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THEOLOGY > Future > The Final Judgment > Nature of Death   


The length of life is inconsequential compared to the certainty of death. Death confirms the reality of sin and the terrifying penalty that it produces: “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). In the Scriptures death is multifaceted: spiritual, physical, and eternal (see: Death), but at this point the question is related to physical death. What is death? What happens at death? Is there consciousness after death?

The nature of death is related to the nature of man, whether man is two-parts or more, or simply and profoundly a unity (see: An Intricate Unity). Worded differently, does man possess a soul, being body and soul, or is man a soul, with soul being another word for person or individual? This is the pressing dilemma (see: Crucial Question). While willing to be instructed and to reassess the interpretation, this website has taken the position that man is a soul, and, therefore, must be understood in terms of unity not parts.

With this perspective death becomes a cessation rather than a division; it is the ending of life rather than a separation of the soul from the body. The wages of sin is death, not the death of the body—while the soul lives on—but the death of the person. Man’s experience of the curse of sin is total, not partial; it is not that a so-called part of man dies, but that man dies, the total man dies.

With this understanding two options are possible: consciousness transcends death, or death terminates consciousness.

Separation, with consciousness transcending death, undermines the Biblical concept of the unity of man by establishing a distinction between the body and soul such that the two are independent entities in which one inhabits the other. So man, as in Platonic thought, has a physical part—the body—indwelt by a spiritual part—the soul. At death, according to this scenario, the soul, living on in some form, departs from the body, which dies and decays. For this reason some Christian thinkers affirm the immortality of the soul; in the words of the popular song: “the soul never dies” (a real problem especially when the Bible speaks of the death of the soul; see: Nature of the Soul).

 But this view of separation is not acceptable if one predicates the unity of man which affirms that “man” and “soul” are virtual synonyms (see: Nature of the Soul). To speak of the soul is to speak of the individual; to speak of the individual is to speak of the soul. They are one and the same. Soul speaks of the principle of life, the life of the person—the individual. Correctly understood, the soul is the aliveness of animated matter (see: Miracle of Matter).

To die is to lose life; it is not just the activity of the body that ceases, but it is life that ceases. Death does not allow for life with some sort of consciousness in a soul after the experience of death. Death is not the separation of the soul from the body but the loss of life for the individual; death is a cessation not an interruption. Death is cessation in the sense that the person ceases to be.

Cessation magnifies the resurrection, which will bring to life the one who has lost life; it is the dead being made to live again. The resurrection is not a reunification of the soul with the body but the impartation of life to the one who has ceased to live. The total man dies, and the total man will be brought back to life. Cessation is neither the annihilation nor the extinction of the soul for two obvious reasons.

One, the soul is not a separate entity so that of itself it could become extinct or annihilated. The soul does not have separate existence; it is synonymous with the person—the life of the person. So there is not a “something” that can become extinct.

Two, if soul is simply life and the life ends, then it is the person that ends—not the body only, not the soul only, not both body and soul—but the person. It is the person that comes to an end, an end that we call death.

But the resurrection guarantees that the person has not ceased in the sense that the person can never be again. The resurrection is God’s promise that the person will live again at some time in the future. To affirm that death has been robbed of its sting is to affirm the power and potential of the resurrection as depicted in Christ’s resurrection and promised to us.

But thanks be to God
who give us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Cor. 15:57

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