So, what happens to our spirit bodies once we die? The Preacher tells us they return to God who gave it:
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7)
At first glance, verse 7 presents somewhat of a conundrum to the order of heaven. If it is true, then unrighteous spirits will be allowed into heaven. If it is false, then we have a mistranslation or, certainly, a misunderstanding.
However, upon reflection, I noticed that verse 7 doesn’t say “heaven”; it says “God”. But if God doesn’t infer heaven, the place where God is said to dwell, then what does it mean?
We know that when one dies, there is a gulf between the righteous and the unrighteous, which implies there is a judgment at death. We know of this gulf because Jesus mentioned it in the Parable of the Rich Man.
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
“and he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (Luke 16:19-31)
Therefore, when one dies, some sort of judgment is immediately executed and, according to this parable, one is either assigned to “Abraham’s bosom” or some other place called hell. And once assigned to these places of judgment, one cannot pass from one location to the other — in either direction.
I like to call these places of judgment the “world of spirits”, or “spirit world”, for that appears to be the place where spirits go when they die, at least according to these verses. Therefore, I believe, in Ecclesiastes 12:7, the spirits of the deceased are brought into the presence of God where God assigns them to either of these two places.
This does not imply that those spirits are brought into heaven. This can be done right here on earth, for God’s presence is everywhere through the Holy Spirit. We know that his presence is with us even in mortality, whether we feel it or not.
Neither of these two places in the world of spirits is heaven, where God dwells, nor the hell of the final judgment. In other words, these spirits are still removed from the “physical”, if you will, presence of God because there is a gulf affixed between the two places. Therefore, we may say that the separation of the spirit from the body represents a first death, and the removal of the spirit from the “physical” presence of God represents a second death.
Lest you be offended by this, remember that Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the garden. Genesis 3:8-13 is a good example of this:
And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.
And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.