Many things in this world are uncertain. One thing is certain. We shall die! Nobody gets out of this world alive. We are all terminal!
Few people believe that death is the end of their existence. Standing beside the open grave, many silently ponder the question, "Is there a life hereafter?" This question has been around for centuries. Job asked, "If a man dies, will he live again?" (Job 14:14)
A father was strolling through the woods with his young son. The conversation went like this:
"Dad, why are those lines in your face?"
"0, I don't know. Because I am getting old, I guess."
"But, dad, does everybody get lines and grow old?"
"Well, son, they all grow old, and usually they do get lines."
"Dad, will I get lines in my face, and will I get old?"
"Son, as I said, it happens to everybody and that includes you."
"Dad, what happens after you get old?"
"Well, in time... eventually... you die."
"Do you think you'll die, dad?"
"0 yes, everybody dies. And that includes me." (A long silence... )
"Dad, will I die?"
"Yes, son, some day you, too, will die."
Suddenly the young boy was stricken with fear. Yet, he had a father who knew how to respond with promptness and sensitivity. The father stooped to the boy's level. He looked his son in the eyes, smiled, and said, "Don't he concerned! Come over here with me and let's sit together on this log while I tell you the rest of the story!"
Death is an unavoidable reality. It's coming. Many do not have "the rest of the story." In this final lesson of "The Seeker" Series, we will be exploring "the rest of the story."
The Reality of Death
The Greek word for "death" (thanatos) means "separation." Death is the separation of the spirit from the body. The Bible says, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead." (James 2:26) Hanging on the Cross, Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit." When He said this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23:46) When the spirit leaves the body, there is a cessation of human life and human relationships. At death, the body begins the process of decomposition and returns to dust. (Genesis3:19; Ecclesiastes 12:7)
Reminders of our own mortality are all around us. Take a look at old photographs and draw your own conclusions, Read the obituaries. Notice the funeral processions that pass on our streets. Think about the number of deaths that may have occurred within your circle of family and friends. The reminders are there, but we find ingenious ways to ignore the obvious. It usually is not until the angel of death puts his hand upon one whom we love or starts tapping on our door that we really pay attention to the reality of death.
The statistics on death are convincing--one out of one dies. There is no title, rank, virtue, or power that can block its path! Hebrews 9:27 is still penetrating: "Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment." Shakespeare has well said, "By medicine, life may be prolonged, yet death will seize the doctor too."
After death, then what? Though death and the hereafter remain a mystery in many respects, the Bible does provide some helpful insights.
The Disembodied State
What happens to the spirit at the time of death? It separates from the body, but where does it go? According to the Scriptures, it enters into an unseen realm called "Hades" in which there is a state of conscious existence. In this state, the spirit is without a body--thus we call it the "disembodied" state.
The Hadean Realm
In the Hadean realm, the spirits of the righteous are conscious of joy and peace--they are at rest in a portion of "Hades" referred to as "Paradise" or "Abraham's Bosom!" To a penitent thief hanging beside Him on a cross, Jesus said, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43; see also 2 Corinthians 12:2-4) The unrighteous, however, experience a state of conscious suffering in a portion of the "Hadean" realm that is referred to as a place of "torment." (Luke 16:23)
Thus, the "Hadean" realm is composed of two sections--an upper portion called "Paradise, or Abraham's Bosom" and a lower portion called "torment." Between these two sections of the Hadean realm is a great chasm or impassable gap. (Luke 16:22-26) Note the illustration.
The passage referred to earlier--Luke 16:19-31--provides details that are helpful as we try to understand these "unseen" realities. In the passage, Jesus tells about Lazarus and a rich man. Lazarus died and was "carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom." (Verse 22) The rich man also died, yet his spirit resided in the portion of Hades where there is "torment." (Verse 23) Jesus indicated that there is "a great gulf fixed" between torment and Paradise so that there can be no passage between the two.
