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The Other Side of Life

Part 2

What happens to people when they die? Last time, we found, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, it is very clear that the dead lie in their graves at death and are viewed by God as being "asleep" until a future time appointed for their resurrection back to life. They do not instantly "go to heaven" or "burn in hell" as most people think and many religions teach. Rather, they wait in their graves until the time of the restoration of God's great worldwide government for the benefit of all mankind. The precise timing for that resurrection, however, is up to the will of the Father.

God's own Mercy for God's own Purposes

Remember as stated in Exodus 33:19, God is merciful toward those to whom he wishes to extend mercy at the time he wishes to extend mercy.

(Exo 33:19 NASB) And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion."

Do you think that's unfair? Is it just that God will have compassion on some people and not on others? Look at the words of the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 29:16.

(Isa 29:16 NASB) You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made should say to its maker, "He did not make me"; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, "He has no understanding"?

Look again, a few chapters later, in Isaiah 45:9.

(Isa 45:9-12 NASB) "Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker-- An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, 'What are you doing?' Or the thing you are making say, 'He has no hands'? {10} "Woe to him who says to a father, 'What are you begetting?' Or to a woman, 'To what are you giving birth?'" {11} Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: "Ask Me about the things to come concerning My sons, And you shall commit to Me the work of My hands. {12} "It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands, And I ordained all their host.

The apostle Paul elaborates on this subject further in Romans 9:14. In fact, he quotes the same verse in Exodus that we just read a few minutes ago.

(Rom 9:14-24 NASB) What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! {15} For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." {16} So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. {17} For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH." {18} So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. {19} You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" {20} On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? {21} Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? {22} What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? {23} And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, {24} even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

The pessimist would jump on verse 22 and say, "Ah, there you have it. Everyone needs to repent now or they'll be destroyed in the lake of fire." Is that what it really says, though? No, we must take all scriptures within context and put together many different scriptures in order to tell the complete story. Keep in mind, the context of Romans 9 is similar to what we just read in Isaiah 45. God makes different aspects of his creation for different purposes: his own different purposes for his use at different times.

The Present and the Future

There is an old saying in many countries, "there's nothing more certain than death and taxes." Last time, we read the writings of Solomon, as preacher, in the book of Ecclesiastes that "the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything..." Such is the certainty of death in this present, physical world but there is more than just the present.

Philosophers and world religions have sought for centuries to answer the questions about what lies after death. Such speculations have led to developing theories and even entire chronologies that attempt to make the masses more comfortable about what lies beyond death. In doing so, however, many storytellers have led millions astray because their speculations have ignored or perverted the direct answers given by God in the holy scriptures. Atheists have said "there is no resurrection from the dead." Most of the rest of the world's religions, in various ways have said "there is instant resurrection to heaven at death." Where is the truth of the matter? Since only God is the ultimate source of truth, his words hold the true answers to the question.

God is the one in charge of all events and he is the one who specifies their proper sequence of order. Paul verifies that in 1 Corinthians 15, the resurrection chapter. Notice verse 22.

(1 Cor 15:22 NASB) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

So, Solomon wasn't the only one who knew that "the living know they will die." Paul knew it, too, and he said so plainly; but notice how he contrasted the death of the physical man pictured in Adam with the life to come in the resurrection through the spiritual man, Christ.

Wait a minute. Look at two small words: actually, it's the same word used twice. The word is all and it comes from the Greek word, pas. It's Strong's number 3956 and it means: all, any, every, the whole. So, it looks like it really means what we think of as our encompassing word, all or everyone. Read verse 22 again.

(1 Cor 15:22 NASB) For as in Adam all die...

Yes, in the physical body, all humans will die, but... read the rest of the verse.

... so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

That's the same all. Just as all humans will die, so, through the resurrection that was foreshadowed by Christ, all humans shall be made alive.

Pause and think about that for a moment. It is not the destiny of humanity for each of us to live out our days on earth and only turn back to dust in the grave at death. Because of what was achieved on our behalf through the sacrifice of our forerunner and elder brother, Jesus Christ, all humanity has the destiny of being brought back to life through a resurrection from the dead back to life. That's all who ever lived... everyone; good or bad. We will all be brought back to life; from the lowliest slave to the greatest king... and everyone in between.

Look at it in another way. One of the most famous verses in the Bible is John 3:16. Most Christians can recite it by heart.

(John 3:16 NASB) "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

That one verse shows the ultimate plan of God for all humanity. What is compressed into one verse, however, is a multi-step plan. Most of modern religious "Christianity" doesn't know that but they teach, instead, that we are just "whisked off" to heaven at death to live for eternity. That is not, however, what the rest of God's word teaches. Let's look at the rest of the story, back where we were in 1 Corinthians 15:23.

We read before in verse 22 that all humanity would be resurrected back to life through Christ. Verse 23 continues that thought.

(1 Cor 15:23-28 NASB) But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, {24} then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. {25} For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. {26} The last enemy that will be abolished is death. {27} For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. {28} And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.

