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Lord Teach Me About Hell-Part 3 Eternal Death Not Torture

There is a hell, but is it like some teachers describe?

I once had a lively discussion with a relative about hell. When it seemed like we were going nowhere,  I asked her if she had asked the Lord to reveal to her, through His word, the truth  about hell.  She said, “No!”  It led me to think, do people really want to know what the Bible teaches about the ultimate fate of the lost or are they satisfied with the descriptions portrayed by well-meaning teachers and pastors.  What if we were to simply pray, “Lord Teach Me About Hell.”?

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Are the tortures of hell in line with the character of God and the many  teachings of the Bible about His great mercy and love?  Some preachers have said they need to preach hell to bring fear into the heart of a person so they will turn to Jesus. They conclude that anything other than an unending burning hell is letting the sinner off too easy.

Some hell-fire-and-brimstone preachers portray a God whose vengeance is so great that it is never satisfied, hence the non-ending torture. But, the Bible tell us that He takes “no pleasure” in the death of wicked.

 As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked

Ezekiel 33:11

If God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, He certainly would not take pleasure in their torture.


For the last few studies, we have discovered that Jesus taught more on the kingdom of God and heaven than he did about hell.  We also saw how many Bible verses used to support everlasting torture were simply misinterpreted in the light of the whole scripture and the character of God. The Bible is clear that the fate of the lost is eternal death.

Let’ now compare the terrible picture of people roasting in a fire that offers no hope and no relief for eternity with the character of God as revealed in the Bible and in the teachings of Jesus.

Is it true that non-ending torture is “justice” for the three score and ten (70) years of life?  Does a holy and just God give a sinner trillions and trillions of years of pain and torture in exchange for 70 years of life without Christ?

Is there something we have missed?

Lord Teach Me The Truth About Hell.

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Following are the two typical modern understandings about hell.  This is what a majority of protestant Christians believe.

View 1:  If you die and are unsaved (e.g. did not profess Christ), your immortal soul immediately (or after a quick judgment scene) goes to a place under the earth where the devil resides and your soul is tormented by blistering hot flames throughout eternity without end.  You will scream and desire to die, but you will stay alive in flames never finding relief.  This could be called the immediate and present Hell.

View 2:  If you die and are unsaved, at the end of time your immortal soul is judged at the Great White Throne judgment and your soul and body is cast into the lake of fire prepared for Satan and his angels where you are tortured by flames throughout eternity.  You will scream and desire to die, but you will stay alive in flames never finding relief.  We will call this future Hell.

The Catholic church throws in a couple of “holding” places such as purgatory and some talk about a place called “Abraham’s bosom.” There may be some other slight variations, but if you ask a Christian or a pastor about hell, this is very close to the answers given.  It is often softened up a bit to take out the idea of a Holy God torturing the unsaved by saying non-biblical things like, “The lost choose hell.”  Is that right?  Who in their right mind would choose to be tortured? The Bible teaches they are choosing death over eternal life not so much from a conscious choice, but rather unbelief in Jesus and the pull of the Holy Spirit to repent and turn away from the sins that lead to death.

The common idea with both basic views about hell involves non-stop burning and torture.  We often hear preachers say, “You will live eternally in one of two places.”  Is this true?  Do the lost also have eternal life?  Are their souls immortal?  What is tortured?  The soul? The body?  Both?

What does the Bible have to say about all this?

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Some will say,It is the immortal soul that is being punished not the body.  Of course, there is no biblical proof for this Also,it contradicts  those who support a literal interpretation of  the Rich Man and Lazarus where the rich man has a tongue and gets thirsty in the flames. He has a body!

Some will say, God is just and this is their fate.”  We can’t understand it and aren’t suppose to.”

Is this true?

It is true that our thoughts and our ways are not like His, but there are things He has revealed that we can know with certainty.“

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, 

Deuteronomy 29:29

Is the fate of the lost one of those things revealed to us?

Yes! But we must understand it from ALL that has been revealed to us!

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The bible tells us that having life eternal is based on knowing God and having a relationship with Him.  We are drawn to Him as He is lifted up (Cross).  Is a torturing God, the One we want to get to know?  Or is God like a father who loves his child.  Does God use hell to scare us into coming to Him or does he draw us a different more divine way?

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

John 17:3

Knowing God and Jesus Christ and their character is important in our experience and in our salvation from death.  To have a false conception of God is dangerous as we shall see.

We are not scared into a relationship with the Lord, He draws us with “lovingkindness.”

The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.

Jeremiah 31:3

It is the cross, not hell, that draws people to Jesus.

‘”…And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.  This He said, signifying by what death He would die.”

John 12:32-33

That day on a lonely hill dying on a rough wooden cross is the ultimate demonstration of the sacrifice and love God offers to all people. A clear view of the things leading up to the death of Jesus and the day He said,It is finished” will bring the sin weary to repentance, forgiveness, and salvation from eternal death.

What confuses me is that people get angry over this topic of unending torture.  It’s as if they want this type of fate for the lost.  Each person who is lost had a mother, dad, and perhaps a loving family.  Will they be remembered when the saved portion of the family gets to heaven?  How could it be heaven knowing Uncle Harry is burning in hell non-stop?

There is something missing in all this.  For the next few moments, lets look at the rest of the story.

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  The soul is not immortal.  only God has immortality.  The saved are not given immortality until  Christ returns.

If a soul can die, it is not immortal.

 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die..”

Ezekiel 18:4

Only God has immortality!

I charge you to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; and this will be made manifest at the proper time by the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

1 Timothy 6:14-16

We all die and do not get immortality until Jesus returns and we are changed and “put on” immortality then and not before.  IT IS ONLY WHEN JESUS RETURNS, THAT WE CAN CLAIM IMMORTALITY AND SAY THAT DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY. IMMORTALITY IS NOT GIVEN AT DEATH.

Want to know a mystery about death that has been solved. Something God has revealed to us and our children?  Listen closely:

 “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changedIn a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, THEN shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”

1 Corinthians 15: 51-54

Is this not as clear as a bell?  Immortality is “put on” when Jesus returns!  Until then we sleep in death.

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Eternal death, not torture, awaits the lost

“Death has come upon all men by the offence of one man. But, through grace and the gift of righteousness life came by Jesus Christ.”

Romans 5:12, 17

Wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 3:23.

Wages is something due to us for our work of sin.  Sin leads to death, not life. Both are mutually exclusive.  You can’t have both.  You must have one or the other. The gift of eternal life is reserved only for the saved.

He that has the son has life.  He that does not have the son does not have life. 

1 John 5:20

“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.”  John 3:16

Here is a simple straightforward comparison of what awaits the lost VS the saved:

Believes in Jesus = everlasting life

Not believing = perish (eternal death)

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life…”

John 3:36

Believes in the Son = everlasting life

Does not believe in the = shall not see life.

Man, nor his soul, is immortal.  As shown above, immortality is not given to the saved until Jesus returns and resurrects the saved:

The soul can be destroyed,

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

The body and soul are destroyed in hell (aka the grave).  It is not kept alive to suffer through out eternity. If there is a fear to be taught, it is the fear of both the body and the soul are forever destroyed, while the redeemed have a new immortal body and life without end.

As described before, the belief in God AND the resurrection of Jesus are both vital to receiving salvation from eternal death:

… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9

It was Paul’s goal to be raised from the dead…..Not to die and be with Him,

” if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:11

The mortal “puts on” immortality and death is no more when Jesus returns.

The dead in Christ are resurrected

 “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words”

1 Thessalonians 4: 15-18

Note:  Those who died in Christ and those who are alive when He returns start to “be with the Lord forever” when He returns.  So resurrection is our hope…Our eternity with the Lord does not start until He returns.

Jesus will raise the saved up in the last day.

