The Dead Unconscious: Resurrection, Judgment
and Reward at the Last Day

It will be perceived at once that our subject title is at variance with the popular conception of man, who is generally supposed to be an immortal being living in a material body that is composed of organs necessary for the manifestation of his invisible inner self.

The fancied self is supposed to be his soul, or spirit, and a spark of the Creator, having keen intelligence and the power of existence independently of the body.

It is generally admitted that the body has been derived from the dust of the ground, but the supposed "immortal soul" is believed to have come from God, and returns to Him when death destroys the body.

At the time of death, the soul is believed to go to heaven if the person is good, but will go to hell if he has been wicked, and there will be tortured in hell-fire throughout eternity.

As a result of the acceptance of a belief in the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, it became necessary to invent places for the soul to go to at the time of death. This has been accomplished by giving the people the doctrines of heaven-going, hell-fire torments, purgatory, the singing of masses, intercession of saints, and many other similar practices.

The doctrine of the immortality of the soul does not come from the Bible; it is strictly of pagan origin.

Herodotus, the Greek historian (484-425 BC), wrote --

Stop and think for a moment. The Egyptians, who were steeped in extreme paganism, were the people who invented the doctrine of the immortality of the soul!

Then examine the teaching of the Roman Catholic and Protestant religious systems, and you will discover that they are both founded upon the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul, the most pagan of all church doctrines.

But how can this doctrine be pagan, when it forms the very basis of Christianity? This is a familiar question, and usually followed by another, saying, "Is it not taught in the Bible?"

It has become a tremendous surprise to many to find that the Bible does not teach The Immortality of the Soul.

If we examine it carefully, we will soon discover that man does not possess immortality in any sense.

Not only that, but the Bible shows us that we are creatures of organized substance, and are only able to exist through life power that comes from God -- a power we share with all living creatures.

Both the Bible and natural facts show us that we only hold this life power for a short term of years, and when death overtakes us, this power returns to God Who gave it, and man returns to the dust, from which he was originally taken, and meanwhile ceases to exist.

If you are not familiar with these facts of life, it may come to you with a fearful shock. It has done to some, and they have refused to investigate. But surely that is not wisdom!

There are many reasons why we should enquire into this matter, but there is one in particular that comes to us from the apostle Paul in 2 Tim. 4:3 --

That statement alone should be sufficient to stir us up to action, and cause us to investigate and find out just where we stand in relation to truth. In doing this, we will submit two kinds of evidence: existing natural facts, and the declaration of the Bible.

Those who hold the popular conception of man, say that matter cannot think, and therefore it must be the soul that thinks. BUT IS THIS TRUE?

When a person receives a bad head injury, it is a well-known fact that thinking ceases altogether. Now if the popular idea were true, it would not make any difference whether we had a brain or not. We could still think.

And again, if the real person were a spark of the Creator, we would all possess the same mental capacity. We know, however, that such is not the case, for there are great variations in the human intellect.

We all know from experience that some have great power of thought, while there are many others who seem to have little power of thought, and in many cases, no power at all.

Now if the popular idea were true, we would not only have the same mental capacity, but it would be uniform from childhood to the day of death. Here again, we all know that this is not the case, for at birth a person knows nothing, and the process of learning is slow.

Let us face the facts; for man thinks, and he does it by the use of his brain.

And his thinking is in proportion to his brain development. We see this every day we live, and it is a fact we cannot brush aside.

So much for natural facts. Now let us turn to the Bible, and examine it carefully. If we do, we will discover that there is nothing there that supports the common ideas of the churches concerning our life. First, let us look at the record of creation in Gen. 2:7 --

This is unmistakably plain. Here we are informed that the being called "man" was made from the dust of the earth, and he was called "man" before the breath of life animated him.

The life, or "breath of life," was added to the man to give him living existence. The breath of life was not the man; but when breathed into his nostrils, it caused him to live. Therefore he, -- the dust-formed man -- became a living soul -- a living creature, such as we are.

And when that breath is taken away, man ceases to live, and death is the result.

