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Death and the Soul - Part 1

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:16-22, Job 14:14, Ecclesiastes 12:7
What happens when you die? There are lots of different ideas about where people go when they die--heaven, hell, purgatory, limbo, or are they asleep in the grave? The Bible makes it clear the truth about what happens when you die. This sermon speaks of the "breath" returning to God.
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Amost every home has experienced the death of some loved one, and because of it, the heart cry of millions all over the world is, "Where are our dead? In heaven? In hell? In purgatory, limbo, or some other place? Are our departed ones asleep, or are they dead? What has been done with the millions of dead?" You know, friends, only as we get the whole story from the Book of God can we know the whole truth on this very vital subject. Grabbing a text here and plucking a text from over there and founding an entire doctrine on that text is one of the most dangerous things a person can do, and it might cost an individual his eternal salvation. And yet it's often done today, whole doctrines are based on just one verse of the Bible.

Did you ever hear the story of the four blind men and the elephant? These four blind men were supposed to go and examine the elephant and then they were to report on its size, shape, etc. So the first one went over to the elephant and groping around caught hold of the elephants tail. Afterwards he said, "My opinion is that the elephant is very much like a rope." Then the next blind man had his opportunity, he happened to take hold of the elephant's leg, so he said, "My opinion is that the elephant is much like a log or a tree trunk." The third one had his opportunity, and he happened to lay hold of one of the elephant's ears. He said, "I believe the elephant is flat and limp, much like a pancake." And the last one took hold of one of the elephant's tusks and he believed the elephant was hard and smooth just like a rock.

Now it is methods just like these that cause the differences of opinion among scholars when it has to do with the Bible doctrine, men taking one little item here and one little item there and making up a whole doctrine to fit it, or settling a whole doctrine on just one little scripture, one little point, one little viewpoint, and leaving out everything else the Bible has to say about it. Now that's where people get into trouble and that's why so much confusion exists and why there are so many different opinions in regard to Bible doctrine in this world of ours.

Today we want to examine the whole truth of God on this very vital subject and get a complete picture. Now the first question we'll ask is this, (and it's the one that Job asked in Job 14:14), "If a man die, shall he live again?" Now there's a question that has haunted men for generations. That's one of the oldest questions that has ever been asked. "If a man die, shall he live again?" What about the dead? Can we expect to see them living again? Well, God gives the answer. You remember in 1 Corinthians 15:16-22 how positive and clear God is when He says that the day will come when the trump of God shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible. "For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." Now it tells us here in essence that Christ was risen from the dead, thus guaranteeing that all Christians who die could follow Him and be raised also from the dead.

You know, we ought to thank God right now that Christ's tomb is an empty tomb. Mohammed's tomb is not empty. The grave of Confucius is not an empty grave. Parts of Buddha have been enshrined all over the Orient in various and sundry places, but the tomb of Christ is an empty tomb. And that's what Paul is talking about. Then he added that since Jesus had been raised, Satan's prison house was opened so that all the redeemed who have gone to sleep in Jesus will be raised again. And so the question, "If a man dies, shall he live again," has been forever settled on the authority of the Scripture, and God's plain unqualified answer is "Yes."

But you ask, "How did it all come about? What happens to man between the time he dies and the time he's raised from the dead?" Let's see what God says, I'll read from Ecclesiastes 12:7. This is a statement made by the wise man, Solomon, the wisest man of the past. He's making a general statement here on death in verse 7. "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." There are two things that this text nails down. Point number one. The body will return to the dust and the dust to the earth. Point number two. The Spirit, whatever that is, will return to God. Now those two things are made clear in this passage of Scripture. Let's go a step further. What is the Spirit, this Spirit that goes back to God when a man dies? What is it? I would like to read a New Testament Scripture now and then an Old Testament Scripture after that. First, James 2:26. "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."

Now according to this Scripture, the Spirit is the thing that keeps the body alive. In translating the Bible, the translators were not sure just how some of these words should be placed in the Scripture text. There are several meanings of some words and if they're not sure, they put one word in the text and the other word in the margin. Now the word in the margin makes it much clearer to us. It says "or breath." And so according to this text, this spirit that goes back to God is the thing that keeps the person alive and it is called also the breath. Let's see if the Old Testament writers agree with this. We turn to Job 27:3. "All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils." And the margin says here "by the spirit of God," That is, "the breath which God gave him." Now I want you to notice what this text proves. This text proves and shows that this spirit which goes back to God is in man's nostrils and the margin says it's the breath which God gave him. So this spirit which returns to God when man dies is simply the breath of life.

Now perhaps you'd like to ask, "Are you sure of this? I've never heard that before. Are you positive that the spirit which goes back to God when a man dies is the very breath of life?" Well, let's establish and reestablish, friends, these two facts. We must remember that God in the beginning placed this spirit or breath in man's nostrils. In order to see just what it was that God did place in man's nostrils let's read another text. This time in Genesis 2:7. Remember now, whatever this spirit is, God gave it in the beginning and He put it in man's nostrils and then later it was to return to God after death. "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." You see how clear and plain it is, friends, there's no room for question at all. The Scripture plainly shows that the spirit that returns to God when a man dies is the breath of life which God placed in his nostrils in the beginning when man was created. Now that's exactly what David also taught in the Psalms. Psalm 146:4, speaking of death, "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." You see there's a perfect agreement among the Bible writers. Now before we go further, there are several things we ought to establish in regard to the spirit. Then we'll go on to another topic.

Point number one. The spirit or the breath of every person that dies, whether that person is good or evil, returns to God. That's found in Ecclesiastes 12:7. A lot of people have taken that scripture and have said, "Now here's proof that something goes off to God from the righteous people when they die." But that isn't what the text says at all. It has to do with all people, not just the righteous people. So this spirit, the breath of life, goes back to God when a person died whether that man is good or evil.

Point number two. Men have the same spirit or breath as do animals. Now we may not like to think of that and I certainly wouldn't say it if I just made it up, I might not be appreciated, but God said it in Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20. "For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; ... all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again." There it is. God said it. No question about it at all. He has forever settled it.

Point number three. This is a very interesting thing, friends, that I call you to consider now. This word, translated "spirit," is used 948 times in the Scripture and yet not one time is it ever shown to have life, personality, feeling, wisdom; nor is it ever given any attributes of personality. Now you think of that for a moment. If it's true as people say today that the spirit is something you fear and it goes off and has wisdom, knowledge, etc., why is it that in 948 opportunities the Bible writers never one time spoke of it? There must be a reason, friends. There is a reason. The spirit is simply the breath which God gives to a body, making that body live. No more and no less, that's what the Scriptures teach. It's the power of God, the touch of God's hand, as He put life into that dead body.

In the beginning, He simply formed that body out of the dust. It was all there but it was not alive. The heart was there, it wasn't beating. The blood was there, it wasn't flowing. The brain was there, it wasn't thinking. And then, the Bible says, that God put His breath into that body. He did not put a soul in. He put in the breath and the text says, "man became a living soul." Now I hope you'll remember this, friends. When death comes, that breath returns to God. We found out that the spirit and the breath are the same thing. Whatever God gave, now it returns, and it's called "breath" in one text and "spirit" in another, but they are one and the same thing! The spirit returns to God and the body returns to the dust as it was, and so the life ends right there.

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