We saw before that John 3:16 was an example of the entire plan of God compressed into just one verse. Well, in 1 Corinthians 15:22-28, we see an example of the plan of God, with a little more detail, compressed into just seven verses. Let's look at it more closely.

(1 Cor 15:23-28 NASB) But each in his own order:

This shows that there is order and system to events in the plan of God. The first step was:

...Christ the first fruits...

That was Christ's resurrection from the dead, almost 2,000 years ago.

...after that those who are Christ's at His coming...

That is the time just shortly ahead of us when Jesus Christ will return to the earth to implement God's righteous government on earth for the benefit of all mankind.

...then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power...

That is the time ranging through the 1,000 years of millennial rule when the earth is refurbished to its pristine state, as it was at the time of the Garden of Eden when all life was new, on beyond into the future when Satan is banished and, ultimately, is "no more."

...For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. {26} The last enemy that will be abolished is death. {27} For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET...

That is on, beyond, into the time of the "new heavens and new earth" when all things are formed anew and the throne of God the Father dwells on earth with man.

...But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. {28} And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.

All things in Their Proper Time

The beginning of the process, though, was only made possible through God's sacrifice of his son, our elder brother, Jesus the Messiah. Isaiah 11:1 prophesied his destiny hundreds of years before his human birth.

(Isa 11:1-9 NASB) Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. {2} And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. {3} And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear; {4} But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. {5} Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist. {6} And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the kid, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. {7} Also the cow and the bear will graze; Their young will lie down together; And the lion will eat straw like the ox. {8} And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den. {9} They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea.

This is a picture of the peaceful and wonderful world that will exist after Christ reestablishes his rule over all the earth for the benefit of all mankind but remember that Israel is his chosen people and they are the ones whom he chastises first. After punishment, God will also rebuild them first. Paul outlined that timetable in Romans 11:25.

(Rom 11:25-32 NASB) For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; {26} and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB." {27} "AND THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS." {28} From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; {29} for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. {30} For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, {31} so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. {32} For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.

Yes, Israel will be the first to receive God's punishment but Israel will also be the first to receive his mercy. Then God will extend his mercy to the rest of the world as Isaiah powerfully shows at the end of verse nine, "For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea." The world does not know God now (that is, they don't fear and obey him now) but they will. When the earth becomes full of the knowledge of the Lord, humanity will be taught God's ways of righteousness. Teaching righteousness is the present job we now have to minister to the brothers and sisters whom God has called and it will be our future job to whole the world.

Jesus the Messiah paved the way of redemption for all mankind. We had condemned ourselves to the death penalty (and that's eternal death, from which there was no hope of life again) by all our rebellion against the righteous, perfect laws of God. As the firstborn of all creation by God the Father, Christ was of more value than all humanity. His payment of the death penalty, when it was undeserved by him, paid the debt we owed to the righteous standard of God's laws. In Hebrews 9:22, the writer addresses the superior value of the sacrifice of Christ, as opposed to the repeated, daily sacrifices offered by the Levitical priesthood.

(Heb 9:22-28 NASB) And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. {23} Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. {24} For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; {25} nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own. {26} Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. {27} And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, {28} so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

The Future Millennium of Peace

As we eagerly wait for our King's return, the book of Revelation gives us a more detailed glimpse of our future duties under the government of God the Father. Specifically, Revelation 5:10 tells us the offices we will hold.

(Rev 5:10 NASB) "And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."

Again, in Revelation 20:6, God shows the reward and the offices he has reserved for those found worthy to be in the first resurrection.

(Rev 20:6 NASB) Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.

The saints, both lay members and ministers, are to be priests to our Father, God Most High, and are to rule in the worldwide administration of the great King, Jesus Christ, under the authority and will of the Father. Never forget, it is the Father, God Most High, who is at the top and is "the power behind the throne" of Christ.

The chief job of the priests (both of the order of the sons of Aaron and of the order of Melchizedek) was to teach the people the way of the righteousness of God. That way of righteousness is teaching God's commandments, which the world presently doesn't know or refuses to obey. In Psalms 119, David spoke of the righteousness of God's law.

(Psa 119:172 NASB) Let my tongue sing of Thy word, For all Thy commandments are righteousness.

In the New Testament, the Apostle John tied the keeping of God's commandments to possessing the love of God.

(1 John 5:3 NASB) For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

That is the reward of the saints, to inherit eternal life and to rule and teach in the government of God. In Luke 22:28, Christ already stated what would be the reward of the twelve apostles.

(Luke 22:28-30 NASB) "And you are those who have stood by Me in My trials; {29} and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you {30} that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Beyond the Millennium

Isaiah 65 is a glorious prophecy of a new world to come. Verses 17 and 18 show the renewal of the earth and the joy of the peace to come.

(Isa 65:17-18 NASB) "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. {18} "But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing, And her people for gladness.