There is nothing in this creation record, nor anywhere else in the Bible, to indicate any distinction between a man and his body, as we have been taught by the churches.

The man was then placed in a garden where all manner of trees and fruit had been prepared, and there he was to dress and keep it; but he was not left to himself to do as he pleased, for he was put in subjection to law; and that law is before us in Gen. 2:16-17 --

Let us look at this law. If Adam transgressed, the penalty was death. That is, he should return to the state he was in before the breath of life entered his nostrils -- a state of nothingness.

If there is any doubt about this, it is set at rest by the sentence pronounced upon him when he disobeyed.

God said to him (Gen. 3:17-19):

It was the MAN Adam that was made from the dust, and it was the MAN Adam that returned to dust, after the breath was taken from him.

This proves conclusively that as the breath of life causes a man to live, so the withdrawal of the breath causes a man to cease from living.

But man is not alone in this state, for the Bible also reveals that all living creatures share this same breath of life with him.

This comes to our attention in Gen. 7:21-22. As a result of the flood --

This is extremely clear. As far as the breath of life is concerned, man is grouped with all fowl, cattle, beasts, and even creeping things. And, further, this is not an isolated passage. It is consistent Bible teaching. About 1400 years later, Solomon confirmed it in Eccl. 3:18-20:

It seems to us impossible to misunderstand these words.

The Word of Scripture stands out in unqualified condemnation of the immortal soul theory, which exalts perishing human nature to equality with God.

Before we leave this part of our subject, let us go back to the garden of Eden, and take particular notice of the precaution that was taken after sentence of death was passed upon the man (Gen. 3:22-24) --

Here, in the very beginning, the man was prevented from eating of the Tree of Life, "lest he eat, and live forever." This, in itself, is indisputable proof that man is not immortal in any sense.

If he were, it would have been both foolish and useless to expel him from the garden.

Thus do the Scriptures combine with natural facts in an emphatic declaration which shows man to be mortal.

The second part of our subject -- The Dead Unconscious -- follows in logical sequence, for we have clearly demonstrated from the Bible that when death comes upon man, it robs him of life.

Therefore in death he is just as unconscious as though he never existed, and apart from a resurrection he would perish forever.

Let us look at two death records in the Bible. The first is Joseph (Gen. 50:24-26) --

A modern report would say that Joseph died and went to glory; and they embalmed his body, and put it in a coffin. But here it was JOSEPH that was embalmed, and JOSEPH that was put in a coffin.

Now David is described as a "man after God's Own heart," so let us look at his death record in 1 Kings 2:1-2 --

And in verse 10 we read --

In the New Testament, it is worthy of careful note how Peter speaks of David's death. In Acts 2:29-34, he says --

One well-known bishop said a few years ago, "Five minutes after death, we shall be conscious, thinking, feeling, knowing, enjoying heavenly bliss."

How different from Peter who said --

The Bible always speaks of death as the ending of life, and never does it tells us of a dead man or woman having gone to heaven. Solomon says --

And in verse 5 he says --

Could anything be plainer? We do not see how it could.

No, the Bible settles it beyond question, and frees us from all speculation.

The question is not whether a doctrine is one of beauty, but whether it is TRUE. Truth is sometimes difficult to accept, but it is the mark of wisdom on our part to face facts, and accept what is true.

The teaching of the Bible proves to us that we are mortal, and unconscious in death; and therefore establishes the doctrine of the resurrection on the firm foundation of necessity, and teaches us clearly that a future life is only possible through resurrection.

How different from the popular view! Just a few days ago, a famous evangelist was talking about the second coming of Christ. Previously he had talked about going to heaven at death. But this time, he said that Christ would come and remain suspended in the air above the earth. Then the dead would come forth from their graves, and meet the Lord and he would take them bodily to heaven.

But that is not Bible teaching -- it is just plain confusion!

But it is not the fault of the Bible. It is the fulfillment of Paul's prophecy quoted earlier, and repeated here for emphasis:

It is not surprising therefore, that the true doctrine of the Resurrection has almost disappeared from Christendom.

