WHERE ARE THE DEAD? J. PRESTON EBY
Even in the Old Testament there was belief in conscious existence after death. A brother in Christ has written, “We read from Gen. 25:8 ‘Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years (175 years) and was GATHERED TO HIS PEOPLE.’ And again in Gen. 35:29, ‘And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was GATHERED UNTO HIS PEOPLE.’ ‘And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was GATHERED UNTO HIS PEOPLE.’ Gen. 49:33. So far, we have cited only three specific cases, namely, the deaths of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What we see in each case, the deceased was ‘gathered unto his people’. This in itself suggests a home coming; indeed, a rejoining of loved ones who had gone on before. But if there was no ‘knowing each other’: if there was no consciousness, why would the writer bother to record that indeed, the deceased was gathered unto his people? We learn from Eccl. 12:7, ‘Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.’ Paul indicated that being absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord. Since this is true, it is rather needless to think that there is unconsciousness in God. The average man on the street today, has come to believe that there is more reality in the unseen than in that which we see. But there are countless numbers of people who simply dismiss as false, or foolishness, that which they cannot see. Simply because you cannot see spirits, should you claim that nobody else can? Sit real tight and let us re-examine an incident that occurred away back about the year B.C. 1056. Saul was in serious trouble, both with man and with God. In a last desperate bid to get a word from God, he wanted to get in touch with the prophet who, in his lifetime gave so many messages to the king. Now listen clearly to what the biblical record states. ‘And the king (Saul) said unto her (the witch of Endor), Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. And he said unto her, what form is he of? And she said, an old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived THAT IT WAS SAMUEL insomuch that Saul stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?’ etc. 1 Samuel. 28:13-20. Please read all the verses from 13 to 20. Why would Samuel be ‘brought up’ as we just showed above? It is obvious that Saul could not see Samuel because he asked the witch to describe what form the old man had. But Samuel was able to rehearse in Saul’s ears all the things that God had said before through the very mouth of Samuel when he was alive. Listen to the conclusion drawn by Samuel… ‘Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hands of the Philistines: ‘and ‘tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me, etc.’ 1 Sam. 28:19. Now read on! ‘And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in Mt. Gilboa.’ 1 Sam. 31:8. I pray, tell me my friend, Was not that the very outcome spoken by Samuel (up from the grave) to Saul the day before? Say it was not Samuel if you wish! The fact is that a spirit came forth at the bidding of the witch of Endor. He knew all about king Saul. Not only about his past, but also about his future.” –End quote.
I would quote briefly from the inspired writings of George Hawtin. “Sweet mystery of life, at last we’ve found Thee! And we have found that Thou, O Christ, art life – not that life which flourishes as grass in the field today and tomorrow the wind passes over it and it is gone, nor life like ours, which is as a mist which the wind driveth away, but life aionian, life everlasting, life eternal, life evermore, the life of the ages. Well spoke our beloved Lord when He said, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, HATH EVERLASTING LIFE, and shall not come into condemnation; but IS PASSED FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE,’ or as Rotherham has translated it, ‘hath passed over out of death into life’ (Jn. 5:24). It is a wonderful hour in the experience of any man when he passes from death ‘across to life,’ and that is exactly what happens when we believe on Christ. As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; and to all who believe on Him life is given, even that eternal life which God Himself is and which abounds like rivers of living water within us when Jesus Christ comes in to abide. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is every man that trusteth in Him! With this wonderful realization firmly abiding in our hearts we are better prepared to grasp the truth Christ clearly gave us when He said, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live’ (Jn. 5:25). Think on that statement, child of God. Was not Jesus telling us that we are dead as dead can be? And did He not make two remarkable statements – first, the hour is coming, and second, the hour now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live? Have not we who have believed proven the truth of this in our very spirit and in our experience? The greatest proof in the universe that Jesus Christ is alive forevermore is the fact that, when we believed, He came to dwell within us. He who is alive forevermore, has come to us that we might live also… and has raised us up together with Himself to share with Him the life of the ages” – end quote.
