Unlike our bodies, our souls do not die, or decay away. Instead they subsist after their separation from the body. This fact alone should make us careful to see to the eternal well-being of our souls. As our souls came to us as God’s free gift, so, when our souls go out of the body, they will appear before Him. He will throw the spirits of the wicked into the lake that flames with fire and brimstone, and He will bind up the spirits of the godly as his jewels in the bundle of life.
It’s coming to all of us. Young or old, whether we’re in the prime of life or feeling a bit past it, eventually our lives here will come to an end. And then what? A recent survey of attitudes to Jesus in the UK found that across all age groups, one of the big questions people have is, “What happens when you die?” The options are stark but we all need to confront reality. Death is not the end, because our souls will all live on. But what kind of existence will it be? And what can we do about it before we come to die? Alexander Nisbet sets out the ancient wisdom of Ecclesiastes in the following updated extract.
Dying Means Going to Our Long Home
As King Solomon puts it in Ecclesiastes 12:5, we are all going to “our long home,” or as the original is, to “the house of eternity,” meaning the state where the soul will be eternally, without any further change.
It is our wisdom therefore, before this time comes, to make sure that we are reconciled to God in Christ. That will provide some suitable consolation for our souls, while our bodies will be [laid in the dust].
Therefore, while we are fit and healthy, we should employ our strength well, to make sure we are at peace with Him who is most high, so that He will not be a terror to us in the evil day (Jer. 17:17). If we have faith, then things that may present themselves as terrifying to others, will be no cause of fear to us.
Some people think that the best they will ever get is in this present life, and they promise to themselves that they will enjoy things on earth perpetually. Yet they shall find themselves after a little while miserably disappointed. They shall find that this is not their home. It would be wiser for them instead to look on their mansions here as short-stay residences, and to think of themselves as strangers and pilgrims, that so they would give all diligence to ensure they will have everlasting habitations.
After death there is no change of the state of souls as to their misery or the blessedness. They must remain for ever either with Satan in his prison, or with Christ in His Father’s house.
Death Affects Both Soul and Body
Solomon summarises our future state after death, making reference to both body and soul, the two principal parts of which we are made up: “Then shall the dust return to the earth, as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccles. 12:7).
The body, Solomon calls “dust,” because it was formed out of the dust (Gen. 2:7). When the body is separated from the soul, it is the most vile and loathsome piece of dust of all. He says it “returns to the dust,” because it is ordinarily buried in the earth, to remain there till the resurrection, and because it is in effect the same substance as the dust of the earth.
The more noble part is the soul, here called the “spirit” because it is immaterial, and because of its resemblance to God, the Father of spirits. The soul “returns to him who gave it.” This does not mean only the souls of the godly, but rather it is the common state of the souls of all humans after death.