Patient In Hospital

The Medical And Biblical Definitions Of Death

Patient On Stretcher

Medical Aspects Of Death

  • When a patient dies a doctor will normally certify that the patient is dead. If the patient is known to the doctor, and the cause of death is known, the doctor will normally issue a Death Certificate, usually with a second doctor.
  • If the cause of death is not known, or uncertain, the doctor will normally refer the case to the local Coroner’s Officer. A post mortem examination will then usually be conducted by a pathologist, who will ascertain the cause of death on the basis of post mortem findings.

Medical Examination To Certify Death

Sadly doctors are invariably very familiar with the examination of dead bodies to certify death. There are certain physical signs which a doctor will normally look for to certify death. These physical signs are as follows:

Examination of the Cardiovascular System: No pulse may be felt at a major blood vessel, such as the carotid artery in the neck. On auscultation of the heart with a stethoscope no heart sounds are heard. If an ECG machine (Electrocardiogram) is connected to the heart, no electrical activity may be detected at the heart, and there is a characteristic flat line tracing on the monitor.

Examination of the Respiratory System: There are no respiratory movements of the chest wall. On auscultation of the chest with a stethoscope no respiratory sounds may be heard. If the patient is connected to a ventilating machine, there are no voluntary movements of the patient’s respiratory system detectable on the machine’s breathing bag.

Examination of the Nervous System: The pupils become dilated due to lack of tone of the muscles of the iris. There are no skeletal muscle reflexes. If an EEG machine (Electroencephalogram) is connected to the brain, no electrical activity may be detected from the brain, and the characteristic electrical brain waves are flat.
Normally a medical doctor’s task is complete when physical death has been confirmed, and a death certificate has been issued.

The electrical equipment above signifies that the patient has died

Biblical Aspects Of Death

The Bible teaches:

  1. We are spirits living in bodies
  2. Without the indwelling spirit, the body is dead.
  3. At death the spirit leaves the body, and returns to God who gave it.
  4. After death there is a judgement.
  5. The spirit is indestructible, and lives on eternally, either in Heaven or in Hell.

The Bible does not deny the physical death of the human body, but states that there is more to the death of a human being than the death of the physical body.

  • The Bible states that a human being consists of a human body, a soul, and a human spirit.
  • The Bible states that the point of death, our human bodies die, and our human spirits leave our bodies.
  • It is important to understand that, according to the Bible, human beings are all human spirits living in physical bodies.
  • The Bible states that when we die our spirits leave our bodies to live in Eternity.
  • The Bible states that after death there is a judgement, and the indestructible spirit lives eternally either in Heaven, or in Hell.

A Human Being Consists Of A Body, A Soul, And A Spirit

In order to fully understand the concept of the human body with an indwelling human spirit we do need to go back to the original Creation of human beings, as described in the Bible. This is covered in greater detail in our teaching Creation: The Genesis Account on this web site.

The Bible is not studied in great detail today by most people. This is a tragedy, since only the Bible tells us how we all got here, and where we are going to!

The Bible is truly supernatural, as clarified in our teaching THE BIBLE IS SUPERNATURAL on this web site. As with most concepts, the simplest and best way to understand anything is to go back to the beginning. According to the Bible, our physical bodies are composed of the same elements as the dust of the Earth. Our bodies also contain a human spirit, which is essential for life.


Adam and Eve were originally created as spirits

Adam and Eve were originally created as spirits, created in the likeness of God. Very soon after that the Lord God created bodies for them, “and man became a living being.”

We start in Genesis 1:26-27, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness’. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

We are told that God is a Spirit in John 4:25, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Therefore, when God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit created something in their exact likeness, they created

Adam And Eve

The spirits of Adam and Eve were created in God’s exact likeness. Remember, God is not a human being, but a Spirit.

In Genesis1:26 and 1:27 God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all Spirits, and they created the spirits of Adam and Eve in Their exact likeness.

Jesus Christ is the giver of life

Approximately 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ became a Human Being. But before that Jesus Christ was a Spirit, as confirmed in the following Scriptures:

– Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.”

– John 1:1-4: “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

– Colossians 1:15-17, “Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God. He existed before God made anything at all, and, in fact, Christ himself is the Creator who made everything in Heaven and Earth, the things we can see and the things we can’t; the spirit world with its kings and kingdoms, its rulers and authorities; all were made by Christ for his own use and glory. He was before all else began and it is his power that holds everything together,” TLB.

Thus the Bible states that God (pleural) originally created Adam and Eve as spirits in Genesis 1:27.

