Read Job 3:11-13; Psalm 115:17; Psalm 146:4
; and Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10
. What can we learn from these passages about the condition of human beings at death?
Some Bible commentators argue that these passages (Job 3:11-13
; Ps. 115:17; Ps. 146:4; Eccl. 9:5, 10
), written in poetic language, cannot be used to define the condition of human beings at death. It is true that sometimes poetry can be ambiguous and easily misunderstood, but this is not the case with these verses. Their language is clear, and their concepts are in full harmony with the overall Old Testament teachings on the subject.
First, in Job 3
, the patriarch deplores his own birth, due to all the suffering. (In the more dire moments, who hasn’t wished that he or she had never been born?) He recognizes that if he had died at his birth, he would remain asleep and at rest (Job 3:11, 13
). Psalm 115
defines the location where the dead are kept as a place of silence, because “the dead do not praise the LORD”
, NKJV). This hardly sounds as if the dead, the faithful (and thankful) dead, are in heaven worshiping God.
According to Psalm 146
, the mental activities of the individual cease with death: “His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish”
, NASB). This is a perfect biblical depiction of what happens at death.
And Ecclesiastes 9
adds that “the dead know nothing”
and in the grave “there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom”
(Eccl. 9:5, 10
, NKJV). These statements confirm the biblical teaching that the dead are unconscious.
The biblical teaching of unconsciousness in death should not generate any panic in Christians. First of all, there is no everlasting burning hell or temporary purgatory waiting for those who die unsaved. Second, there is an amazing reward waiting for those who die in Christ. No wonder that “to the believer, death is but a small matter.... To the Christian, death is but a sleep, a moment of silence and darkness. The life is hid with Christ in God, and ‘when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.’ John 8:51, 52; Col. 3:4.”
— Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 787.