Where Are the Dead? 

Ecclesiastes 3.18–21

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • December 21, In the Year of our Lord 2014


  1. Ecclesiastes 3 shows what I believe most of us sense, 
    1. that while we die as the animals do,
    2. we seem to think or believe there is more to our deaths.
      1. We sense that we somehow survive the death of the body.
      2. So, how are we different from the animals?

        18 I said in my heart, “Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.” 19 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. 21 Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?” (Ecc 3.18–21).

        1. Are we different from the animals because
          1. our spirit goes upward and
          2. the spirit of the animal goes downward?
        2. How can we know what happens after death?
        3. How can we know where the dead are?
          1. The only thing we can do is ask the one who made us.
          2. He delivered the Scriptures to us to prepare for the moment of death.
  2. Moreover, life prepares us for the moment of death. 
    1. Our lives determine what happens after death.
    2. Is this not why we became Christians?


  1. First, We Die 
    1. The spirit separates from the body.

      26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (Jam 2.26).

      1. Does the spirit die or the body?
      2. We see what happens to the body, but what happens to the spirit?
        1. The body ceases its animation, but
        2. the spirit continues its animation.
    2. The spirit does not cease to exist, but lives on.

      31 “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt 22.31–32).

      1. What word, and tense of that word, did Jesus use to make His argument?
      2. He spoke of the word, “am,” which is a present tense verb.
        1. When God spoke to Moses, God was still the God of the patriarchs.
        2. If the patriarchs had ceased existing at death, how would God have made His declaration to Moses?
          1. He would have said, “I was the God of…”
          2. Therefore, the spirits, the true persons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
            1. were living at the time of Moses,
            2. though not on the earth.
  2. Second, The Body Returns to the Earth

    7a Then the dust will return to the earth as it was…
    (Ecc 12.7a)

    1. It stays there waiting for the resurrection.
    2. See First Corinthians 15
  3. Third, The Spirit Returns to God

    7b And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
    (Ecc 12.7)

    1. Just as James 2.26, this shows the spirit and the body as different entities.
    2. When the spirit inhabits the body, the body lives.
    3. Therefore, Acts 7 shows Stephen pleading for Jesus to receive his spirit,

      59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7.59).
  4. Fourth, The Spirit in the World of the Spirit 
    1. Luke 16 shows what happens to a man
      1. immediately after death and
      2. where he went.

        22 “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried (Luke 16.22).

        1. The angels carry the righteous to Abraham’s bosom.
        2. Somehow the wicked end up in a place of torment, but
          1. the Bible does not say how they get there.
          2. Jesus wanted us to know that after the moment of death, the experience is
            1. pleasant for the righteous, but
            2. unpleasant for the wicked.
    2. What about Abraham’s bosom?
      1. Literally the angels took Lazarus to the man Abraham.
        1. This harmonizes with what Jesus said in Matthew 22
        2. that Abraham was still living at the time of Moses and beyond.
      2. However, why was Lazarus taken to Abraham?
        1. What things does the Lord have us do once we reach wherever we are going?
        2. He must have us do things.
          1. Concerning Abraham, the Bible refers to him as our father.
          2. Compare: Luke 1.73; 3.8; 16.24, 30; John 8.39, 56; Acts 7.2; Rom 4.1, 12, 16; Jam 2.21
      3. We also understand this to be Paradise.
        1. In Luke 23 Jesus indicated that He was going to Paradise,

          43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23.43).
        2. In Second Corinthians 12 Paul seems to reference himself as going to Paradise,
          1. possibly because of a fatal beating he received, but
          2. he came back, that is, was resurrected,

            4 …how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter (2Co 12.4).

            1. What do we experience in Paradise at Abraham’s side?
            2. Whatever it is, Paul could not tell us!
        3. In Revelation 2 Jesus made a promise to those who overcome,

          7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Rev 2.7).

          1. Yet, Revelation 22 shows the tree of life in heaven,

            1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Rev 22.1, 2).
          2. To experience what Lazarus experienced, and what we experience in heaven are both paradises.
      4. Paul also referred to this place as the third heaven,

        2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter (2Co 12.2–4).

