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Weekly Word

Tuesday
Sep182018

Your Personal End Times: What is after death? III

We will have the article up by the end of the day.  Meanwhile the audio is available below.  Thank you for your patience.

Purgatory audio

Tuesday
Sep112018

Your Personal Endtimes: What is after Death II?

Luke 16:19-31.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 9, 2018.

Today we will continue looking at the end times from a personal perspective rather than a global one.  In other words, we are looking at how our own personal world will end.  Up to now we have emphasized the biblical teachings that we are given one life to live on this earth and then we die.  At death those who belong to Christ go to be with Him in heaven at the right hand of the Father and in a disembodied state.

Today we are going to look at what happens to those who die, but do not belong to Christ.  As we will see, there is a heaven to gain and a place to be avoided or shunned.  So as we look at the Scripture today, ask yourself these questions.  Do I belong to Jesus?  Have I repented of my sins and put my faith in Jesus as the Forgiver of my sins (Savior) and the Leader of how I live my life (Lord)?  If the answer is not affirmative then give serious consideration to doing so today.  Don’t put it off.  However, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ then recognize the true fate of those you may be tempted to walk by without even a word of warning.

The unrighteous go into the grave awaiting the Judgment Day

In our passage today, Jesus warns his hearers that this life is not all that we have to deal with.  We do not merely go out of existence.  Rather, a good or bad fate awaits us on the other side of death.  Those who have lived their lives for themselves, and not for God, will go into the grave and await the Judgment Day.  This was part of Paul’s message among the Gentile nations in Acts 17:30-31. 

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.” (NKJV)

In our story there are two individuals who physically die.  However, they do not cease to exist.  The spiritual component to humans continues to exist within the spiritual realm, after physical death.  Throughout the Bible the fate of man after death is described as being held in The Grave (Hebrew- She’ol, Greek- Hades) and in a conscious state.

Another point to recognize is the unfortunate historical reality that early English Translations of the Bible used the English word Hell to translate 3 different Greek words.  Modern translations may still use the term hell in places, but give a footnote describing the underlying Greek word.  This conflation of three Greek terms into one English term has helped promote fuzzy thinking about what the Bible is really saying.  In our passage the place where dead spirits go is called Hades.  It is synonymous with the phrase The Grave.  Though the phrase can refer to the physical hole the ground, it typically is used of a spiritual place where spirits are held until Judgment Day.

Now, even though the Bible uses the Greek word Hades here, it does not mean that the Bible supports everything the Greeks believed about Hades.  It simply means that it was the best equivalent to the already existing Hebrew word/concept She’ol.  So what do we see here?  Lazarus goes to a good part of this spiritual place, and the rich man ends up in a bad part.  He is technically not in Hell yet.  However, it is clear from their experience in Hades what their judgment will be.

I will also remind you of a point that I made last week.  Until Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross, the righteous could not immediately ascend into heaven.  They were held in the grave, but in a place of comfort and relief from all sorrows.  Once Jesus died and went into the grave, He was able to empty the good side of the grave and take all righteous spirits into heaven with Him.  So technically there are no righteous people in Hades today, like we see in this story.

Just as Lazarus was conscious and comforted, Jesus points out that the rich man is in conscious torment.  This is a term that can be used for torture.  However, we do not see torture devices and demons with bull whips here.  This word was also used for the torment of sickness or disease.  So the torment comes from his place and condition more than from any active torturers.  We are told that flames were part of his torment.  Now, the rich man is a spirit, i.e. he does not have a physical body.  Thus the flame is a spiritual equivalent to a physical flame in this world.  This brings up the point that spirits are able to “see” the spirit world and “sense” spiritual things without a physical body.  Though this makes sense intuitively, it does beg a question.  Just how does that work?  Of course Scripture does not satisfy our curiosity there.  So we see the rich man is in a place that is compared to a place of fire that leaves the inhabitants thirsty and without relief.  Thus they are in torments.

A point could also be made that the rich man also suffers from what we would call psychological torment.  Over and over again he would think of the many opportunities that he had to avoid this horrible fate and yet passed it up.

Throughout this story, Jesus hammers home the point that a good or bad experience in this life does not guarantee the same in the life to come.  Take time to think about how much of our life is spent pursuing material comforts and pleasures.  Was the rich man’s fate simply because he was rich?  Notice that Abraham is in the good side of Hades and yet he was a rich man.  Similarly, the thieves on the cross most likely became thieves because they were poor and saw an easy way to get money.  Yet, they both had very different fates.  The point Jesus is making is not just that all rich people go to Hades and are tormented.  Rather, it is that comfort in this life does not guarantee comfort in the life to come and a life that lacks comfort is not guaranteed the same in the life to come.  It was taught and believed by many that riches were proof of God’s blessing and therefore a type of assurance that one was okay with God.  Definitely riches can be a blessing from God.  But, if they pull our heart away from Him, or have been our desires all along, then they really are a curse.  The rich man did not really put his trust in the God of Abraham.  If he had, he would have been helpful to men like Lazarus. 

