These are two very interesting portions of Scripture which have been hard to reconcile, for the one passage seems to teach that when a person dies they are unconscious, and the other teaches that immediately after death a person is indeed conscious and experiencing either comfort or torment.

In Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 we read, “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more 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 forever in anything that is done under the sun.” Why did King Solomon, the author of this book, believe that “the dead know not anything?” This has troubled many students of the Bible, for they know from many passages in the New Testament, including the portion in Luke 16 that we’ll be considering, that as soon as a person dies they do NOT lose consciousness; they are well aware of their surroundings and they know more than they knew when they were alive on earth. The key to understanding this is found in the fact that Solomon was searching for the meaning of life and death WITHOUT THE AID OF DIVINE REVELATION! We read in Ecclesiastes 1:13, “And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things done under heaven.” In verse 16 he adds, “I communed with my own heart” and in verse 17 he says, “I gave my heart to know wisdom.” Throughout this book Solomon was seeking wisdom but his only traveling companion on his journey was HIS OWN HEART, and NOT the Word of God. Every conclusion he reached was based on human logic and reasoning and not on a revelation from God. So, when he saw a man or woman being buried his heart told him, “That’s the end of that person. They have stopped thinking and feeling and THEY KNOW NOTHING!”

In Luke 16:19-22 we have the Lord Jesus revealing what REALLY happens to a person when they die. He tells us of two men, a rich man and a beggar who died. Of the beggar we read, in verse 22, “the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom,” and in verse 25 we learn that he was “comforted.” His body was buried, but his spirit was transported to heaven and in a conscious state of bliss! Of the rich man we read, in verses 22-24, “The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame’” (NKJV). In verses 27-28 he went on to pray for his brothers who were still on earth…that Abraham would send Lazarus to them to “testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.” The Lord Jesus was clearly teaching that a person does not lose consciousness, but that their spirit is very much alive in either a place of bliss or a place of torment AND that they still possess KNOWLEDGE and FEELINGS.

There are those today who take the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 and teach the terrible doctrine known as “soul sleep”; that “the soul sleeps in death and that consciousness ceases when the last breath is taken.” They are ignorant of what we said above, that Solomon was not teaching what he had learned from God’s revelation, the Bible, but what he had learned through observation and the natural reasoning of his own heart. In the New Testament the true state of man between death and resurrection is made known, for we read in 2 Timothy 1:10 that “our Savior Jesus Christhath abolished deathand brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” What men couldn’t possibly understand about life after death has now been revealed through God’s revelation of His Son! (171.7) (DO)