that they could only ask the question because they were observing events here upon the earth, or at the very least, knew what was going one.

In addition, the fact that they were told to rest a while longer further indicates they knew exactly what was happening on the earth. We also find that those in heaven were conscious that Satan was being defeated. Again, we read of this in the Book of Revelation. It says:

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God” (Revelation 12:10 ESV).

They knew Satan had been thrown out of heaven to the earth. We also find these believers in heaven rejoicing at the fall of Babylon. This is also revealed in the Book of Revelation. It says:

“But you, O heaven, rejoice over her fate. And you also rejoice, O holy people of God and apostles and prophets! For at last God has judged her on your behalf” (Revelation 18:20 NLT).

These passages are thought to teach that dead can see the living or at least know what they are doing.

B) THOSE WHO BELIEVE THEY DON’T

While there are passages that seem to teach that the dead do indeed know what is happening to the living upon the earth, others feel the Scripture does not either teach, or imply, that the dead know what the living are doing. Indeed, they believe that there are better ways to understand these passages.

The main arguments which are given, that the dead do not know what is occurring on the earth, are as follows.

1) The Dead Do Not Know About This Life

To begin with, there seems to be a number of statements in Scripture about the dead not knowing what the living are presently doing.

In the Book of Job, we find that Job said that the father, who had died, did not know whether his sons were rich or poor. He states it in this manner:

“They never know if their sons grow up in honor or sink to insignificance” (Job 14:21 NLT).

Though this could refer to his present earthly knowledge, it may also apply to him in the afterlife.

However, this statement is found in the section of the Book of Job where Job and his friends are trying to determine why Job was suffering so greatly. Later, the Lord would call their discussion “words without knowledge.”

Consequently, we must be careful in using any statement from them to determine the truth of what goes on in the next life.

2) There Is No Knowledge In The Grave

The Book of Ecclesiastes also says the dead have neither knowledge nor wisdom of what is happening in this life. It says:

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV).

This passage teaches lack of knowledge on the part of the dead. This, however, may be speaking of things from a human or observational perspective.

From our vantage point here upon the earth, it appears that the dead do not know anything which is going on. Consequently, this passage should not be used to give a definitive answer to the question.

3) Abraham And Jacob Do Not Know What Is Presently Going On

From a passage in the Book of Isaiah we find that two of the patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob (Israel), do not know what is presently happening upon the earth. In other words, they have no knowledge as to what their descendants are doing. The passage read as follows:

“You are our Father. Even though Abraham doesn’t know us and Israel doesn’t pay attention to us, O LORD, you are our Father. Your name is our Defender From Everlasting” (Isaiah 63:16 God’s Word).

This is thought to be another indication that the dead have no knowledge of what is presently happening on the earth.

Again, this statement may only be speaking of something that could possibly happen; not necessarily something that does happen.

In addition, the passage says that Abraham and Israel may not acknowledge or pay attention to the people. This does not necessarily mean that they are unaware of them or what they are doing. Consequently this passage is not conclusive.

4) We Are Not Told That Lazarus Could See The Rich Man

In the account of the rich man and Lazarus, we are told that the rich man could see Lazarus. However, we are not told that Lazarus could see the rich man. All this says is that unbelievers could see the believers, not the other way around.

In addition, it says nothing about seeing those on earth or knowing what they are doing. The rich man saw Lazarus in the realm of the dead, not the realm of the living.

5) Abraham Knew Details Of The Rich Man And Lazarus

Furthermore, in the account of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham, in heaven, knew of the earthly details of the lives of Lazarus and the rich man. This does not necessarily mean he could see them while they were living or that he was observing their lives.

6) The Cloud Of Witnesses Are Examples Of Faith

The witnesses that are referred to in the Book of Hebrews are the heroes of faith mentioned in Chapter 11. There is no thought whatsoever in this passage of them knowing what is presently occurring on earth.

7) There Is No More Pain In The Next World

The Bible says the presence of the Lord is a place where there is no suffering or pain for the believer. If, however, the dead in heaven could see what their loved ones are doing on earth, they certainly would be in pain. They would see many of their loved ones on a course to eternal separation from God.

This is certainly inconsistent with what the Bible says about the situation of believers in the afterlife; they are in constant joy and happiness.

8) The Exact Situation With The Martyrs In The Book Of Revelation Is Unclear

The only possible example that we have in Scripture of the dead in heaven knowing what is going on here upon the earth is found in Revelation 6:9-11. In this passage, the souls under the altar cry out for vengeance. Yet there are other explanations of this passage which do not indicate that the dead are watching those on the earth or knowing what people are doing.