Yes, Isaiah 65 describes the peaceful world to come but, when you compare other scriptures, you will find that it is describing a different time period farther into the future, after the 1,000 years of rule at Christ's return. That's because it is speaking of a time with "new heavens and new earth." Look at the description in Revelation 21.

(Rev 21:1-3 NASB) And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. {2} And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. {3} And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them,

The earth to which Jesus will soon return is this present earth and this present civilization but that is not the same earth of which Isaiah 65 speaks. In 2 Peter 3:9, the Apostle Peter uses more dramatic language to speak of the same time of total renewal.

(2 Pet 3:9-14 NASB) The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. {10} But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. {11} Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, {12} looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! {13} But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. {14} Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,

That's pretty clear. The present earth and present heavens will be destroyed by burning. Revelation 21 shows that God will create new heavens and a new earth and will bring a new Jerusalem out of heaven to the new earth. Now, compare it with Isaiah 65:17-25.

(Isa 65:17-25 NASB) "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. {18} "But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing, And her people for gladness. {19} "I will also rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in My people; And there will no longer be heard in her The voice of weeping and the sound of crying. {20} "No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, Or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred Shall be thought accursed. {21} "And they shall build houses and inhabit them; They shall also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. {22} "They shall not build, and another inhabit, They shall not plant, and another eat; For as the lifetime of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, And My chosen ones shall wear out the work of their hands. {23} "They shall not labor in vain, Or bear children for calamity; For they are the offspring of those blessed by the LORD, And their descendants with them. {24} "It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. {25} "The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain," says the LORD.

It is on the "new earth" that God will continue his society and that's what the rest of Isaiah 65 speaks about. It appears that the continuing population will be human, not spiritual, because it speaks of a lifetime of at least 100 years and of bearing children. In Luke 20:34, Jesus spoke of the state of resurrected, spiritual beings.

(Luke 20:34-36 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.

So, if there is no marriage among spiritual beings, then it's obvious that the children who will be born and live out their lives to a minimum of 100 years will be born to humans.

Ever-burning Hell Fire

In one way or another, most of the world's religions teach about eternal punishing being dispensed to evildoers. Most western religions, including Islam, proclaim that some form of hell fire is the destiny of those who are not found worthy to be resurrected to heaven or "paradise." Let's look at what God's word has to say on the subject. Hebrews 10:26 shows that it is all about willful rebellion against God and his laws.

(Heb 10:26-27 NASB) For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, {27} but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.

Malachi 4:1 shows that those burned in the lake of fire will be burned up. They will cease to exist. Unlike what most religions in the world teach today, they will not be tormented endlessly. They will not writhe in pain, like a never-ending horror movie.

(Mal 4:1-3 NASB) "For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the LORD of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch." {2} "But for you who fear My name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. {3} "And you will tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing," says the LORD of hosts.

Let's not jump the gun and put the cart before the horse. It doesn't say it will be a resurrection of instant "condemnation." It says it will be a resurrection to "judgment." That means it will be a resurrection to a time of "judging" or trial by a judge. That great judge will be God the Father and he will judge or decide by the standards of his righteous laws. It is true that some, incorrigibly wicked, rebellious, and totally unrepentant people will be burned up as punishment for their continued insistence on rebelling against God and his laws. The mere fact, as we have seen, that there will be a resurrection to "judgment" means that most of those who are not in the first resurrection of the saints are not yet judged. They are not yet judged because they didn't know or have the capacity to know and obey God's laws. They will be resurrected and given the opportunity to be taught God's way. Otherwise, how can they be judged on what they do not know? Then they will be judged at the Great White Throne judgment.

On the other hand, those who have been taught and have accepted and believed in God's way of life in this present life and have turned their backs on God in rebellion, as well as those who resist God at the resurrection of judgment, will be condemned to be burned up in the lake of fire.

The Hope of Mankind

The hope of all mankind lies in God's future resurrections. As you can see, God has a plan for all types of people. Obviously, our greatest hope is to be in the first resurrection because Paul admits it is a "better resurrection." Keep in mind, though, that God is merciful. The Apostle Peter admits that in 2 Peter 3:9.

(2 Pet 3:9 NASB) The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

God will give opportunity for repentance but he will not compromise with the righteousness of his laws. Those who persist in doing evil even after being given full understanding of God's righteousness will, indeed, be burned up to become "ashes under the soles of your feet" but that is not God's first desire.

In 1 Timothy 2:3, Paul told us God's true desires for all mankind.

(1 Tim 2:3-5 NASB) This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, {4} who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. {5} For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

Indeed, our Great Father, God Most High, has an awesome plan for all of his Creation. Long before the present earth existed, our Father thought out and devised his flawless plan. We have the opportunity now to participate in that plan and, if we are found worthy, to be elevated to that "better resurrection" and be given offices of authority as kings and priests under the administration of the soon-coming worldwide government of God.

Just remember to live by the words of Peter we read earlier, "Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless."

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Sermon given by Philip Edwards
September 15, 2007
Copyright 2007, Philip Edwards

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