Another important question concerning man, one, which has been asked by every person that ever lived long, enough to think at all upon the subject, is, ‘When a man dies, where does he go? What is his condition?’ etc., etc. This question the Bible asks: "Man dies, and wastes away; yea, man gives up the ghost, and where is he?" (Job 14:10).
Where Do Men Go When They Die?
Of course, there have been many answers given to this question; and there are yet many, even in this land where Bibles are scattered everywhere. Some say that if he die wicked, he is in hell; if he die righteous, he is in heaven. Others say that he is in neither hell nor heaven, but in purgatory; and yet others, that he is in none of these, but has passed to the "spheres," and still associates and communicates with those who still live. Of course all these answers cannot be the right ones; and, as a matter of fact, not one of them is the right one. The Bible alone is that which gives the right answer to this, its own question. And as it is alone the Bible answers to Bible questions that we are now studying, that alone shall be what we shall seek on this question of where is man when he has died.
"Man dies, and wastes away; yea, man gives up the ghost, and where is he?" Answer: "The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead" (Eccl. 9:3). To good King Josiah God said, "Thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace" (2 Kings 22:20). Of the wicked He also says, "Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb" (Job 21:32). Jacob said, "I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning" (Gen. 37:35). We shall not multiply texts on this point, but simply show that this is confirmed by the Word of Christ. When He comes to give reward to His people, and when He calls for them, they, all that are dead, are found in the grave: "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28, 29). Therefore the Bible answer to this question is plainly that he is in the grave.
But what is his condition there? Let us read a verse from Job again: "Man gives up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decays and dries up; so man lies down, and rises not; till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep" (Job 14:10-120). This shows that man, when he dies, is asleep. Again, Job says that if he had died when he was an infant, "now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept; then had I been at rest, with kings and counselors of the earth.… There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master" (Job 3:13-19).
In the history of the kings of Israel and Judah, twenty-five times is the record made of their deaths, "He slept with his fathers."
Not to multiply texts, we again turn to the Word of Christ. Lazarus was sick. Jesus and His disciples were some distance away, and Lazarus died. Jesus said: "Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said the disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spoke of his death; but they thought that He had spoken of taking rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead" (John 11:11-14). Here are the Words of Christ: "Lazarus sleeps;" "Lazarus is dead." Therefore the plain Word of Christ is that when a man is dead he is asleep.
Paul says that "David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption" (Acts 13:36). And Peter says of him, "David is not ascended into the heavens" (Acts 2:34). And the reason is that "David slept with his fathers and was buried" (1 Kings 2:10).
Of Stephen it is recorded: "He kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep" (Acts 7:60). It is certain, therefore, that the Bible plainly teaches that when man dies he falls asleep. The Word of God plainly teaches the sleep of the dead.
Death is wholly an unconscious sleep, as, in the very nature of the case, it must be when the place of sleep is in the grave. But here is the proof: "The living know that they shall die; but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion forever in anything that is done under the sun." "Whatsoever thy hand finds to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest" (Eccl. 9:5, 6, 10). "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish" (Ps. 146:3, 4). When men's love, and hatred, and envy, and their very thoughts, have perished, and their memory is gone, there can be nothing else but unconsciousness. And that is precisely what death is, and that is the condition into which men go when they die—a silent, dreamless sleep.
But the Bible story on this subject does not stop here. For "now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20). "And many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection" (Matt. 27:52, 53). And as God "brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus," so also "them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him;" "for this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:15-17). "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump" (1Cor. 15:51).
Then it is that "many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake" (Dan. 12:2). Then is the time to which David looked when he fell asleep, and was laid unto his fathers: "As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness" (Ps. 17:15). This is the time to which Job looked when he said, "Till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep" (Job 14:12). For it is at the coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead that the heavens roll away. "The heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places," and men cried "to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Rev. 6:14, 16, 17).
Therefore, the Bible answer to the Bible question, “When man gives up the ghost, where is he?” is this: He is asleep in the grave until the trump of God awakes the dead; until the voice of the glorious Son of God calls, and all that are in the graves hear His voice; for it is God who gives victory over death, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Reader, this is profitable teaching, for it is the teaching of the Word of God, for "thus says the Lord, they Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord thy God which teaches thee to profit, which leads thee by the way that thou shouldest go" (Isa. 48:17). This is the way that the Lord Jesus leads us. Will you follow?