Indeed, all we are told is that these martyrs realize that they have not yet have had their deaths avenged. Nothing more. We do not find anything said about their understanding of precise details of what is happening on the earth. They are merely lamenting the fact that the number of martyrs keeps increasing.

This of course would lead them to conclude that their deaths have not been avenged. To draw the conclusion that they can see what is happening on the earth is not warranted.

Consequently, while we have a number of arguments which may teach the dead do know what is presently occurring upon the earth there does not really seem to be enough evidence to make a conclusive case. In fact, when we examine the totality of Scripture the idea that the dead know what the living are doing seems unlikely.

On Final Point: There Should Be No Attempted Contact With The Dead

Even if one believes that the Bible does teach that the dead know what the living are doing, this should NEVER cause anyone to attempt to reach out and contact them. As we stressed in a previous question, any attempt to do so will result in deception. We again call to mind what the Lord said.

“So why are you trying to find out the future by consulting mediums and psychics? Do not listen to their whisperings and mutterings. Can the living find out the future from the dead? Why not ask your God? “Check their predictions against my testimony,” says the LORD. “If their predictions are different from mine, it is because there is no ight or truth in them” (Isaiah 8:19,20 NLT).

Therefore, even if one supposes that their dead loved one is watching them here upon the earth this should never be a justification of trying to talk to them. They can be of no help whatsoever to us. We are to talk to the Lord and to Him alone.

CONCLUSION

While there are seemingly some passages in Scripture that may indicate that the dead know what the living are doing there are other passages in Scripture that seem to contradict this idea. As far as we know on the earth, the dead know nothing. We know from other parts of Scripture that they are conscious in the next world.

It would seem to be inconsistent with the idea of total happiness in the afterlife if the dead know what the living were presently doing. How could they really enjoy the blessings of heaven if they were observing the living in their current state?

So, do the dead believers know what the living are doing? From the totality of Scripture we would have to conclude that this is highly unlikely.

Indeed, the Scriptures are clear that the dead cannot truthfully communicate with the living. God forbids this practice of attempting to contact the dead in the strongest of terms.

(Source: Don Stewart – What Happens One Second After We Die?)

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WHAT HAPPENS TO A BELIEVER AT DEATH? (PART 1 Of 2)

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Upon death, the soul, or spirit, of the believer goes immediately to be with the living God. Believers are alive and conscious in this state. In the Bible, there is no idea of a period of soul sleeping. The blessings of Christ are received immediately.

WHAT HAPPENS TO A BELIEVER IMMEDIATELY UPON DEATH?

The intermediate state for the believer is the time in which the spirit, or soul, exists between physical death and the resurrection of the body.

Though the Bible does not devote a lot of space to this topic, there are some basic conclusions we can make. They include the following.

1) The Spirits Of The Believing Dead Are With God

The spirits of departed believers are with the Lord. This Bible clearly teaches this. For example, we read in Ecclesiastes:

“The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7 NIV).

The writer to the Hebrews also makes it plain. He wrote the following.

“You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge of all people. And you have come to the spirits of the redeemed in heaven who have now been made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23 NLT).

There are, at this moment, redeemed people in heaven. Their perfected spirits reside in the presence of the Lord while awaiting their resurrection from the dead.

Jesus also talked about believers being with Him in the next world. In His prayer to God the Father shortly before His betrayal, trial and death, He said the following:

“Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation” (John 17:24 CSB).

Jesus desired that those who had trusted in Him would be with Him in the afterlife. This is a further indication that the spirits of the believing dead are with the Lord.

2) Believers Are Immediately In Christ’s Presence At Death

We also discover that, at death, the spirit of the believer immediately enters into Christ’s presence. There are a number of illustrations of this in the New Testament.

The Criminal Next To Jesus

Jesus promised the dying criminal on the cross that he would be with Him immediately after death. Luke records the following:

“And he [Jesus] said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43 ESV).

This promise also applies to each of us who believe. We will immediately be with Christ in paradise upon our deaths.

The Testimony Of Stephen: Jesus Is Waiting For Believers

Upon his death, the martyr Stephen called upon Jesus to receive his spirit. We read of this in the Book of Acts:

“But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:55-59 ESV).

This is another indication that the believing dead go immediately to be with Christ.

The Teaching Of The Apostle Paul

To The Corinthians, the Apostle Paul also taught that believers would be in Christ’s presence upon their death. He wrote:

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling . . . We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:1,2,8 NIV).

Paul said that being “away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord.” The New Living Translation puts it this way:

“Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 NLT).

To The Philippians Paul wrote::

“For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23 NKJV).

Paul says that his death would be far better for him than remaining alive because he would be in the presence of Christ.

The Example Of Lazarus In Jesus’ Story

In Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus, when the beggar Lazarus died, the Scripture says that he was immediately ushered into the presence of the Lord.

