Bobby D. Gayton
It staggers my imagination to think of how many humans beings have died since the creation until today. The Holy Spirit said, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James 2:26. The Holy Spirit teaches us that when the spirit leaves the body, the body is dead. Where is the spirit? In Genesis 35:18 we are told, “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin.” Where did Rachel’s soul go? 1 Kings 17:21 says, “And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again.” Elijah stretched himself on the widow’s son who was dead and he prayed that his “soul come into him again.” Where was the soul? In Luke 8:53-55, we find that Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus. We are told, “Her spirit returned, and she rose up immediately.” Where was her spirit? It is obvious that in the examples above that the “soul / spirit” was somewhere! Wherever it was, it returned to the body and brought back life. Death is a separation of the spirit from the body according to James 2:26. The spirit will return to the body at the resurrection when the Earth will be destroyed. However, where did the Old Testament saints go at death?
Wherever the spirits went after leaving the body, they still existed and were conscious. In Luke 20:27-39 (Cf. Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12: 18-27), Jesus tells the Sadducees that God “is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him.” The argument of Jesus was that God is still the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, even though they had been dead a long time. The present tense verb shows that when God met with Moses at the burning bush, He was still God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Since God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, these three still lived somewhere. This proves the existence of a spirit and a resurrection from the dead.
In 1 Samuel 28, we find King Saul going to the witch at Endor to see if she could put him in contact with Samuel. The woman could not do this however, God, could and did. Samuel asked Saul, “Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?” (v. 15). It was not his physical body, not a resurrection; Samuel was not buried in the house of the witch in Endor. Samuel appeared in a form recognizable as human. He came from some place. It should be noted that Samuel did not come down out of heaven but up from out of the earth. This would have been the perfect place for Samuel to tell us that there is no conscious existence, if that were the case.
Another example is Moses and Elijah in the transfiguration scene in Matthew 17:1-18. This was not a resurrection. They appeared in some human form because the apostles recognized them. The spirits were alive, conscious, could communicate and they came from some place to appear with Jesus.
Also, Luke 16:19-31 is another example. It needs to be remembered that all of took place during the Mosaic dispensation with Jews playing the parts in this scene of departed spirits. There is consciousness here, no ceasing to exist. Does not sound like non-existence. One who has ceased to exist would have no memory. No doubt, he was speaking of his existence before his life on earth was terminated. The return of Lazarus to that house would have been a resurrection from the dead. The basic facts of a place for departed spirits are truly given. Jesus and the thief went to Paradise – LK 23:43. Jesus went to Hades – Acts 2:27-31. Therefore, Paradise is the place where the righteous go when they die – LK 16:19-31. Paul “was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” – 2 Corinthians 12:4. How could this be if those in paradise are unconscious? Paul “heard” someone speaking!
Some object by saying that Enoch went to heaven – Hebrews 11:5. This passage only tells us that Enoch did not die as other people died. Nothing is said about where Enoch went. Some object saying that Elijah went directly to heaven – 2 Kings 3:9-13. The Hebrew word here for “heaven” does not refer to the heaven where God dwells but to what the Jews understood as the first heaven, the atmosphere where clouds are and birds fly. The account says he went upward in a whirlwind from the point of view of Elisha who was standing on the ground watching Elijah go up.
Therefore, the conclusion is that there was an intermediate state for the spirit in the Old Testament period. Question: Where did Jesus go when He died on the cross? When Jesus went into Paradise the day He died, where did He go?