Sleep Versus Death
Death: the end of life; the total and permanent cessation of all vital functions of an animal or plant.
The key to the word death is its finality. The end of life. Life and death are mutually exclusive. Everyone is either alive or dead. You can approach very near to death, but you are not dead. Once you cross over to the dead, there is no way any man can bring you back to life!
Doctors do not bring people back from the dead. Consider a drowning victim who has been under water for twenty minutes, with no pulse, or signs of life. If he is shocked, given an injection of adrenaline, and CPR, and is "brought back to life," then he was never dead. All of his vital functions had not yet ceased.
Not only can man not restore life to a dead body; man has never created life, other than through the biological process which God created. Cloning is not creating life. It is simply tinkering with the creation process as designed by God. The DNA from an egg is removed and replaced with the DNA from the animal to be cloned. The fertilized egg is then placed into a womb and allowed to develop into a new animal. The result is an identical twin of the DNA donor. Man did not create the associated reproduction process which produced the clone. He simply tinkered with the existing process to modify the outcome.
Sadly, there remain people who believe man can create himself without the help of God's natural reproduction process through the cloning procedure. Some of these "heavy thinkers" then wonder about the other more important part of the man which was produced, his soul. They ask comical questions such as, "Sure man can produce another man's physical body, but can man produce a soul?" In other words, will cloned humans have a soul since they were "created" by other men? The question is utterly ridiculous! Man has never, ever, created life without starting from some existing life. Man has tried and failed to create even single cell life from non-living materials. The thesis upon which the question is based is therefore incorrect. Man cannot produce another man except through the laws of reproduction as defined by God. But regardless of the ignorant basis for the question, the correct answer is that the "soul" is a myth. And yes, the soul was very definitely created by man!
Two forms of life are described in the Bible, physical and spiritual. Spiritual beings consist of the Trinity of God and the angels. Satan and his subordinates are included as angels. Physical life forms consist of every life form which is not spiritual. This includes plants, insects, germs, viruses, fish, birds, animals, and others. Man is an animal. All physical life forms share one very important characteristic. All die! Spiritual life forms live for eternity. This is the characteristic which distinguishes man from spiritual beings.
Since death only applies to the physical world, let's examine what the Bible states regarding the death of the animal which we are concerned about most; that is, man. According to the Bible, two separate distinct deaths can befall man. The first and most obvious "death" ends our short, one hundred and twenty year maximum life which we are presently living on the earth. Our second possible physical death is described in the book of Revelation:
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14-15)
Individuals whose names are not written in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire and suffer their second death. They die because fire destroys their physical bodies. They are physical bodies because they have not been born again as a spirit which cannot die. It is very important to notice that this death is actually labeled as a death in the Bible! That is, it is final and eternal. There is no recovery or return from the second death! This truly fits our definition of the word death. It is the permanent cessation of all vital life functions.
Now let's examine how the Bible describes man's first "death." When the first death of any man is discussed in the Bible, the words used to describe that event are sleep or rest. Only man, among all the animals is said to sleep, slumber, or rest when he dies. In fact, when Jesus "raised people from the dead," He often stated that they were not dead, but simply asleep:
Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. (John 11:11)
Was Jesus lying, or did He know something which no one else knew? Of course, the answer is the latter. If Jesus lied about the dead being asleep when they were actually dead, then He sinned and could not be a valid sacrifice for the sins of mankind.
If true death is permanent, then our first death is not death at all. It does not meet the definition of death. That is, it is not permanent. God is going to restore the physical life of nonbelievers many years after their first "death" at the second resurrection. In many instances after having been "dead" for thousands of years. Therefore, their first "death" is not actually a death since it is not final and permanent. They will live again. It is final to us here on the earth. That is, man cannot restore another man's life after his first death, only God can.
So Jesus did not lie when He stated that Lazarus' stinking body which had been lying in the grave for four days was only sleeping:
Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. (John 11:39)
When pressed, Jesus spoke plainly and stated that Lazarus was indeed dead. Plainly indicates that Jesus spoke in terms of how man understands death:
Then Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. (John 11:14)
In neither case, when Jesus said Lazarus was asleep nor when He said Lazarus was dead, did He lie. Both statements are true! One was from God's point of view, and the other was from man's point of view. From God's perspective there is one true death, the second death.
Once one understands the two "deaths" described in the Bible it becomes easier to understand the scriptures. However, one needs to distinguish which is being referred to in the context of each verse. Words such as sleep, slumber, and rest are used to refer to man's first death. Words such as die, death, and perish are used to refer to man's permanent second death. For example:
The soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)
Since die is used, this scripture refers to the second death. Otherwise, the word sleep or rest would have been used. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Therefore, we are all headed for the second death. The good news is that God intervenes:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Once again, a key word denoting permanence indicates that Jesus is saving us from the second death. That word is perish. Since we are only sleeping or resting after our first death, this word perish indicates the second death.
Perish means to disappear forever, which is what happens to those who suffer the second death. It is eternal. Everyone who dies the first death will be resurrected, whether Christian or not. Therefore, when we die the first death, we do not perish. Since God gave His only Son so that those who believe in Him should not perish, this promise protects us from the second death. From God's prospective, we do not perish due to our first "death," we simply rest:
For we which have believed do enter into rest. (Hebrews 4:3)
The "rest" used in this context indicates what happens to Christians after their first physical death. They are said to "Rest in Peace," indicating exactly what the Bible confirms:
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing. (Ecclesiastes 9:5)
The dead are at total rest, they know and are aware of absolutely nothing! They do not even know they are dead. They are not in heaven with God or burning in hellfire or in purgatory. There are not spirits or ghosts of dead humans running around the earth spooking people. That fact may ruin many bad movie and book plots for you, but it is a fact! The people who put their "souls" up for sale on the Internet should be charged with fraud if they accept any payment because they are selling something they do not have! I'm sure they know this to be true. The only spirits and ghosts around are God and the angels. God has existed from the beginning, and He created the angels.
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