Refutation of Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine of what happens at death

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courtesy Wikipedia

By Spencer D Gear

What happens to human beings at death? Do unbelievers go to Hades (“hell” in some translations of the New Testament) and believers go into the presence of the Lord at death? This has been traditionally known as the doctrine of the intermediate state – where human beings go between death and the final resurrection.[1]

The late John Stott, evangelical stalwart from the UK, stated in an interview with Christianity Today,

In Evangelical Essentials, I described as “tentative” my suggestion that “eternal punishment” may mean the ultimate annihilation of the wicked rather than their eternal conscious torment. I would prefer to call myself agnostic on this issue, as are a number of New Testament scholars I know. In my view, the biblical teaching is not plain enough to warrant dogmatism. There are awkward texts on both sides of the debate.

The hallmark of an authentic evangelicalism is not the uncritical repetition of old traditions but the willingness to submit every tradition, however ancient, to fresh biblical scrutiny and, if necessary, reform.[2]

Since Seventh-Day Adventists believe in soul sleep[3] for the believer and annihilation[4] for the wicked, they regularly promote this view on forums on the www. Here I encountered one example on Christian Fellowship Forum (I’m ozspen).

Harold is an active Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) who promotes SDA doctrine on this Forum. Here is one example of Harold’s response after I challenged his method of proof-texting. He wrote:

“And you will continue to listen to anyone else who agrees with you instead of reading your own Bible.

Why do you think God gave such a warning about talking to the dead?  Why is He so insistant (sic) on staying away from any hint of spiritualism?  Simply because He knows that the dead are dead and the only other entities you can talk to are Satan’s angels.

What is wrong with using texts??  Here:  refute these:

Ecc. 9:5  “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. 6  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.” How dead is dead?

Ecc. 9:10  “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”   Isn’t that where we all are going?????

Just try to reinterpret those”.[5]

I responded to him directly[6] when he stated: “And you will continue to listen to anyone else who agrees with you instead of reading your own Bible”.

I am a long-term student of the Scriptures and believe it or not, Harold, I interpret in context and I do not spout forth what your SDA denomination has told you about these verses. You stated:

“What is wrong with using texts??  Here:  refute these:
Ecc. 9:5  “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. 6  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.” How dead is dead?
Ecc. 9:10  “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”    Isn’t that where we all are going?????
Just try to reinterpret those.”

Let’s try an excellent, contemporary translation of these three verses from Ecclesiastes 9:

5For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. 6Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun…..10Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” (English Standard Version)

Of verses 5 & 6 of Ecclesiastes 9, you ask, “How dead is dead?” On the surface these verses could be thought of as saying what you want them to say that there is nothing or annihilation after death. What do these verses say?

  • We need to remember that the Book of Ecclesiastes is not as Gospel savvy as the Gospel of John. Why? Because the Scriptures teach progressive revelation. Much more is revealed in the NT about salvation and the after-life than the OT. Remember that the Book of Ecclesiastes is written to people “under the sun” (1:3) and is explaining life and death from a human perspective.
  • Eccl. 9:5 states that “the living know that they will die”. This is nothing profound, but the application is that a living person has a distinct advantage that he/she knows that death is coming and can arrange many things in life to prepare for that event.
  • But for those who have died, they “know nothing”. So for them, any opportunity to arrange anything for life after death is gone. Their human knowledge has ceased as they are no longer on the earth. From your perspective, you think that this is a flat denial of any conscious existence in the intermediate state. That IS NOT what this verse teaches. This book is written for those “under the sun” (those in this world). It is not a statement about the state of the dead in the intermediate state after they die. It is only expressing the relation of the dead to this world (as is also stated in 9:6). The limitation of knowledge for the dead is based on the limitation expressed by the context of 9:3, “in all that is done under the sun”. 9:6 interprets 9:5 as the love, hate and envy also have perished. The dead are not able to love, hate and envy anybody “under the sun”. And do you know what, Harold? v. 6 says that “forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun”. That’s the interpretation of 9:5 – the “dead know nothing” of what is happening in this world, “under the sun”.
  • When you proof-text on this Forum, you do yourself a disservice in your own attempts to accurately interpret a verse. But even worse, you force this false interpretation onto others who don’t agree with you. Eccl. 9:5 & 6 DO NOT teach what you want them to say. A good course in hermeneutics would teach contextual biblical interpretation, which you have not done. Instead, you want to proof-text and take verses in isolation from the context.