Many think resurrection is strictly a New Testament doctrine; but that is not true. Isaiah says (26:19) --

Isaiah was not alone, for Daniel speaks of it also in 12:2 --

Paul shows us that it was understood from the early days of the fathers. Speaking of Abraham (Heb. 11:17) he says --

Belief in the resurrection was quite general among the Jews at the time of Christ. The worldly Sadducees denied the resurrection, and when Paul stood before the Council, he said (Acts 23:6) --

Paul's teaching on the subject was both positive and lofty. When he stood before Felix he said (Acts 24:14-15) --

These are important items in Paul's teaching; but in 1 Cor. 15, he excels himself, and devotes the whole chapter to the subject of the Resurrection.

It is not our purpose to weary you with long quotations, but it would be unfair not to present some of the highlights of this chapter, as vs. 12-23 --

We should not forget any of these words of Paul, but there are some that should be stamped on our minds as though by a hot iron that would leave an impression that would never grow cold. Let us repeat them --

Just one more statement of Paul's (Ph. 3:7-11) --

And now look carefully at the next verse --

Why did Paul put so much stress on the resurrection? Why should he say --

WHY? Because Paul knew the truth about the nature of man. He knew he was mortal. He knew that he did not possess an immortal soul, and would therefore be truly unconscious in death, and ONLY BY RESURRECTION could life be restored.

Before we leave this part of our subject, let us look at Jesus' teaching, for from him the apostles learned the Truth.

We could not do better than to turn to John 11. Here we read of his friend Lazarus, and his two sisters Mary and Martha. Lazarus had taken ill and died. In v. 11 Jesus said --

Jesus and his disciples started out for Bethany, and the sisters learned of his coming, and in v. 20 we read --

Let us now note carefully the conversation between Jesus and Martha, vs. 21-26 --

Now note carefully the effect of Jesus' teaching on these people, for --

These are unusual claims for a man to make; but Jesus was an unusual man -- being the Son of God -- and he was always capable of doing what he claimed he could do, and this was no exception to the rule.

He was now about to exhibit what Paul called "The Power of his resurrection." The small group proceeded to the place where Lazarus was buried, and at v. 41 we read --

Here is the power of his resurrection demonstrated before many witnesses. Therefore should we not, with Paul, say as he said --

We now come to the concluding part of our subject, "Judgment and Reward at the Last Day." And we introduce it by a statement that Paul made in his second letter to Timothy, 4:7-8 --

Paul speaks of Christ as the "righteous Judge." This is the first great work he will do after his resurrection. He speaks of it at length in Matt. 25:31-46. Reading vs. 31-32 --

Paul, in Heb. 9:27, says --

Jesus speaks again in John 12:48 --

From these and other passages in the New Testament it becomes obviously plain that at the return of Christ to establish his Kingdom on earth, he will summon before him for judgment all those who are responsible to his judgment.

Those who have been raised from the dead will be brought together with the living, and come before him. This group of faithful and unfaithful will give an account of themselves. The faithful will receive the gift of immortality, and the unfaithful will reap corruption.

This statement is supported by Paul's words in Gal. 6:8 --

The common and popular view is that those who die are rewarded immediately after death. This, of course, is based upon the immortal soul theory. But the word of Jesus settles the matter (Matt. 16:27) --

But the objector may say, Jesus also said in Matt. 5:12 --

Yes, Jesus did say that, but he also said in John 13:33 --
What is the explanation of this apparent contradiction? It is beautifully simple.

Peter explains it in his first letter (1:3-4) --

Now anything that is "reserved" is kept somewhere, and at an appointed time will be brought forth, and given to those for whom it has been reserved. This is made unmistakably plain by Jesus in his last message (Rev. 22:12) --

The important question at this point is, What will the reward be? Paul says (Rom. 6:23):

This is in harmony with the words of Jesus in that well-known verse, John 3:16 --

And again the words of Jesus in John 17:2 --

The change from mortality to immortality is described by Paul in Phil. 3:20-21 --

Then again, we have Jesus' words in Matt. 5:5 --

Finally, we have the statement of assurance from Paul --

Here, then, in the Bible we discover the answer to our many questions and problems; for, as Paul has said, it is --

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Eternal life, though the free gift of God through Jesus Christ to the world, is nevertheless CONDITIONAL. By conditional, I mean that it is obtainable on certain stipulated terms.

