Psalms 146:4 KJV
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
Here is an excellent example of why Scripture must be compared with Scripture to come to an accurate and honest understanding of its message. On the face this verse seems to teach that when a man dies he simply ceases to exist. "He returneth to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish."
This is, of course, the teaching of both Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists. Though they would deny the need of Scripture to support them, this is also the claim of the atheist.
But what saith the Lord?
- From the Old Testament account of Saul illegally calling Samuel from the grave, to
- Job's affirmation that, though worms would destroy his body, yet in the flesh he would see God, to
- Jesus' teaching that the rich man died and in hell he lifted up his eyes being in torments
we know that life and thought do not perish with the body.
So what does this verse mean? John Gill says, "...His breath goeth forth,.... That is, the breath of a son of man, of any and everyone of the princes; it goes forth continually, and is drawn in again as long as a man lives; but at death it goes forth, and returns no more till the resurrection: the breath which the Lord breathed into man, and which is in his nostrils while he lives, and is very precarious. And when it is taken away, he dies, and he returneth to his earth; from whence he was taken, and of which he was made; upon which he lived, where he dwelt, and in which he took delight and pleasure, minding earth and earthly things, and which is now all he has; who, though he may have had many large estates and possessions, nay, have ruled over many kingdoms and countries, yet his property of earth is now no more than the length and breadth of a grave; he returns to earth as soon as he dies, becoming a lump of clay; and particularly when he is interred in it, and when by corruption and worms he is turned into it; in that very day his thoughts perish; in the day, hour, and moment he dies: not that the soul ceases, or ceases to think at death; it is immortal, and dies not; and, as it exists in a separate state after death, it retains all its powers and faculties, and, among the rest, its power of thinking; which it is capable of exercising, and does, as appears from the case of the souls under the altar, Rev 6:9. But the meaning is, that at death all the purposes and designs of men are at an end; all their projects and schemes, which they had formed, and were pursuing, now come to nothing; whether to do good to others, or to aggrandize themselves and families; and therefore such mortal creatures are not to be depended upon, since all their promises may fail; nay, even their good designs may be frustrated."