Taking isolated verses from Ecclesiastes as you do (and with other OT passages on Christian Fellowship Forum) and pushing them to the limits of what you think they mean, is not satisfactory exegesis of the text, especially when there are hefty statements like Eccl. 12:7 that contradict what you want to say about life after death, “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (ESV).

Because the Bible gives a non-contradictory message throughout, your interpretation of Eccl. 9:5-6, 10 MUST agree with Eccl. 12:7. Your teaching does not cause this to happen. Why? Because your SDA presuppositions are being imposed on the text and making it say what it does not say. You stated,

So, I have refuted your views no Eccl. 9:5-6. Please don’t ever get back to me and say that I don’t take seriously the verses you give.
Now to Eccl. 9:10. You ask: “Isn’t that where we all are going?????”

Verse 10 states, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going” (ESV).

This verse makes these emphases:

  • It affirms what nobody should question that during this life there are certain things available to us with certain results. When this life is over and death comes, have a guess what? There is no way that you, I or anybody else could make up for what we did not do in this life?
  • Jesus affirmed this in John 9:4, “We must work the works of him who sent us while it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (ESV).
  • Eccl. 9:10 and John 9:4 both confirm that earthly activities, what is done “under the sun”, cannot continue into the intermediate state when we die.
  • There is no attempt to describe from all angles what will happen after death with a person’s experience in Sheol. So, for you to use this verse to attempt to prove annihilation or soul sleep is completely outside of what Eccl. 9:10 is saying.

What is Sheol? Bob Deffinbaugh in, “A Hell to Shun“, accurately states that, “ Sheol seems to refer primarily to the abode of the dead, righteous or wicked, leaving the matter of their bliss or torment largely unspoken in most instances”.[7] He states:

In the Old Testament, the principle word employed for the abode of the dead is Sheol. Unfortunately, of its 65 occurrences in the Old Testament, the King James Version translates Sheol “hell” 31 times, “grave” 31 times, and “pit” 3 times. The result is that Old Testament saints, who had a sure hope of life beyond the grave (cf. Hebrews 11), seemed to fear or experience hell:

The cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me (2 Samuel 22:6).

If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there (Psalm 139:8).

… and he said, “I called out of my distress to the Lord, And He answered me. I called for help from the depth of Sheol. Thou didst hear my voice” (Jonah 2:2).

On the other hand, Sheol was also the place where the wicked would go:

The wicked will return to Sheol, Even all the nations who forget God (Psalm 9:17).

Let death come deceitfully upon them; Let them go down alive to Sheol, For evil is in their dwelling, in their midst (Psalm 55:15).

The translation “hell” seems inaccurate and unfortunate in most, if not all, of the Old Testament passages where the word Sheol is encountered. Sheol seems to refer primarily to the abode of the dead, righteous or wicked, leaving the matter of their bliss or torment largely unspoken in most instances. Occasions of imminent danger are sometimes described as though death were certain, and thus they were facing Sheol (e.g. 2 Samuel 22:6).

This does not mean, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain, that the Old Testament did not speak of judgment after death. It simply was not described by the term Sheol.

Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits (Isaiah 26:19).[8]

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

We must conclude, then, that in the Old Testament the term “hell” was a poor choice of words with which to render the Hebrew term Sheol.

So for you, Harold, to ask, “How dead is dead?” of vv. 5-6 and to ask  of v. 10, “Isn’t that where we all are going?????”, you want to make it mean that there is no knowledge in the afterlife. You want Eccl. 9:5-6, 10 to teach your view of deadness after death and that there is no knowledge where the dead are. This is absolutely false teaching. Your view is NOT what these verses mean.

You do what many false teachers do. You make verses state what they don’t say. You proof-text without interpreting in context. I believe in careful exegesis in context. I have done that for you here and the verses you quote do not mean what your SDA teaching forces them to say.

Appendix A

How did Harold respond to the above refutation of his doctrine?[9]

1.  We need to remember that the Book of Ecclesiastes is not as Gospel savvy as the Gospel of John.

Spencer, are you saying that what you say is more important than what Paul says?  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: ”   That does not say, “some scripture”.

