Life, Death, and the Hereafter

“O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!” —Job 14:13

THIS century has seen some of the worst atrocities ever committed by man, including two world wars and countless local ones. Millions have seen the premature death of their friends and loved ones. Consequently there is keen interest in the topic of life, death, and the hereafter.

The Prophet Job, after having lost nearly everything that was precious to him, uttered the prayer in the text quoted above. He also expressed a hope for a future life when he said: “If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee.”—vss. 14,15

Many are skeptical about a future life. Most of mankind’s conclusions are based on theory, speculation, philosophy, and the precepts of men. Nearly all Christian denominations teach that when people die, those who believed upon Jesus go to heaven, while everyone else is eternally tormented in a place of burning fire.

The Bible teaches that during the first four thousand years of the existence of man on earth, neither heavenly life nor everlasting punishment was his fate when he died. Adam was not offered a home in heaven if he obeyed God, nor was he threatened with eternal punishment if he disobeyed. Cain, the first murderer, was not consigned to the flames. Instead, the Lord said to him, “Now art thou cursed from the earth. … When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.” (Gen. 4:11,12) Cain heard this and said, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.”

From cover to cover, the Bible teaches that obedience to God’s law means life. Disobedience means death. People die not because of what they say or do—they die because of Adam’s disobedience.

Adam’s Sin and Punishment

Adam, the progenitor of the human family, was created perfect, and in the moral likeness of his Creator. He was given a perfect home in Eden and was endowed with perfect control over the animal creation. This heritage was his forever if he obeyed the divine law. However, he disobeyed and brought upon himself and his posterity the penalty of death. Hence we read, “In Adam all die.”—I Cor. 15:22

When Adam was created, we read that “the Low God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7) The word soul comes from the Hebrew word nepes, and the Greek word psyche. Both mean ‘a sentient, breathing being’. It was the soul that was condemned to death: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”—Ezek. 18:4

Since the time of Adam, mankind has continued to die. All pass into the tomb or grave where there is no consciousness, no awareness of anything. Referring to death, the psalmist writes: “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” (Ps. 146:4) Solomon wrote, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor devide, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”—Eccles. 9:10

Mankind’s Hope

With so many billions of mankind asleep in death, may we dare hope for a life beyond the grave? Indeed we can! One of the most important doctrines in the Bible is the resurrection of the dead. This marvelous hope is made possible because Christ Jesus paid the debt for every man by giving his life as a ransom for all.

Paul wrote: “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Cor. 15:22) Jesus believed in a resurrection. He said, “The hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”—John 5:28,29, RSV

In this passage, Jesus told us there are two different resurrections: one for those who have done good—the faithful followers of Christ during the past 2,000 years—and another for those who have done evil—everyone else.

Those Who Have Done Good

Since the time of Christ, God has been calling out from this world a people for his name—a group collectively called the ‘church’. Jesus said that only those who were willing to take up his cross and follow him could be his disciples. (Matt. 16:24) Since he knew that only a few would meet such demanding conditions of discipleship, he also said: “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:14) But those who do follow him faithfully have this reassurance: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”—Luke 12:32

John had this to say about the reward that the faithful followers of the Master would receive: ‘Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shalt be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”—Rev. 20:6

Of course, these receive the rewards of the ‘first resurrection’ only after they die. Paul wrote, saying, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality.”—I Cor. 15:50,53

This glorious reward held out to faithful Christians is far beyond description and comprehension! Paul quotes Isaiah’s words and applies them to the saints: “As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.”—I Cor. 2:9,10

This inspiring prospect is held out to all who have made a covenant with the Lord to sacrifice their earthly hopes, aims, and ambitions, to follow in the Master’s footsteps.

Those Who Have Done Evil

During the past 6,000 years, billions of people have died without any knowledge of the “only name under heaven whereby we can be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Even today more than seventy-five percent of this earth’s population consider themselves non-Christian! What is to happen to them?

Jesus told us that he came into this world that the people might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) But the delivery of this promise is for an appointed time still future—during the kingdom for which we all pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10) When Christ’s kingdom is established on earth it will bring peace, joy, and life to all the obedient of the world of mankind, those who are brought back to life in the ‘second resurrection’. The psalmist wrote: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” the great millennial morning of the kingdom.

During the Millennial Age there shall be a general awakening of the dead. This will fulfill the promise made by Jesus that all who are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man and shall come forth. Jesus awakened several from death during his earthly ministry. Lazarus was one of these. Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, and, as their friend, had been a guest in their home many times. So when Lazarus became sick, the sisters sent for Jesus. As they walked to Bethany, Jesus told his disciples that Lazarus was asleep, and that he would awaken him. But when Jesus realized his disciples did not understand these words, he said plainly: “Lazarus is dead.”—John 11:14

Martha met Jesus as he neared their home. She spoke to him, saying, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Jesus replied, “Thy brother shall rise again,” to which Martha responded: “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Then Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live!”—John 11:21,23-25

As Jesus proceeded to the place of Lazarus’s burial, he ordered that the stone sealing the tomb be removed. After a brief prayer, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.”—John 11:43,44

Raising the dead, opening blind eyes, unstopping deaf ears, and healing the sick, were just limited samples of the great work that will occur on behalf of the entire world of mankind in the kingdom, when the reign of Christ begins. When that reign comes to a close, the scene described in Revelation Will be a reality: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.”—Rev. 21:4


We are now living in the days of the Son of man, at the time of his second advent, or second presence. It is the period described by Peter: “Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you; whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”—Acts 3:19-21

The word restitution means ‘to restore’. Adam, through his disobedience, lost life for himself and all his children. Jesus assured us that he came to seek and to save that which was lost. This he accomplished by giving his life a ransom for all mankind. He, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man, and became man’s Redeemer and Savior.

Now, nearly two thousand years after his first presence, he has returned to establish his righteous kingdom on this earth. This will be the times of restitution spoken of by all the holy prophets since the world began. It will be the time when all the families of the earth will have the opportunity to regain life lost in Adam.

During the millennial kingdom, Satan will be bound so that he may deceive the people no more! Everything that can hurt or destroy will be removed! The way will be so plain that the unlearned shall not err therein! The knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the deep!—Rev. 20:2; Isa. 35:8; Hab. 2:14

This is the period of time which is also, called the world’s Judgment Day—a period when mankind will be on trial for life. Like Adam’s trial period, they can successfully gain life only through obedience to the commands of their Heavenly Father. Paul said that God “hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead.”—Acts 17:31

This Judgment Day is not twenty-four hours long. The Apostle Peter explained that ‘a day with the Lord is as a thousand years’. (II Pet. 3:8) And the Prophet Isaiah said, “When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”—Isa. 26:9

At the close of the thousand-year Judgment Day, Christ “shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (I Cor. 15:24-26) Then all mankind will be able to stand before divine justice in the beauty of human perfection without the special intercession of Christ.

Again, the final test of mankind will be obedience. Satan will be loosed from his restraints and will attempt to deceive any who will listen to him. Those who do follow the devil rather than God will be destroyed. (Rev. 20:9,10) This is called the “second death,” from which there will be no resurrection. These will be few, for the Bible speaks of the kingdom as being a way back to life and favor with God which will be so plain that the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein.—Isa. 35:8

What a wonderful prospect! “Great and marvelous are thy deeds, O Lord God, sovereign over all; just and true are thy ways, thou king of the ages. Who shall not revere thee, Lord, and do homage to thy name? For thou alone art holy. All nations shall come and worship in thy presence, for thy just dealings stand revealed.”—Rev. 15:3,4, New English Version

Dawn Bible Students Association
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