        1. What is the first heaven? The sky
        2. What is the second heaven? The cosmos
        3. What is the third heaven? The home of the righteous dead
    3. Luke 16 says that the rich man went to Hades,

      23 “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16.23).

      1. This does not mean Hades is a place of torment only, but
        1. that the rich man went to the place of torment in Hades.
        2. We know Hades includes more than torment:
          1. In Acts 2 Peter quotes David in Psalm 16 for the resurrection of Jesus,

            25 “For David says concerning Him:
            ‘I foresaw the LORD always before my face,
            For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
            26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;
            Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
            27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
            Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’”
            (Acts 2.25–27)
          2. Notice verse 27 especially.
            1. The soul of Jesus would not remain in Hades.
            2. He would not see corruption, that is,
              1. His flesh would not decay, because
              2. His soul would reenter His body.
          3. Therefore, verse 26, His flesh rested in hope, the hope of the resurrection.
          4. Remember what Jesus told the thief on the cross.
            1. Where would they both go?
            2. They would go to Paradise.
              1. If Hades is torment only,
              2. then how do we explain Jesus going to Paradise?
          5. Therefore, Hades is the place where all the dead go.
            1. In Hades there is a place of Torment and
            2. there is a place of Paradise.
      2. Something separates the two places,

        26 “And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us” (Luke 16.26).
    4. The spirits in Hades do not remain there forever.
  5. Fifth, Waiting for the Judgment 
    1. Revelation 20.11–15
    2. Eternity begins with the righteous in heaven and the wicked in hell (Matt 25.31–46).
  6. What is the point of the Judgment? 
    1. If our eternal destiny is sealed at death, and
      1. if the wicked and righteous are separated in Hades
        1. where the righteous experience Paradise and
        2. where the wicked experience torment,
      2. why is there a need for the Judgment?
    2. Hades is a holding place for the people who die before God ends all things.
      1. Notice Jude 6 refers to a waiting period, although for angels, it is the same idea.
      2. Revelation 20.11–15 shows Hades giving up those in it for the Day of Judgment.
    3. At the Judgment we shall give an account to God.
      1. However, rendering an account does not seem to happen in Hades.
      2. Ecc 12.13, 14
      3. Matt 12.36
      4. Matt 25.31–46
      5. John 5.28, 29
      6. Rom 14.10–12
      7. 2Co 5.10
  7. If not in Hades, then in Heaven and Hell each will receive according to what he has done in degrees. 
    1. There are degrees of reward in Heaven, and
    2. degrees of punishment in Hell, because
      1. there are degrees of sin and
      2. there are degrees of good works.
    3. Luke 12.42–48
    4. John 19.11
    5. 1Co 3.11–15
  8. First Corinthians 15 and the Resurrection 
    1. 1Co 15.1–8 The Gospel

      1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time (1Co 15.1–8).

      1. What four components of the Gospel did Paul reveal? (Look for “that”)
        1. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
        2. Christ was buried.
        3. Christ rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
        4. Christ was seen by many witnesses.
      2. How many total people did Paul list as witnesses to the resurrection? 527+
      3. How many different people did Paul list as witnesses to the resurrection? 514+
      4. How many witnesses did the Law require to establish someone’s word?
        1. Deuteronomy 17 and 19 state that it had to be 2 or 3 witnesses.
        2. Paul did not list the women who saw Jesus, unless they are among the 500.
    2. 1Co 15.9–11 Paul’s Status

      9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed (1Co 15.9–11).

      1. This explains why Paul believed he was, “born out of due time.”
        1. What was his explanation?
        2. Least of the apostles because he persecuted the church of God.
      2. Yet, how did Paul manage to become an apostle?
        1. The grace of God made Paul what he was.
        2. As an apostle he worked hard.
      3. However, what mattered to him?
        1. That the good news was preached.
        2. That the Corinthians believed.
    3. 1Co 15.12–19 Consequences of Denying the Resurrection

      12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable (1Co 15.12–19).