My response:

This is what happens when you don’t quote the context of what I said. This is exactly what I wrote in context:

“We need to remember that the Book of Ecclesiastes is not as Gospel savvy as the Gospel of John. Why? Because the Scriptures teach progressive revelation. Much more is revealed in the NT about salvation and the after-life than the OT”.

Perhaps you didn’t understand my use of “savvy” (“savvy” is a verb meaning to “know, understand“), but the context of that word clearly states what I meant – we know more clearly what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is in the Gospel of John than in the Book of Ecclesiastes. God unfolds more of the specifics of the Gospel in the NT than he does in the OT. This is known as progressive revelation.[10]

You quote the classic Scripture from 2 Tim. 3:16 of the inspiration/authority of Scripture. What I wrote does not in any way deny the authority of Scripture as stated in this verse. Progressive revelation is a fact of what we see in the inspired Scriptures. God tells us more of his unfolding plan of redemption in the NT than he revealed in the OT.

2. On the surface these verses could be thought of as saying what you want them to say that there is nothing or annihilation after death.

I don’t think that we are told, anywhere, to read between the lines.  Could that be the problem?

My response:

Don’t you know the difference between “on the surface” and “to read between the lines”? I did not say the latter. This is your going off at a tangent! What did I really say in context? This is how I put it: “Of verses 5 & 6 of Ecclesiastes 9, you ask, ‘How dead is dead?’ On the surface these verses could be thought of as saying what you want them to say that there is nothing or annihilation after death. What do these verses say?” Then I provided 4 points of exposition [see above].

You have a very bad habit of pulling a sentence to make it say what you want it to say, but that is not what I stated in context. This is a major problem that you have with biblical interpretation. You are a whiz at pulling a verse here and there to say what you want it to say – on this topic or annihilation or soul sleep. But when it comes to interpreting in context, which I tried to do with Eccl. 9:5-6, 10, you did what you often do with the scriptural interpretation. You create a straw man logical fallacy by making a sentence say what I did not state in context.

3. Their human knowledge has ceased as they are no longer on the earth. From your perspective, you think that this is a flat denial of any conscious existence in the intermediate state.

What gives you the idea that there is any consciousness after death?  There is only one text that even hints at that, and that text is a parable. I have sent over sixty texts that state, clearly, that the dead are dead. Sleeping is what it says.  Jesus said the same thing.  Doesn’t what He says count?  Study the story of the death of Lazarus.  Martha knew where her brother was.  She knew about the resurrection.  What has happened in the last days?  I’ll tell you.  Someone has changed the idea so there would be a better reception for spiritualism. What did God say about that?   NO.  Why?  Because the dead are dead and can not talk to anyone.
What would be the point of having a resurrection if you weren’t even dead?  Why would all the Bible writers speak of the ‘saints’ sleeping in their graves?

My response:

You stated that the teaching on consciousness after death comes from only one parable and you state that you have over 60 texts to demonstrate that the dead are dead – they are sleeping.

Now let’s check only a sample of Scriptures.

The Old Testament gives us little indication of a glorious hope for life after death and beyond the grave and what will happen to unbelievers after death. We have more comprehensive theology about such in the NT.

However, we do have some pointers in the Old Covenant, one of which you have mentioned.

We do know that the OT teaches life after death. All people, whether believers or unbelievers, went to a place of conscious existence called Sheol (a word in the original Hebrew of the OT. These are examples of the use of Sheol: Unbelievers were there (Psalm 9:17; 31:17; 49:14; Isaiah 5:14), as were the righteous (Genesis 37:35; Job 14:13; Psalm 6:5; 16:10; 88:3; Isaiah 38:10).

However, we do not need to go only to the OT to determine the nature of life after death (the intermediate state) for both believers and unbelievers under the Old Covenant. We do need to remain under the OT dispensation to know the fate of saints and sinners. The NT also has details.

The NT equivalent of Sheol is Hades. In the OT era, prior to Christ’s death and resurrection, we know from Luke 16:19-31 (the story of the rich man and Lazarus) that Hades is divided into two places. Lazarus, the poor man, was in a place of comfort (Luke 16:22-23) called “Abraham’s bosom/side” (Lk. 16:22). The rich man was in a place of torment in Hades. The word hell (some translations) in Lk. 16:23 is not “Gehenna” (place of eternal torment) but “Hades” (place of the dead). But it is important to notice that Lazarus’s place of comfort is elsewhere called Paradise (Luke 23:43). Between these two districts of Hades is “a great gulf fixed” (Luke 16:26).

