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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Different Terms Does the Bible Use to Describe Physical Death?

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Don Stewart
The fact of death is described a number of different ways in the Scripture. They are as follows:

Breathing One's Last

One dies when they "breathe their last."

Altogether, Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people (Genesis 25:17).

Gathered To His People

When Jacob died, he is said to have been "gathered to his people."

When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people (Genesis 49:33).

Give Up The Spirit

When Jesus died, the Bible says "He gave up His spirit."

When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit (John 19:30).

Putting Off This Tent

Peter spoke of his death as the "putting off of a tent."

knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me (2 Peter 1:14).

Withering Away

Death is spoken of as "withering away."

He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure (Job 14:2).

Going Down Into Silence

The psalmist spoke of death as "going down into silence."

The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any that go down into silence (Psalm 115:17).

The Way Of No Return

Job spoke of his death as going on a "journey where there is no return."

For when a few years are past, I shall go the way of no return (Job 16:2).

God Requiring The Soul

In a parable that Jesus gave, He spoke of death as "God requiring the soul."

But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' (Luke 12:20).


Jesus referred to Lazarus' death as "sleep."

After saying this, He told them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him" (John 11:11).

Like Water On Ground

Death is compared to water being spilled on the ground that cannot be gathered again.

We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up. But God will not take away a life; He will devise plans so as not to keep an outcast banished forever from His presence (2 Samuel 14:14).

Sleep With Ancestors

Death means going to be with "your ancestors."

The LORD said to Moses, "Soon you will lie down with your ancestors" (Deuteronomy 31:16).

Earthly Tent Destroyed

Death is the destruction of the "earthly tent."

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1).


The Apostle Paul spoke of his death as "departing."

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far (Philippians 1:23).

Returning To Dust

Adam was told that he would "return to dust." God said.

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:19).

Man, which was made from the dust, would return to the materials from which he was created.

Spoken Of As Something Material

Death is symbolized as something material. Jesus said.

I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades (Revelation 1:18).

In the future, death will be thrown into the lake of fire.

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death (Revelation 20:14).


The Bible recognizes the fact that human beings will die. Consequently there are a number of different descriptions of death. Each of them gives us a picture of the biblical perspective of death.
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