A Question I Was Asked:

'If our Thoughts Perish, How Can we be Conscious After Death?'

The Actual Question

'In some parts of the Bible we read that when we die "our thoughts perish," how then do we explain that there is consciousness after we die? Please Robin explain this to me so I may comprehend better...'

My Reply

Here is the Scripture you were thinking of:

Psa 146:4: 'His breath goes forth; he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.'

Yes, this is the way it is with death, but is this just looking at things from the perspective of those who remain alive? I don't think we can use such a verse to overturn some clear New Testament comments about the believer's death. Don't forget that revelation is progressive!

Against this, we have the following:

'And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."' (Luke 23:43).

The beggar Lazarus had gone straight to heaven at death (Luke 16:19-23). While this was a parable, we have to ask whether Jesus would purposely set out to deceive regarding what happens at death. Of course, He would not.

Moreover, Paul obviously expected to immediately enter heaven at death in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8. Some have claimed that Paul was talking about the resurrection here, but it appears that he was not since he clearly refers to a state in which he would be '....absent from the body and to be present with the Lord' (verse 8). Souls in heaven are 'absent from the body' whereas the resurrection will be a resurrection of body and soul!

Then we must consider Paul's comments in Philippians 1:20-24; in view of the strong similarity of his comments here to those in 2 Corinthians 5 there seems little doubt that he is also talking here about entering heaven at death, indeed, once again he actually makes this quite clear because, in verse 24, he tells the Philippians that it is more needful for them that he, '...remain in the flesh... - only in heaven are we ever 'absent from the flesh'.
When Paul discusses the resurrection at length in 1 Corinthians 15, he employs totally different terminology.

The Book of Revelation appears to depict the saved in heaven awaiting the resurrection and the restoration of all things (Revelation 6:9-11). While we cannot assume literalism in Revelation, once again it is hard to see that John would have been inspired to write this if martyrs of previous generations were not actually in heaven at this moment.

It is obviously no huge problem for God to place true believers in Heaven since the great prophet Elijah immediately entered Heaven when his mission upon earth was complete.

Hopefully these comments will help.
Robin A. Brace. April 26th 2009.