“This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.

John 6:39

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:44

“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

John 6:54

“Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

John 11:24

The teaching of resurrection as our hope s ancient.  Example: Job said,

“my redeemer lives and I will see God in the flesh in the latter day upon the earth.”

Job 19:25, 26

The resurrection is extremely important because we are lost if it doesn’t happen.

Our faith is futile without the resurrection. Our hope is in the return of Christ and the Resurrection, not in dying and floating off to heaven.

“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise.For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

1 Corinthians 15:14-19

The Rich Man and Lazarus story does not include a resurrection and is clearly a parable because it comes at the end of a line of parables.  But, there was a resurrection of another Lazarus that clearly describes the state of those who die.  The event is described in John 11.  Here Jesus describes Lazarus’ death with sleep:

“Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep…Then said Jesus, unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

John 11:14

Notice something else, when Jesus brought Lazarus back to life after being dead for 4 days, he did not say to him to come down, but rather come forth (v. 43). If Lazarus had been in heaven, he would have had many things to share, don’t you think?  Why is he silent?  It is because he was asleep.


The unjust have a resurrection too (after the millennium): 

                Resurrection of unjust.

“I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.”

Act 24:15

Rest of the dead live again after the 1,000 years Rev. 20:4, 5

“And they lived and reigned with Christ for a[a]thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.”

Revelation 20: 4, 5

The second death is the fate of the lost who are not part of the first resurrection, but rise in the 2nd resurrection. Revelation 20:6

“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power…”

Revelation 20:6

At the end of all things, the saved may have died once, but they will never have to die again because they have been given immortality.  But the lost who died once, will die again fully aware that there death will be forever. This knowledge is their punishment and it creates wailing and gnashing of teeth.

At the end time, fire destroys the earth, Satan, and sinners:

Jesus comes a thief in the night in which the heavens, earth, elements, and all the works are burned up.

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” 

2 Peter 3:10

Everlasting Destruction

“The Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9

Wicked destroyed forever (Psalm 92:7, Psalm 9:5)

“When the wicked spring up like grass,
And when all the workers of iniquity flourish,
It is that they may be destroyed forever.”

Psalm 92:7

Death and hell grave are destroyed

“Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”

Revelation 20:14

Fire comes down from God when the resurrected lost try surround the beloved city. This fire devours them. When something is consumed or devoured, there is nothing left.

“They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.” 

Revelation 20:9

“For our God is a consuming fire.”

Hebrews 12:29

The Anti Christ (lawless one) is destroyed when Christ returns by the brightness of the Lord’s coming.

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.” 

2 Thessalonians 2:8

(Read the preceding verses for context)

Wicked are burned up reducing them to nothing

“For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,
Says the Lord of hosts,
“That will leave them neither root nor branch.”

Malachi 4:1

Satan is burned to ashes and shall never be anymore

“You defiled your sanctuaries
By the multitude of your iniquities,
By the iniquity of your trading;
Therefore I brought fire from your midst;
It devoured you,
And I turned you to ashes upon the earth
In the sight of all who saw you.”

All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you;
You have become a horror,
And shall be no more forever”

Ezekiel 28:18, 19

So, scripture is clear, the wages of sin is death, not eternal life in burning flames.  There is a hell, but it is a work of eternal destruction. Even Satan’s fate is total destruction.  His end will wipe the universe clean of sin and its results.

Eternal life is given only to those who turn to Jesus and place their trust in Him. Life eternal is given to those who know Him and not about Him. It is all about Jesus.  He holds the keys to the grave and death:

I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

Revelation 1:18

Because we believe He can resurrect us and give us immortality, we have passed from death to life. I want to be part of the first resurrection, don’t you?

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

John 5:24

I often wondered why God wipes away all tears. The passage in Revelation 21: 4, Revelation 7:17, Isaiah 25:8 are in the context of the end of time when all of God’s people arrive in heaven at the same time after the resurrection as desribed in 1 Thess. 4:15-18

The saints will spend their first day in heaven wondering about a loved one who didn’t make it. Then they will understand from the Lord Himself that they were lost and will never be anymore. There will be tears in heaven, but Jesus will literally and symbolically wipe away the tears.  He will explain and show them the many opportunities given them to receive eternal life as a free gift, but they refused.

Then all the saints will bow, throw their crowns, and proclaim

 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Revelation 4:11

 

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Further Study:

Want to go deeper?  below is information for those who might want to look at things a little closer.

The Word “Hell”

Hell is an English word coming from the same root as: heel, hill, hole, whole hall…etc. Its original English meaning was any place, or someplace covered over. This sounds like a grave which is confirmed by the following Hebrew and Greek words.

The writers of the Bible had several words to choose when talking about what we call “hell”:

1.) Sheol/Hades

2.) Gehenna

3.  Tartarus

Sheol is a Hebrew word used 63 times in the Old Testament (KJV).  The New Testament equivalent is Hades which is used 11 times. Both are proper names for a literal place (grave) and figurative place (destruction). What is notable is that righteous men such as David, Jacob, Jonah, and even our Lord are described as going to Sheol or Hades! To go to Sheol means to be cut off from life, to die. It is the state or place of the dead.

Jesus compared death to “Sleep.” (e.g. Lazarus- John 11:11, and a 12-year old girl-Mark 5:39). Paul used it often (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:51, Ephesians 5:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:14) as did David (e.g. Psalm 13:3) and Job (Job 14:12). Daniel used it in a Paul like vision of both the righteous and the unrighteous coming up from sleep (resurrection),

“And many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake. Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

Gehenna

Gehenna is a Greek word derived from the Hebrew words ‘ge hinnom’ meaning the Valley of Hinnom. Used 12 times in the new testament.

Gehenna was a well-known valley, near Jerusalem, in which the Jews in their idolatrous days had sacrificed their children to the idol Moloch, in consequence of which it was condemned to receive the offal and refuse and sewage of the city, and into which the bodies of malefactors were cast and where to destroy the odor and pestilential influences, continual fires were kept burning. Here fire, smoke, worms bred by the corruption, and other repulsive features, rendered the place a horrible one, in the eyes of the Jews. It was a locality with which they were as well acquainted. But in process of time Gehenna came to be an emblem of the consequences of sin, and to be employed figuratively by the Jews, to denote those consequences. But always in this world. The Jews never used it to mean torment after death, until long after Christ. The word had not the meaning of post-mortem torment when our Savior used it.” –J.W. Hanson’s, Bible Threatenings Explained.

When Jesus used it 11 times, he was not referring to a place under the earth, or even the lake of fire described by John in Revelation, but rather a valley where the refuge of the city continually smoked and the ultimate fate of dead animals.  It was not a place of unending torture, but rather a fitting symbol of death and destruction.

Jesus again used the word “Gehenna” when he described the destruction of both the body and soul in hell.  “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna).

Tartarus

Tartarus is used only once to mean ‘to cast down to Hades’, referring to the angels who sinned in 2 Peter 2:4. The angels described in Jude 1:6 are told to be reserved in everlasting chains until judgment. If Tartarus means a burning hell, why would the angels be there before judgment?

Contradictions?:

The origin of a place of eternal torture for rejection of God comes from Egypt and was adopted by the church during the dark ages to scare the people into submission to the church.  The teaching of purgatory was also used by the church to obtain money for the lost.  That is another study in itself, but I will stop here.

But, how do we understand those verses that describe everlasting fire, eternal fire, and unquenchable fire? The answer is very simple in the light of the context about the final destiny of the unsaved i.e., eternal death, destruction and ashes.  The fire that burns up the earth, the elements, and the unsaved is eternal in its results, not in its duration.  It is unquenchable in that it can’t be put out.  But once it has done its work of destruction, it goes out. Ask any fireman about an unquenchable fire and they will tell you that they can’t put it out, but that does not mean that it does not go out. Once all the wood is burned up, there is nothing left to burn, so the fire goes out.

