Pastor-teacher Don Hargrove
Faith Bible Church
Thursday, April 15, 2010
DOCTRINE OF DEATH – PART 10
CHRIST’S 5 LESSONS ON HOW TO DIE
#3: The Right Way
This doctrine is also available in note and audio format @ http://fbcweb.org/doctrines.html
Preparation for Bible Study. Before we begin our Bible study there are three issues that are imperative to understand.
First is salvation. Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. It is a GIFT that you can neither earn nor deserve.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Second is Biblical spirituality. Spirituality is not about praying, seeking God, feeling religious, or even studying the Bible. These may be the results of true spirituality but they are not the means. Anything that an unbeliever can do is not spiritual. God accepts nothing of man unless it is invigorated and enlivened by the Holy Spirit,
Zechariah 4:6 Then he answered and said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts.
Third is spiritual maturity. Biblical maturity is not about learning the hard lessons of life, human wisdom, or gaining a certain amount of knowledge through experience. True biblical maturity is maximum amount of Christian doctrine in the soul from which one understands God, self, the spiritual life, and ultimate truth. Apart from spiritual maturity, the believer will continue to be tossed about in life,
Ephesians 4:14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
If you are not a Christian all you need to do is believe in Christ to gain salvation. If you are a believer, you need to make sure that you do not have any unconfessed sins in your life that hinders the ministry of God the Holy Spirit. If you are an immature believer, it is imperative that you study this doctrine carefully so it adds to your bank of doctrinal knowledge and biblical frame of reference. If you are a mature believer, you understand all of this and I would urge you not to allow this or any doctrine to become too familiar and thus lose your grip on its realities. As you know it is very easy to be distracted and start slipping. The Bible as well as human history is filled with examples of great supergrace believers who took a nosedive into reversionism simply by starting to neglect the Word little by little. It is all very important!
Christ died in the Right Way
There are many ways to die: disease, accidents, murder, to name a few. The circumstances differ for each individual. In God’s plan, Christ was to die on a cross, and this was a symbol of humiliation and an unmistakable sign that He was actually cursed by God.
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree "—
Christ’s death was a death without dignity. There was no sanitary hospital, no blankets that would hide the shame of His bloodstained body. He died without dignity, crucified naked for all to see. Before His death, His face had been beaten so badly that He was hardly recognizable. His body had just undergone a horrible flogging.
Consider the horrible flogging. Flogging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution, and only women and Roman senators or soldiers were exempt. The usual instrument was a short whip (flagellum) with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals. For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions. The severity of the scourging depended on the disposition of the lictors and was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death. After the scourging, the soldiers often taunted their victim. As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim's back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and Subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive on the cross. The scourging of Jesus was particularly harsh. The Roman soldiers, amused that this weakened man had claimed to be a king, began to mock him by placing a robe on his shoulders, a crown of thorns on his head, and a wooden staff as a scepter in his right hand. Next, they spat on Jesus and struck him on the head with the wooden staff. Moreover, when the soldiers tore the robe from Jesus' back, they probably reopened the scourging wounds.
This was all within the will of God. The trials, the beatings, flogging, crucifixion, and spiritual death – it was all set before man and the angels as a splendid theatre of the righteousness and justice of God.
Romans 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Today most people die under heavy sedation so that their exit is made as peaceful as possible. When Christ was offered wine mingled with myrrh, He refused this ancient sedative so that He could be fully aware of His surroundings. He took all of the horror that death could offer.
The time of your death is under divine providential guidance and so is the means. Christ predicted, for example, how Peter would come to the end of his earthly existence.
John 21:18 "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go." 19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me!"
In old age, Peter was tied to a cross and had his hands stretched out, apparently crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to be crucified in the same way Christ was. It was Christ Himself who chose the way in which Peter would die.
While the Bible only records the death of James, we do have strong tradition on the death of the other disciples.
1. James. King Herod had James “put to death with the sword,” likely a reference to beheading.
2. Peter. As mentioned above the apostle Peter was crucified upside-down on an x-shaped cross in Rome in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy.
3. Matthew suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, killed by a sword wound.
4. John faced martyrdom when he was boiled in a
huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he was
miraculously delivered from death. John was then sentenced to the mines on the
prison island of Patmos. He wrote his prophetic book of Revelation on Patmos.
The apostle John was later freed and returned to what is now modern-day Turkey.
He died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.
5. James, the brother of Jesus (not officially an apostle), was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. He was thrown from the southeast pinnacle of the temple (over a hundred feet down) when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a club. This is thought to be the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the temptation.
6. Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed in present-day Turkey and was martyred for his preaching in Armenia, being flayed to death by a whip.
7. Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers, they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: “I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.” He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he died.
8. The apostle Thomas was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church there.
9. Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded.
10 The apostle Paul was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero in Rome in A.D. 67.
Now as you go through this list you may wonder, “Why in the world would God allow them to die in such horrible ways?” “What was the point of it all?” One clear reason for these horrible death was to show what they were willing to go through - that they were willing to die for their faith. If Jesus had not been resurrected, the disciples would have known it. People will not die for something they know to be a lie. The fact that all of the apostles were willing to die horrible deaths, refusing to renounce their faith in Christ, is tremendous evidence that they had truly witnessed the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I seriously doubt that your death will be by crucifixion, decapitation, being flayed, being stoned, or torture. Regardless of how you will die, the ultimate choice will be made by God. When it is our time to leave this place and go Home, the means really should not concern us. We should not be obsessed with dying a painless semi-conscious death. You should be more concerned about your attitude and what happens next. If you have not accepted God’s substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ, you should be scared as Hell. You should fear the absolute righteousness of God and the prospect of ending up in eternal Hell because of rejection of the one unforgiveable sin, namely rejection of Jesus Christ – who loves you more than you can imagine,
John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
Matthew 10:28 "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.
Romans 5:1 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Acts 7:59 And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!"
2 Corinthians 5:8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord
While many wish and perhaps even pray that they die peacefully in their sleep, such an attitude can be very selfish and totally self-serving – even pitiful! What kind of testimony is one in which the last attitude in life is one of just thinking about yourself and your comfort level at the last moment of life – rather than glorifying God and the impending fantastic trip. Certainly God may have that method (dying in your sleep) for you, but it is His call and we should think more of glorifying Him in our death than simply our own comfort level. We should consider the examples of Stephen, Christ, and the apostles. I, for one, would much rather be awake and experience the most fantastic trip of my life. It will be the greatest and last blessing I will ever receive on this earth. But again, the time and method are His calls!
Christian doctrine matters!