One recent e-mail took exception to the answer I gave on air. The writer said, in part:
Unfortunately, the first and most convincing lie ever told to humans continues to reverberate down through Earth’s chambers, from one generation to another, thousands of years later: Ye shall not surely die. This cunning lie is unknowingly repeated every time folks are convinced that although a love one dies, they really don’t die, rather they continue to live-on in the presence of God forever. While this may be comforting to each of us, it is a deceit of the devil. To believe that one continues to live forever is to give credence to the immortality of the “soul.” Humans are not immortal. We are mortal. See Job 4:17. Romans 6: 12. Romans 8: 11. 2 Corinthians 4: 11. Man does not have immortality. Immortality is granted to man only at the second coming of Christ. See 1 Corinthians 15: 51-53.So do humans cease to have a conscious existence at death...to enter into some kind of unconscious "soul sleep" or spiritual "suspended animation" that lasts until the second coming of Christ? The writer was sincere, but the verses cited don't teach such a belief. Here's my response to this person...and I hope it's an encouragement to you if you want to know what the Bible says happens to us once we die.
I have to disagree with your line of reasoning. Lazarus did indeed die, which I believe we all agree on since Jesus said that clearly. But he didn't cease to exist at that time. I base that statement on at least four specific passages that describe what happens when someone dies.
The first passage is Luke 16 where Jesus shared the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Though this is a parable, it is still an accurate description by Jesus of what happens to someone at death. Whether the rich man and Lazarus represented real people or were simply "fictitious" names supplied by Jesus as part of the story doesn't matter. A central truth of the parable is the reality of a conscious existence after death. Jesus said that after death righteous Lazarus went to "Abraham's bosom" (v. 22), while the rich man went to "Hades" (v. 23), which is a place of conscious torment. In the parable Jesus taught that both individuals had a conscious existence after death.
The second passage is 2 Corinthians 5:8. "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." Paul's clear point in the passage is that the moment someone dies (and is thus "absent from the body") that person is in Christ's presence in heaven. The person isn't experiencing "soul sleep" or some other form of suspended existence; he or she is transported into the presence of Christ…and Christ is in heaven! It would be hard to state this truth any more clearly than Paul does here.
The third passage is Philippians 1:21-24. Paul was facing the possibility of imminent death, and his prayer was that Christ will be exalted whether he lives or dies. He then explained why the choice was so difficult. To remain alive meant continued service for the Lord, though his personal preference was "to depart and be with Christ." In other words, were he to be put to death, Paul would "be with Christ." And again, where is Christ? He's in heaven!
The fourth passage is Revelation 6. This passage describes individuals who will be killed during the future tribulation period. In verses 9-11 we are introduced to a group who are said to be under the altar in heaven. Specifically it says they are the souls of those who have been slain in the tribulation period. That is, they are dead martyrs. But then the passage says they cry out to God and ask that their deaths be avenged. In response, they are given white robes and told they need to wait a little longer until the rest of their brethren who are to be martyred have also been killed. My point here is that these dead martyrs are said to be in heaven and are described as being conscious and able to communicate with God. They are not in some sort of soul sleep or lack of conscious existence.
This list of passages is not exhaustive. I could go on to mention the fact that Moses and Elijah (who were both dead) were able to return to earth to speak with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17) or that Stephen cried out as he was dying "Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit!" in Acts 7. But my point is that numerous passages in the Bible clearly teach the conscious existence of humans after death.
While the Bible uses sleep as a metaphor to describe death, it also goes on to say much about the conscious existence of humans who have died. And their place of existence—in paradise/heaven or in hades/hell—depends on their personal relationship to God while in this life.
But what about your larger concern that the soul is not "immortal." I can partially agree with you that humans are not "eternal" (I prefer this word over "immortal") in the sense that we have not existed from eternity past. We have a specific "starting point" for our existence at conception. But the Bible does teach that we continue to exist after our physical death. And that existence continues throughout eternity, as Revelation 20 makes clear. We will experience eternal life or eternal death…but both are eternal!