How about the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16? This has to be a parable and not an actual teaching of the fate of the lost because of these reasons:

1.)  It is the last parable in a series that starts with the parable of the lost coin in Luke 15:8. While it doesn’t specifically say it is a parable, neither does it say that the parable of the lost son is one either.  The point of the parable is not what happens to the lost, but rather the Pharisees (who loved money, Luke 16: 14 would never believe Jesus even if He was raised from the dead because they had not heard (believed) Moses and the Prophets.) They had the idea that being rich and because of their ancestry (i.e., Jacob) they would be in heaven and the others would be tormented in hell.  They made all this up because there is not Biblical example.  Just like they made up all the Sabbath laws without any scriptural authority, they made up this scenario. Jesus turns their story around and the non-Jewish poor man winds up in the place they thought was theirs automatically because of who they were.

2.) Jesus typically talked to the religious leaders and the people in parables.  Yes, He spoke very directly to them on several occasions, but when he was attempting to teach them or show them the truth, he would use parables. Those who wanted to know the truth would go looking for it as did the disciples. “All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them.” Matthew 13:34. “Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.” Matthew 15:15. Peter is a good example for us.  If we don’t understand a teaching, simply go to Jesus and ask him. If we really want to know the truth, He will tell us.  Don’t you think?

Conclusion:

There is good reason to believe from scripture that the unsaved die and await their final judgment which is destruction by the lake of fire as described in Revelation and many other Bible verses.

But, to use the teaching of eternal torment where a person’s life is maintained by God himself to simply let him suffer more is beyond reason and scripture.  Is this suppose to scare someone enough to start a loving relationship with Jesus?  Did your wife scare you into a relationship or did she “woo” you?  If she is like my wife, she did everything she could to show me that she loved me.  I was drawn to her spirit of kindness and love for me.

The scriptural way to bring people to Christ is by lifting Jesus up for all to see His great sacrifice, goodness, kindness,  mercy, forgiveness, and power!

“Come to me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

When the disciples were trying to win souls to Christ, they never used the threat of unending torture, but words like:

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

Romans 2:4

It is not the fear of eternal torture that leads people to a relationship with Christ!

The Holy Spirit brought convicting power to the sermon of Peter and the disciples when they showed how Jesus died for their sins.  The people were “cut to the heart and asked, ‘What can we do?’” (Acts 2:37) Peter said, to them:

Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2: 38, 39)

Thousands that were converted to Jesus in the early church came from the topic of Jesus and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.  Not one sermon about the possibility of being tortured without end!

But, Peter did let us know that the fate of the world and ungodly is destruction when Jesus returns…everything will be burned up!

There are, perhaps, no clearer words about the fate of the lost and this world as these passages from Peter.  If you want to know the truth about the fate of the lost and this world, listen closely to what is being revealed to you and your children and follow the instructions to eternal life reserved only for the saved:

“…knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,  by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

2 Peter 3: 1-9

Notice Peter again uses the word “Perish” as the fate of all those who do not come to repentance!

The Day of the Lord

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

2 Peter 3: 10-13

My brother or sister, here is your hell.  It is hotter than the one taught.  It is not a slow roast, it is immediate and it makes way for a heavens and earth where only righteousness dwells.  They is no corner of the universe somewhere where people are writhing in pain.

The time of Jesus must be soon.  It is time to turn to Jesus and ask Him about things we don’t understand so we can be more powerful preachers and teachers for Him!  Don’t you agree?

8 Days After The Resurrection-A Doubter

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”

John 20:26

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Introduction

This account is from the eyes of Thomas who separated himself from the other disciples after the betrayal by Judas in the garden. He did not see them again for eight (8) days after Jesus appeared to the others.  Thomas became disappointed and did not want to see anyone.  Doesn’t that sound like many of us when we are discouraged?  We stay away from those who could help encourage us.

The meaning of the cross, the resurrection, and the words of Jesus were just starting to come together for 10 of the  original disciples plus the women who proved to be more committed and more brave than the men who watched the crucifixion from a distance (except James and John).   The disciples had seen Jesus on the third day after his death (1st Day of the week-Sunday).  Jesus began to build up their faith by not only appearing to them alive, but by teaching them from the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) about Himself.  This is the books of the Bible we call the Old Testament.  

“Then He (Jesus) said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’  And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.”

Luke 24:44-45

Their faith, indeed,  began to grow as they heard Jesus give them a Bible study on how it was fulfilled in Himself, but Thomas was not with them and missed this important revelation.  Choosing, perhaps, to reevaluate everything that had happened.  He, like the disciples earlier in the week, was terribly disappointed and depressed.  He had hoped Jesus would save Israel and himself.  The cross seemed to dash all hopes of any deliverance!

How often do we miss the blessing of Bible study due to our depression and desire to be alone?  May Thomas’ story teach us to believe and trust and not to doubt.

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A Doubter

Greetings.  I am Thomas, one of his original 12 disciples.  I was commissioned by Jesus to do mighty works for the kingdom of God, but I am confused and skeptical, just as you may be.  Allow me to tell you what I know.

I have not seen the other disciples since the night of the Preparation Day.  We had eaten the Passover supper and looked forward to a festive weekend.

But most of us were scattered like sheep without a Shepard when Jesus was taken at the garden and then sent to trial and was crucified.  I saw Peter on the other side of the hill weeping on that horrible day.  My own tears were bitter and soaked my garments as they took that precious innocent man I had come to love and nailed him like an animal to a cruel wooden cross.

I know that Jesus is dead!  I saw him beaten, scourged and eventually expire on a Roman cross. He was a bloody mess after the all day cruelty and beatings.  He died on the afternoon of the Preparation Day.  This is the day you Gentiles call Friday.  It is the day us Jews and some of the converts prepare for the Sabbath, a day of rest and worship.  I have always enjoyed the Sabbath especially with Jesus, but this Sabbath was different.

We all retreated to a secret spot to literally rest from the exhausting events of the previous 24 hours, but our souls were not at rest.  The women had seen the body of Jesus and were resting according to the Sabbath commandment.  Their plan was to go to the tomb of Jesus at the rising of the sun on the First Day of the week to prepare his body for burial.

The Scribes and Pharisees wanted Jesus dead because they said He claimed to be God and that he could tear down the temple and build it again in three days.  Often Jesus would say things like this that made little sense to me. But, later he would explain it to His followers and we could see its true meaning.

Since the religious leaders didn’t want Jesus and the two thieves hanging on the cross during the Sabbath, they broke the legs of the thieves to hurry the death process.  When a man is hanging on the cross with broken legs, he is unable to push up against the nails in his feet and its platform to get a breath with their legs broken.  The diaphragm will collapse in such a way that they gasp for air and suffocate.

Such a disgusting and uncomfortable slow death, but since the Sabbath was only a few hours from starting, the three on the hill, called Golgotha, were fortunate and did not have to suffer for days… as have many others.  The Romans are so cruel! But, I don’t blame them.  It was our own religious leaders that pushed and pushed until they finally got what they wanted…the scourging and death of Jesus.

But, when the soldiers came to Jesus, they noticed He was already dead and did not break His legs but rather took a sword and pierced His side just to make sure.  Blood and water came forth.  I saw it even though I watched from a distance to protect myself from the same fate.   It was horrible!  It took the air out of me (so to speak) and made me wonder why I followed Jesus in the first place.  So, I know Jesus to be dead, even as the women when they went to His tomb that Friday afternoon to look at his body and to prepare spices to anoint Him early on the 1st Day of the week (Sunday morning).

