Elements of Confusion
The things we see and do every day incorporates our God-given ability to be logical. He made us logical beings. But, what we see in movies and hear from some people is often not logical. It is entertainment and may even have an agenda to express beliefs of the writer. But, it is God who invites us to “reason” with Him.
“’Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the Lord”
Logic and good reason will come to those who seek it. On the other hand, things like church tradition can overtake reason and dismiss plain scripture on the truths God wants to reveal. Our great Creator brings light to things requiring deeper thought through the many writers of the Bible and His apostles and prophets.
“When you read this, you’ll see that I understand the mystery about Christ. In the past, this mystery was not known by people as it is now. The Spirit has now revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets.”
Ephesians 3: 4-5 (GW)
Things such as church tradition about death, founded on something other than the word of God, has led many away from a true knowledge of God’s character. It has hurt the ability of believers to present a true picture of the plan of God for those who may be seeking truth.
We might ask ourselves: “How do we present the story of sin and the solution as found in Jesus to a world so that they are drawn to him on their own free will?”
The short answer and the one that is the bed rock for the ideas set forth here is beautifully summarized below:
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
John 12:32 (New International Version)
The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
Jeremiah 31:3 (King James Version)
It is the story of a giving Creator God who greatly loved that He gave His Son to this world condemned to die because of the law He initiated and cannot be changed i.e., “The wages of sin is death.” God demonstrated His great grace and compassion by paying the penalty of sin so that we would not perish.
Look carefully at John 3:16 and you will see something you might have missed. It is the word perish.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
What is the reward of the believer? It is eternal life or “not perish(ing).” So if this is true, the unbeliever perishes. Notice it does not say the unbeliever has eternal life in hell or anywhere else. It says the reason God gave His only begotten son is that we might escape dying (perishing) forever. Death passed upon everyone, but God made an escape through the death of His son His power to resurrect people. When Jesus was around on earth, no one died in his presence. He IS Life and Resurrection! Eternal death (Perish) is escaped through Jesus only! True, you may die once as a believer, but you will be resurrected at the end of time to live forever. The unbeliever’s reward is here on earth. There is no life for them…only eternal death.
When Jesus died for us, he could not see through the “portals of the tomb.” (Desire of Ages, P. 753) He believed He was dying this eternal death. When the depth of the message about the death of Jesus comes clear in the mind of the sinner, it draws that person to Jesus and a decision. Paul understood the power of the cross when he said.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:18 (New King James Version)
There is that word again (perishing). The unbelievers or those who think the cross is foolishness will perish (die) forever. It does not say they will live forever in hell.
Why is the message of the cross power to one and foolishness to another?
The answer may come in the choice of a person to study the message and respond. It is foolishness to the one who will not use his/her God-given gift of intelligence and scriptural logic. Those who are serious about finding truth and power will go forward looking for the “pearl of great price.” Matthew 13:46
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
Once truth is found, the journey does not end. There is more! Jesus gave to the disciples just enough truth for them to bear at that point in their relationship. He said to them,
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.“
John 16:12 (NKJ)
Did you catch that? Jesus purposely did not tell them some things because they were not able to “bear it” or as some versions suggest, “not ready to receive it.“
Paul repeated this idea when he said,
I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
1 Corinthians 3:2 (KJV)
Only those who come to Jesus like children; wanting to learn and follow Him will understand and move from truth to truth.
There is an passage in Isaiah that illustrates this beautifully. This truth is revealed in a question and an immediate answer:
“Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts?
Children grow on a simple diet of on milk, but as they get older, they must be drawn away from the milk to more substantial food or they will cease to grow. A child would never grow if fed on milk all their lives. While it was important to the baby at the start, it is the solid food that will lead to growth and maturity.
It is the food (God’s word) and the willingness to do what is taught that will set the stage for God to reveal even more truth.
Those who want to follow the will of God will know if what I teach is from God or if I teach my own thoughts.
Has your experience with church, with Jesus, and with God become routine? Are you content with what you know? Is your faith in Jesus not producing any type of peace? Is your experience lukewarm? What can you do with your doubts?
If you are still searching and are having difficulty believing Jesus was all He and the prophets claimed Him to be, I invite you to learn more about Him as we study this topic of life and death. For this is what the whole story is about. Eternal life versus eternal death.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
It is understanding the truth about the experience of death, as the Bible teaches it, that will help us deal with the doubts and provide “rest for (our) souls.”
Life and Death Confusion
Probably the number one reason people (including Christians) become discouraged and doubt God is the death of a loved one. Some even come to hate God because of the death of a mother, father, son or daughter. Doubters and Atheists have always asked this question,
“If there is a God, then why is there death and suffering?”
As I write this, I have learned ISIS has beheaded 21 Coptic Christians. There are 21 families grieving in an intense way right now. But there are many more who die every day. Almost 7.2 million people died in 2015. A dramatic clock showing the population growth and the number of people who die can be found at this link:
Why doesn’t God stop all the death and dying? My prayer is that we will find some answers about death you may have not considered. I believe that knowing the truth about death will bring more comfort than any made-up scene described by well-meaning people.
Truth is always better!
I have been to many funerals. The last one was the funeral of a young man, 21 years old college student, who was killed saving his girlfriend from a wall about to fall on her during a tornado. I know his mother and step-father well. A few weeks earlier I attended another funeral. Again, a 21 year-old who died suddenly from aneurysm. He was the son of my cousin.
