Key verses:Genesis 2:7And 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.1 Kings 17:17And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him.
Today I’d like to speak a bit to the subjects of life and death, and the nature of heaven. These are very complex subjects, and I don’t think I can do them enough justice here. A whole book may not do them enough justice. However, let’s let God speak to us plainly about these concepts. As you can see in the key verses above, the difference between life and death is clear. We are alive due to the breath of life that God breathes into our nostrils. In contrast, we are dead when the breath of life is no longer in us. In the key verses above, the same Hebrew word is used to describe breath, “nĕshamah”. See more info and references here: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H5397&t=KJV.
There are other words used in the Bible to refer to God’s breath, see https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H7307&t=KJV, and in all cases its presence signifies life, while its absence is the sign of death. Therefore, according to the bible, life is a constant, ongoing miracle, not just a one time miracle (birth), as we often might think. God is not only involved in our creation (see Jeremiah 1:5), but He is actively breathing His life-giving breath into us every minute of the day. We may have a constant reassurance that our connection to God is never severed until the hour when His breath departs from us, the hour of our death.
I think this is absolutely magnificent of God. How many times do we feel separated from Him? How many times do we feel utterly alone? The simple act of breathing should be a reminder that God is not very far at all. In prayer, we use that God-given breath to praise our Lord, to ask forgiveness of sins, and to claim the promises He gave to us. Prayer is so much more meaningful when spoken aloud simply because God’s breath is used in the process. Yet, we have all, at one time or another, wasted God’s life-giving breath with swearing, gossip, put-downs, smoking, etc? Those are all a literal waste of God’s life miracle.
If God’s breath in us is life, then when we no longer have breath, we are dead, but even in death there is potential for life. The breath of God can raise the dead. See John 11:11. Jesus tells his disciples that Lazarus is sleeping, and he only needs to be woken up. Clearly, to everyone else, Lazarus was dead. In fact, he was already buried when Jesus arrived. Yet, the breath of God, coming from Jesus, was enough to wake Lazarus from death. Not only did it wake him, but it also repaired whatever damage his short death sleep had caused to his physical body. Like Lazarus, when Jesus was in the grave, dead, the breath of God gave him life and repaired the physical damage caused by torture and death.
This concept, of the resurrection from the dead, is a huge theme in the Bible, not only for Jesus, but for every believer. Right after Jesus died there was a small resurrection of the saints. See Matthew 27:52. That small resurrection was a fore-shadowing of the resurrection that will happen at Jesus’ second coming. See 1 Timothy 4:17. All those who died in faith will be raised up at this resurrection. This leads to a few other conclusions. One, which is most important, is that there are currently no dead people in heaven. Heaven is for people who are alive, which is why the dead require a resurrection. Elijah was alive when he was caught up to heaven in the chariot of fire. Jesus was also alive when he went back to heaven.
Our popular culture has used elements of paganism to explain death, borrowing especially heavily from the Greek tradition of the underworld. See these wiki pages for further information on Greek theology:
There are several flaws with the thought that people go straight to heaven or hell when they die. The main one is that the judgment does not take place until after the second coming of Jesus. How can we be sent to our reward without first being judged, either worthy of heaven, or the fires of hell? And how can we populate heaven when our bodies are yet interred in the earth? The discussion then shifts to the soul, which is meant to be separate from the body, but our key verse (and many others) are clear that a soul is the combination of a physical body and the breath of God. When a person ceases to live, she also ceases to be a soul. Therefore, souls cannot exist separately from the physical bodies of men and women. Heaven is a real physical place, filled with real people who have a corporeal body. There is no such thing as ghosts, and there certainly are no ghouls in heaven. Solomon was very clear about the nature of death. See Ecclesiastes 9:5-6.
This should give us great hope. It’s the final equalizer and the last missing piece in the question of eternal life. Believe that Jesus is alive, and you too can live forever, in a physical body, in a physical heaven, doing much of the same things you are now enjoying. Have you ever wanted to see the whole world? Aim for the eternal life promised by the Saviour. You can then explore every nook and cranny, not only of this Earth, but of the universe. I don’t get why some people think that the point of heaven is to sit on a cloud and play a harp. How boring! God would never design such a pointless place. Have hope that heaven is going to be the most awesome experience you could ever imagine.
With that, I’d like to pray that everyone reading this article claims his or her place in that eternal city of God. If you’ve never thought such things possible, but are yearning for this experience, speak with God, don’t take my word for it. The Bible is the easiest way to understand the mind of God, and His plans for each and every one of us.