It has been reported that Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus had cast out 7 demons, said  she had seen Jesus at the tomb with two angels.  But, I don’t know about her.  She did have demons didn’t she?  Jesus cast out her demons, but maybe one was left over and it is making her mad.  The whole city must be mad, because it is also reported many people who were dead were resurrected and appeared to many!  I have not seen any, but I must admit I have not been going out much lately. I feel lost and with no purpose or direction.  I just want to sleep.

Then I hear that about eight days ago on the day you Gentiles call Sunday, Cleopas and his friend were on their way to Emmaus and had an encounter with a spirit or something. It was reported to me by the other disciples that a stranger, spent a good three hours giving a comparative study of the writings of the Tanakh or the Old Testament as you call it.  As they walked down the dusty road towards Emmaus the stranger told them about how Jesus could be found all through scripture.  As they began to understand from the Tanakh about Jesus.  They could see why He had to die on the cross,.  It is reported they said, it made their “hearts burn within them.”

 I do remember Jesus saying something about dying and being resurrected, but it was so far from my thinking that I put it out of my mind.

Cleopas (one of the two men on the road to Emmaus)  reported that when they reached their destination, they begged him to stay and tell them more of what he knew.  But, the stranger turned out to be Jesus himself!  They apparently recognized him as He broke bread and then He disappeared.  Can you image that?  He just disappeared!

They then raced the 7 or 8 miles back to Jerusalem with the news of what had just happened.   But the disciples were skeptical, as I am.

Now the other disciples are claiming Jesus showed up at their meeting and that He also gave them a comparative study from the Tanakh about Himself.  He then asked for something to eat and he ate some fish.

So that is what I know so far.  It is all only rumor and wishful thinking as far as I am concerned.  Tragic events like this can lead you to think weird things.

 I think I will walk over and see how my friends are doing. The last time I saw them, they were fearful and unbelieving as I am, but something has come over them this last week.  They swear they have seen Jesus.

As I walk in, I notice the doors are not shut and there is a certain confidence in the countenance of each one.  Peter rushes over to me and says,

“We have seen the Lord!”

My response is quick and to the point,

Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

I am serious too!  His death has been difficult to both understand and accept.  My mind begins to fall back to those final moments before he died.  He said,

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

What did He mean by this?  Is there more to this than forgiveness?

As I am thinking about this, I look up and right there in front of me is Jesus!  But….Jesus…you….are… Am I seeing a spirit?  I don’t believe in ghosts!  Then I hear His voice and His words:

Thomas…. “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

I take my trembling finger and place it on the place where the nails were…both hands!  It is strange, to feel a scar where I saw nails piercing his skin only a week or so ago.   I reach out and put my hand inside His robe and feel the warmth of His skin and the scar where the sword had been.  I then look up at His eyes and I see the kindness and royalty of a wise and gentle king and savior.  He IS alive!  I fall at his feet and say in remorse and acknowledgment.

“My Lord and my God!”

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Conclusion

Jesus told Thomas these important words:

“Thomas,because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20: 29

How Important is the Resurrection in your life?  How important is studying the Old Testament to find Jesus?  Has your search for Jesus been confined to only a small portion of God’s word?

We will never have the experience (before Jesus returns) that Thomas had when he touched the risen and glorified body of Jesus.  But we can still find evidence which will result in faith to believe that Jesus is alive and is preparing a place for those who believe and love Him.  You see, faith is based on substance and evidence.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

If Christ was not raised, then the disciples are liars we have no hope and we are not saved from anything.  Those who have “fallen asleep” in Christ have perished.  And when we sleep in Christ, there is no resurrection for us.  If we only have a Christ that died and did not come back to life, He is just like every other person who claims to be God.  Follow the logic of Paul’s argument in the following portion of scripture:

“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”  1 Corinthians 15:  12-19

Here is the logic:

If Resurrection is not possible, nor important, then Jesus has not been raised.

If Jesus has not been raised then preaching and teaching is in vain.

If Preaching and teaching is vain then faith is empty (It has no substance-nor basis).

If faith is empty then that means the disciples are false witnesses because they said they saw him alive.

If the Disciples are false witnesses then Christ is not risen.

If Christ is not risen then our faith in Christ is futile. All those who have died have perished.

Since there is no hope of a resurrection, we are of men, most pitiable.

Paul told us that he did not want us to be ignorant about the resurrection and those who have fallen asleep (died).  If we are ignorant about it, we will sorrow like everyone else that does not have hope.  But, the fact that Jesus died and was resurrected gives us the hope of one day coming back to life through the resurrection:Our hope is that Jesus is all that He claimed to be.  He claims to have the keys of the grave and death (Revelation 1:8). He claims to be the resurrection and the life and even though we die, we will live again. John 11:25

“ But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep (died), lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring (resurrect) with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14

Paul goes so far as to provide us with the clearest passage in the Bible about the day when all who have died in Christ will be resurrected.  It will happen this way: The Lord will descend from heaven.  It will be loud because there is a shout and a loud trumpet.  Also the sky will be lit up with the angels and the glory of the Jesus and the Father.

Those in the grave will hear his voice and will meet with those who are alive at the 2nd coming and meet them in the air.  This is the start of eternity with Jesus.  This picture described by Paul is the comfort us who are to be resurrected one day we will all be reunited with those alive at His coming.  Not at any other time, but at His second coming:

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

 I Thessalonians 4:15-18

 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Matthew 16:27 (Note: our reward is when he comes)

Then the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. Matthew 25:31

So how important is the resurrection?  It is critical to our salvation:

 “… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Romans 10:9

Why is the resurrection not discussed more?  It is the bedrock of the faith we follow regarding Jesus.

Many of the writers of the Bible believed in and put their hope in the resurrection.  Here is but a few:

Job:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives,

And He shall stand at last on the earth;

And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,

That in my flesh I shall see God,

Whom I shall see for myself,

And my eyes shall behold, and not another.

How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27

Isaiah:

Your dead shall live;

Together with my dead body they shall arise.

Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust;

For your dew is like the dew of herbs,

And the earth shall cast out the dead.Isaiah 26:19

Daniel:

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2

David:

 “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” Psalm 17:15

Abraham:

Of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be called:

Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead Hebrews 11:18

There is no precedence for the resurrection except for Jesus. No other person has raised themselves from the dead. Jesus said this about the resurrection:

Jesus said,

I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”  John 11:25

“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40

Until the Lord returns, the dead sleep and wait for the last day when Jesus will raise them up.  What a day that will be!

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3: 20-21

Look again at the resurrection of Jesus and His body.  Here you will see what our bodies shall look like.  As the verse above , and many other,  tells us:  We “wait” for that glorious day when He returns and changes us.  It is not until that day that we can say,

 “Oh death, where is thy sting?  Oh grave where is thy victory?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

We cannot say this at a funeral.  The context tells us, these words cannot be said, until our risen Savior returns and changes our bodies like to his risen body:

 “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 

 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? :1 Corinthians 15: 51-55

In conclusion, let us not be a doubting Thomas, but believe.  We are promised a blessing if we do believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and that He is able to do the same for us!  He has promised to do that very thing when he returns.  Oh what a day that will be!

He’s Alive!-Now I Understand

Day 8 of the Week That Changed History

 It was like I had been reading the scripture the way I wanted it to read instead of letting it talk to me!

The following is based on Luke 24

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“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.   And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.  And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:  And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,  Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.  And they remembered his words,  And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.”  Luke 24: 1-9

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It was early in the morning and the sky was getting brighter as I walked the dusty road speaking in low tones with my friend Cleopas about the things that had transpired over the last few days.  So many things!  All very bad!

