Introduction: If, as some teach, the dead are already in heaven with Jesus, why are they resurrected at His second coming? Why did Jesus tell the disciples they would be with Him again when He returned instead of when they died (John 14:3)? Why does God forbid us to consult with our departed loved ones, if they are alive and can talk to us? In this lesson, we will learn the answers to these important questions.
1. What does God say about consulting spiritualists and the supposed spirits of the dead? Lev. 19:31 [Note: God warns that in the last days some “will give heed to deceiving spirits” (1 Tim. 4:1). These spirits deceive us by coming to us in “familiar” form, such as the form of some departed loved one. That is one reason they are called “familiar” spirits. The Further-study verses are Lev. 20:27; Deut. 18:10-12; Rev. 22:15]
2. Where does the spirit go at death? Eccl. 12:7 [Note: The spirit is the breath of life from God (i.e., the “element of life,” the “spark of life,” or the “life force”). Solomon uses “breath” and “spirit” interchangeably in Eccl. 3:19-21. Job 27:3; Gen. 2:7]
3. Is this spirit that returns to God, conscious? Eccl. 9:5 [Ps. 146:4; Ps 115:17]
4. What did Jesus call death? John 11:11-14 [Note: Paul also called death a sleep. See 1 Cor. 15:51, 52; 1 Thess. 4:15-17; 1 Cor. 15:16-18; 11:30]
5. What did David call death? Ps. 13:3 [Note: Other Old Testament writers also called death a sleep. See Job 14:12; Jer. 51:39, 57; Dan. 12:2; 1 Kings 1:21]
6. Is there any memory in this sleep of death? Ps. 6:5 [Isa. 38:18; Eccl 9:5, 6, 10]
7. Did David go to heaven when he died? Acts 2:29, 34 [Acts 13:36]
8. Where will the dead be when Jesus resurrects them at His second coming? John 5:28, 29 [Job 14:12-15]
9. When do the dead go to heaven or to hell? Matt. 25:31-34, 41 [Matt. 16:27; John 14:2, 3; Rev. 22:12]
10. When did the thief on the cross look forward to being with Jesus? Did Jesus assure Him of salvation that very day? Luke 23:42, 43 [Note: The punctuation in the Bible was supplied by the translators, for there was no punctuation in the original Greek. The comma should go after the word “today” (“Assuredly I say unto you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.”), for Jesus Himself did not go to heaven that day. See John 20:17; Luke 19:9]
11. Jesus often illustrated truth with parables which, like prophecies, use symbols. Yet some have rejected the very truth Jesus so plainly taught about death by taking literally some of the symbols in the parable of the “Rich man and Lazarus” (Luke 16). What did Jesus say would happen to those who try to understand parables without “having” (or knowing) what the rest of the Bible says on a subject? Matt. 13:10-13 [1 Cor. 2:12-14; 2 Tim. 2:15; Luke 16:19-31]
12. What was the devil’s first lie? Gen. 3:3, 4 [Question: Who do you think told the truth, Satan or God? Today Satan is still perpetuating his original lie, and he is doing so through religion and by misapplying and twisting Scripture, as he did with Jesus in Matthew 4:5, 6. 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 2 Thess. 2:9-12]
13. With what promise did Paul tell us to “comfort one another” when death occurs? 1 Thess. 4:15-18 [1 Cor. 15:51-55; 1 John 5:11, 12; Rev. 1:18; John 6:39, 40]
Commitment: Isn’t God’s way really the best? Instead of floating around somewhere after death, a person sleeps until he is bodily resurrected as Jesus was. And, since he is unconscious, the resurrection is the next instant to him! Instead of a dying baby going to a strange place alone, the next thing he knows is his mother’s smiling kiss! The parents will take up the raising of their departed child right where it left off! Will you accept Jesus’ assurance that we will all go to heaven together, at the same time, after the resurrection?
Notes on the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31): God has written the Bible in such a way that we must compare Scripture with Scripture to understand it (Isa. 28:9, 10; I Cor. 2:13, 14; 2 Thess. 2:11, 12). If this parable provided the only information the Bible gives on death, we would have to conclude that the dead go directly to heaven or hell, but it is not. This story comes in the middle of a group of parables and is itself a parable, for it uses figurative language throughout–i.e., Lazarus went to “Abraham’s bosom”; those in Hades and Heaven can see and talk to each other; and a drop of water suffices to cool one’s tongue in hell. In this parable Jesus used common Jewish and Greek ideas (as evidenced in Josephus’ works) to teach that (1) the rich have no advantage for salvation, (2) this life provides our only chance for salvation, and (3) the Scriptures are all sufficient for salvation. Jesus was not teaching a new doctrine on death, or He would be contradicting what He Himself repeatedly taught in other places.
STEP 2 (Lessons 11-20): Accepting Christ’s Final Message