Are people conscious after they die?

Caller: Time is taking questions about this whole business of hell and conscious life after death, or whether there is or is not such a thing, and I'd like to call your attention to Ezekiel 32:21. Ezekiel in this chapter has been prophesying against the Pharaoh of Egypt. And it says here in the King James Bible, '...the strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him. They are gone down. They lie uncircumcised slain by the sword....' Now if there is no conscious existence after death and no state of punishment for the wicked, what is that talking about?

Pastor Doug: Well first of all, the Bible doesn't teach that when the wicked are placed in the lake of fire that there is no consciousness. They are very conscious in the lake of fire.We put forth here that the Bible is very clear hell is not burning yet. The Bible says the wicked are reserved to hell in the book of Peter. Jesus said the wicked will be gathered and burned at the end of the world. And many, many Scriptures say that Judgment is the end of the world and so the idea that the wicked are placed in hell before the Judgment day or before the Second Coming is completely without support in the Bible.

But this verse here, when he's talking about they'll speak from hell - and it says in verse 21 they'll speak to him out of the midst of hell - and for our listeners, that's Ezekiel 32:21. In these Old Testament prophecies, it's very common to hear them talk about something inanimate speaking. It talks about the blood of Abel, which speaks and cried to the Lord from the earth. Well it didn't mean the little blood cells were shouting. It's a symbol of calling for vengeance. And here it's talking about those who are suffering the wrath of God's Judgment. There's a message in there that calls out.But the Bible is thoroughly clear from cover-to-cover that hell is not burning yet.

Caller: But who are the ones that verse 21 talks about - 'The strong among the mighty shall speak to him'? Are you saying that's not really talking about actual human speech, it's a symbol of something else?

Pastor Doug: Well let me ask you: do you think people who are burning in hell can speak to the living?

Caller: To the living? No. Here it's talking about when the Pharaoh is actually - when his end comes and he's cast in to hell - uh there will be - those that are already there will speak to him apparently. In verse 31 a little bit later it says that Pharaoh shall see them and shall be comforted over all his multitude. And the verses in between talk about many others who will be overthrown by God and will also be sent to eternal loss.

Pastor Doug: Right. Paul, two things. One is have you ever seen the study guide that we have called Is The Devil In Charge of Hell?

Caller: I believe I've ordered it.

Pastor Doug: Ok well I hope you get it soon because there's a lot of Scripture in there that I don't have time to share right now. Secondly, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, you have the rich man, who's in Hades in that parable, talking to Abraham and you know, this is obviously a symbol because you're not going to have people in hell talking to people in Heaven - do you agree with that?

Caller:That wouldn't be the normal course of events. I don't know whether it would....

Pastor Doug: Well you want to be careful we don't build a doctrine or theology based on one parable. And everything else in the Bible says that the wicked will be consumed, devoured, destroyed, never shall they be anymore. There's no more pain, suffering, sorrow. All things are made new. The Gift of God is eternal life the punishment for sin is death the Bible says.

So the Bible is clear that God is going to cast the wicked into a lake of fire where everyone is punished according to what he deserves. If everybody burns forever, everyone gets the same punishment. If they're burning now, they're being punished before they're even judged. And so some of these teachings have come to us from the Dark Ages, and when you match all the Scriptures up, you'll see there's a lot more support for the teaching, that the wicked are waiting, as Peter says, for their Judgment reserved.

Caller: What's going on in verse 21 where these people - when it says 'they shall speak to him'?

Pastor Doug: Well that's what I was trying to tell you. It's the same language that's used when it says the blood of Abel speaks or if you go to Revelation, it talks about the souls under the alter that are slain for Jesus.

Caller: Right. Right.

Pastor Doug: Do you think that there are conscious souls under an alter that are beheaded crying out? And the Lord says go back to sleep? They wake up and they cry and they go back to sleep? That's a symbol for justice calling out. And God says wait a little longer, I'm talking about Revelation now. He says wait a little longer and your Judgment is going to come, and you'll be vindicated.

Caller: Ok. You don't think that when, the idea how - of being tortured forever - is something that puts the fear of the Lord, which the Bible tells us is the beginning of wisdom, into people's hearts?

Pastor Doug: Well I think that the lake of fire does plenty for me as far as putting that kind of fear of Judgment. And first of all, the motive for serving the Lord must be love. If we're serving the Lord primarily because we're afraid of hell, that will save nobody.

Caller: But it starts - it puts the fear in the unbeliever.

Pastor Doug: Well it might be a starting point, but as I said, for me the images that I find in Revelation of the lake of fire, is sobering enough. It doesn't need to be through eternity.

Caller: It's not eternal, but it's not in an instant either.

Pastor Doug: No. If everyone suffers according to what they deserve, then there are varying degrees of punishment. Obviously people will deserve different things. Jesus said he who knew his master's will and did not do it, will be beaten with many stripes. He who did not know his master's will and did not do it will be beaten with few stripes. So there are varying degrees of punishment.

Caller: But you have no idea of how long it takes?

Pastor Doug: Well, the Bible isn't specific on that. Satan is going to burn for a long time it says day and night, forever and ever for him. And that term there 'forever and ever' means from eon to eon, that means until you're gone. Please do me a favor. As soon as you get that lesson, look it over and tell me what you think, ok?

Caller:All right thank you very much.