It started with the arrest of Jesus in the Garden east of the city.   During the night and into the early morning of the Preparation Day (Friday) the soldiers and mob began to move Him between the governor and religious leadership. Then they beat Him to a pulp and eventually crucified Him on a Roman cross on the hill outside of Jerusalem later in the afternoon on the Preparation Day.  I watched as He hung His head and took his last breath. I think I saw Peter off in the distance.  He appeared to be on his knees with his face in his hands.  His disappointment must be very great! We all loved the gentle Jesus and will miss Him. He certainly went about doing good.  I just don’t understand. Why?

I will certainly be labeled as a fanatic believer by my brothers, the Sadducees.  The religious leadership have declared Jesus a blasphemer.

There had been an earthquake and the sun refused to let go of its light.  Darkness took over the land like a thick wet smothering blanket.  Everything seemed out of place…frightening.  The large curtain in the temple had been ripped from top to bottom by some unseen hand. There were even reports of  people, considered saints,  coming out of their graves and appearing to many in the city! (Matthew 27: 51-53)

My personal disappointment was great, because I believed everything He said and was amazed at His great miracles and works of kindness. We thought Him to be the Messiah prophesied by many of the prophets hundreds of years ago.  He was going to set up His kingdom and deliver the Jews from the iron rule of Rome.   He was the coming king upon which I hung all my hopes.   But, it seemed like He did not want the office of king.  I had left everything to follow Him and learn His teachings, but all this seemed to come to nothing on that Friday afternoon when He died.

Now only doubt, sadness, and disappointment draped itself on Cleopas and me. My head is spinning with confusion.  I  want explanation, but the reality of deception was creeping into my thoughts and it made me feel sick and foolish.  On top of everything else, the body of Jesus is missing!  The women said He was alive, confirmed by a couple of other disciples, but I know better.  It is just wishful thinking on their part. No one could have survived the beating, the nails, the loss of blood, and finally the sharp sword in the side.  I saw it and refuse to belief anything but what my eyes can confirm. There was no mistaking… the vision of so much blood and the pale appearance of death was real.

We are on our way to Emmaus to start over;  a walk of about 8 miles.  It will take me the usual 3 1/2 hours or so to walk…maybe longer today because of our conversation and heavy heart. This will give us plenty of time to try to put all the pieces together….to try to understand and make sense of everything and to decide what to do with the rest of our lives. My clothes are now those of the common person.  I have removed my garments  worn by the other Sadducees.

All of a sudden, and unexpected, a stranger walks up from behind and joins us.  He asks,

Why are you so sad and what are you discussing?”

I find these two questions odd in the light of the excitement and well-known events of the weekend. Slightly agitated and amazed Cleopas speaks before I can open my mouth and he answers the question with a question.  He throws in some sarcasm  for good measure.

Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem that does not know the things which happened there this last few days?”

 I am even more amazed when the stranger asks,

What things?”

In disbelief, we began to explain to the stranger the events of the last few days.  Reviewing everything does not help my disappointment and we rush through them as a courtesy to the stranger.

“These things concern Jesus of Nazareth who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people .  The chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.  But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.  Indeed, besides all this today is the third day since these things happened.  Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us.  Then they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”

Then the stranger calls Cleopas and me foolish ones and that we are slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken  This is certainly not so! I have always believed the prophets.  I have come from a family who believes in the Tanakh (Old Testament) and I have read it often.  The prophets said, that the Messiah would come and deliver Israel from its enemies.

But the stranger began to recite the writings of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy) and all the Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Micah, Malachi, etc)  of the Tanakh and explain things I had missed before.

The stranger clearly points out passages that were references to Jesus.  For the next 3 hours, I am amazed at the knowledge and clarity of the stranger’s words.  As I listened to him recite our ancient books, I begin to see that it was necessary for Jesus to die for the sins of the world, but that He would be raised up the third day!  How had I missed that?  Why had we not believed Jesus when He said it was necessary for Him to die and that he would rise again?  It was like I had been reading the scripture the way I wanted it to read instead of letting it talk to me!  Indeed, we felt foolish, but encouraged by the words of the stranger.  My heart burned within me!  I wanted to hear more!  This was all exciting and new to me!  Hope was starting to spring up in my heart! What if Jesus really was alive again?

As we near the village it is almost dark. I don’t want the stranger to go and I look for excuses for Him to stay the night so we can hear more. Thankfully, He agrees to have supper with us.

As He breaks the bread, I recognize those hands and the manner in which He breaks the bread!  I finally look across the table into his eyes about the same time as Cleopas.  It is Jesus!  As soon as we recognize him, He disappears!  We had been talking to Jesus the whole time and we didn’t recognize Him!

With intense excitement and joy, Cleopas and I jump up and run the 8 miles back to Jerusalem in the dark!   We must tell the  others who were behind closed doors…those who share our confusion and disappointment.  When we arrive,  we find them huddled in a group in fear and disappointment.  Out of breath, we begin to tell them what had happened over the last several hours.  As we are telling them, Jesus appears in the room!

Everyone jumps back.  They think they are seeing a spirit, but Jesus tells them it is Him and that He is not a spirit. To prove it, He invites them to touch Him and He asks for something to eat.  They give Him some  fish and some honeycomb.  After everyone settles down and the scales of their eyes begin to fall away, Jesus repeats  the same type of study Cleopas and I heard on the road to Emmaus.  This time, He uses the entire Tanakh including the Psalms to explain how He is found all through scripture. All the disciples begin to understand that He had to die, but that He would rise on the third day.  How could we have been so slow to understand?  It was right there!

Then He said to us,

These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you.  that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.  And He opened our understanding that we might comprehend the Scriptures.”

The only disciple not with us is Thomas.  The disappointment of the cross was too much for him.  We have not seen him since Friday.  It will be 8 days before Thomas shows up….

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 Next, we will take a look at Jesus through the eyes of one who is a well-known doubter (Thomas) and attempt to understand why the resurrection of Jesus is an absolute cornerstone of the Christian faith. In fact, without it, Paul says we are most pitiful of all men (1 Corinthians 15: 12-19). But, after we see through the eyes of Thomas we will exclaim as he did:

“My Lord and My God.”  John 20:28 

Life and Death Confusion-Part 1

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”

Isaiah 1:18

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.”

John 3:16

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.

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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.

Jeremiah 29:13

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?

Isaiah 28:9

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.

John 7:17

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.”

Matthew 11:29

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.”

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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:

World Population Growth and Decline

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!

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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.

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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.”

or

“My daughter is looking down on us and watching over me.”

or

“My brother is up there teaching Peter how to play golf.”

or

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.

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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.”

Romans 5:12

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.”

Genesis 3:2-5

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.”

Genesis 3:22

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.

Revelation 22:2

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?

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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.”

Romans 6:23

Again, this verse does not say, the wages of sin is eternal life in hell.

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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.”

Ecclesiastes 9:10

 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.

Ecclesiastes 12:7

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;

John 11:25

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.

A Praying Woman is Powerful

My mom, younger brother, and I lived with my grandmother from the time I was 5 years old until I started the 5th grade at 10 years old.  As my two cousins will testify, “Mamaw” knew The Lord in a very special way.

My sweet Grandmother had a habit of kneeling beside the bed at night and praying to her Savior. She often prayed softly, but loud enough so that I heard my name being presented to the throne room of Heaven. There were times, I felt if I opened my eyes , I would see her and Jesus having a cup of tea while they talked.

Her prayers affect me to this day even though she died Christmas Eve 1976. This was only 4 months after my conversion from atheism to a follower of Christ. As she lay in the hospital bed, I asked The Lord to let her sleep so she would not be in pain and the confusion of Parkinson’s disease.  I got news of her death after I left the hospital and arrived at home where my wife and 2-month old daughter waited for me.