The proofs of this are innumerable; therefore I shall content myself with a selection as follows:

  1. "Good teacher, what good must I do to obtain eternal life? Jesus answered: If you would enter into that life, KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS" (Matt. 19:16).

  2. "He who shall believe (the Gospel) and be immersed, shall be saved" (Mark 16:16).

  3. "Unless a man be born out of water and Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God" (John 3:5).

  4. "Whosoever believes on the Son of Man, shall not perish, but obtain eternal life" (John 3:16).

  5. "Whosoever shall drink of the waters which I (Jesus) shall give him shall never thirst more; but the water which I shall give him shall be in him a fountain springing up to everlasting life" (John 4:14).

  6. "He who hears my doctrine, and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life, and shall not suffer condemnation, having passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).

  7. "This is the will of Him that sent me, that whosoever recognizes the Son and believes on him, should obtain eternal life, and that I should raise him up again at the last day" (John 6:40).

  8. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have not life in you. He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life: and I will raise him again at the last day" (John 6:53).

  9. "My sheep OBEY MY VOICE. I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any one wrest them out of my hand" (John 10:28).

  10. "Jesus said, I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes on me, though he were dead, shall live; and every one who lives and believes into me, shall not die in the age: (John 11:25-26).

  11. "He who despises me, and REJECTS MY INSTRUCTIONS, has that which condemns him. The doctrine which I have taught will condemn him at the last day. The Father Who sent me has commanded me what I should enjoin, and what I should teach. And I know that this commandment is eternal life" (John 12:48-50).

  12. "O Father! Thou hast given the Son authority over all men, that he may bestow eternal life on all those whom Thou has given him. Now this is the life eternal, to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus, the Messiah, Thine Apostle (sent one)" (John 17:2).

  13. "It was necessary that the Message of God be first delivered to you (Jews); but since you thrust it away from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the nations. And the Gentiles hearing this, rejoiced, and glorified the Word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life, believed (the Word concerning it)" (Acts 13:46).

  14. "God first looked down on the Gentiles to take from among them a people for His Name" (Acts 15:14).

  15. "The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to every one who believes (it); as it is written, The just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:16).

  16. "God will render to every one ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS: eternal life, indeed (He will render) to them who by perseverance in well doing seek glory, honour, and immortality" (Rom. 2:7).

  17. "If you live according to the flesh you shall die; but if, through the Spirit, you PUT TO DEATH THE DEEDS OF THE BODY, you shall live" (Rom. 8:13).

  18. "This saying is true, that IF WE DIE WITH CHRIST, we shall also live with him" (2 Tim. 2:11).

  19. "The Son learned obedience by the things which he suffered, and being made perfect (by a resurrection from the dead), became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (Heb. 5:9).

  20. "You must PERSEVERE IN DOING THE WILL OF GOD, that you may obtain the promised reward" (Heb. 10:36).

  21. "He who DOES THE WILL OF GOD continues for the age" (1 John 2:17).

  22. "No manslayer, or hater of his brother, has eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:15).

  23. "TO HIM WHO CONQUERS, I will give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God. The conqueror shall not be injured by the second death" (Rev. 2:7-11).

Now I do not hesitate to say that these passages prove that eternal life is conditional, or obtainable by those who conform to certain fixed and unalterable stipulations.

The expressions "if," "he who," "unless," "whoever," "as many as," "to take from among," "to every one who," "them who," "to them who," "that you may," and so forth, are all terms of condition.

The reply of Jesus to the young man gives us the gist of the whole matter (Matt. 19:17) --

If Eternal Life be conditional, none can possibly attain to it who either cannot, or will not, observe the terms on which it is freely and graciously offered.