Yet some tell us that the dead are dead – that there is no life or consciousness or being for the child of God apart from or beyond or above physical existence – should you lay this tabernacle aside there is nothing – you cease to exist – you are gone! I do not hesitate to tell you that it is a wicked lie, a monstrous deceit, and a dreadful denial of the life we have now been given in Christ Jesus. Let’s get right down to the brass tacks here. Do you want to hear the truth beyond all the superstitions you’ve heard, beyond all the emptiness and hopelessness of Old Testament economy? Eternal life is first and foremost spiritual, not physical. To hear some preachers teach it one would think that a man cannot possess eternal life except it be manifest on a physical level – in an immortal body. I think that no man understands the first thing about life out of death who misses the clear and unmistakable understanding given by Paul in his words to the Romans, “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:10). The body is dead, just as God told Adam it would be. So for the man who has received Christ his body is still dead because of sin, but his spirit is alive because of righteousness – Christ’s righteousness, of course, for there is none other, the righteousness that comes with Him when we believe into Him and He gives us Himself and with and by Himself His life. This life which even now is reality within us is that life and immortality which has been BROUGHT TO LIGHT through the gospel. Hear and believe the wonderful news, precious friend of mine, YOUR SPIRIT IS ALIVE BECAUSE OF THE INDWELLING CHRIST! We have been QUICKENED by the Spirit, BORN of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God that liveth and abideth forever. We know that we HAVE PASSED from death unto life, the scripture says. You who WERE DEAD hath He quickened. He has MADE US ALIVE and RAISED US UP (resurrection) and made us sit together in the heavenly places with Christ. God HATH GIVEN unto us eternal life. He that has the Son HAS LIFE. If any man be in Christ he IS A NEW CREATION. Now, I ask, if we have been quickened, made alive, born of incorruptible seed, passed from death to life, raised up, etc. and are then unconscious – TOTALLY DEAD – when the body, the outer man passes away – what IS THIS LIFE THAT WE NOW POSSESS IN EARTHEN VESSELS? What do we have above and beyond any sinner, any unregenerated, any unquickened, and dead man on earth? What IS this life we have received? What IS this birth? What is this resurrection, for, “If ye then BE RISEN with Christ, seek those things which are above where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.” The life we have is HIS LIFE! And HE is conscious, personality, being! This life we have in our SPIRIT! If others want to die and be unconscious, alright. But since I have been given power to become a child of God I have an identity (spirit) as the offspring of God, and just as a fleshly baby possesses the being, personality, and consciousness of its parent, so I possess the being, personality (although immature) and consciousness of my parent -GOD. If I could die and be unconscious THEN GOD IS DEAD! The testimony of scripture is that the body returns to the earth from whence it came, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. So far as the body is concerned, and that which is done “under the sun,” the dead are dead and there is no remembrance in the grave, nor do the dead praise God. Attend any funeral and you will see the truth of that! Spirit is another matter. Either man does not have a spirit, or the spirit of man is conscious beyond the death of the outer man. II Cor. 5:6-9 speaks of being at home in the body, or being absent from the body and being present with the Lord. And that both states involve spiritual union with God is indicated when Paul says, “Wherefore we labor, that whether present or absent, WE MAY BE ACCEPTED OF HIM” (vs. 9). In Phil. 1:23-24 Paul says, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance…” Which he did for a number of years. All the MYSTICS throughout the centuries believed in the consciousness of the spirit after death. If we have a spirit IT MUST BE CONSCIOUS. I personally know three or four people who have died and been raised from the dead. One was dead for several hours – no, two of them were dead for several hours. ALL of them were conscious apart from the body and saw and heard and spoke in the spirit realm – all were in communion with Jesus in the realm of Spirit, and all “came back into” their body. Those who minister the finality of death – when your body dies you’re dead and gone, non-existent – minister under the blindness of the OLD COVENANT, the ministration of death. They know not that the Christ has come and given us life, they understand not that Christ IS NOW the resurrection and the life, they comprehend not the glad truth that eternal life is even now a glorious and eternal reality in “the inner man which is renewed day by day,” they, like the patriarchs and the prophets under the Old Testament, and like the Jews to this very day, are still awaiting the Saviour and looking to some future day for the resurrection, totally oblivious to the wonderful fact that “If ye then BE RISEN with Christ, seek those things which are above (in that higher realm of the spirit, where your eternal life is), where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). I am here to tell you that CHRIST IS COME! I proclaim to you today the glad tidings of the NEW TESTAMENT, the ministration of life! God has anointed me to declare the RESURRECTION WHICH I-S, not one that shall be! Those who minister the finality of death minister the Old Covenant and know nothing as they ought to know and have seen nothing – the heavens have never been opened to them. Their ministry is not one of faith and hope and present reality, but of fear of death and a sense of foreboding and depression. They know not the life that transcends the body, the life that is first of all realized spiritually rather than soulishly or physically. Death is emphasized, dramatized, its power glorified by men who minister, not out of the power of life, but out of the fear of death. It is the fear of death that drives many in this hour to seek the immortality of the body. And make no mistake! “If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead SHALL ALSO QUICKEN (MAKE ALIVE) YOUR MORTAL BODIES by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:11). That is the hope yet to be fulfilled in and through the manifested sons of God. But I say to all who have not the consciousness of that eternal life which is already yours, that resurrection in which you are already raised, that eternal consciousness, existence and being you already are, I say to those who are striving for physical immortality because of the fear of the finality of death – Christ has already come and Himself partook of flesh and blood, that through death He might destroy death, and might DELIVER THEM WHO THROUGH FEAR OF DEATH ARE ALL THEIR LIFETIME SUBJECT TO BONDAGE. Under the Old Testament life and immortality had not yet been fully brought to light. No wonder the old saints often lived and spoke as those subject to bondage! No wonder they emphasized the power of death, the hopelessness of death, the finality of death! But how sad that the redeemed of Jesus Christ, His brethren, so often prove that they know so little of the deliverance and life he has given and the song of joy: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory, through Christ our Lord!” My brother! art thou living in the full experience of this blessed truth? He delivers from the fear of death and the bondage it brings, changing it into the joy of knowing that “we have passed from death unto life!”
Since then, we have been made alive because of our spirit being quickened by His Spirit, Paul leads us on to another marvelous truth which I fear multitudes of earnest believers are failing to see, including some elect saints of God. “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who HATH ABOLISHED DEATH, and HATH BROUGHT life and immorality to light through the gospel” (II Tim. 1:9-10). The Word of God is true. It is not a silly fairy tale or a superstitious myth. It is not a lie. Men are liars. God is true. And when God says, “Christ, who hath abolished death,” we poor puny worms of the dust had better believe it, and cease calling God a liar by telling Him He is wrong. For “he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar” (1 Jn. 5:10). Oh, read it and re-read it and rejoice in it with joy unspeakable and full of glory! Through His thirty-three years of death Christ hath abolished death and through the power of His glorious resurrection He has brought that resurrection life into us so that it is wonderfully true that “when we were dead…He hath quickened us together with Christ…and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5- 6). But now someone is going to ask us why it is that, if death is abolished, men continue to die. The answer is, of course, men do not continue to die. Oh, we know their bodies go to the grave. And we call this death. It is not death. God does not call it death. Those who equate death with a body in a coffin know absolutely nothing about death. Ye who were dead hath He quickened! I was lying neither in a coffin at the funeral parlor nor in a dark hole in the ground when I was quickened and made alive in Christ. Death was not my body in a coffin, and the life I have received is not an immortal flesh-body. Don’t you see? What men call death is not death, and what men call life is not life. Only when the Holy Spirit enables us to see the true nature of all things can we understand a mystery so deep. One man came and by the grace of God tasted death “FOR EVERY MAN.” Mark carefully, He only tasted it. He remained in death for thirty-three and one half years culminating in the death of the cross. He merely sampled it. But He sampled it in the place of every son of Adam. He actually tasted death “FOR EVERY MAN.” Do you believe it? Dare you believe it? The mystery is just this. Jesus died for the whole race of men. When He arose He injected life into the stream of humanity, so that there is a spiritual quality in man that transcends the body realm. It is a dimension of being that even the grave cannot hold. It is that “light” which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, and that