We know from Luke 16:23, the unbelieving rich man was in Sheol/Hades, “being in torment” (ESV) and there is no way, after death, to be able to move from Abraham’s bosom/side to the torment side of Hades occupied by unbelievers. For unbelievers in Hades we do know that it is a place of “anguish in this flame” (Lk. 16:24). “Anguish” is also the word used in v. 25.  Since this is a parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the “flame” is a metaphor to give a pointed description of the seriousness of punishment in Hades for the unbeliever.

There are a few points (based on Hendriksen 1978:874-785) to note about this parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31):

  1. Even though it is a parable, it does teach clear truth about the afterlife and what happens at death.
  2. Some of the language may not be taken literally, but it nonetheless teaches truth about the afterlife. Let’s look at some specifics:
  3. The popular view that Hades is the place of the dead for both believers and non-believers is incorrect according to the Gospels, and this parable speaks of Hades as the place of torments and flame (hell, if you like) for the unbelieving rich man. In Matt. 11:23 and Luke 10:15, Hades is sharply contrasted with heaven.
  4. What happens at death. In this parable, truths are communicated that the departed at death are not asleep (the opposite of soul sleep) but are very much alive. Also, some are saved and others are suffering.
  5. Once a person dies and his/her soul is separated from the body, the condition of being blessed or doomed is forever. It is fixed and there is never any second chance.
  6. The rich man is in torment and in the flame. Is this literal or metaphorical? We know that hell is a place of fire or the flame in other passages from OT and NT: Isa. 33:14; 66:24; Matt. 3:12; 5:22; 13:40, 42, 50; 18:8, 9; 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 3:17; Jude 7; Rev. 14:10 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; and 21:8. This fire is unquenchable and devours forever. We know that this is figurative language because …
  7. The abode of unbelievers at death also is described as “outer darkness” (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). Evil spirits are kept there “in everlasting chains under darkness” (Jude 6; cf. Jude 13).
  8. If Hades is a contrasting place of light (fire) and darkness, we are talking metaphorically of what it is like. We know this kind of distinction on the human level when we hear of people who have been seriously burned by a certain kind of radiation even though they were in a dark room when they received it. Hendriksen recommends not speculating on how this happens – torment in flames and darkness.
  9. We also know that the everlasting fire is prepared “for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41) who are spirits. This should be enough to convince us that the language of fire, darkness and torment for unbelievers at death should not be taken literally. However, the truth should be very clear. For unbelievers at death, these pictures indicate “the terrors of the lost in the place [Hades] from which there is no return” (Hendriksen 1978:785).

The Scriptures, although not detailed, are clear that at death a person’s spirit “returned to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7 ESV) – I’ll give more on the interpretation of this verse below. According to John 11:17-26, to live and believe is followed by never dying. Jesus was crystal clear that everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never ever die ultimately. Death for the believer does not interrupt this eternal life that began at the point of commitment to Christ while on earth.

Paul stated that “we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). To the thief on the cross, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The SDAs & JWs want to shift the comma to say, “Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise,” meaning that Jesus said it to the thief on that very day and that it had nothing to do with the thief being with Jesus in Paradise on that very day.

There were no punctuation marks, breaks between words, or clearly defined sentences (as we understand them in English) in the original Greek of the NT. Therefore, how do we interpret this statement? Greek scholars have called the SDA/JW interpretation various things, including “grammatically senseless” (Lutzer 1997:49) because it was obvious that Jesus was speaking to the thief on that very day. Jesus could not have been saying it in the past or in the future. Christ was giving assurance to the thief that on that very day they would both meet in Paradise.

Why is the final destiny of the redeemed variously described in the NT as heaven (Col. 1:5), Paradise (Luke 23:43), and Abraham’s bosom/side (Luke 16:22)?

We have no difficulty referring to a house as a residence, mansion, dwelling, and perhaps a palace for some. God has no difficulty referring to heaven by these various designations that mean the same place (see also 2 Cor. 12).