God created the first human being, Adam, in Genesis 2:7

Later the LORD God (Jesus Christ) formed the first living being, called Man, as recorded in Genesis 2:7: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

Adam and Eve were originally spirits, created in the likeness of God. Very soon after that God created bodies for them, “and man became a living being.”

Our human bodies were originally created out of dust

It is interesting to note that the chemical components of the human body are exactly the same chemical elements as the dust of the ground. Our physical bodies are made up of 17 chemical elements. In fact these are the same 17 elements that are found in the dust of the ground. It is a matter of common observation that, after a body has been cremated, only dust remains.

It appears, from reading these first two chapters of the Bible, that the Creation of the Human Body was a two-part process:

  • First of all the spirits of Adam and Eve were created in the image of God.
  • Then these spirits were breathed by God into a human body, formed of the dust of the ground.

It follows therefore, that we too, are composed of flesh, constructed out of the same chemical elements as the dust of the Earth, but containing an eternal spirit.


The Bible states in James 2:26, “The body without the spirit is dead”. In other words, no human life can exist without the indwelling spirit. The spirit enters the human body at conception, and leaves the human body at death. This is clearly illustrated in the following sections.


We are told that the human spirit is infused into the body of a baby while it is in its mother’s womb. This is described in Ecclesiastes 11:5, “God’s ways are as mysterious as the pathway of the wind and as the manner in which a human spirit is infused into the little body of a baby while it is yet in its mother’s womb,” TLB.

According to the James 2:26 a body without an indwelling spirit is dead. A baby’s body cannot live without an indwelling spirit. The human spirit must therefore enter the body of the baby at conception.


At the Death of Jesus Christ, His Spirit left His Body and He died. The vital presence of the Spirit for human life is confirmed by the death of Jesus Christ. The Bible states in Luke 23:46, “And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, into your hands I commit My Spirit”. Having said this, He breathed His last”.

In other words, as the Spirit of Jesus Christ left His body, He died. Without Jesus’ Spirit, His Body was unable to support life, and He died.


The vital presence of the spirit for human life is confirmed by the raising to life of Jairus’ daughter. This is an important concept, so we have reproduced the entire story from Luke 8:41,42, 49-54 (TLB ).

In this story, a 12 year old girl died, and Jesus raised her back to life: “A man named Jairus, a leader of a Jewish synagogue, came and fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come home with him, for his only child was dying, a little girl twelve years old. Jesus went with him, pushing through the crowds. A messenger arrived from the Jairus’ home with the news that the little girl was dead. “She’s gone,” he told her father; “there’s no use troubling the Teacher now.” But when Jesus heard what had happened, he said to the father, “Don’t be afraid! Just trust me, and she’ll be all right.” When they arrived at the house, Jesus wouldn’t let anyone into the room except Peter, James, John, and the little girl’s father and mother. The home was filled with mourning people, but he said, “Stop the weeping! She isn’t dead; she is only asleep!” This brought scoffing and laughter, for they all knew she was dead. Then he took her by the hand and called, “Get up, little girl!” And at that moment her life returned and she jumped up! “Give her something to eat!” he said. Her parents were overcome with happiness, but Jesus insisted that they did not tell anyone the details of what had happened.”

When the spirit of Jairus’ daughter re-entered her dead body, she came back to life. As her death her spirit had left her body, body as her spirit returned, she came back to life. This demonstrates how vital the spirit is to support human life.


The following passage is taken from Ecclesiastes 12:6-7, “Remember your Creator now while you are young-before the silver cord of life snaps and the gold bowl is broken; before the pitcher is broken at the fountain and the wheel is broken at the cistern; then the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” TLB. This passage confirms that at death the human spirit returns to God who gave it.

This says that at death the human body decomposes, but the spirit (which is indestructible) returns to God. This means that the “real you” is a spirit that will live forever.


We are told in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement”. When the physical body dies, our spirit will live on, and will be sent either to Heaven or to Hell, according to our relationship with Jesus Christ. There were two thieves crucified with Jesus Christ. One is now in Heaven, and the other in Hell.

Jesus Christ said, in John 5:25-29, “I solemnly declare that the time is coming, in fact, it is here, when the dead shall hear my voice-the voice of the Son of God-and those who listen shall live. The Father has life in himself, and has granted his Son to have life in himself, and to judge the sins of all mankind because he is the Son of Man. Don’t be so surprised! Indeed the time is coming when all the dead in their graves shall hear the voice of God’s Son, and shall rise again-those who have done good, to eternal life; and those who have continued in evil, to judgment,” TLB.

This will be discussed in much greater detail in later chapters.

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