Death and the Resurrection in Light of the Cross
avatar’s that time of year when the leaves spring back onto barren trees and flowers bloom back to life. Every spring reminds me of the second coming and resurrection. I believe God lets everything die in the winter and come back in the spring to demonstrate for us His re-creation and resurrection power. Just as sure as the trees that seem to die in the fall have new life in the spring, we can be sure our sleeping loved ones in Christ will be brought back at the second coming. Sometimes we take it for granted that we all know what happens when you die, but recently I have met people even in the church who have some questions. It is okay to have questions.

We should never assume someone knows it all just because they are in church. This may sound funny, but while growing up a Seventh-day Adventist, attending our schools, there was a lot that I was told I knew even though I was never taught it. For example, I was told by one of my teachers, that I was fortunate to go to a school where I was taught and understood the cleansing of the sanctuary. Reality check: While I grew up in a school where I was told I was taught and understood the the cleansing of the sanctuary I was never actually taught it! I was just told that I was taught it. So of course I was too embarrassed to ask questions, since I was already supposed to know. Finally in my mid-twenties, I realized I was not going to learn any younger, and I started asking questions. So I understand when people in the church have questions. Since I have met some people lately who tell me they are not sure what happens when you die, I thought this might be a good time to share the study “Death in Light of the Cross” from the “In Light of the Cross Bible Study Guides.” By the way, there is also a Spanish version available.



Death is a state of unconscious sleep. The dead do not know anything at this time and are not awakened until the last trump at Christ’s second coming. See Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, Job 14:12, 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Why is it important to know the truth about death:

The teaching that you don’t really die is a lie Satan started in the Garden of Eden when he told Eve, “Ye shall not surely die.” By telling this lie Satan hoped to get Eve and all mankind to believe that there is really no consequence for disobeying God. He also wants us to believe that we are all immortal even if we have no relationship with God. This opens the door for spiritualism in which people may actually communicate with the devil and his angels, thinking they are speaking with their loved ones.

Our salvation does not come from knowing what happens when we die. Our salvation is found alone in God’s love. However, no lie is ever harmless, and when Satan told the lie, “Ye shall not surely die,” not only was he lying, but he was also calling God a liar.

Why understanding death in the light of the cross is important:

If you don’t really die, then Jesus did not really die for us, and we still need a Savior. The lie that we don’t really die destroys the cross and everything Jesus endured and accomplished on it. If Jesus was not really tasting death like Hebrews 2:9 says He did, then we have just minimized the cross to a six-hour pain endurance marathon.

I remember sitting in a funeral for a little girl who was hit and killed by a car. Her mother sat on the front pew, sobbing uncontrollably. Meanwhile the pastor talked about how happy the little girl and Jesus were right now up in heaven. Do you know how cruel that made Jesus look to the poor mother? Would Jesus tear a mother’s heart apart just to go have fun with her daughter? I think not! The little girl is resting in her grave and will be united with Jesus in heaven when the mother is reunited with her at the second coming.

For Further study on Death:

What did Adam become?

And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7

What returns to God?

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:7

What is the spirit?

All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils; Job 27:3

What does God take that turns the body to dust?

Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Psalm 104:29

What age-old question did Job ask?

But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where [is] he? Job 14:10

What is the Bible answer?

So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens [be] no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. Job 14:12

Do the dead know what happens to the living?

His sons come to honour, and he knoweth [it] not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth [it] not of them. Job 14:21

How much do the dead know?

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. Ecclesiastes 9:56

What did Jesus call death?

These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. John 11:11-14

How long had Lazarus been dead?

Then when Jesus came, he found that he had [lain] in the grave four days already. John 11:17

Did Martha believe Lazarus was in heaven?

Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. John 11:24

What did Mary say?

Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. John 11:32

Was Lazarus called from heaven, hell or the grave?

And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. John 11: 43-44

When are the dead raised?

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 1 Corinthians 15:16-23

When do we receive immortality?

Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 1 Corinthians 15:51-54

Our hope and comfort:

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. for this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Here is some help with texts that are difficult to understand about death and other topics.



Death and the Resurrection in Light of the Cross — 19 Comments

  1. Thank you very much this very important study of death. I hope that as Christians, we study the Bible to know for ourselves what it says about death. Too often we hear our loved ones being in heaven looking down and having a good time there. The truth should be shared everywhere we go and people need to know that we only go to heaven when Jesus returns the second time.

    They also need to know that in order to go to heaven they have to be obedient to God and accept the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for their sins.

    Let us be vigilant in serving, and trusting God and make heaven our goal for hell is for Satan and his followers.

  2. [Moderator Note: Please use full name when commenting]

    Very well put. Sometimes we as Seventh-day Adventist's don't understand death as stated in the Bible. I don't think that people don't read the bible, I think at times we just don't understand what we read, and I am grateful that there are persons out there that God can use to explain the truth to people like me who most times don't understand. You really open my eyes.

  3. I thank the Lord about this topic. What I love is that one day we are going to shine and arise forever. Our bodies will not die, so we must forcus on God not on earthly things for they are going to wither like flowers. I thank the Lord Amen.

  4. While doing a study on this we felt there are passages we need to harmonize with the rest of the Bible - 1. Luke 16:19 - 31 Lazarus dies and goes to heaven, the rich man dies and goes to hades, and therefore some use this passage to explain immortality of the soul. so how best do we explain this ? Our conclusion was that parables do not teach doctrine.

    But the one we found a bit difficult was Acts 7:59 -60 "While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit ...When he had said this, he fell asleep. " .

    And also Luke 23:46 "Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last."

    What did Stephen and Jesus mean by 'spirit'? Did they simply mean the breath of life?

