SCRIPTURAL PROOFS OF THE CONTINUED PERSONAL CONSCIOUSNESS AFTER PHYSICAL DEATH
1. The Old Testament saints are pictured as being "gathered to their people" after physical death (see Gen. 25:8; 35:29; 49:29,33; Num. 20:24,26; 27:13; 31:2; Deut. 32:48-50): To be gathered to other people makes no sense, and no meaning, if it only refers to entering into an unconscious state of being. To be gathered to their people speaks of being joined together in a relational way.
|We all will stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ|
2. His child having died, David expected to eventually go to his son (see II Sam. 12:13-23): If he had expected to enter into an unconscious state, he would have had no such hope. David fully expected to see his son on the other side of the vale of physical death. David's words, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me," show that he did not have the hope of resurrection in mind, but to join his son after he died. Together they would await the resurrection while enjoying each other's company.
3. Samuel's appearance to Saul and the woman of Endor (see I Sam. 28:3-20): King Saul was struck with fear over a coming battle with the Philistines, and the Lord God was ignoring his petitions for guidance. He became so frightened and distressed that he sought out a necromancer in a desperate effort to contact Samuel, the departed prophet, who had in better times been his spiritual counselor. It was a frightful shock to this woman when God allowed Samuel to actually appear to deliver a prophetic message from the Lord to Saul. No doubt she either planned to trick Saul or expected a demon masquerading as Saul to appear. Adding to her fear was the realization that the man who had come to her in an effort to communicate with Samuel was actually King Saul, who had a reputation for putting mediums like her to death.
In his appearance Samuel had a recognizable human form and was able to carry on a conversation with Saul. His complaint about being disquieted (disturbed) indicates that he was abiding in a state of conscious bliss that was interrupted in order for him to make this appearance. That it is said he was brought "up" rather then brought "back" shows that he was residing in the lower parts of the earth. We believe that he was in Abraham's Bosom, or Paradise, which at that time was located in the heart of the earth in a place called Sheol, or Hades (see the Repentant Thief on the Cross below).
4. The Calling of Lazarus from the Grave (John 11:1-46): Although the "how" is beyond our understanding, the fact that Lazarus responded to the Lord Jesus Christ's command to "come forth" from the grave speaks to us of the continued conscious existence of the soul following physical death.
5. The Repentant Thief on the Cross (Luke 23:32-34, 39-43): As they hung on their respective crosses, one of the thieves who was crucified with Him turned to Jesus with a repentant heart saying, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom". Christ's response was to say, "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (see Luke 23:39-43). We know that at the time of His death the Lord Jesus descended to the "heart of the earth" where He stayed for three days and three nights (Matt. 12:40) "and preached to the spirits in prison" (I Pet. 3:19). This tells us that up to the time of Christ's sacrifice for the sins of the world, "Paradise" was in the heart of the earth. He promised the repentant thief they would be together in Paradise that very day. This is the same place that is referred to as Abraham's Bosom in Luke 16:22. From II Corinthians we know that Paradise is now located in "the third heaven" (see II Cor. 12:1-4). Obviously this abode of the saved dead was moved from the innermost parts, or the heart, of the earth to the heavenly abode of God. Paradise is the place where the souls of the redeemed reside awaiting the resurrection. Before the price of their redemption was paid on the cross, it was located in the heart of the earth. But, after the full payment was made, it was relocated to the third heaven, or the Heaven of heavens, where God is. There they wait in God's presence for the time of their resurrection. The souls of all of the redeemed who have died since Jesus Christ's resurrection have entered into God's presence there as to be "absent from the body" is to be "present with the Lord"(see II Cor. 5:6-8).
6. Jesus Christ's Direct Teaching that Departed Saints are Alive (see Matt. 22:23-32): Using a hypothetical situation, the Sadducees challenged the Lord Jesus concerning the resurrection of the dead, which was something that they did not believe in. The Lord turned the tables on them, though, by exposing their ignorance about the subject. First He explained that in the resurrection, marriage would not be a consideration. He then went on to confront them on an important issue concerning the saints who have experienced physical death. He knew that the Sadducees not only denied a literal resurrection of the dead, but also even denied the continued existence of the person after death. To reveal their error, the Lord quoted God's words to Moses at the burning bush, "I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Ex. 3:6). Although Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died hundreds of years before the time of Moses, God used the present tense "I am" rather than the past tense "I was" when identifying Himself to Moses as their God. This shows that they were existing in a conscious state at that time. The Lord Jesus' remark, in the present tense, that "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt. 22:32) reveals that they were still alive as He spoke, some 1500 years later. Being alive indicates a continued conscious existence. If this was true before the Cross, it is undoubtedly true of believers on this side of the cross.
7. The Appearance of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36): It could be argued that Elijah couldn't be held up as an example because, rather then going through the normal experience of physical death, he was caught up into heaven in an unusual way (II Kings 2:11). However, even though it was under unique circumstances, there is no doubt that Moses suffered physical death and his body was buried (Deut. 34:5-6). Moses, with Elijah, appeared on the mountain after Jesus Christ was temporarily glorified before the eyes of Peter, John, and James. They appeared in a recognizable form and it is specifically stated that they spoke with the Lord about His impending death. This event reveals the continued conscious awareness of those who have departed this life. That Moses and Elijah spoke with Christ about His departure, which was about to take place at Jerusalem, confirms their continued ability to think, remember, and communicate. We don't have a record of exactly what Moses and Elijah spoke to the Lord Jesus about concerning the death He would die, but there can be little doubt that their conversation centered on what would be accomplished through the sacrifice of Himself for the sins of the world. He would fulfill the prophecies about Himself found in Moses and the Prophets (cf. Luke 24:25-26,44-48).
8. That Jesus Christ Will Bring the Departed Grace Believers with Him from Heaven at the Time of the Rapture of the Church (I Thess. 4:13-18): Those who have died physically are presently in heaven as their body "sleeps" in the grave. Returning with Christ from heaven (v. 14) when He comes for His Church, they will receive their glorified bodies first (vv. 15-16) and then those still living will receive theirs as they are caught up to be with the Lord (v. 17; cf. I Cor. 15:51-54). That Christ will bring them from heaven with Him can only mean that they are first in heaven with Him.
9. The Martyred Saints of the Tribulation (Rev. 6:9-11; 7:9-10,14): While the believers who will die for their faith in Christ during the Tribulation are particularly singled out here, it must be remembered that their status is that of Kingdom saints. That is to say that their hope is to enter into Christ's Millennial Kingdom along with all of the other Kingdom saints. Their experience of being martyred during the Tribulation will be unique to the time in which they will live and die, but they will share the same general hope of all of the Old Testament saints. That they are found in heaven after having died indicates that all of the Kingdom saints who have gone before them are there as well. That they are pictured as asking the Lord to bring forth judgment on the earth indicates that they are anticipating returning with Him to receive their inheritance in His Kingdom (see Jude 14-15; Rev. 19:14-16). These martyred Kingdom saints, and all the others, who will accompany the Lord when He returns to earth, are obviously waiting in heaven until the appointed time. That they are specifically said to be wearing robes and bowing before the altar in heaven tells us not only that they will continue to exist in a state of consciousness after death, but also, that they will have a recognizable human form.