That exact prayer for God’s mercy would happen years later for my saintly mother, who died from a lung infection.  My prayer was, “Lord, let her sleep to escape the pain of death.”  The doctors asked the  family to say our good-byes.  When it came my turn, I trembled.  My mother had been praying for 10 years for my return to the Lord.  She often asked me when I was going to come back to the faith I once knew.  Lately, I had begun to feel that familiar pull of the Holy Spirit to repent of my sins and receive forgiveness.

 The Lord was knocking hard on the door of my heart. A lump the size of my fist was stuck in my throat as I approached this beautiful woman who also knew the Lord.  Here lay the woman who gave me life and was the sweetest non-obtrusive woman I had ever known. She was only moments away from the penalty passed upon all….death.  We would be separated, perhaps forever.

Years earlier, after my conversion, she and I had studied the Bible about the resurrection and the coming of Jesus.  It was in this study we saw the plan for those who die in Christ.  The clearest verse is found in 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18 (GW)

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!

When I leaned in close to my Mom who seemed to be at peace, but under the influence of the drugs to help soften the sting of death, I said these words through wet tears dripping on her hand. I held her soft sweet hands close to my face.

 “Mom, I will see you resurrection morning.”

Immediately, I felt a squeeze of her hand! Twice! That tightening of her hand had strength despite the drugs and impending death.  It communicated the unspoken words, “You better be there.”

Like those who see their life pass before their eyes when they think they are about to die, I recounted my fall from grace.  My fall had been dramatic just like my conversion.  When converted, I was compelled to teach others about what I had learned.  I became a Bible teacher with a very large class.  I got involved in prison ministry and a world-wide magazine did a story on my ministry.  A Christian brother (Charlie) and I began a radio ministry called Answers from Scripture.  When Billy Graham came to town, I participated in training to become a counselor.  For several nights, I had the incredible experience of working next to Jesus and the Graham team to help people start their “Jesus Journey.”

I did things under the power of God I never dreamed likely or possible.

But, a series of events in 1994 had me shaking my fist at God.  I felt He had forsaken me and I turned back to the world and began to drink for the first time in my life.  I became an alcoholic after infidelity from my wife, a sick child with a rare disease, divorce, loosing my job, and the death of my father in a car wreck.

I was so low, that I could not feel God’s presence any longer, but He was there protecting me and hearing the prayers of these two powerful women in my life….not to mention many others in my church and my family.

This experience with my dying mother would only make louder that “still small voice.”  Later, that year, I would return like the prodigal son…dirty, broke, and doubtful.  That is a story unto itself.  My God had not forsaken me!  He  allowed me to waste my inheritance for the salvation of my soul.

My experience is now firmer than ever before….in Christ, but I know that the prayers of these two beautiful women interceded for me and prayed in my stead when I could not or would not do so.

(For my three-part conversion story, click here:)

A Clean Pig Returns to the Mud-Part 1

A Clean Pig Returns to the Mud-Part 2

A Pig Washed A Second Time-Conclusion

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Last night (New Year’s eve 2015), I felt that same feeling of hearing my name being presented to The Lord. Just like I heard from my grandmother and my mother years before.

My beautiful wife of almost two years (Judy) has a tradition of praying at midnight each new year. (What a contrast to the parties and drinking that I once indulged.)  I tried to stay up till midnight, but we both feel asleep.

I was awaken by a soft touch on my arm and the sound of my beloved wife praying for me at midnight. She said The Lord woke her at 11:55 PM to pray.

There is nothing more powerful than a praying and believing woman! It was the women during Christ’s time on earth, that were closer and more loyal than the fearful men.  These women dared the enemy of man and his agents, by standing at the foot of the cross to comfort the dying Savior.  Except for John, the disciples had all fled.

I am blessed by the prayers of a Grandmother, Mother, and now my wife who encourages me along in my “Jesus Journey.” Also, those two female cousins I mentioned at the start, also pray for me!

Thank you, Judy, for carrying the prayer torch into another year and for praying for me…and my children.  May I come to know the Lord like the women in my life.

Yes, I am blessed by the women in my life.  But, I bet you are too!


“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous (woman) avails much.”

James 5:16

Life and Death Confusion-Part 2

When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?

Isaiah 8:19

In today’s society, mediums and spiritiists do not whisper and mutter, they shout at us.  Their voice is heard on the TV, Movies, and small homes along a busy street!  The council from Isaiah is to inquire of God rather than looking to the dead for answers.  Moses confirms Isaiah’s council,

“Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 19:31

These spirits lie and deceive people about life and death.

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A popular TV series called the “Walking Dead,” is based on a comic book series by Robert Kirkman.   Should a comic book written by one man tell us more about the dead than the 40 writers of the Bible?

The walking dead (We use to call them Zombies) are those who have “died,” but somehow are able to walk, move, and eat human flesh.  This is a contradiction in terms; dead VS alive.  It echos of the first lie recorded in the Bible and told by Satan himself while disguised as a snake.

“You shall not surely die.”

Genesis 3:4

This was the first form of spiritualism meant to mystify and deceive the first couple.

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The “Walking Dead” is in its fifth season and has approximately 17 million viewers.  It is the most watch drama series in cable history.

There have been other TV series about life and death such as “Resurrection” and many movies such as “What Dreams Might Come’ and “The Sixth Sense.”  This is but just a few that give a writer’s view of death.

Unfortunately, this type of entertainment has contributed to confusion about Life and Death.  It is one the Dirty Dozen that confuse people about the truth as found in the time-tested word of God.  (“What to Do With Doubt-Dirty Dozen” from a previous blog.)

To further add to the confusion are well-meaning people and pastors who speculate that our dearly departed are “looking-down” at those who are still alive while enjoying the reward of heaven.  How could that be heaven if they see the pain and suffering we go through on planet earth?  God has a better plan even on the topic of death.

Then there are movies and experiences that tell of a  person who died on the operating table and went to a light in the sky or walked the streets of gold.  There is a popular movie about a young boy who died and saw heaven and family.  It is called, “Heaven is For Real.”

This sounds good, but is it truth?

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The only source for truth about what happens at death is found in God’s word,  Wouldn’t you agree?  Anything else is speculation, deceit, misinterpretation of scripture, or perhaps the mind imagining things due to the chemical reactions taking place during life and death situations.

The following verse proceeds our opening verse.  Not only are we instructed to consult God, but it is His word that is to be consulted for light and understanding.

“To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

Isaiah 8:20

Let us spend a few moments seeing what the Bible has to say about death that comes to all people, whether counted among the save or counted among the lost.  _____________________________________________________________

The first recorded lie came through Satan disguised as a snake and it was about death!  He said,

“You will not surely die.”

The lie directly contradicted the plain words of the Lord, cautioning them about disobeying,

“You will surely die.”

Ever since then, the lie and contradiction of God’s word has grown into man forms so that most people (even Christians) think that no one really dies.  Their soul lives forever in one place or another.  Some believe that the person is reincarnated and come back in another form.

Paul tells us because of this first seed of disobedience, it grew into a world full of sin, death and dying:

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

Romans 5:12

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

Notice that death is the payment to all men because of the sin that began thousands of years before. It is not eternal life in another form or even eternal life in a place of torment.

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Death means exactly what it says and it comes upon all mankind whether wealthy or  poor;  king or servant; male or female.

There are many passages from inspired men in the Bible who underscore the fact that when death comes there is no more life nor activity:

Solomon, who was given great wisdom and wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and most of Proverbs described death as follows:

“Whatever you are capable of doing, do with all your might because there’s no work, thought, knowledge, or wisdom in the grave, which is where you are headed.”

Ecclesiastes 9:10 CB

“For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten.”

Ecclesiastes 9:5 NKJV

Summary:

No work

No thought, knowledge or wisdom in the grave

Dead don’t know anything

After enough time, the memory of them is forgotten.

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David, the father of Solomon, wrote about death in this manner:

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Psalm 146: 3-4

The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.

