The State of the Dead

The State of the Dead

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The dead are completely unconscious. They are not cognizant of anything. When a person dies, all of his thoughts, knowledge and feelings come to a complete halt. Absolutely no awareness or consciousness continues in another location or state of being. The Bible likens death to sleep (Job 7:21 Job 7:21And why do you not pardon my transgression, and take away my iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and you shall seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.
American King James Version×
; Job 14:10-12 Job 14:10-12 [10] But man dies, and wastes away: yes, man gives up the ghost, and where is he? [11] As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decays and dries up: [12] So man lies down, and rises not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.
American King James Version×
). Daniel 12:2 Daniel 12:2And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
American King James Version×
describes dead individuals as "those who sleep in the dust of the earth." They will awaken later in a resurrection (Isaiah 26:19 Isaiah 26:19Your dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust: for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.
American King James Version×
). For much more information on this subject read the Bible study aid What Happens After Death?

Three different words for hell

We can now explore Luke 16:23 Luke 16:23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
American King James Version×
. Speaking about the rich man it reads, "And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." Again, we must be careful not to presume the story means that the rich man died and went to an ever-burning hellfire. This is an incorrect assumption and not stated in this passage. It directly contradicts other biblical teaching on the matter. Jesus used the Greek word Hades ("hell" in the King James Version), which simply means "the grave." The Expositor's Bible Commentary (vol. 8, p. 992) states: "In the New Testament Hades is never used of the destiny of the believer. Neither is it identified with Gehenna, which is usually connected with fiery judgment as in Matthew 5:22 Matthew 5:22But I say to you, That whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
American King James Version×
, Matthew 5:29-30 Matthew 5:29-30 [29] And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell. [30] And if your right hand offend you, cut it off, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell.
American King James Version×
; Luke 12:5 Luke 12:5But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: Fear him, which after he has killed has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, Fear him.
American King James Version×
)."

It's important to also understand that in the Greek language, there are two other words in the Bible often translated "hell." One is tartaroo, which is used only once and refers to the present condition of restraint or imprisonment of fallen angels or demons (2 Peter 2:4 2 Peter 2:4For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved to judgment;
American King James Version×
). The other word is Gehenna, which is derived from the Hebrew expression Gai-Hinnom, or the Valley of Hinnom. This valley bordered Jerusalem on the south. One Jewish source relates that, in Christ's day, it was used as the city's garbage dump. When Jesus spoke of Gehenna His listeners understood that this "hell" was a destroying fire in which trash and even the bodies of criminals were reduced to ashes. He warned that this kind of fire would be the ultimate fate of those who remain unrepentant (Matthew 13:41 Matthew 13:41The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
American King James Version×
). "But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell [Gehenna, or Valley of Hinnom]; yes, I say to you, fear Him" (Luke 12:5 Luke 12:5But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: Fear him, which after he has killed has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, Fear him.
American King James Version×
).

The rich man awakens from death

Continuing in Luke 16:23 Luke 16:23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
American King James Version×
we read about the rich man: "And being in torments in Hades [the grave], he lifted up his eyes." Once again we must be alert to read exactly what the passage says. Just how could the rich man have "lifted up his eyes" after he died? The Bible reveals the only way this can happen is through a resurrection. It explains that the dead can be raised to either immortal (Luke 20:35-36 Luke 20:35-36 [35] But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: [36] Neither can they die any more: for they are equal to the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
American King James Version×
; Romans 8:13 Romans 8:13For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.
American King James Version×
) or mortal (physical) life.

For example, Jesus raised another man named Lazarus to mortal life (John 12:17 John 12:17The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bore record.
American King James Version×
). Also, immediately after Jesus died on the cross many of His faithful followers who had died were raised to physical life (Matthew 27:50-53 Matthew 27:50-53 [50] Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. [51] And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; [52] And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, [53] And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared to many.
American King James Version×
). In the case of the parable we are studying, the rich man would be raised from the dead as a mortal man, just as he was before he died. Revelation 20:4 Revelation 20:4And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
American King James Version×
explains that God's spirit-begotten children will be resurrected to immortal life at Christ's second coming. However, verse 5 continues by stating, "But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished." So the rich man's resurrection to physical life would occur after that thousand year period (Revelation 20:11-15 Revelation 20:11-15 [11] And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. [12] And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. [13] And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. [14] And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. [15] And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
American King James Version×
).

Abraham and the other faithful individuals, including Lazarus, would have been raised as immortal spirit beings at the return of Jesus Christ. Since the rich man would be resurrected near the end of the thousand year timespan as a physical man, it would seem to him as if it is the very next second after he died. He would know absolutely nothing of the vast number of years since his death.

When the rich man "lifted up" or opened his eyes, he immediately "saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom" (Luke 16:23 Luke 16:23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
American King James Version×
). According to Bible language expert Dr. Lawrence Richards, writing in The Victor Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Jesus employed contemporary Jewish thought about the afterlife in this parable (which by this time was influenced by pagan mythology).

Dr. Richards wrote that Hades, the abode of the dead, was "thought to be divided into two compartments" and "conversations could be held between persons" in the abode of the righteous and those in the abode of the unrighteous. The New Bible Dictionary (p. 388) says, "Probably the story of Dives [meaning 'rich' {man} in Latin] and Lazarus (Luke 16), like the story of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-9 Luke 16:1-9 [1] And he said also to his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused to him that he had wasted his goods. [2] And he called him, and said to him, How is it that I hear this of you? give an account of your stewardship; for you may be no longer steward. [3] Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord takes away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. [4] I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. [5] So he called every one of his lord's debtors to him, and said to the first, How much owe you to my lord? [6] And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said to him, Take your bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. [7] Then said he to another, And how much owe you? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said to him, Take your bill, and write fourscore. [8] And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. [9] And I say to you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
American King James Version×
), is a parable which made use of certain Jewish thinking and is not intended to teach anything about the state of the dead."

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