When a person dies it is generally thought by professing Christians that the person is really alive in some way or form. It seems that people have a belief in an "immortal soul" of sorts and that it is just the body that dies but the "soul goes marching on." For example, if "Joe Smith" dies and was a faithful member of the church, his Pastor may remark at Joe's funeral that Joe has went on to be with the Lord. The Pastor may also say something like, "Joe is looking down on us right now." Are these thoughts Biblical? Do people even care what the Bible has to say about the state of those who have died?
Ecclesiastes 9:2-6 - "All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath. This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead. For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy,is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun."
Notice that at death the same thing happens to both the righteous and unrighteous, the clean and unclean, the good and the sinner. It is not that the good person goes to heaven and the bad person goes to "hell" (an often misunderstood and misinterpreted word). They all go to the same place; to the dead, that is the state of death. The text goes on to say that the living know that they will die. As I write this paragraph, I know that one day I will grow old and I will die; that is something that I am assured of, because I am alive right now and can think and reason with my intellect. The opposite of that is that the dead do not know anything. How can this be if they are in heaven praising and worshiping Yahweh? Certainly they would know something. Or what about if they are being tormented in "hell" with fire as nominal Christianity teaches. Don't you think they would know they were on fire? Of course they would, but the point is that they do not know because they are really dead. It's not just that they appear to us to be dead, but have really survived death in some form.
Psalm 88:10 - "Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah."
Here the psalmist asks if Yahweh can show a wonder to a dead person. He also asks if the dead will praise Yahweh. Notice though that the psalmist understands that praise can only be given by the dead if they have risen, that is, if resurrection takes place. A dead person cannot praise Yahweh.
Psalm 6:4-5 - "Return, O Yahweh, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake. For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?"
Here David asks Yahweh to deliver him and save him because he knows that if he dies he his memory will be gone and he will not be able to give thanks to Yahweh. This is why the writer rhetorically asks, "in the grave who will give you thanks?"
Psalm 30:9 - "What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee?shall it declare thy truth?"
Here we see that when a person goes into the pit (corruption, decay, etc.) they do not have the ability to praise Yahweh or declare His truths. When the psalmist says "shall the dust praise thee" he is hearkening back to what Yahweh declared to Adam in Genesis 3:19, "for dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return." Man was made from the dust of the earth, and when man dies he goes back to the dust of the earth.
Isaiah 38:18 - "For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth."
There is no praising Yahweh for the dead who have went to the grave. They cannot celebrate Him or hope for His truth, because they are... dead. They are not conscious.
There are other passages in Scripture that teach this truth; the dead are really dead - they are not alive somewhere else in the universe. However, there is hope for those who have died in Christ. That hope is not experienced right now, but in the future at the resurrection of their bodies (1 Thess. 4; 1 Cor. 15).
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.