There is a need in the church for clear teaching on the nature of heaven and hell, but your view is contrary to Scripture, even though you want to believe otherwise.

What about the souls of unbelievers at death?

Jesus stated in the story (parable) of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 that the rich man, the unbeliever, went to “Hades, being in torment” (v. 23). The “wicked servant” will go to the place where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:51).

What is the conclusion?

For believers and unbelievers, when they die, the soul and body are separated. The souls go to their respective places and are alive. For believers, they go immediately into the presence of the Lord.

Immortality means the eternal, continuous, conscious existence of the soul after the death of the body (Lorraine Boettner).

4. When you do proof-texting on this Forum, you do yourself a disservice in your own attempts to accurately interpret a verse.

I don’t interpret a verse. I post it.  When the Bible says that the dead are sleeping in their graves, I do not try to change anything.  Why would I?  Nobody has taught me a thing about the Bible. I started reading it at about 55 years of age.  I didn’t ask anyone what it said. I comparred text with text until it became clear what the Word was telling me.  I will not back down from that.  The Bible is full of clear texts that state what happens to you when you die.  You can post all sorts of statements from someone else, but if it does not agree with what the Bible says, I will ignore it.

My response:

Harold, you are kidding yourself when you say, “I don’t interpret a verse. I post it”. On this forum you have continuously interpreted verses to support your theology of annihilation and soul sleep.

Your idea of people sleeping in the grave at death is taking a metaphor for what the body looks like at death and making it relate to what happens in the intermediate state – between death and the final resurrection at Christ’s second coming. God’s word tells us something quite different from your interpreted conclusions. Please don’t try to deceive us that you don’t interpret verses. You do and you need to be truthful and own up to it.

5. That’s the interpretation of [Ecclesiastes] 9:5 – the “dead know nothing” of what is happening in this world, “under the sun”.

Where else would they be?  They are dead.

My response: Again, your presuppositions are driving you. Your SDA view of what happens at death (annihilation for the wicked and soul sleep for the believers) is driving your view of “they are dead”. I showed you the meaning of Eccl. 9:5 with this statement:

  • Eccl. 9:5 states that “the living know that they will die”. This is nothing profound, but the application is that a living person has a distinct advantage that he/she knows that death is coming and can arrange many things in life to prepare for that event.
  • But for those who have died, they “know nothing”. So for them, any opportunity to arrange anything for life after death is gone. Their human knowledge has ceased as they are no longer on the earth. From your perspective, you think that this is a flat denial of any conscious existence in the intermediate state. That IS NOT what this verse teaches. This book is written for those “under the sun” (those in this world). It is not a statement about the state of the dead in the intermediate state after they die. It is only expressing the relation of the dead to this world (as is also stated in 9:6). The limitation of knowledge for the dead is based on the limitation expressed by the context of 9:3, “in all that is done under the sun”. 9:6 interprets 9:5 as the love, hate and envy also have perished. The dead are not able to love, hate and envy anybody “under the sun”. And do you know what, Harold? v. 6 says that “forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun”. That’s the interpretation of 9:5 – the “dead know nothing” of what is happening in this world, “under the sun”.

You don’t refute this, but you give me your presuppositions again, “They are dead”, reinforcing your understanding of “the dead are dead”. I provided an exposition of these relevant passages in Eccl. 9 but you have not refuted these.

6. Eccl. 12:7, “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (ESV). Because the Bible gives a non-contradictory message throughout, your interpretation of Eccl. 9:5-6 MUST agree with Eccl. 12:7.

And it does.  WHAT is spirit?  BREATH.  That is the only thing God gave Adam at creation. “Adam BECAME a living soul.” Period.  He didn’t get one.  He WAS one.

My response: Why is it that your favourite KJV does not translate it your way? Eccl. 12:7 reads, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (KJV). Other translations read: “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (ESV); “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (NIV).

Not one of these main translations provides a translation of “spirit” as “breath”. Why? Because that is not what the word means in context. You engage in what you claim you don’t do – you interpreted Eccl. 12:7 according to your SDA doctrine of soul sleep/annihilation. You do not want it to mean what it states in context, so you invent what it doesn’t mean, “breath”.

