Death—An Enlarged Continuation of Life?
ACCORDING to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, death is “a cause or occasion of loss of life; extinction; cessation of function or existence”.
However, the great majority of mankind do not accept Webster’s definition regarding death. While holding conflicting opinions as to just what happens at death, the Buddhist, the Hindu, the Moslem, the Jew, the Catholic and most Protestants do not believe that death means an end of existence. Dr. Peale, D.D., expressed a popular opinion on the subject in an article published in the St. Paul’s Sunday Pioneer Press, April 13, 1952, under the caption, “Life Is Eternal”:
“The longer I live and observe human and eternal events, the more certain I am that death is not the end of life. It is my belief, based on substantial experience, that the state of existence we call death is merely an enlarged continuation of life.” After commenting on “the indestructibility of life”, he went on to say, “The fact that we cannot see the departed does not indicate their annihilation.” And in concluding, Dr. Peale said regarding the dead: “They have not died.”
Is death “the cessation of function or existence”, or is it “merely an enlarged continuation of life”? What does the Bible say? Since the greatest man that ever lived stated concerning God’s Word, “Your word is truth,” we can confidently accept as truth what it has to say on this subject.
Was the first man Adam told that death would be for him enlarged continuation of life? Was he told that life was indestructible, eternal? On the contrary, because of having disobeyed he was plainly told: “Dust you are, and to dust you must return.” (Gen. 3:19, AT) Did Adam have an existence before he was taken out of the ground? Of course not! Then, when he was returned to where he had been before he likewise would not have an existence, would he? His creation was a change, from nonentity to entity; his death a return, from entity to nonentity. Certainly as far as Adam was concerned death was not a change of existence, a merely enlarged continuation of life.
That is why the Scriptures state: “For there is one fate for both man and beast—the same fate for them; as the one dies, so dies the other; the same breath is in all of them, and man has no advantage over the beast; for everything is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all return to the dust. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and whether the spirit of the beast goes downward to the earth?” “Like sheep they are appointed to Sheol; death shall shepherd them.” (Eccl. 3:19-21; Ps. 49:14, AT) Do the lower animals at death experience an “enlarged continuation of life”? Then neither does man.
And again: “For whosoever is joined to all the living has hope; for as a living dog he is a better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing at all, nor have they any longer any remembrance; for the memory of them is forgotten. Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or substance or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol whither you are going.” (Eccl. 9:4, 5, 10, AT) No hope of an enlarged continuation of life in such scriptures, is there?
Job knew that death was a cessation of existence and therefore he stated: “For now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.” “O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!” “If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness.”—Job 7:21; 14:13; 17:13.
David likewise knew that death was not “an enlarged continuation of life” but just the opposite. “For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in Sheol [the grave] who shall give thee thanks?” Yes, “the dead praise not Jehovah, neither any that go down into silence.” That is why we are counseled not to put our trust in man: “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.”—Ps. 6:5; 115:17; 146:3, 4, AS.
Because the dead do not enjoy an enlarged continuation of life but are unconscious, the Bible speaks of them as being asleep. Thus Jehovah God told both Moses and David, “Thou shalt sleep with thy fathers.” That is why the psalmist prayed for God’s guidance lest he should “sleep the sleep of death”.—Deut. 31:16; 2 Sam. 7:12; Ps. 13:3.
And so when Lazarus the friend of Jesus died, Jesus spoke of him as being asleep. Jesus did not tell Mary and Martha that their brother had gone to heaven, but assured them that he would rise from death.—John 11:11-23.
Nor can it be argued that all such instances only apply the term sleep to death because Christ Jesus had not brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Tim. 1:10) When Stephen was murdered by a mob, we do not read that he went to heaven, but rather that he also “fell asleep”. (Acts 7:60) And the apostle Paul speaks of Christians sleeping until the resurrection: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, then by means of Jesus God will bring back with him those who have fallen asleep.”—1 Thess. 4:14, AT.
Does that mean there is no hope for the dead? Not at all. There is hope, but that hope is not based upon death’s being a state of existence, merely an enlargement of life, but is based upon the power of Almighty God to resurrect the dead. The hope of a resurrection is repeatedly held forth in both the Hebrew and the Christian Greek Scriptures. (See Daniel 12:13; Hosea 13:14; John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15.) But if the dead have not died but are actually experiencing an enlarged continuation of life, why have a resurrection?
Death is the opposite of life. As far as man is concerned death is annihilation save as he is recorded in God’s memory and will be resurrected in God’s due time. The Bible is reasonable and consistent. To say that life is eternal, to say that death is a state of existence, merely an enlarged continuation of life, is to say that white is black and black is white, that hot is cold and cold is hot, up is down and down is up, is to say that the Bible does not make sense. But it is the creeds and teachings of men, based on tradition, superstition and “substantial experience”, that do not make sense. God’s Word always makes sense, when we once understand it!
For he must rule as king until God has put all enemies under his feet. As the last enemy, death is to be destroyed.—1 Corinthians 15:25, 26, NW.