In the "disembodied state," the righteous are with God. (Ecclesiastes 12:7) They are with Christ. (Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:8) They are at rest. (Revelation 14:13) The spirits of the righteous are alive and fully conscious. There is no Scriptural basis for the idea of "soul sleep" which contends that at death we pass into a deep sleep from which we shall not awaken until the trumpet sounds for the Judgment Day. According to these teachings of Jesus, it would appear that no long period will intervene between our death and our awakening in the spirit realm (Hades). While the New Testament does, at times, refer to death as "sleep," it does not refer to "soul sleep." The body "sleeps" in the grave until the final resurrection, but the spirit remains fully conscious after death. In fact, there is one passage (1 Thessalonians 5:10) in which death is spoken of as "sleep" and at the same time conscious fellowship with Christ is indicated.
In the "disembodied state," the unrighteous are separated from God. (Luke 16:23) They are fully alive and conscious of their surroundings and their sufferings. (Luke 16:24-25) There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that the wicked can experience a purgatorial cleansing and later enter a more blessed state. No second chances after we die!
The Second Coming of Christ
Christ is coming again! In Revelation 1:7 John said, "Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of Him."
The second coming of Jesus will be with great power and glory! Paul describes the event in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: "For the Lord, Himself, will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so will we be with the Lord forever."
This second appearing will not be a pleasant event for those who have rejected Christ and refused to obey the Gospel. Hear what Paul says in this regard in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9: "This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power." These are strong words that must prompt us to ask ourselves, "Have we obeyed the Gospel? Are we living as Christians?"
The clear teaching of the New Testament is that at the time of the Second Coming, the dead will be raised back to life. (John 5:28-29) The body that was sown (buried) perishable will be raised imperishable. The natural body that was buried will be raised a spiritual body--not a spirit, but a spiritual body. (See 1 Corinthians 15) The spirit will be united with the newly resurrected body. (I Thessalonians 4:14) The eternal state is to be a bodily state (spiritual body) just as the present state is a bodily state (physical body).
The greatest statement in the Bible on the subject of resurrection is1 Corinthians 15. In this chapter, Paul links the final resurrection of all people with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This general resurrection is assured and guaranteed by His resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
As Paul closed this great chapter, he anticipated two questions of those who doubt the future life. First, "how are the dead raised?" (Verse 35) And second, "with what kind of body will they come?" (Verse 35)
In answer to the first question--"how can a body, disintegrated and dissolved, be brought back together again?"--Paul reminds the reader of what occurs when a farmer plants a seed in the ground. After opening the ground, planting the seed, and covering it over with dirt, what occurs? The seed begins to decay and disintegrate. Yet, emerging from that process is new and different life! (Verse 36) Obviously, he is comparing the death, burial, and resurrection of our bodies to what occurs in the natural realm when seed is planted and a harvest is reaped.
In answering the second question--"what kind of body will come forth at the time of the final resurrection?"--Paul reminds his readers that just as God has demonstrated His ability to provide a variety of suitable bodies in the vegetable, animal, and celestial realms of this world, He will, in the resurrection, provide suitable spiritual bodies for the glorified realm of heaven. (Verses 37-44) Though our new bodies are identified with those we have on earth, they will be vastly different in many respects. The present body is corruptible, weak, and natural. The future resurrected body will be incorruptible, powerful, and spiritual. In the final resurrection, death will have been swallowed up in victory! (1 Corinthians 15:54)
The Final Judgment
The Bible teaches that every one of us shall give an account to God. We will not be judged as nations, families, or churches. We will be judged as individuals! As Paul preached in the ancient city of Athens, he declared, "For God has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:31) Echoing this same message, Paul said in 2 Corinthians5:10, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." Judgment day is coming!
Our Eternal Destiny
In the judgment, our eternal destiny will be declared and sealed. According to Matthew 25:31-46, the righteous will hear the Lord say, "Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." Sadly, however, the unrighteous will hear Him say, "Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels."
In eternity, God will demonstrate His concern for all the injustices that have gone unpunished in this world. With the righteous rewarded and the unrighteous punished, the inequalities and evils on earth will be made right.
A Personal Appeal
Be wise! Choose life--eternal life--by submitting to Jesus as your Lord! In this way, you will be assured of everlasting life in heaven where there will be no tears, no suffering, no sickness, no separations, and no death. What you do with Jesus here will determine what He does with you there. Today, the question is, "WHAT WILL I DO WITH JESUS?" On the day of judgment, the question will be, "WHAT WILL JESUS DO WITH ME?" If you have not already done so, please believe in Christ, repent of your sins, confess His Name, and be baptized into a saving union with the Savior--NOW!
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