light is Christ (Jn. 1:4,9-10). No life beyond the grave? Then Christ did not die and rise again, He did not taste death for every man, He did not give His life for the life of the world, He did not abolish death and bring life and immortality to light! That light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world is the spiritual sense of being, that in man which is eternal and deathless, which God will pursue until it is brought to the image and likeness of God that He may become “All-in-all.” This free gift came (has already come) upon ALL MEN unto justification of life (Rom. 5:18). Can anything be plainer? Any other doctrine is OLD TESTAMENT doctrine, not the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who hath abolished death. Hearken to the Word! One day a poor man, a heartbroken father, came to the Master. His little daughter has passed on. He said, “My daughter is dead” (Mat. 9:18). He thought she was dead. Little did he comprehend that the One who stood before him is the resurrection and the life. But what did the Master say? A strange word for Old Testament saints, for sure. “And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed Him to scorn.” What did He say on another occasion? “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awaken him out of sleep” (Jn. 11:11). Oh yes, a little farther on, because the disciples misunderstood Him, He also said that Lazarus was dead. This which we call physical death is the nearest thing to death that we know. But the New Testament everywhere draws a clear and sharp distinction between death and sleep. What is the difference? you ask. There is a great difference, indeed! A dead man has no life, consciousness or being. But a sleeping man IS STILL ALIVE THOUGH UNCONSCIOUS TO THE WORLD AROUND HIM. And he is STILL CONSCIOUS ON ANOTHER PLANE. Thus, the martyr Stephen “fell asleep” while beholding the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God, and crying with a loud voice into that bright world beyond the mortal, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (Acts 6:54-60). As to the earth realm he was asleep; as to Christ in His glory at the right hand of the Father he was wondrously alive in the spirit. I guess my question would be – do spirits sleep? God is a spirit and He neither slumbers nor sleeps. The soul can certainly sleep, the body may be thought of as sleeping, but the spirit? One quickened and made alive IN CHRIST? One who has passed from death into life? One who knows that he has eternal life? One who is born of God? I DON’T THINK SO! Paul said that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Why would you worry about where you would be or what you would be doing, if you would be PRESENT WITH THE LORD? Do you really think you could consciously be present in spirit with the Lord Jesus and just be floating around like a peeping Tom watching humans do their thing? Or haunting a house? Or being bored? I DON’T THINK SO! Either the Bible tells the truth, or it is a lie. When Jesus said, “He that believeth in me SHALL NEVER DIE” – either no one has ever believed in Him in the past 2,000 years including His own apostles, or no one who has trusted in Him has ever died, or He lied. It has to be one of those three ways! I don’t believe he lied, and I don’t believe there has not been one single person who has believed on Him for two millenniums. So, evidently, there are quite a few people whose bodies are in the grave – but they LIVE! As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him” (I Thes. 4:13-14). This passage contains a two-dimensional truth. From the earthly aspect those who have gone by way of the grave sleep; from the heavenly aspect they come with Jesus when He comes, out of the heavenly and spiritual dimension of consciousness and being. Since Jesus came and brought life to men this thing we call physical death is merely a sleep, merely a divine provision on the way to the fullness of life whereby we lay aside this sin-cursed house of clay, to live in the spirit unto God. Paul understood this mystery and wrote of his own destiny: “For me, to live is Christ – His life in me; and to die is gain. If, however, it is to be life in the flesh and I am to live on here, that means fruitful service for me; so I can say nothing as to my personal preference – I cannot choose, but I am hard pressed between the two. My yearning desire is to depart – to be free of this world, to set forth – and be with Christ, for that is far, far better; but to remain in my body is more needful and essential for your sake” (Phil. 1:21-24, Amplified). Peter, too, knew that he had apprehended a life that transcends this physical, for he wrote: “Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me. Moreover I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance” (II Pet. 1:13-15). No morbid tale here of the finality of death, of unconscious non- existence, of darkness and nothingness! Ah, Peter knew that the body was merely a tabernacle, a tent, a house, a covering for the incorruptible life of God in his inner man, the new creation born of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever. Hallelujah!
J. PRESTON EBY
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