When I went to the funeral of my cousin’s son, this grieving father laid his head on my chest like a little child. I wept with him. His pain was strong and deep. The same with the mother of the brave young man who laid her head on my chest and wept. Much later, in a meeting where I work, she came up to me and laid her head on my chest, again, in a room of stuffy executives. I knew she was still hurting a year after the event and will continue to hurt, until they meet again.
I personally experienced the sting of death when my own father died in a car wreck on the day he retired. We had just started to connect with each other. My pain was almost too much to bear!
Oh Lord, why!
It is OK to ask why, but it is not OK to not search for answers and begin to hate God.
At almost every funeral I hear things that contradict the simple word of God. Tradition and well-meaning people who desire to comfort family and friends will of often say things like this:
“He has gone to a better place. He is up there enjoying the streets of gold.”
“My daughter is looking down on us and watching over me.”
“My brother is up there teaching Peter how to play golf.”
“God called Him home. He wanted Him more” (The man had died of a massive heart attack)
Recently, I heard a pastor say this,
“Old Bob is up there drinking his favorite whisky and listening to his favorite country music.”
Is this how the scripture describes death and the life hereafter? Some say that the soul is immortal and it never dies. Is this what scripture teaches?
I don’t know about you, but I want to know what God’s inspired writers know about death. I want to know what Jesus knows about death. I want to know how I can have real comfort when a loved one dies.
History of Death
When did death start? According to Genesis, death passed upon all men when Adam sinned by disobedience.
“Sin came into the world through one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race because everyone has sinned.”
Adam and Eve were meant to live forever. But the serpent (Satan) told them the first lie recorded in the Bible and it is about death. Satan contradicted the plain words of God:
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Many today, even Christians, believe that no one ever really dies. They live in either heaven or hell.
God says you will die, Satan says you won’t. Adam and Eve did not die that very day, but they were banned from the Tree of Life which evidently helped perpetuate eternal life. Eventually, they DID die.
“They must not be allowed to take fruit from the tree that gives life, eat it, and live forever.”
The Tree of life is lost in the first book of the Bible (Genesis), but regained in the last book of the Bible (Revelation)
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.On each side of the river was the tree of life, which bears fruit twelve times a year, once each month; and its leaves are for the healing of the nations.
Here we get a sneak peak of heaven where the throne of God and Jesus (lamb) are located. Could it be that God uses a very natural way to perpetuate eternal life and it is found in a steady diet of the tree of life and the water of life? Could this be the place Jesus went away to prepare for us?
The sin of Adam and Eve was not believing nor trusting the plain words from their Creator. Although they sinned first, they were not the first to die. The first death was Abel. His brother (Cain) slew him because of uncontrollable anger and jealousy.
“Then the Lord asked Cain, “Why are you angry, and why do you look disappointed? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? But if you don’t do well, sin is lying outside your door ready to attack. It wants to control you, but you must master it.”
Cain talked to his brother Abel. Later, when they were in the fields, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Genesis 4:6-8 (GW)
How sad Adam and Eve must have felt knowing that it was their sin that led to the death of their son. How much regret they must have had as they watched death begin to pop up all around them, even the death of plants and animals.
As a side note, the Lord did not warn Adam and Eve, nor Cain that the cost of sin was living in hell. If there was a place of eternal torment waiting for sinners, surely God would have warned them at the beginning. His warning was about dying if they disobeyed His command. The wages of sin is death and always has been and the gift from God is eternal life where sin no longer raises its head a second time:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Again, this verse does not say, the wages of sin is eternal life in hell.
What is death? The answer can be found in understanding what is life as described in Genesis when God first made man:
“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 soul.”
Here is God’s simple formula for what makes up life:
Dust (Elements of the earth) + Breath of Life (life giving element from God) = Living soul.
Notice that God did not breath into man a soul, but rather the breath of life. Man does not have a soul, rather man IS a soul. (Another topic for another time.)
Whatever the “breath of life” is, we know that when combined with the elements of the earth, we are formed into a soul or a living being. This is where life started in the beginning and then God gave Man and woman the ability to “procreate.” This breath of life is passed from generation to generation through “procreation.” When it is taken away, death results and all knowledge and activity stops for that person:
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”
So if life is found in the Biblical formula of Living Soul = Dust + Breath of Life = living soul. Then the formula for death should be the opposite. We find it in this verse:
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
So now we see the Biblical formula for death:
Dead Soul = Dust -(minus) Breath of Life (aka spirit)
Now all this seems scary, but the Lord Jesus described death as a sleep that passes by very quickly,. In fact the experience of death will pass like a flash for those who have died in Christ. They will rise to see Jesus and all those they loved when they died. Here is where the comfort comes. We are told to get our comfort from this thought, not the fanciful stories of well-meaning people.
“The Lord will come from heaven with a command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the dead who believed in Christ will come back to life. Then, together with them, we who are still alive will be taken in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. In this way we will always be with the Lord. So then, comfort each other with these words!“
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
What a reunion day that will be! Those two young sons who were followers of Christ will meet their fathers, mothers, and friends who believe in the air before going to the place Jesus has prepared for those who believed Jesus when he said,
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die;
Isn’t that comforting to know that the sleep of the saved is but for a second.
I remember being put to sleep when having surgery. The two hours that passed were but a flash. I was told to take a deep breath, then instantly I was asked to wake up. So it will be for those who die in the Lord regardless of how long they have been dead.
But what about the lost? Is God a cruel terrorist who will punish those who rejected Jesus to a life of non-stop frying? Next time we will look at the topic of Heaven and the destiny of the lost. How does the Bible describe the home of the saved and how He deals with those who have rebelled against Him?
Blessings and comfort as you consider God’s plan for life eternal.