Thinking about your question on where are the dead, makes me think of the scripture in Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in the grave (Hebrew “Sheol”) where you are going.” When Jesus spoke of death, he likened it to a sleep, as in the experience with Lazarus in John 11:11-14. When Jesus raised him from the sleep of death, Lazarus had no comment regarding his three days in the grave, which would have been the burning question in everyone’s mind. He simply was asleep in death. Other examples of this sleep of death are Acts 7:60, Acts 13:36, and 2Peter 3:4.
There is also a great set of scriptures in Job, when he asks of God, “If only You would hide me in the grave (Hebrew “Sheol”) and conceal me till your anger has passed! If only you would set a time and then remember me.” (Job 14:13, 14) If the grave were a place of torment, why would Job pray to be hidden there? Also, he knew from the promises that there would come a time of resurrection for him and everyone else in their graves. (Just a note: a study in the words translated hell, grave, pit, will reflect what we are trying to bring out. Also, there are two texts in Jeremiah – Jeremiah 7:31 & 19:5 that manifest it never entering the mind of our Grand Creator to “burn” anyone. Jeremiah 7:31,“and places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire – something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind.” God is not a god of torture.)
When you establish where the dead are, the next question is, what’s next? We know from scripture, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth…” (John 5:28, 29). What are they “coming forth” to – heaven, hell, earth, what? We see by the promise given to Abraham, “I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed…In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Gen. 22:17-18). We also have our Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is done in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10) There is hope for all, and with a more in-depth study the scriptures manifest themselves to show that the Lord will raise all men, in due time, some to a heavenly reward and some to a perfected earth to enjoy eternity here.
Your question naturally arises then about the soul and what it is. The statement used when the Titanic sank describes it accurately: “More than 1,500 souls lost at sea.” They referred to the people who died as “souls.” This corresponds with the scriptural view of the matter. Genesis 2:7 states, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed (Hebrew: ‘blew’) into his nostrils the breath (Hebrew: ‘wind’) of life (Hebrew: ‘lives’ – plural, that is such as was common to all living animals); and man became a living soul (a sentient being).” So, when we read in Ezekiel 18:4, “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die,” it shows that the entire being is a soul, not that we have one. Once the breath leaves the body, like when the flame is extinguished from a candle, the soul is dead and ceases to exist.
I hope this helps and encourages more study into these wonderful truths! May the Lord bless your studies.