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The Other Side of Life

Part 1

Our everyday world has greatly changed in just the past few years. The main tensions used to be between the nations of the western democracies and the nations of the communist world. While that threat still exists from a few key communist countries (though ignored by most people), suddenly the greatest imminent cause of strife between countries comes from both overt and covert sponsorship of terrorism. The more traditional "saber-rattling" between formal armies has been superseded, to a large extent, by the less conspicuous but well-armed small groups of terrorists whose purpose is to wreak havoc on established structures of society. Taken individually and separately, such groups have very little power but the chief weapon they use against their enemies is really just fear. Fear, however, is a very strong weapon.

Ignorance of the Facts

Fear of the unknown can paralyze the actions of many people. Look at fear for a moment and even consider yourself. A person’s actions are governed by knowledge. Such knowledge can be based purely on substantial facts; it can be based on a mixture of facts and speculations; or it can be based almost entirely on speculation and ignorance of the facts, even if such ignorance masquerades as self-assurance and arrogance. The greater the level of factual uncertainty, the greater is the level of fear. Factual assuredness, however, is not the entire key to overcoming fear. What really counts is the accuracy of the facts on which our actions are founded.

Probably uppermost as the greatest of fears for most people is the fear of death. Why do you think that is so? In Hebrews 2:14, God gives us the spiritual answer.

(Heb 2:14-15 NASB) Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself [that’s Jesus] likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; {15} and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

Physically speaking, we can analyze such fear of death from several angles. Life is preferable to death largely because the known is preferable to the unknown. The chance to experience more of life’s inputs, whether they be good or bad, is more appealing to most people than the uncertainty of what lies after death. The "survival instinct" built into most humans, however, is overridden in some people who have a quest for death via suicide. Whether that suicide wish develops from despair and depression or it is built upon the mislaid foundation of glorification through martyrdom, the motivation is the same. It is based upon speculation of life after death and ignorance of the true facts, even if the fervency is displayed through actions of complete self-assuredness. False facts masquerading as the truth are just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than sheer speculation. The martyr can be motivated just as strongly by lies if he believes them to be true.

The veracity of a subject, in order to be recognized as truth, requires authority. In the case of an invention, it requires the authority of the inventor to say what the invention will or will not be able to perform. In the case of events or happenings, it requires the authority of an eyewitness or one who has personally gone through the experience. When we consider the truth about death and what lies beyond death, we should, likewise, use the same tools of analysis to search for the source material from our inventor, the one who transcends both life and death.

Fortunately, that inventor has left us words of truth in the Bible. Many of the world’s philosophies and religions attempt to explain or paint a picture of what lies beyond death. Philosophical writings range from individual fantasies to secondhand "hearsay" and speculation. Religious teachings run the gamut from enhancements of mere philosophical writings to embellishments and private interpretations of the writings of God found in the Bible. Some teachings resort to pushing supplemental scriptures that pretend to replace or be superior to the Bible.

The God of the Bible is our creator. He is the one who invented us out of matter that, formerly had been the nothingness of outer space. Does it not make sense that the one who possessed such power, ability and intellect to perform such mighty works would not be the one possessing both the knowledge and the authority to be the ultimate arbiter of the truth about death and what lies beyond?

The Authority of God

In John 18:38, Pontius Pilate asked Jesus Christ, the agent of the one who possessed such knowledge and authority, the age-old question, "what is truth?" Pilate asked that question out of willful ignorance because the essence of the answer had just been given to him in the Messiah’s previous statement in verse 37.

(John 18:37 NASB) "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth."

As the agent of God Most High, Christ boldly stated that his main purpose in coming into the world was to "bear witness to the truth." As we said earlier, the validity of events, happenings, and processes requires the authority of an eyewitness. God the Father is the ultimate authority in the Universe and Jesus plainly testified in John 8:38 that the Father is the source.

(John 8:38 NASB) "I speak the things which I have seen with My Father…"

Furthermore, in John 6:38, Jesus spoke of the Father as his own motivation and the will of the Father as the driving force that guides his own actions.

(John 6:38 NASB) "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

Again, in John 4:34, Jesus noted that it is the Father who has a planned work to do. It is the very sustenance of Christ’s life to do that work and to achieve the accomplishment of the Father’s will.

