Pastor-teacher Don Hargrove
Faith Bible Church
Thursday, March 4, 2010
DDR & FBC PRAYER LIST #524
DEATH, Part 1: GIFT FOR BELIEVERS
With this DDR we leave the apologetic series and begin a new series. I am still working on a summary of apologetics (from our presuppositional/philosophical as well as Thomistic/Geisler apologetic studies) and a basic doctrinal series, but while I am doing that, I believe there is a need to go through many pertinent doctrines.
The focus of this series is to provide various Christian doctrines that need to be reviewed and developed in order to further ground and grow our spiritual lives. These DDRs will also be available on audio on our website http://fbcweb.org/sermons.html and will be between 5-15 minutes in length.
Death….death is one thing that mankind seems to fear above all else. No matter how miserable his life may be he still fears death. Mankind clings to this earth as he scratches and claws and digs his fingers into the ground to hold on to something in order to stay here. For believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have learned to put that matter into the Lord’s hands. The mature believer has no nightmares about dying or even the manner in which he will die. He realizes that even the Lord has selected the very time and place in which he will depart from this earth. Most believers, if they had their druthers, would rather die in their sleep – where they simply go to bed and wake up in the presence of Jesus Christ. However, the mature believer realizes that he does get his druthers. He realizes that it is in the Lord’s hands and it is the Lord’s business – both the manner and the time of his death.
The mature believer lives in the reality that when he dies the soul leaves the body and is absent from the body and face-to-face with the Lord. He realizes that when the Lord decides when it is time to go – either suddenly or after a lingering illness, his soul and spirit leave the body and go to heaven and he is instantly face-to-face with the Lord (πρὸς τὸν κύριον). This face-to-face implies that we have an interim body of some sort.
In this interim body we are recognizable to our friends and loved ones in Heaven. Of course, these unions will be fantastic and heaven is a very happy and wonderful place for anyone who dies no matter what pain, no matter what suffering might be involved in departing from this life. Once our soul and spirit leave our body, then we are present with the Lord in an interim body. Furthermore it does not make any difference if the believer was a winner believer or loser believer – a Paul or Demas or an Abraham or Lot. In this interim state in heaven there is no distinction made and everyone has perfect happiness. We can count on the fact that our loved ones who have departed are in a state of blissfulness regardless of any failures in this life. All believers at death are absent from the body and face-to-face with the Lord. This is called going home to be with the Lord. This is why Jesus said in,
John 14:2-3 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I 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.
So death then becomes a wonderful thing. Death is not to be feared. The only problem we have is learning how to live. Once you learn how to live the spiritual life, dying is easy. It becomes the simplest thing in the world. Again, dying is easy for those Christians who have learned how to live the spiritual life. Once dying is over and we are in the presence of the Lord, then we are up there with our friends and loved ones who have preceded us, waiting for that wonderful day – that resurrection day for the Church where we will receive our resurrection bodies at the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thess 4:15-17).
What does one do when faced with death? What kind of attitude should one have? The mature believer does not share the morbid view of the world concerning death; instead, because of the doctrine in his soul he orients to the Biblical/divine viewpoint. He knows all too well that the Bible presents an entirely different picture of death than the world. It is the mature believer lives in the grand realities of the biblical doctrine of death.
Let’s take a look at seven Biblical pictures of death: a gift, a departure, a restful sleep, a collapsing tent, a sailing ship, a permanent home, the last enemy.
A gift. The Bible presents death as a gift,
1 Corinthians 3:21 So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.
While the Bible does not use the word “gift,” in reference to death in this passage, it does list death as one of the possessions that belongs to believers. How is it that death is a gift or possession?
Let’s begin by going back to Adam and Eve. After Adam and Eve sinned they immediately died spiritually which began the process of physical decay and death. Sending them out of the garden, far from being an act of cruelty, death was actually proof of God’s kindness. We read in,
Genesis 3:22 Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us (Trinity), knowing good and evil; and now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever "-- 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.
If Adam and Eve had eaten of the other special tree of the garden – The Tree of Life – they would have been immortalized in their sinful condition. They never would have qualified for heaven that God wanted them to enjoy. Imagine living forever as sinners, with no possibility of redemption, and permanent transformation. Although they would never have had to face the finality of death, they would have been condemned to a pitiful existence.
Thus God prevented Adam and Eve from eternal sinfulness by giving them the gift of death, the ability to exit this life and arrive safely in the wondrous life to come. Death, though it would appear to be man’s greatest enemy, would in the end, prove to be his greatest friend. Only through death can we go to God (unless, of course, we are still living when Christ returns). To deny a believer death is to deny them the opportunity to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This is why Paul calls death as a gift, one of the possessions of the Christian (1 Cor 3:21-23). Death, that door that leads to eternity with Christ, is a gift that no one can take from the Christian. Rather than stripping us of any possession, it is in death that we are clothed with an interim body and it is death that escorts us through the gates of heaven.
In spiritual maturity the believer is able to live in the reality that one of Christ’s purposes for coming to this earth was to free believers from the fear of death,
Hebrews 2:14 Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself 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.
Satan does not have the power of death in the sense that he determines the day that a believer dies. But he has used the fear of death to keep Christians in bondage, unable to approach death with tranquility, confidence, boldness and even eager anticipation – which is only possible in spiritual maturity. Only in spiritual maturity can the believer see death as a promotion.
Death in the New Testament is transformed from a monster to a minister. What at first seems to box us in, frees us to go to God. In the following DDRs we will look at the other Biblical pictures of death.