Does man cease to exist? Is his body buried never to be seen again? Does he come back in another form – either human or animal – and continue to live on earth? Is man of a dual nature – physical and spiritual? Does his spirit continue to live in another state to wait for the time when it will rejoin his body at the great resurrection day? If that is the case, where does his spirit go following his physical death? Are the dead in a state of consciousness? Are they aware of activity on earth? These and many other questions flood the mind when reflecting upon this subject. Especially do these questions fill our minds when we attend a funeral.
The concept of life after death is not based on scientific discovery or philosophical conclusions. The study belongs to a realm of experience of which science knows nothing. No one has ever crossed the dreaded gulf that separates time from eternity and returned to bring tidings of their experience on the opposite shores of mortality. A few have made this phenomenal trip from an earthly life, to death, and back to earthly life again, but no one in the Bible has their experience recorded. While the Old Testament furnishes sufficient information to conclude that man continues to live on the other side of the grave, it is the New Testament that sheds further light on the subject.
There are eleven occurrences of the word Hades in the New Testament. One of the most familiar references is made by Jesus in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31). Both were in Hades, but one suffered while the other was comforted. Death, then, is not the cessation of life; it only marks the change from one state to another. When physical death occurs, the spirit separates from the body and continues to live in Hades even though the body is buried in the earth (Jas. 2:26).