      1. What was the third point of the Good News according to verse 4?
        1. That Christ was raised from the dead.
        2. What did Paul just say had been preached at Corinth?
          1. The Good News concerning Jesus Christ, which included the resurrection.
          2. What had the Corinthians believed?
            1. They believed all points of the Gospel, including the resurrection.
            2. Yet, some in Corinth claimed there is no resurrection.
      2. To deny the resurrection sets off a series of implications:
        1. That Christ was not raised.
          1. That would mean preaching is empty.
            1. That would mean further preachers were false witnesses.
          2. That would also mean their faith was empty.
            1. That would mean their were still in their sins.
        2. That would mean the dead have no hope.
        3. That would mean we are to be pitied for what we have given up and suffered.
    4. 1Co 15.20–23 The Order of the Resurrection

      20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming (1Co 15.20–23).

      1. What it means that Christ was raised from the dead.
        1. He is the firstfruits of the dead.
        2. His resurrection means that we shall be resurrected.
      2. Since by man came death, by another Man we shall have life again.
      3. There shall an order at Christ’s coming.
    5. 1Co 15.24–28 The End

      24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all (1Co 15.24–28).

      1. When does the end occur?
        1. It occurs at Christ’s coming.
        2. Notice Paul did not say that is the beginning.
          1. At Christ’s coming He does not set up His kingdom.
          2. It is already set up and He delivers it to the Father.
            1. This happens when God ends all earthly rule, authority, and power.
            2. Jesus continues to reign until all His are under His feet.
      2. What is the last enemy?
        1. Death is the last enemy.
        2. That means Jesus reigns at the current time in His kingdom.
          1. He does not set up His kingdom after the resurrection.
          2. His kingdom on Earth ends with the resurrection.
      3. Who put all things under the feet of Jesus?
        1. The Father did.
        2. Does “all things” include the Father?
          1. No, He is not under the feet of the Son, but
          2. the Son submits Himself to the Father.
      4. Do you see so far how much depends upon the truth of the general resurrection?
    6. 1Co 15.29–34 More Consequences of Denying the Resurrection

      29 Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? 30 And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? 31 I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” 33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame (1Co 15.29–34).

      1. If there is no resurrection, and the kingdom will not be turned over to the Father,
        1. What about baptizing for the dead?
          1. That is, is not our baptizing about a resurrection?
          2. Rom 6
        2. Since we are dead in sin, we are buried, then raised to walk in newness of life.
          1. If there is no resurrection, we have not been raised to walk in new life.
          2. Why then would we be baptized?
      2. If there is no resurrection, why stand in jeopardy constantly?
        1. Paul died daily that he might be resurrected and live forever.
        2. Why endure the frightful experience of being thrown to the Roman beasts, if there is no advantage?
          1. If we will not be raised, let us live it up!
      3. Why did Paul insert the truth that evil company corrupts good habits?
        1. This was probably the motive of those who denied the resurrection.
        2. They wanted to live an immoral life.
          1. Therefore, do not let their false doctrine lead you astray.
          2. Reawaken yourself to righteousness.
    7. 1Co 15.35–57 The Resurrection of the Dead Explained

      35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. 37 And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. 40 There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:
      “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
      55 “O Death, where is your sting?
      O Hades, where is your victory?”

      56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1Co 15.35–57).

      1. How will the resurrection happen and what kind of body will we have?
      2. The resurrected body differs from our initial body
        1. as much as a plant differs from the seed,
        2. as much as the flesh of men differs from the flesh of animals, fish, and birds,
        3. as much as celestial bodies differ from terrestrial bodies.
      3. How the resurrected body differs from our current bodies:
        1. The first is corruptible, the second is incorruptible.
        2. The first is dishonorable, the second is honorable.
        3. The first is weak, the second is powerful.
        4. The first is natural, the second is spiritual.
        5. The first is dust, the second will be like Christ’s body.
      4. The reason for this change.
        1. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God in heaven.
        2. The resurrection shall cause a sudden change at the trumpet that will announce Christ’s coming.
        3. Then death will end.
    8. 1Co 15.58 Abound in Your Work

      58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1Co 15.58).

      1. Therefore, stay engaged in good works.
      2. There is a resurrection and what you do counts with the Lord.