Is My Deceased Loved One With Jesus?
A parishioner of mine wrote me the following letter. Can you help me respond to him?
The Seventh Day Adventist church I attended told me I was wrong to think that my wife, who recently passed away, is with Jesus. I know the scripture says, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Seventh Day Adventists claim the spirit that returns to God at death is not a conscious entity, but the breath of life (Ecc 12:7; Gen 2:7). The Bible says the dead cannot remember or give thanks (Ps 6:5), cannot praise God (Ps 115:17; Isa 38:18), cannot think (Ps 146:3–4), and cannot function (Ecc 9:5,6,10). Their abode is the grave, not heaven (Acts 2:29,34). The Bible teaches death is an unconscious cessation of life.
Thanks a million!
Here are my thoughts:
1. Moses died (Deut 34:5,7), yet he was conscious and aware enough of what was happening in Jesus’ life to talk to him about his coming departure (Greek: exodus) from earth (Luke 9:30–31).
2. If the dead have no consciousness, the story about the rich man and Lazarus has no basis in reality and its point(s) collapse—e.g., the rich man would not ask an unconscious person to come and give him water; the rich man would not be talking at all, and so on.
3. Paul’s struggle between death and life in Philippians 1:18–26 seems ludicrous if there is no consciousness until the resurrection. How could he say it is far better to be with the Lord when he would not be with Him any sooner than the Philippians would be, since all the dead will be raised together?
Regarding the passages that say the dead have no knowledge, do not praise, etc., the psalmist’s frame of reference is earthly existence. It is not an absolute statement. It’s true, dead bodies don’t talk. If they do, there’s something wrong!
But why have a resurrection? Ah, good question. I offer the following answers:
1. Because resurrection is about reuniting the body with the spirit. Redemption is not purely spiritual. God’s plan of redemption encompasses the entire created universe.
2. When we die our spirit goes to heaven or hell, but our body remains unconscious, unknowing in the grave, and decays to dust. But a disembodied state is unnatural for humans, and God intends to reunite our glorified spirits with immortal, glorified bodies to use in service to Him throughout eternity.
So, does believing that a Christian’s spirit goes to heaven after death open us to Satanic delusion through trying to communicate with the dead? Not at all! God specifically prohibits attempts to communicate with the dead (Deut 18:10; Gal 5:20; Rev 22:15); therefore, believers should reject all forms of necromancy as sinful and not of God.
I hope that is helpful.