By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
(Note: Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the Contemporary English Version)
Quotation For Consideration
“By Bishop Brent A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says She is gone. Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large now as when I last saw her. Her diminished size and total loss from my sight is in me, not in her. And just at that moment, when someone at my side says she is gone, there are others who are watching her coming over their horizon and other voices take up a glad shout -There she comes! That is what dying is. An horizon and just the limit of our sight. Lift us up O Lord, that we may see further.” (D. Dowden, The Eulogy: Quotes, Poems & Songs For Eulogies And Funerals When There Are No Words, 119-123 (Kindle Edition); Norman, Oklahoma; MSI Publishing)
Questions For Contemplation
What exactly is “death?”
Does the Bible teach that humans cease to exist when they die?
What does Job teach us about death?
In our last study, we noticed that the Book of Job teaches us a great deal about death and the afterlife.
In particular, we learned that the Old Testament saints understood that souls go to a place called Sheol (Hebrew) or Hades (Greek) at the point of death.
Far from being a state of unconsciousness, the Word of God teaches that in Sheol, God’s people are conscious and aware.
It was also demonstrated that the souls of the saved dead are reunited in this world of the dead. Further, we learned that the souls in Hades knew that their time in this realm was temporary; indeed, that when the Lord came, they would be resurrected at the end of time.
In our second study of Sheol, we will more closely examine what Job teaches us about death itself.
Death In The Book Of Job
Job spends a great deal of time discussing the subject of death. Notice several statements from the Book of akin about death:
Job 1:21-and said: “We bring nothing at birth; we take nothing with us at death. The LORD alone gives and takes. Praise the name of the LORD!”
Job 3:21- I keep longing for death more than I would seek a valuable treasure.
Job 12:22 (NKJV)-He uncovers deep things out of darkness, And brings the shadow of death to light.
Job 30:23 (NKJV)-For I know that You will bring me to death, And to the house appointed for all living.
Job 38:17 (NKJV)-Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death?
Job understood that death was something which would be the fate of all persons. Indeed, the only exceptions to this are Enoch (Hebrews 11:5), Elijah (2 Kings 2:11-16), and those who are alive when Christ Jesus returns (1 Corinthians 15:51).
It is also clear that Job recognized death as the state which bring him to Sheol. Indeed, there is a clear connection between death and the “world of the dead.”
We also see that Job saw death as a release from the suffering which he faced.
The Definition Of Death
Yet what exactly IS death?
In our world, we have come to think of death as annihilation; the cessation of life. However, that is not a Scriptural understanding of death.
The word death actually means “separation.”
“1. thanatos (2288), “death,” is used in Scripture of: (a) the separation of the soul (the spiritual part of man) from the body (the material part), the latter ceasing to function and turning to dust, e.g., John 11:13; Heb. 2:15; 5:7; 7:23.” (W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 27159 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Thomas Nelson Publishers)
“thanatos means “death.” It is used in the NT to describe physical death (the separation of the soul from the body) and spiritual death (the separation of a human being from God), though these two concepts can be closely linked in Scripture. The term never indicates nonexistence…” (William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words Copyright, 6797 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zomdervan)
In Scripture, physical death is the separation of the soul from the body.
Genesis 35:18 (NKJV)-And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin.
1 Kings 17:20-21 (NKJV)-21 And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, “O LORD my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.”
22 Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 (NKJV)-Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
James 2:26 (NKJV)-For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
In the same way, the Bible teaches us that spiritual death is separation from God as a result of our personal sins.
Genesis 2:16-17-16 But the LORD told him, “You may eat fruit from any tree in the garden,
17 except the one that has the power to let you know the difference between right and wrong. If you eat any fruit from that tree, you will die before the day is over!”
Isaiah 59:1-2-1 The LORD hasn’t lost his powerful strength; he can still hear and answer prayers.
2 Your sins are the roadblock between you and your God. That’s why he doesn’t answer your prayers or let you see his face.
Romans 6:23-Sin pays off with death. But God’s gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-10-7 but he will give you relief from your troubles. He will do the same for us, when the Lord Jesus comes from heaven with his powerful angels
8 and with a flaming fire. Our Lord Jesus will punish anyone who doesn’t know God and won’t obey his message.
9 Their punishment will be eternal destruction, and they will be kept far from the presence of our Lord and his glorious strength.
10 This will happen on that day when the Lord returns to be praised and honored by all who have faith in him and belong to him. This includes you, because you believed what we said.
The “Decease” Of The Apostle Peter
The Apostle Peter discusses his impending death. He writes the following to the brethren:
2 Peter 1:15 (NKJV)-Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.
Speaking of the word “decease,” William Barclay points out some interesting facts:
“Peter looks ahead to his early death. He talks of his body as his tent, as Paul does (2 Corinthians 5:4). This was a favourite picture with the early Christian writers. The Epistle to Diognetus says: ‘The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tent.’ The picture comes from the journeyings of the patriarchs in the Old Testament. They had no permanent residence, but lived in tents because they were on the way to the promised land. Christians know that life in this world is not a permanent residence but a journey towards the world beyond. We get the same idea in verse 15. There, Peter speaks of his approaching death as his exodos, his departure. Exodos is, of course, the word which is used for the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt, and their setting out to the promised land. Peter sees death not as the end but as the going out into the promised land of God.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters Of James And Peter, 355 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)
Sheol was (is) the realm of the dead. The souls of humans enter into this world at the moment of death, which is the separation of the spirit from the body.
The Book of Job also makes it clear that Job looked upon death as a release from his sufferings and as a passage which would reunite him with his family and loved ones who had died before him.
What are some lessons that Job teaches us about death? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
According to the Bible, what exactly is death? Please provide Scripture references in your answer. _________________________________________________________________________________________________
Name two people that have never died. ___________________________________________
When Peter discussed his death, he used the Greek word exodos. What do we learn about death from this word? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
For Prayer Partners
1. What are some questions that you have about death?