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  • Love and Liberty

What Happens When We Die? Tradition Vs Scripture

By E.W. Bullinger - The Rich Man and Lazarus: An Intermediate State? (Excerpt)

Psalm 146:4 declared of man, “His breath goeth forth, He returneth to his earth; In that very day his thoughts perish”. God is here speaking of “Man”; not of some part of man, but of “princes”, and “man” or any “son of man” (v. 3), i.e. Any and every human being begotten or born of human parents. There is not a word about “disembodied man”. No such expression is to be found in the Scriptures! The phrase is man's own invention in order to make this and other scriptures agree with his tradition. This Scripture speaks of “man” as man. “His breath”; ”he returneth”; “his thoughts”. It is an unwarrantable liberty to put “body” when the Holy Spirit has put “man”. The passage says nothing about the “body”. It is whatever has done this thinking. The “body” does not think. The “body” apart from the spirit has no “thoughts”. Whatever has had the “thoughts” has them no more; and this is “man”. If this were the only statement in Scripture on the subject it would be sufficient. But there are many others. There is Ecc. 9:5, which declares that “The dead know not anything”. This also is so clear that there could be no second meaning. “The dead” are the dead; they are those who have ceased to live; and, if the dead do or can know anything, then words are useless for the purpose of revelation. The word “dead” here is used in the immediate context as the opposite of “the living”, e.g.: “The living know that they shall die, But the dead know not anything” It does not say dead bodies know not anything, but “the dead”, i.e. dead people, who are set in contrast with “the living”. As one of these “living” David says, by the Holy Spirit (Psalm 146:2) “While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being”. There would be no praising after he ceased to “live”. Nor would there be any singing of praises after he had cease to “have any being”. Why? Because “princes” and “the son of man” are helpless (Psalm 146:3,4). They return to their earth; and when they die, their “thoughts perish”: and they “know not anything”.

This is what God says about death. He explains it to us Himself. We need not therefore ask any man what it is. And if we did, his answer would be valueless, inasmuch as it is absolutely impossible for him to know anything of death, i.e. the death-state, as we have no noun in English to express the act of dying (as German has in the word “sterbend”). This is unfortunate, and has been the cause of much error and confusion. We find the answer is just as clear and decisive in Psalm 104:29,30: “Thou takest away their breath (Heb. spirit), they die, And return to their dust: Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: And thou renewest the face of the earth”. With this agrees Ecc. 12:7, in which we have a categorical statement as to what takes place at death: “Then shall the dust RE-turn to the earth as it was: And the spirit shall RE-turn unto God who gave it”. The “dust” was, and will again be “dust”: but nothing is said in Scripture as to the spirit apart from the body, either before their union, which made man “a living soul”, or after that union is broken, when man becomes what Scripture calls “a dead soul”. Where Scripture is silent, we may well be silent too: and, therefore, as to the spirit and its possibilities between dying and resurrection we have not said, and do not say, anything. Scripture says it will “return to GOD”. We do not go beyond this; nor dare we contradict it by saying, with Tradition, that it goes to Purgatory or to Paradise; or with Spiritualism, that it goes elsewhere.

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