(John 4:34 NASB) Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.

In the eighth chapter of John, Jesus was defending the truth of his own testimony before the Pharisees in the temple at Jerusalem. In so doing, he again founded the truth of his testimony on the authority of the Father.

(John 8:26 NASB) "I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world."

Continue in verse forty.

(John 8:40 NASB) "But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.

Speaking privately to his disciples in John 15:15, Jesus again based the truth of his teaching on the source authority of the Father but he went further. He told his disciples that it was the very truth from the Father that he had made known to them. He didn’t say he had made it known to the world. He privately said he had made it known to them.

(John 15:15 NASB) "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

It should, therefore, be obvious that Christ was witnessing and testifying of the truth from the Great Authority of the Universe, God the Father. It is equally clear that the veracity of such truth emanating from the Father’s authority is sure because there can be no greater source. Let’s explore, then, the direct revelations given to us about death through his word, the holy scriptures of the Bible.

The Spirit of Life in Man

We first learn about life from death at the creation of man in Genesis 2:7. Out of dead matter God formed the being that became man. Notice, however, that after the man was formed, he did not become a living being until God breathed the breath of life into his nostrils.

(Gen 2:7 NASB) Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

What was that "breath of life" that gave the man a discerning, rational, and understanding mind? It came from God and it made the man a sentient being above the animals. In Job 32:8, Elihu, the friend of Job, speaks about the essence of what gives mankind understanding. Notice the wording in the New Revised Standard Version.

(Job 32:8 NRSV) But truly it is the spirit in a mortal, the breath of the Almighty, that makes for understanding.

After Adam and Eve sinned by rebelling against God’s rule in the Garden of Eden, God pronounced to them the curse, which Adam had earned through his disobedience. In Genesis 3:17, God went on to explain what would be Adam’s lot in life and how his life would come to an end.

(Gen 3:17-19 NASB) Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. {18} "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you shall eat the plants of the field; {19} By the sweat of your face You shall eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return."

Ecclesiastes is the book containing the words of Solomon as a preacher. Throughout the book, Solomon makes a distinction between the spirit, or breath, of an animal and that of a man. In Ecclesiastes 3:19, he who was given his wisdom directly from God, elaborates on the fate of all mankind and on the spirit in man that makes him different from the animals.

(Eccl 3:19-21 NASB) For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. {20} All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. {21} Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth?

In Ecclesiastes 8:8, he shows that a man is not really a possessor of his own spirit, as he has no power to control it in the day of his death.

(Eccl 8:8 KJV) There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death…

What happens at death? In Ecclesiastes 9:5, Solomon tells us about the conscious state of the dead as they lie in the ground.

(Eccl 9:5 NASB) For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten.

Further, in verse 10, Solomon reiterates the nothingness experienced in the grave.

(Eccl 9:10 KJV) Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

Finally, in Ecclesiastes 12:7, Solomon states plainly what happens at death.

(Eccl 12:7 KJV) Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

Job and Solomon weren’t the only ones who knew what happens to man at death. David also knew and wrote about it in the book of Psalms. In Psalms 146:4, David spoke of the fate of even the great princes of the earth. Even the great men are no better than commoners.

(Psa 146:4 NASB) His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; In that very day his thoughts perish.

In Psalms 115:17, David goes on to address the activity of the dead in the grave.

(Psa 115:17 NASB) The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor do any who go down into silence;

In Ezekiel 18:4, the prophet Ezekiel states the punishment destined to come on a man who disobeys God’s commandments.

(Ezek 18:4 NASB) "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.

Even the prophet Zechariah knew the fate of the dead. In Zechariah 12:1, he went beyond mere fate, though, because he knew God is the source of the spirit in man.

(Zec 12:1 NASB) The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel. Thus declares the LORD who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him,

Yes, God is the one who forms the spirit of man within him. So, you see plainly, there is a spirit in man. The spirit is not the man but it imparts intellect and understanding to the man. Without the spirit in man that God gave when he breathed into our forefather, Adam, we would be no better than the animals. We certainly would have no reasoning abilities above mere animal instincts.