Psalm 115:17

For in death there is no remembrance of You;
In the grave who will give You thanks?

Psalm 6:5

Summary:

The thoughts of a person perish

No one praises the Lord while dead

The dead have no remembrance of anyone including God and the dead do not give God thanks.

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Job who spoke “what is right” about God (Job 42:7) described death in the same way as Solomon. But he also mentioned death as waiting for a change.

His sons come to honor, and he does not know it; They are brought low, and he does not perceive it.

Job 14:21

If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, Till my change comes.

Job 14:14

He knew that one day he would be resurrected and see his Redeemer (Jesus) at the last day on earth…a very longtime after his skin is destroyed.

For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!

Job 19: 25-27

When will his change come?  Paul agrees with Job though they are separated by thousands of years:

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

1 Corinthians 15:50

Don’t you like the satisfaction of understanding something that has been a mystery?  My wife and I enjoy mysteries on TV and in books.  We are always guessing at how the mystery will be solved.  In this passage and others, we see the mystery solved about death. Paul says, he is telling us a mystery that is now understood.   Job understood that he would be in the grave until his change came.  The change occurs “at the last trumpet.”  When this occurs, the righteous dead will be raised incorruptible (no longer subject to death and decay) and or mortality (subject to death) will be changed to immortality (no longer subject to death.)

Paul further reveals the mystery of death when he wrote his letter to the church at Thessalonica.  He was encouraging those who were waiting for the return of Jesus.  This is the clearest picture of what happens to those who have died “in Christ”

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

Why do we not comfort each other with the words Paul encouraged us to do rather than the fanciful and imaginative scenarios of men?  What a joy to know that one day Jesus himself will return to our sinful planet and there will be a loud sound of a trumpet and those who rise first will be those who have died “in Christ.”  How about those who rise second?  More on that later.

These along with those who are alive “in Christ” will meet them in the air and the Lord will take us to where He is now.  They will never be a separated from the Lord again.  What a comfort to know that those who died “in Christ” will be reunited with loved ones “in Christ” when Christ returns!  What a grand reunion day that will be!

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Jesus also helps us understand death and the passage of time by referring to it as sleep.  There is a real example of the experience of death.  Lazarus, who was a friend of Jesus and brother to Martha and Mary, got sick and died.  He was dead four days.  At four days, the body will have had enough time to decay and smell.  The story is in John 11.

Jesus told his disciples,

“Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up. Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.”  However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.  Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”

Why did Jesus refer to Lazarus’ death as sleep if it was not an important lesson for them (and us) to know?

Lazarus was truly dead.  His spirit was not in heaven enjoying his reward.  He was dead just like Job, Solomon, and Paul described.

Jesus gave Mary hope by reminding her,

 “Your brother will rise again.”

John 11: 23

 Mary had her understanding of death correct when she acknowledged to Jesus,

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

John 11:24

 Her hope, as is Job, Paul’s, and all others is in the return of Christ and the resurrection.  It is not that they are in heaven somewhere already enjoying the reward of being with Jesus.

 Then Jesus tells her something that we all should know about the mystery of life and death,

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?

John 11:25, 26

Standing there before Martha is the one who will resurrect those “in Christ” at the “last day.”  Although we die, we will live again and never die again.

This is not the case for those who are not “in Christ.”  We will see in the next study that they will die like all do, but then they will “perish.”  Perish is eternal death. It is the opposite of the reward of eternal life as described in the world’s favorite verse:

“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.”

John 3:16

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Another time, Jesus referred to the death of a 12-year old child as sleep.  It is found in Mark 5: 35-43.

“Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.”

Mark 5:38, 39

This idea of resting or sleeping until Jesus returns is not a new teaching.  It has been taught as such since the beginning of time.  If you have ever been in an old grave yard, you will often see the initials RIP.  This means rest in peace.  When did all this change?  Why do people believe we have an immortal soul that never dies and must live somewhere for eternity.  We will explore more in our next study.

A few years ago, I had to go into the hospital for surgery.  When the doctors and nurses put me to sleep, I knew nothing, felt no pain, and did not dream.  I did not feel or have any worries about my chest being open up and repairs made to my heart. I was not aware of the passage of time.  It had been almost 4 hours since they put me to sleep, but it felt like the passage of time was instant.

So it will be with Job and all those who died as believers.  Whether it is a thousand years or just a few hours, the passage of time will be instant.  So when your loved one dies in Christ, the next thing they will see will be the beautiful return of Jesus.  They will be given flesh like Jesus gave to Adam when he created them of the dust of the ground. They will be changed instantly in perfect heath with the gift of immortality.  Then they will rise in the air to meet Jesus and go to the place He has prepared for us.

 “I (Jesus) go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

John 14:2, 3

 Our hope is in the resurrection, not in dying so our soul can go to heaven. Until then, our body returns to dust and our Spirit returns to God who gave it.  The passage of time is but for a twinkling of an eye then we shall be changed and begin eternity with those redeemed by the Lord Jesus.

But what about those verses that seem to paint a different story like “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” or the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus?

This we will study next time. Until then, put your hope and faith in Jesus who proclaims:

I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

Revelation 1:18

What to Do With Doubt-Part 3 (Resurrection)

Have you ever thought about the claims of Jesus when he said,

 “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”

John 11:25

How important is the resurrection of Jesus? Was it a real event or did Jesus’ disciples just dream it up?  What will our bodies be like when we are resurrected?  What happens before then?

Doubt can be diminished as a person comes to believe that Jesus was resurrected and He has the same plan for us when He returns.

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This account is from Thomas who seems to have separated himself from the other disciples after the crucifixion and did not see them again for about 8 days (John 20:26) after Jesus appeared to them.  At the end of this story, continue to read to find out exactly how important the resurrection is in the life of the believer and in dispelling doubt.

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Greetings.  I am Thomas, one of his original 12 disciples.  I was commissioned by Jesus to do mighty works for the kingdom of God, but I am confused and skeptical, just as you may be.  Let me tell you what I know and the timelines.  I have not seen the other disciples since the last supper which was on the day before the Preparation Day.  You would call it Thursday.  Most of us were scattered when He went to trial and was crucified.  I think I saw Peter on the other side of the hill weeping on that day.

First of all, I know that Jesus is dead!  I saw him beaten, scourged and eventually nailed to a Roman Cross. He died on the afternoon of the Preparation Day.  This is the day you Gentiles call Friday.  It is the day us Jews and the converts prepare for the Sabbath, a day of rest and worship.  I have always enjoyed the Sabbath especially with Jesus, but this Sabbath was different.  We all retreated to a secret spot to literally rest from the events of the previous 24 hours, but our souls were not at rest.  The women had seen the body of Jesus and were resting according to the Sabbath commandment.  Their plan was to go to the tomb of Jesus at the rising of the sun on the First Day of the week to prepare his body. (John 20:19 and Luke 23:56)

The Scribes and Pharisees wanted Jesus dead because they said He claimed to be God and that he could tear down the temple and build it again in three days.  Often Jesus would say things like this that made little sense to me. But, later he would explain it to His followers and we could see its true meaning.

Since the religious leaders didn’t want Jesus and the two thieves hanging on the cross during the Sabbath, they broke the legs of the thieves to hurry the death process.  You see, a man hanging on the cross with broken legs is unable to push up against the nails in his feet to get a breath with their legs broken.  The diaphragm will collapse in such a way that they smother to death.  Such a disgusting and uncomfortable slow death, but since the Sabbath was only a few hours from beginning, they were fortunate and did not have to suffer for days as have many others.  The Romans are so cruel! But, I don’t blame them.  It was our own religious leaders that pushed and pushed until they finally got what they wanted…the scourging and death of Jesus.