  5. Bothwell, you are on the right track. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus was simply a parable not meant to be taken literally. If you take it literally that he died and went to heaven then you have to also take it literally that we went to Abraham's bosom. Obviously Jesus is just patronizing the Jews. After all, would a drop of water really help the rich man if he was burning in hell? This is obviously just a parable to make a point. Why else do you think the man in the story is named Lazarus who Jesus really did raise from the dead? Jesus ends the parable by saying, "They would not believe though one came back from the dead."

    In Acts 7 and Luke 23 the spirit is simply the breath.

    Thanks everyone for joining the discussion and happy Sabbath!

    • William, thank you for an insight concerning the parable of Lazarus and the rich man that I hadn't thought of before. It does seem to me though that Jesus was hitting on several things besides the raising of Lazarus. Minimally you got me to think about the relationship between the two. From what I can see, apparently the raising of Lazarus came after the telling of the parable since the miracle took place just prior to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is possible; however, that Jesus knowing what was going to happen in a sense might have set the stage for the miracle in telling this parable. Interesting!!

      To me another teaching of the parable that is obvious is our treatment of other people in this life and its relationship to the next one. The rich man ignored the needs of Lazarus and because of his selfishness found himself on the wrong side of the judgment. That also was a problem that the scribes and Pharisees had that Jesus brought out in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

      Another view is one that Ellen White brings out which comes at the end of the parable in the following verses. "Abraham said to him,`They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' And he said,`No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' But he said to him,`If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead'" (Lk. 16:29-31 NKJV).

      The Pharisees were rejecting Jesus even though He was prophesied many times in scripture. The point is that if they didn't believe what the scriptures said about Him they wouldn't believe even if someone like Elijah, one of the great prophets in their eyes, were raised and testified concerning Him. Or for that matter one who was brought back to life by a miracle of Jesus that testified to who He was.

  6. Great study!
    When Lazarus was raised from the dead, the most natural questions would be, 'What was death like? What did you see, feel, touch, smell'?
    If you think about it, mighty Pharaoh s built pyramids to the great mystery... And here, in our grasp is the answer.
    Why isn't there a book of Lazarus, extolling the wonders of the afterlife? The answer is clear! He experienced nothing. 'The living know that they should die, but the dead know not anything'.

    Have a wonderful Sabbath Day!

  7. I pastored one lady who had been "in the truth" for at least 15 years. After I preached a sermon on the state of the dead, she came up to me with questions for clarification. After we prayed and studied the word further, she confessed to me that for the first time in her church experience, she finally understood the state of the dead. I agree with you William when you say that we cannot take it for granted that everyone in the church has been taught and understand all of what we say we believe.

  8. Thank pastor for clarification on this topic. Allow me to comment, The word of God is like sharp knife. As we believed in him and his words that doesn't change for ever and ever then we should not fear of sickness or death because death is swallowed up in victory and i like the scripture that give me hope of life.

  9. Living people sleep. Dead people dont sleep. Word "sleep" , to me, sounds diferent from "dead". Is it a state or is a faith statement that we believe in resurection and because of that call a death state "sleep". If it is a faith statement than there isno need for clarification what state of sleeping of dead people is; if it is oposite than "sleep"is a state in which we are alive but not in corespondence with world. We are silent and not consious.

  10. Hi Goran, Yes being dead is not literally sleeping as you say. It is a figure of speech that Jesus and Paul used, meaning a state of unconsciousness, but would be awaken again.

  11. William, I really appreciate and reading your blogs. I am a recently re-baptised member of the SDA Family and having this rebirth at this time of my life has rejuvenated me in reading God's inspired word and learning more about Him.
    I pray the Lord will continue to bless you as you continue to bless us with your blogs. The Good news is exactly that - Good and wonderful news - and all needs to hear it in order to feel that peace and love that only our Saviour can offer.
    God bless you.

  12. Moderator's Note: "Please use full names. Comments containing first names only may not be published."

    I fully agree with the Introduction as I study I realize how little I actually know and I see that there are a lot of people in my church that don't know as well fear for argument sake because they are completely lost in a conversation. What I have discovered is that Adventist don't list the exceptions verses where they talk about Mind Body and Spirit and Mind body Spirit and Soul with an explanation so sometimes we are talking to a friend telling them the principles that we learn and lo and behold these exceptions come up and we are unprepared for any questions and it really takes the air out of our tires. I would personally like an explanation for these exceptions and I would like to know why the new testament writers seem to talk a lot more about the mind body spirit and should as if they were separate entities. Thank you.

  13. Is any thing to hard for God? Jesus said He was the truth;the way and the Life. He is the tree of Life in the mist of the Garden.Thats why He said Eat Me. Which is a hard saying for some people.Yes all Men and women die but Life is in Him;Jesus Christ.

  14. [Reminder: Please use first and last name when posting comments.]

    Do u know why people say a person who die go to heaven it's because of (the breath of life; and man became a living soul.) These way we have problem and people pray dead people.

    My question is at that time maria and maria from magadala go to grave of God what did they do? coz people say that they bow on a dead person coz they go to GOD and wash the body and do other things. so that’s way I’m having this question. what they show as to do?

  15. I have really learnt a great deal on this lesson. Last week during our youth Sabbath lesson, someone asked on what happens when we die. It turned out that almost everyone did not know the answer to the question. Therefore we assigned each other to go and read more so that we should share the findings when we meet the next Sabbath(January 8th, 2014). I therefore would like to thank you all for your contributions. I will definitely share with my fellow youth in our Sabbath Youth Class. May God grant you more wisdom as you are spreading the good news until the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.


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