What the Bible Says About Death Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
THE SECOND QUESTION THAT WE ASKED IS “WHAT IS THE STATE OF THE DEAD,” AND THERE ARE FOUR ANSWERS FOR US TO CONSIDER.
FIRST, BEFORE THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, THE DEAD APPARENTLY WENT TO “SHEOL.” In the story about the RICH MAN AND THE BEGGAR named Lazarus in Luke 16, the rich man suffered in a place of torment but was able to look across a great chasm and see Lazarus by Abraham’s side in Paradise. Also as Jesus was dying on the cross He told the thief on His right, “TODAY SHALT THOU BE WITH ME IN PARADISE” (LUKE 23:43).
SHEOL OR HADES IS DIVIDED INTO TWO COMPARTMENTS: paradise (which is called Abraham’s bosom in the parable) and the place of torment. PARADISE WAS EMPTIED when Christ took with Him at His ascension, the Old Testament believers (that is the subject of Ephesians 4:8-10). THE PLACE OF TORMENT will deliver up the lost for judgment at the Great White Throne. THAT’S WHAT WE ARE TOLD IN REVELATION 20:11-15. All who stand at this JUDGMENT are lost, and they will be cast into the lake of fire.
Sheol is different than hell. ACTUALLY, HELL, AS WE THINK OF IT, IS A PLACE THAT HAS NOT BEEN OPENED UP FOR BUSINESS; we don’t read of it until we get to Revelation 20:10, where it tells us that hell’s first occupants will be the Antichrist and the false prophet.
The next answer is, “AFTER THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, BELIEVERS WHO DIED ARE SAID TO BE “ABSENT FROM THE BODY AND…PRESENT WITH THE LORD” (2 COR. 5:8).
Death is also referred to as “SLEEP” in the New Testament, while the soul goes immediately “TO BE WITH THE LORD.” Remember that the SOUL DOES NOT DIE. The soul never dies; the soul GOES TO BE WITH CHRIST. It is the BODY that is put to sleep. John, in Revelation 14:13, describes believers who die as being “HAPPY” because they are able to “REST FROM THEIR LABORS,” knowing that “THEIR WORKS DO FOLLOW THEM”. This verse reveals that we will be REWARDED FOR OUR FAITHFULNESS, PATIENCE, AND WORKS. God does not save anyone for his works, but He does REWARD US FOR OUR WORKS. Our works (good or bad) are like a tin can tied to a dog’s tail; we CANNOT GET AWAY FROM THEM. They will FOLLOW US to the Bema Seat of Christ.
OUR THIRD ANSWER IS THAT PAUL CONSIDERED DEATH FOR BELIEVERS TO BE AN EXPERIENCE OF “GAIN” INSTEAD OF LOSS.
To Paul death meant the FINAL VICTORY over self and temptation. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “FOR ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST, AND TO DIE IS GAIN.” TODAY PEOPLE LIKE TO TALK about serving God or being dedicated or doing this or that. But the most important thing is to have FELLOWSHIP with Him so that your joy might be full. Then we will have a POWERFUL WITNESS.
The problem is that most PEOPLE WANT THE END, but they forget about the means.
THE MEANS, in this case, is fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything else is the FRUIT OF THIS FELLOWSHIP.
FINALLY, WE SEE THAT PAUL ANTICIPATED “THE CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS” THAT AWAITED HIM AND ALL THOSE WHO “LOVE HIS APPEARING.” (2Tim. 4:8)
Paul’s attitude toward death was not a morbid desire to escape from life; rather, he knew THE JOYS THAT AWAITED HIM AFTER THIS LIFE were far and beyond anything he could imagine.
The “CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS” will be given to all those who live a righteous life and I am sure that Paul will get one. But notice that it says “ALL THOSE WHO LOVE HIS
APPEARING.” DO YOU LOVE HIS APPEARING? To love His appearing means that you will have to LOVE HIM. DO YOU have such a close relationship with Him? I have a notion that PAUL TOLD HIM EVERYDAY that he loved Him because he had hated and persecuted Him before.
THE FINAL QUESTION IS “WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN ATTITUDE TOWARD DEATH.
Paul said, “FOR I AM HARD-PRESSED BETWEEN THE TWO, HAVING A DESIRE TO DEPART AND BE WITH CHRIST, WHICH IS FAR BETTER.
NEVERTHELESS TO REMAIN IN THE FLESH IS MORE NEEDFUL FOR YOU” (Phil 1:23-24). Paul says that he is TORN BETWEEN wanting to go to be with the Lord, which is the better of the two, or staying with the Philippian believers because they needed him. Again this was NOT ESCAPISM on Paul’s part. He lived in such constant and close communication with his Lord that he LONGED TO BE WITH JESUS. At the same time, he felt the pressing RESPONSIBILITY of establishing these new churches and strengthening these new Christians in the faith. He was “NEEDED” in this life and would find joy fulfilling the purpose God had for him.
PAUL ALSO DESCRIBED FOR THE THESSALONIAN BELIEVERS (AND FOR US) THE CHRISTIAN ATTITUDE TOWARD THE DEATH OF LOVED ONES.
He attached the CERTAINTY OF THE RESURRECTION of the dead to the belief and assurance that Christ had been raised from the dead. That’s the thought he expressed in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, “BUT I DO NOT WANT YOU TO BE IGNORANT, BRETHREN, CONCERNING THOSE WHO HAVE FALLEN ASLEEP, LEST YOU SORROW AS OTHERS WHO HAVE NO HOPE. FOR IF WE BELIEVE THAT JESUS DIED AND ROSE AGAIN, EVEN SO, GOD WILL BRING WITH HIM THOSE WHO SLEEP IN JESUS.” “THOSE WHO HAVE FALLEN ASLEEP” refers to the death of the body, because the soul or spirit of man does not die.
There are SIMILARITIES between death and sleep. I have been to FUNERALS where the comment is always, “So and so looks just like he is asleep.” Well, IN A WAY IT IS TRUE-the body of a believer is asleep. Sleep is TEMPORARY and death is also temporary. Sleep has its WAKING and death has its RESURRECTION. It is only the BODY which can stand up in the resurrection. IT IS THE BODY that will go to sleep until the resurrection...only the body. THE SPIRIT of the believer will return to God. THE SPIRIT or the soul does not die, and therefore the spirit or the soul is not raised. ONLY THE BODY can lie down in death and only the body can stand up in the resurrection. And at the resurrection or the Rapture, the verse says that “GOD WILL BRING WITH HIM THOSE WHO SLEEP IN JESUS.” He is talking about the BODY because the SOULS of believers who have died are already with the Lord. THIS IS A GREAT HOPE! OUR BODIES WILL BE CHANGED because we are told that there will be no more pain or tears. So Christ is going to FIX OUR BODIES and the one who made them can certainly do a good job of fixing them. While physical death is not something we normally look forward to, GOD REGARDS DEATH as the glorious homecoming of His children.
Jesus said to His disciples, “IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE ARE MANY MANSIONS…” (JOHN 14:2). HE HAS GONE to prepare a place for us, and He will come again to receive us (v. 3-4).
DEATH IS NO LONGER AN ENEMY to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is simply a BLESSED TRANSITION from an earthly life of imperfection and incompletion to one of perfection and eternal joy.