But, when the soldiers came to Jesus, they supposed he was already dead and did not break his legs but rather took a sword and pierced his side just to make sure (John 19: 31-37).  Blood and water came forth.  I saw it even though I watched from a distance to protect myself from the same fate.   It was horrible!  It took the air out of me (so to speak) and made me wonder why I followed Jesus in the first place.  So, I know Jesus to be dead!  Even the women went to His tomb that Friday afternoon to look at his body and to prepare spices to anoint him early on Sunday morning.

Mary Magdalene, who Jesus had cast out 7 demons, said that she had seen Jesus at the tomb with two angels.  But, I don’t know about her.  She did have demons didn’t she?  Jesus cast out her demons, but maybe one was left over and it is making her mad.  The whole city must be mad, because it is reported that many people who were dead were resurrected and appeared to many! (Matthew 27:53)  I have not seen any, but I must admit I have not been going out much lately. I feel lost and with no purpose or direction.  I just want to rest.

Then I hear that about eight days ago on the day you Gentiles call Sunday, Cleopas and his friend were on their way to Emmaus and had an encounter with a spirit or something. It was reported to me by the other disciples that a stranger, spent a good three hours giving a comparative study of the writings of the Tanakh or the Old Testament as you call it.

As they walked down the dusty road towards Emmaus the stranger told them about how Jesus could be found all through scripture.  As they began to understand from the Tanakh about Jesus, they could see why He had to die on the cross, they said it made their “hearts burn within them.”  I remember Jesus saying something about dying and being resurrected, but it was so far from my thinking that I put it out of my mind.

Cleopas reported that when they reached their destination, they begged him to stay and tell them more of what he knew.  But, the stranger turned out to be Jesus himself!  They apparently recognized him as He broke bread and then He disappeared.  Can you image that?  He just disappeared!

They then raced back to Jerusalem with the news of what had just happened.   But the disciples were skeptical as I am. Now the other disciples are claiming Jesus showed up at their meeting and that he also gave them a comparative study from the Tanakh about himself.  He then asked for something to eat and he ate some fish.

So that is what I know so far.  It is all only rumor and wishful thinking as far as I am concerned.  Tragic events like this can lead you to think weird things.  So I think I will walk over and see how my friends are doing. The last time I saw them, they were fearful and unbelieving as I am, but something has come over them the last week.  They swear they have seen Jesus.

As I walk in, I notice the doors are not shut and there is a certain confidence in the countenance of each one.  Peter rushes over to me and says,

“We have seen the Lord!”

My response is quick and to the point,

Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

I am serious too.  His death has been difficult to both understand and accept.  My mind begins to fall back to those final moments before he died.  He said,

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

What did He mean by this?  Is there more to this than forgiveness?

As I am thinking about this, I look up and right there in front of me is Jesus!  But….Jesus…you….are… Am I seeing a spirit?  I don’t believe in ghosts!  Then I hear His voice and His words:

Thomas…. “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

I take my trembling finger and place it on the place where the nails were…both hands!  It is strange, to feel a scar where I saw nails piercing his skin only a week or so ago.   I reach out and put my hand inside His robe and feel the warmth of His skin and the scar where the sword had been.  I then look up at His eyes and I see the kindness and royalty of a wise and gentle king and savior.  He IS alive!  I fall at his feet and say in remorse and acknowledgment.

“My Lord and my God!”

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“…we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.”

Philippians 3: 20, 21

How Important is the Resurrection in your life?

How important is it in your experience and understanding of the Second Coming? Why is this so important?  Can’t we just believe that he existed and that be enough?

Jesus told Thomas these important words:

“Thomas,because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20: 29

We will never have the experience that Thomas had when he touched the risen and glorified body of Jesus, but we can still find evidence which will result in faith to believe that Jesus is alive and is preparing a place for those who believe and love Him.  You see, faith is based on substance and evidence.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

If Christ was not raised, then the disciples are liars we have no hope and we are not saved from anything.  Those who have “fallen asleep” in Christ have perished.  And when we sleep in Christ, there is no resurrection for us.  If we only have a Christ that died and did not come back to life, He is just like every other person who claims to be God.  Follow the logic of Paul’s argument in the following portion of scripture:

“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”  1 Corinthians 15:  12-19

Here is the logic:

If Resurrection is not possible, nor important, then Jesus has not been raised.

If Jesus has not been raised then preaching and teaching is in vain.

If Preaching and teaching is vain then faith is empty (It has no substance-nor basis).

If faith is empty then that means the disciples are false witnesses because they said they saw him alive.

If the Disciples are false witnesses then Christ is not risen.

If Christ is not risen then our faith in Christ is futile. All those who have died have perished.

Since there is no hope of a resurrection, we are of men, most pitiable.

Paul told us that he did not want us to be ignorant about the resurrection and those who have fallen asleep (died).  If we are ignorant about it, we will sorrow like everyone else that does not have hope.  But, the fact that Jesus died and was resurrected gives us the hope of one day coming back to life through the resurrection.

Our hope is that Jesus is all that He claimed to be.  He claims to have the keys of the grave and death (Revelation 1:8). He claims to be the resurrection and the life and

“even though we die, we will live again.”

John 11:25

“ But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep (died), lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring (resurrect) with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14

Paul goes so far as to provide us with the clearest passage in the Bible about the day when all who have died in Christ will be resurrected.  It will happen this way: The Lord will descend from heaven.  It will be loud because there is a shout and a loud trumpet.  Also the sky will be lit up with the angels and the glory of the Jesus and the Father.

Those in the grave will hear his voice and will meet with those who are alive at the 2nd coming and meet them in the air.  This is the start of eternity with Jesus.  This picture described by Paul is the comfort us who are to be resurrected one day we will all be reunited with those alive at His coming.  Not at any other time, but at His second coming:

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

 I Thessalonians 4:15-18

 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.  (Note: our reward is when he comes)

Matthew 16:27 

Then the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. Matthew 25:31

So how important is the resurrection?  It is critical to our salvation:

 “… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Romans 10:9

Why is the resurrection not discussed more?  It is the bedrock of the faith we follow regarding Jesus.

Many of the writers of the Bible believed in and put their hope in the resurrection.  Here is but a few:

Job:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives,

And He shall stand at last on the earth;

And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,

That in my flesh I shall see God,

Whom I shall see for myself,

And my eyes shall behold, and not another.

How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27

Isaiah:

Your dead shall live;

Together with my dead body they shall arise.

Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust;

For your dew is like the dew of herbs,

And the earth shall cast out the dead.Isaiah 26:19

Daniel:

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2

David:

 “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” Psalm 17:15

Abraham:

Of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be called:

Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead Hebrews 11:18

There is no precedence for the resurrection except for Jesus. No other person has raised themselves from the dead. Jesus said this about the resurrection:

Jesus said,

I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”  John 11:25

And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40

Until the Lord returns, the dead sleep and wait for the last day when Jesus will raise them up.  What a day that will be!

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there (heaven), the Lord Jesus Christ,  who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3: 20-21

Look again at the resurrection of Jesus and His body.  Here you will see what our bodies shall look like.  As the verse above , and many other,  tells us:  We “wait” for that glorious day when He returns and changes us.  It is not until that day that we can say,

 “Oh death, where is thy sting?  Oh grave where is thy victory?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

We cannot say this at a funeral.  The context tells us, these words cannot be said, until our risen Savior returns and changes our bodies like to his risen body:

 “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 

 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? :1 Corinthians 15: 51-55

In conclusion, let us not be a doubting Thomas, but believe.  We are promised a blessing if we do believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and that He is able to do the same for us!  He has promised to do that very thing when he returns.  Oh what a day that will be!  The great “getting up morning”!

“In that great gettin’ up mornin’ fare the well, fare the well.”