“The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side” (Luke 16:22,23 ESV).

The rich man in Hades saw both Lazarus and Abraham. Each was in a better place than the existence which he found himself. They were with the Lord!

Therefore, from these five examples, it seems clear that believers go to be immediately with the Lord upon their death.

3) The Intermediate State Is Not The Place Of Final Reward

Though there is an in-between state for believers, it is not the place of their final reward. In other words, it is an incomplete state. Final rewards will occur after the resurrection of the dead, which is still future. Though Christians who die go to be with the Lord, this is not the time when they receive their final reward, or their resurrection body. This is something which still awaits them in the future.

4) Believers Are Conscious After Death

Believers, however, are in a state of awareness after their death. Jesus told the religious leaders in His day that God was the God of the living, not of the dead. He reminded them what the Lord had said to Moses at the burning bush.

“I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is God not of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:32 NRSV).

At the time the Lord made that statement to Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been dead for hundreds of years. Yet God said that He “is” their God, not that He “was” their God. This means they were still alive in His presence though they had been physically dead for many years.

This is another indication that there is a conscious existence for the believer after death.

5) Believers Will Live Together With The Lord

Paul told the church at Thessalonica that believers, once united with the Lord, will always be with Him. He put it this way:

“He died for us so that we can live with him forever, whether we are dead or alive at the time of his return” (1 Thessalonians 5:10 NLT).

The wonderful promise is that believers will live together with the Lord for all of eternity.

6) The Intermediate State Is A Place Of Rest And Blessedness

We also find something else from Scripture. Those who die in Jesus Christ are in a restful state. The Bible says:

“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those slaughtered because of God’s word and the testimony they had. They cried out with a loud voice: “O Lord, holy and true, how long until You judge and avenge our blood from those who live on the earth?” So a white robe was given to each of them, and they were told to rest a little while longer until [the number of] their fellow slaves and their brothers, who were going to be killed just as they had been, would be completed” (Revelation 6:9-11 CSB).

These martyrs, while in a restful state, needed to rest a little longer before the Lord avenged their death.

We also read that those with the Lord are said to be “blessed.” The Book of Revelation puts it this way:

“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them” (Revelation 14:13 ESV).

The presence of the Lord is indeed a place of blessing.

7) There Is Activity In The Intermediate State

Though the intermediate state is a place of waiting, it is also a place of activity. We read about this in the Book of Revelation where it describes those believers who have died.

“That is why they are standing in front of the throne of God, serving him day and night in his Temple. And he who sits on the throne will live among them and shelter them” (Revelation 7:15 NLT).

The intermediate state does not consist of inactivity. In fact, it is a place of service.

8) It Is A Place Of Holiness

The believers who have died are presently in a state of holiness. In the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John asked an angel the identity of certain individuals. This angel gave the following answer to the prophet:

“And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14 NKJV).

The clothes that they are wearing, white robes, speak of holiness. They had been washed white with the blood of the lamb.

9) Spiritual Growth During The Intermediate State

While it may be possible for some type of growth or development in the in-between or intermediate state, the Bible is completely silent on the matter. We do not know, one way or the other, if there is any spiritual growth for the believing dead. If the Bible is silent then we should not speculate. We simply do not know the answer.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE INTERMEDIATE STATE

There are other observations that need to be made about the intermediate state. They can be summed up as follows.

1 There Is An Emphasis On The Final State

Though we have some information from the Bible concerning the intermediate state, it is not something that is emphasized. The hope of the believer is the coming of Jesus Christ. It is at that time the dead are raised in a glorified body, judged, and receive their rewards. The intermediate state is only a short interval between this life and the fullness of God’s promises. Hence, this is the reason for the lack of emphasis on the intermediate state.

2) There Is A Limited Amount Revealed

In addition, the Bible only reveals a limited amount of information about what goes on in the presence of the Lord. Paul wrote of his experience.

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know– God knows. And I know that this man– whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows– was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4 NIV).

We find from these verses that Paul was not allowed to tell what he had experienced. If we knew exactly how wonderful it was, we probably would not be content to remain on the earth for one more hour. Being with the Lord will truly be an incredible experience!

Although believers have a natural curiosity about the intermediate state, Scripture focuses on the time when Jesus Christ returns. At that time, He will raise and judge the dead, and then set up His everlasting kingdom.

The Lord will then bless His people with such wonderful things; things that our minds presently cannot even imagine.

DOES THE DEAD KNOW WHAT IS PRESENTLY HAPPENING ON THE EARTH?

Can the dead watch our every move, and do they think about us? These questions will be answered in part 2 of our series.

(Source: Don Stewart – What Happens One Second After We Die?)

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