Remember, all of these very plain scriptures so far have been from the Old Testament. Most modern Christian denominations, and even modern Judaism and Islam, believe and teach that people go to heaven when they die. Many of the "Christian" religions claim to get their beliefs from the New Testament because only the New Testament teaches about resurrection from the dead. That’s what they think but is that really the truth? Just a minute ago, we read the statement from Elihu in the book of Job, that "…truly it is the spirit in a mortal, the breath of the Almighty, that makes for understanding." Yes, Elihu knew that God put a spirit in mankind and it is that spirit of man that gives us minds with the capacity to have understanding, thought and reasoning. Furthermore, Job did not dispute Elihu’s statement.

In the New Testament, we have an excellent example of Christ acknowledging the presence of a spirit in man. He was called to heal an ailing young girl. Before he could arrive, the girl died. In Luke 8:49, look at Jesus’ reaction when he was informed of her death and look at what he did next.

(Luke 8:49-55 NASB) While He was still speaking, someone came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, "Your daughter has died; do not trouble the Teacher anymore." {50} But when Jesus heard this, He answered him, "Do not be afraid any longer; only believe, and she shall be made well." {51} And when He had come to the house, He did not allow anyone to enter with Him, except Peter and John and James, and the girl's father and mother. {52} Now they were all weeping and lamenting for her; but He said, "Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep." {53} And they began laughing at Him, knowing that she had died. {54} He, however, took her by the hand and called, saying, "Child, arise!" {55} And her spirit returned, and she rose immediately; and He gave orders for something to be given her to eat.

So, the girl clearly was dead. Her spirit had left but at Christ’s command, her spirit returned and life returned to her body. Look further at the incident of one of Jesus’ best friends, Lazarus, in John 11:1. Focus on how Jesus equated sleep with death and how steadfastly the two sisters of Lazarus knew that there is an eventual resurrection for all.

(John 11:1-45 NASB) Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. {2} And it was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. {3} The sisters therefore sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." {4} But when Jesus heard it, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it." {5} Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. {6} When therefore He heard that he was sick, He stayed then two days longer in the place where He was. {7} Then after this He said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." {8} The disciples said to Him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?" {9} Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. {10} "But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." {11} This He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awaken him out of sleep." {12} The disciples therefore said to Him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." {13} Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. {14} Then Jesus therefore said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, {15} and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him." {16} Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him." {17} So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. {18} Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; {19} and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. {20} Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him; but Mary still sat in the house. {21} Martha therefore said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. {22} "Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." {23} Jesus said to her, "Your brother shall rise again." {24} Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." {25} Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, {26} and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" {27} She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world." {28} And when she had said this, she went away, and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, "The Teacher is here, and is calling for you." {29} And when she heard it, she arose quickly, and was coming to Him. {30} Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. {31} The Jews then who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. {32} Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." {33} When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her, also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled, {34} and said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see." {35} Jesus wept. {36} And so the Jews were saying, "Behold how He loved him!" {37} But some of them said, "Could not this man, who opened the eyes of him who was blind, have kept this man also from dying?" {38} Jesus therefore again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. {39} Jesus said, "Remove the stone." Martha, the sister of the deceased, said^ to Him, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days." {40} Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" {41} And so they removed the stone. And Jesus raised His eyes, and said, "Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me. {42} "And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me." {43} And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." {44} He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." {45} Many therefore of the Jews, who had come to Mary and beheld what He had done, believed in Him.

Yes, Jesus equated death with sleep but it wasn’t a new principle. The sisters both knew that their brother would rise from his sleep in the grave at the resurrection of the last day and Christ did not dispute their beliefs. He went beyond the reality of the resurrection at the last day for a special purpose. Even before he had left to go to Bethany, and at the same time he had privately told his disciples that Lazarus was dead he had told them, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it."

In the second chapter of the book of Acts, we can see that even David, the "man after God’s own heart," is still dead and buried and has not risen to heaven.

(Acts 2:29 KJV) Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.

Skip down to verse 34.

(Acts 2:34 KJV) For David is not ascended into the heavens…

The great man of God, Daniel, knew that God makes a distinction between peoples based upon their deeds. In Daniel 12:2, he shows the different destinies that await people after their deaths. The prophecy given in chapters eleven and twelve are set at the "time of the end" shortly before the restoration of God’s government upon earth. Look at the wording in the New Revised Standard Version.