How do we know that “spirit” in Eccl. 12:7 does not mean “breath”? (1) Take a look at the context in Eccl. 12:5 states what is happening at death, “Man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets” (ESV). What happens at death as breath ceases is not what is stated in Eccl. 12. It is referring to human beings going to their “eternal home”, which means at death, “The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (ESV). How do we know?

Eccl. 3:21 asks, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (KJV). The implication is that the spirit of beasts perishes with the body (goeth downward to the earth), but the human spirit survives death (as in Eccl. 12:5-7). It is inaccurate contextual interpretation to say that “the breath of man goeth upward”. Why? Because at death, the breath ceases but the person lives on.

Psalm 104:29 also emphasises that the breath ceases at death: “Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust” (KJV). Cf. Gen. 3:19; Job 10:9; Ps. 90:3; 103:14; and Eccl. 3:20.

You have a very limited understanding of what God gave Adam at creation. In Gen. 25:8, according to the KJV, the Lord told Abram (he was not yet Abraham) that he would be “gathered to his people” and that he would be buried in a designated cave “old … and full of years”. The phrase, “gathered to his people” means more that simply “going to the grave”. We know from Scripture that the body returns to dust at death and the soul/spirit is “gathered to” a person’s loved ones.

You stated, “‘Adam BECAME a living soul.’ Period.  He didn’t get one.  He WAS one”.

Gen. 2:7 states, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (ESV). The phrase for a human being, “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”, indicates that the Creator provided the vital breath for the first human being and continues to give that breath until the moment of death. You want to emphasise that the distinctive aspect of human beings is “breath” (Eccl. 12:7) but this cannot be maintained consistently in Scripture.

Also, you claim that Adam WAS a living soul and did not become one. We need to remember that in Gen. 2:7, the author of Genesis is reporting that lifeless clay became animate by the breath of God. In Gen. 2:7, the word “soul” or “living being’ is the Hebrew nephesh because the nephesh is the animate thing in a human being. “God’s Spirit animates the soul, though in a higher sense than it the case with the soul of beasts…. Koenig correctly defines: ‘According to 2:7 the soul is that portion of the spirit which is breathed into man”” (Leupold 1942:117).

7. Eccl. 9:10 and John 9:4 both confirm that earthly activities, what is done “under the sun”, cannot continue into the intermediate state when we die.

Who fed you that word, “intermediate”??  It isn’t in MY Bible.

My response: You are being hypocritical here, Harold. Who fed your denomination the words, “Investigative Judgment”? The words, “investigative judgement” are not in the Bible. They are the words of one of your founders, Ellen White. For a refutation of investigative judgment, see, “Seventh Day Adventism profile“.

I have very briefly explained the biblical doctrine of the intermediate state above.

8. There is no attempt to describe from all angles what will happen after death with a person’s experience in Sheol.

Of course there isn’t.  Small wonder.  You are dead.  There are no experiences.

Now. Everything you have posted, I have answered.  Does it make any difference?  Probably not.  YOu are sold on the immortality of the soul, not taught in any Bible, and you will probably go on believing that lie.  I don’t know what to do about it.  If you don’t believe Jesus, then who can you believe?

John 3:”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  There are dead people and there are people who receive eternal life.  You can NOT have it both ways.  Somebody in there perishes.

My response: I am sold on what the Bible teaches. As explained above, when the last breath leaves my body and I am dead, that is not the end of the story. I have shown you from Scripture over and over the biblical teaching on the immortality of the soul. See my brief article, The immortality of the soul. I have explained some of this material many times for you on Christian Fellowship Forum but you have such a fixation with the SDA teaching that you don’t seem to be open to what the Bible actually teaches. Sadly, you will have to wait to death before you find the truth.

You quote John 3:16 and then add your interpretation:

“John 3:”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  There are dead people and there are people who receive eternal life.  You can NOT have it both ways.  Somebody in there perishes”.

But you don’t read the rest of the Bible for you to make that kind of statement. You have forgotten these verses:

  • John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (KJV). So, the unbeliever is experiencing the wrath of God at death. What is that like?
  • Matthew 25:31-46 states it in terms of the final judgment, the sheep (believers) will be placed on the right and the goats (unbelievers) on his left. What will happen finally to these goats and sheep? “And these [the unrighteous goats] shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:46). So the length of the punishment for the unrighteous is as long as the life for the righteous at death – eternal. It goes on for eternity.

