We first need to understand that we are speaking of two different dimensions: the physical, material world as one and the super-natural, spiritual world as the other. When a person dies, his soul leaves this physical dimension and enters the spiritual one. The natural laws that govern life here are not the same as those that govern life there. Figures of speech are often used to help us understand life beyond the grave. Though the phrase “fallen asleep” is used to speak of physical death, it does not follow that one is unconscious. The cold lifeless body we see when one dies resembles sleep. However, we are unable to see beyond into the spiritual dimension. If it were not for the Scriptures telling us of consciousness and life on the other side of death, we would not know about it. But the Bible gives us several examples of life after death.
The account of the rich and and Lazarus in Luke 16 speaks very plainly of consciousness after death. The rich man was able to: feel pain, see (v.23), speak, think and make requests (v.24), remember (v.28). All this time, life on earth was continuing as usual (vs. 27-31). The thief on the cross was in paradise with the Lord on the day of his death (Luke 23:43). Moses and Elijah stood with Jesus when the Lord was transfigured before Peter and John (Matthew 17:3). The Sadducees erred concerning life after death and Jesus told them that God was the God of the living, not of the dead. He IS (presently) the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, indicating that the Jews’ ancestral fathers were still alive (Mark 12:26). When the Lord comes back to this earth the second time to bring all things to an end, he will bring those who have “fallen asleep” with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:14).
Actually, the question should not be whether one is conscience immediately after death, but whether one is prepared when the time comes. Jesus said “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:40). Whatever the other world Jesus has prepared will be like (we do not know, I John 3:2), what a tragedy it will be to miss it. Jesus said concerning this who die in their sins, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” (John 8:21). “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38) and live faithful (Revelation 2:10)!
— Mikeal R. Hughes —