(Dan 12:1-2 NRSV) "At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. {2} Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Clearly, there are at least two distinct categories of people who will be raised back to life from their current position of "sleep" in the dust of the ground. Each group, however, has a separate destiny.

The Hope of the Resurrection

As we just said, most modern Christian denominations teach that people go to heaven upon death. They claim to get their teachings from the New Testament but the resurrection from the dead is a teaching found throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

Look back again in the book of Job in chapter 14. We can see that Job knew, centuries before the birth of Christ, that resurrection from the dead was certain. In fact, he even asked and answered the very pointed question about the possibility of life after death in Job 14:14.

(Job 14:14-15 KJV) If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. {15} Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.

Look at those verses very closely, You’ll notice Job’s sure confidence in the resurrection. Beyond that, Job says "all the days of my appointed time" he will "wait" until his "change" comes. He knows that he will be in the grave for many years just waiting for the resurrection from the dead. He was sure that his resurrection would come because he knew God "will have a desire to the work of thine hands."

Job wasn’t the only one who spoke about waiting for a change or transformation of his present body. In Philippians 3:20, Paul also spoke of anticipating the transformation of his body upon his resurrection.

(Phil 3:20-21 NASB) For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; {21} who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

In 2 Timothy 4:6, in some of his last written words to Timothy, Paul spoke of the future time when Paul would receive his crown or reward given to him directly by Jesus at his second coming.

(2 Tim 4:6-8 NASB) For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. {7} I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; {8} in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Notice, Paul didn’t say he would receive his crown "when he got to heaven." He said he would receive the crown of righteousness "on that day", that is, the day of Christ’s appearing, the day of his return to earth.

Paul dealt directly with the question of the difference between the physical body and the spiritual body and just what happens upon resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, the resurrection chapter. In verses 42 through 54, Paul juxtaposes the first man, Adam, and the last man, Christ.

(1 Cor 15:42-54 NASB) So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; {43} it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; {44} it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. {45} So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. {46} However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. {47} The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. {48} As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. {49} And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. {50} Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. {51} Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, {52} in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. {53} For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. {54} But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.

Paul compared the present earthly body with the spiritual body that is to come and showed that the mortal will become immortal. If you listen to most "Christian" preachers today, you would think the change from mortal to immortal occurs at death. In fact, at most funerals, the dead person is "preached into heaven" when eulogies are given, which emphasize the person’s good and overlook the evil and rebellion against God’s laws.

We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, who died in an automobile accident in Paris, France, in August 1997. Billions of people throughout the world originally witnessed her funeral on television. Preachers spoke of her goodness and lead most people to think she is in heaven. We saw earlier in the book of Acts that one of the most righteous of all men, David, King of Israel, is still both dead and buried and has not ascended to heaven. If David, who both knew and obeyed God, and did what was pleasing in God’s sight, is not ascended to heaven, how could we think that a mere princess who did not know God or keep his laws would have ascended to heaven? No, Diana is "both dead and buried, and her sepulchre is with us unto this day." She is still buried on that island in the lake at Althorp, in England.

The scriptures in the Bible prove that the dead remain both dead and buried until the future time of resurrection. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul specifies the correct time frame for the change from the physical body to the spiritual body.

(1 Th 4:13-18 NASB) But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. {14} For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. {15} 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, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. {16} For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. {17} 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. {18} Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Jesus brought together the Old Testament and the New Testament in Luke 20:34. He compared the present physical with the spiritual immortality rewarded to God’s elect, achieved at the resurrection.

(Luke 20:34-38 NASB) And Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, {35} but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; {36} for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. {37} "But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB. {38} "Now He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him."

Yes, Jesus contrasted the mere hope of the dead who presently lie in their graves with the reality of the gift of immortal life to be realized at their resurrection. Time after time throughout the scriptures, mankind is promised the hope of a future resurrection but next time we’ll see even more clearly that, while the promise of a resurrection is the same for all of God’s creation, the destiny of all people upon resurrection is not the same.

Sermon given by Philip Edwards
February 4, 2017
Copyright 2017, Philip Edwards

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