What is the meaning of “perish” in John 3:16? It will be consistent with: to lose one’s life (John 12:25) and to be doomed to destruction (John 17:12, which uses a cognate of “to perish”). Leon Morris states with regard to “perish”,

“Neither here nor anywhere else in the New Testament is the dreadful reality behind this word ‘perish’ brought out. But in all its parts there is the recognition that there is such a reality awaiting the finally impenitent…. John sets perishing and life starkly over against one another. He knows no other final state” (1971:230).

We know from the verses that follow John 3:16 that to perish is the opposite of being saved (3:17); it is to be judged (3:18); it is to be reproved or convicted (3:20). Thus, “to perish” is denoting utter rejection of God (it is the aorist subjunctive, in 3:16) and the middle voice is used, indicating a person is doing that himself/herself. John 3:17 explains what it means, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (KJV).

To perish does not indicate the end of physical existence, the ceasing of the breath. As John 3:17 confirms, it is the everlasting experience of God’s condemnation; being banished from the God of love and experiencing the God of wrath – forever, eternally. While the unbeliever experiences a dimension of this in the present life, body and soul will experience it at the consummation of all things at the end of the age for eternity.

N. T. Wright (2003:xix), in his magnificent exposition on The Resurrection of the Son of God (817 pages), has stated: ‘When ancient Jews, pagans and Christians used the word “sleep” to denote death, they were using a metaphor to refer to a concrete state of affairs. We sometimes use the same language the other way round: a heaver sleeper is “dead to the world”‘.

Works consulted

Norman Geisler 2005. Systematic Theology: Church, Last Things (vol. 4). Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House.

William Hendriksen 1978. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

H. C. Leupold 1942. Exposition of Genesis (vol. 1). London: Evangelical Press.

Erwin W. Lutzer 1997. One Minute After You Die: A Preview of Your Final Destination. Chicago: Moody Press.

Leon Morris 1971. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

N. T. Wright 2003. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Notes:


[1] Of the intermediate state, Norman Geisler has written that “the Bible teaches that between death and resurrection, the human soul/spirit survives consciously apart from its body. This is neither a state of annihilation nor a state of conscious ‘sleep’; this is an eternal state of conscious bliss for the saved and conscious anguish for the lost” (2005:253).

[2] John Stott’s interview with Roy McCloughry 1996, “Basic Stott”, in Christianity Today, 8 January 1996, available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/septemberweb-only/9-1-51.0.html (Accessed 15 August 2011).

[3] The Seventh-Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are prominent promoters of the doctrine of soul sleep. Proponents of soul sleep “claim the dead are not conscious between death and resurrection” (Geisler 2005:247). For my refutation of soul sleep, see, “Soul sleep: A refutation“.

[4] “Annihilationism is the doctrine that the wicked will not suffer an everlasting conscious hell. Annihilationism is also called conditional immortality…. [It] holds that unbelievers, who will not have received God’s gift of salvation, will be snuffed out of existence after the final judgment; accordingly, they will experience no eternal conscious torment forever. It is alleged that this view of the unsaved’s destiny most fully upholds God’s mercy, that nonexistence is the best alternative for the unrepentant sinner. Annihilationists argue that while the lost cannot enjoy everlasting bliss with the righteous, they aren’t deserving of conscious eternal wrath” (Geisler 2005:390). See my article, “The immortality of the soul“, which incorporates a refutation of annihilationism.

[5] Christian Fellowship Forum (CFF), Contentious Brethren, “Side topic: Annihilation”, #16, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=1&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=120786 (Accessed 15 August 2011).

[6] My response is at #25 on CFF. I have edited some of my CFF response for this article. I have incorporated some content from H. C. Leupold 1969. Exposition of Ecclesiastes. London: Evangelical Press, pp. 211-218.

[8] Ibid.

[9] My statements are in bold. Harold’s statements follow the bold, are indented, and then I give my response.

[10] Article V of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy defines progressive revelation this way: “We affirm that God’ s revelation in the Holy Scriptures was progressive. We deny that later revelation, which may fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects or contradicts it. We further deny that any normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament writings”.

Copyright (c) 2012 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.

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