In the present state of public sentiment, if you say “No” to this question, you are supposed to favour the common belief that man is immortal, and exists in death as much as in life. If you say “Yes” you are supposed to deny all religious beliefs.
But there is a ground on which neither one answer nor the other would express the absolute truth. It is the middle ground resulting from the acceptance of the Bible as the only teacher in the case. The believer of the Bible holds that man is mortal, and that, in the death state, he has ceased to exist for the time being, but that a future life will be brought about by the resurrection of those who are rendered responsible by knowledge of the Gospel at the return of Christ to the earth. Consequently, these believers could only answer the question by saying, “In some cases death ends all, and in some it does not; but in all cases, death is death while it lasts”.
1. Death ends all in some cases.
“I am as a man that hath no strength: free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more” (Psa. 88:4-5). “The army and the power, they (Chaldeans) shall lie down together; they shall not rise: they are extinct” (Isa. 43:14-17). “They shall be as though they had not been” (Obad. 16). “Like sheep, they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them” (Psa. 49:14).
2. Death does not end all in other cases.
“God shall redeem my soul from the power of the grave; for he shall receive me” (Psa.49:15). “Though … worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:26). “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake” (Dan. 12:2). “He will swallow up death in victory” (Isa. 25:8). “The righteous hath hope in his death” (Prov. 14:32).
3. But death is death in all cases while it lasts, because –
(a) Man is a creature of the dust, and not an immaterial entity dwelling in a body.
“The first man is of the earth, earthy (1 Cor. 15:47). “God formed man of the dust of the ground” (Gen. 2:7). “He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust” (Psa. 103:14). “I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27).
(b) Death comes to all men because of sin.
“By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men” (Rom. 5:12). “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). “By man came death … In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:21, 22). “The sentence of death in ourselves” (2 Cor. 1:9). “. . . This corruptible . . . this mortal” (1 Cor. 15:53, 54).
(c) In death there is a suspension of all facully and consciousness and of existence itself.
“In death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave, who shall give thee thanks?” (Psa. 6:5). “The grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth”(Isa. 38:18). “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psa. 146:4). “The dead know not anything … their love, their hatred, and their envy is now perished” (Eccl. 9:5, 6). “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goest” (Eccl. 9:10).
(d) The righteous dead have not entered upon their reward, and if there is no resurrection of the dead, they are perished for ever.
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises but having seen them afar off” (Heb. 11:13). God gave Abraham “none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession . . . ” (Acts. 7: 5). “These all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Heb. 11:40). “Glorified together” (Rom. 8:17). “. . . The time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great” (Rev. 11:18). “If Christ be not raised … then they which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (1 Cor. 15:17-18). “What advantageth it me, if the dead rise not?” (1 Cor. 15:32).
There are a few passages of Scripture that seem to teach the view, which used to be commonly held, that man lives in death, and passes into a state of happiness or misery (in heaven or hell) according to the tenor of his present life; but a close examination will show that they do not teach this in reality, but only because of the preconception already in the mind in favour of the Greek philosophical doctrine of the “immortality of the soul.” The passages in question are all discussed in detail in other publications, and shown to be in harmony with the Bible doctrine of the mortal nature of man.