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By Eusebio P. Manzano

This is an article that appeared in the November 2002 issue of the God's Message Magazine

The various religions of the world uphold different beliefs concerning mans destiny upon death.

The Catholic Church teaches that those who die in the state of Gods grace and are in need of no further purification enter heaven promptly after death while those who die in a state of grace but are in need of some purification enter heaven after the purgation or cleansing in purgatory in completed. Those who die in actual mortal sin enter their unending punishment in hell promptly after death (The Teaching of Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults, pp. 525-526)

The Presbyterians and the Baptist teach that, at death, the bodies of men return to the dust, but their soul, which they believe do not die, immediately return to God and enter upon their immediate state (The Westminster Confession of the Faith for Study Classes, p. 252; A Catechism of Bible Doctrine, pp. 30-31

The Hindus and Sikhs believe that when a person dies, he is born again as another living creature with a purpose of being purified through the discipline of undergoing many births (The New Book of Knowledge, vol. 8, p. 131)

Islam on the other hand, teaches that only fighters of the faith who die as martyrs immediately enter paradise while those who are not must wait for the occurrence of the resurrection and the last Judgement (Non-Christian Religions: A-Z, p. 142)

No man by himself can tell

The apostles did not want the Christians to be ignorant concerning the dead. Apostle Paul said:

"But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope." (I Thess. 4:13, Revised Standard Version)

It is important for Christians not to be ignorant about those asleep, or the dead, for them not to grieve as others do. The Bible teaches that, by himself, a person does not know what will happen to him:

" A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him?" (Eccl. 10:14, Ibid)

Prophet Isaiah said that God alone can declare the end from the beginning (Is. 46:9-10). This truth is known also to His faithful servants. Thus, for one to predict by himself what will happen to him when he dies is futile, for God declared beforehand:

"For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which passes like a shadow? For who can tell a man what will be after him under the sun?" (Eccl. 6:12, RSV)

Where the soul and the spirit go

Man comes from the dust and to dust he will return: "All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again" (Eccl. 3:20, Ibid)

How true is the teaching that the soul neither dies nor sleeps and that it allegedly returns to God immediately upon mans death? Does the Bible agree with this belief? In Ezekial 18:4, it says that the soul dies:

"Behold all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins shall die." (Ibid)

This biblical truth is opposed to the teaching that mans soul does not die. Undoubtedly, since the soul dies, it does not return to God immediately upon mans death as claimed by the Protestants. When a man dies, it is his spiritand not the soul-that returns to God who gave it:

"And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." (Eccl. 12:7, Ibid)

Many preachers mistakenly believe that the soul returns to God because they believe the soul is also the spirit. However, the Bible teaches that man is composed of spirit, soul, and body-each distinct from one another:

"May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Thess. 5:23, Ibid)

Till the heavens are no more

Catholics practice praying to so-called "saints." Catholic saints are deceased persons whom the Catholic Church recognizes to have lived holy lives and whom it claims to be intercessors or mediators in behalf of the living who pray to God. Praying to the dead is, however, useless because when a person dies, his thoughts and plans perish. When his breath ceases, man returns to the earth or to the ground:

"When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish." (Ps. 146:4, Ibid)

Is there such a thing as reincarnation, that is, when a person dies, he allegedly undergoes a rebirth as another living creature? Do people undergo many births? The word of God says that the dead neither rises again nor wakes till the heavens are no more.

"But when man dies, and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he? As waters fail from a lake, and a river wastes away and dries up, so man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will be not be awake, or be aroused out of his sleep." (Job 14:10-12, Ibid)

It is on the day of Judgement that the heavens will be dissolved with fire (II Pt. 3:7,10). And since the heavens still exist and have not yet vanished, the dead are still lying in their graves.

Reward or punishment

Man is not free from responsibility when he dies because God has set a day of vengeance for those who do not recognize Him and those who disobey the gospel. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction:

"Inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might." (II Thess. 1:8-9, RSV)

On the Second Coming of Christ, which is the day of Judgement, the dead will hear His voice and come forth. Those who have done good will be resurrected to life. On the other hand, those who have done evil will be resurrected to judgement:

"Do not marvel at this; for 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 did evil, to the resurrection of judgement." (Jn. 5:28-29, Ibid)

Who are those who will be resurrected to life? Apostle Paul said that the dead in Christ will be risen first or will be included in the first resurrection:

"For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with an archangels call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.""(I Thess. 4:16, Ibid)

These people who will be joining the first resurrection are truly blessed because the second death will have no power over them (Rev. 20:6). Those true Christians who will still be alive when the Savior returns will be caught up together with those resurrected to meet Him; and they shall always be with the Lord:

"Then those who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord." (I Thess. 4:17, RSV)

Apostle Paul mentions these blessed people as those who are in Christ. Who are they? The Lord Jesus established His Church which He called "my church." The power of death will not prevail against this Church:

"And I tell you, that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." (MT. 16:18, Ibid)

Therefore, the members of the Church established by Christ, the members of the Church of Christ (Rom. 16:16), will over come death. They are, thus, the people whom the apostles refer to as those "in Christ" who will meet the Lord when He returns.

On the other hand, the Lord Jesus Christ said that those who have done evil, those who did not accept and obey the gospel, will be resurrected to be judged 1,000 years after the first resurrection (Rev. 20:5). When these dead would have risen, fire will come down from heaven and consume them. They will be thrown into the lake of fire and will be tormented day and night forever and ever-this is the second death (Rev. 20:7-10).

On the other hand, the second death will have no power over the members of the Church of Christ. Their souls will be ransomed from the power of Sheol or Death:

"But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me." (Ps. 49:15, RSV)

They will inherit the new heavens and the new earth. There, they will be Gods people and God Himself will be with them (Rev. 21:1-4).

References

Davidson, W. E. A Catechism of Bible Doctrine. Tennessee: Broadman Press, n.d.

Lawler, Ronald, Donald W Wuerl, and Thomas Comerfold Lawler, (eds.). The Teaching of Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1976

Non-Christian Religions: A-Z New York: Grosset & Dunlap, Inc., 1963.

The New Book of Knowledge, vol. 8. Grolier Incorporated, 1984

Williamson, G. I. The Westminster Confession of Faith and Study Classes. Philadelphia, Pa.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1964