We can be guilty of the same today.  Are you taking your spiritual future for granted?  Most people think that they are righteous enough to make it to heaven, even if they aren’t Christians.  Yet, even if we call Jesus our Lord and Savior, it is only helpful to us if we actually believe him and follow him.  We cannot lie, lust, and blaspheme the name of Jesus as we pursue the pleasures of this life and think that things will go good for us in the life to come.  Beware that the judgment of ourself is often selfishly motivated and can set us up for a fall. 

Only the words of Jesus and his apostles can pull us back from the brink of self-deception and destruction.  We see this at the end of the story.  The rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his 5 brothers (Abraham doesn’t actually have that authority, only God).  It is interesting that he asks for this because Jesus himself would be executed later and then come back to life from the dead to preach the truth about Hades.  Abraham tells the rich man that the written Scriptures are enough to give us faith in God.  If a person won’t listen to the Words of God then they won’t respond positively even though a person comes back from the dead.  God is going to hold us all accountable for what He has revealed to the world about our coming fate.  No justifications or excuses will work when we stand before Him.  I encourage you not to label Christians as “crazy” and shut out God’s warning to you.  Otherwise the day of your death may come and go, and it will be too late to heed the warnings of Scripture.

How can I avoid this fate?

John 3:16 is the famous salvation verse which reads, “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son that whoever believes on Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.”  First notice that if we do not believe on Jesus we will perish.  That is because we are sinners.  Before you can embrace Jesus a person must admit that they are a sinner who is in need of being saved.  Once we realize that we are a sinner and own up to it then we believe on Jesus (i.e. put your trust in Him).  I am trusting that Jesus pays the price for my sin and that His teaching will help me to please God in this world.  He alone knows how to live this life in a way that is pleasing to God and does not surrender to Satan.  We cannot live however we please and label it as believing in Jesus.  Such a charade will not work on Judgment Day.  Lastly, we must confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior publicly before this world.  Those who do so will avoid a time of torment in Hades after this life.  They will go immediately into the presence of Christ and God the Father in heaven.  May the Lord grant us repentance from a life of taking our eternity for granted.  Listen to God’s Word today!

What is after death II audio

Tuesday
Sep042018

Your Personal End Times: What is after death?

Various Passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 2, 2018.

Today we continue to look at the end times from a personal perspective rather than from a global one.  Last week, we emphasized the biblical teaching that we are given one life to live on this earth and then we face judgment.  We also pointed out that God’s ultimate purpose is to resurrect all who have died and thus lift mankind out of this mortal condition in which we have found ourselves for ages.  However, there is a large amount of time between the death of most people who have lived and the time of the resurrection.  Note: In a later sermon, we will deal with the reality that there is a resurrection of the righteous and a resurrection of the wicked that do not happen at the same time, but are both at the end of the current age.  So what happens to people in between their physical death and their later resurrection?

Some passages use the terminology of sleeping and have led some people to believe that this is literal.  Thus they teach that the soul of an individual, after death, will go into an unconscious state and awake at the resurrection.  However, it is generally understood to be a euphemistic way of referring to death.  Too many passages exist in which we see the souls of those who have died as conscious and aware.  Yet, what does that look like?

Today we will look at the first of two possible experiences after death.  Scripture promises all who belong to Christ, both those who died before the cross and those after it, that they will be with Him in heaven when they die.

Those who belong to Jesus got to be with Him in Heaven

We cannot list all the passages that directly or indirectly make this point clear.  However, let’s look at several passages that give us a picture of what lies beyond death for those who belong to Jesus.

Luke 23:42-43 involves Jesus on the cross.  One of the thieves mocked Jesus, but the other one was clearly repentant.  He then says to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  The reply of Jesus is, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.”  Notice that Jesus emphasizes that it will happen today.  So is paradise a place in the grave (more on this later) or is it another term for Heaven, God’s dwelling place?  In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, the Apostle Paul speaks of a person who was “caught up to the third heaven,” and then describes it again as “caught up into Paradise.”  Clearly he is equating the third heaven and Paradise.  It was common to see the cosmos as having a first heaven, the atmosphere, a second heaven, what we call outer space, and the third heaven, a spiritual place where God dwells.  Another point to make is that the directional language used for Paradise is upwards, i.e. “caught up.”  The grave is never described in the Old Testament or the New Testament as being up.  It is always down, and in the dust of the earth.  So, Jesus is promising more than that the thief will join him in the grave.  The other thief would be in the grave as well (admittedly not with Jesus).  The promise is that he would be with Jesus in heaven.

This promise is made in other passages as well.  In Philippians 1:21-24, Paul describes his potential death as “a desire to depart and be with Christ.”  Basically, his argument is that it is good to be alive on this earth because we can labor for Christ and help each other.  However, it is a better condition to depart this life, i.e. die, and be with Christ.  There is no suffering and difficulty for us in that condition.  This is a clear equation from Paul.  He knows that for him to die is to be with Jesus.  Let’s look at another passage.

2 Corinthians 5:4-9.  In this passage it becomes clear that there are three possible conditions for a believer in Christ.  The first is that we are on this earth with a mortal body.  In this condition we should make it our aim to please the Lord because He is the source of the other two conditions.  Upon our death, those who “please the Lord” enter into the second condition, which is a soul that is with Jesus and without a physical body.  The second state is seen as more desirable than the first state.  Yet, the first is necessary to reach the second.  Even better than being a soul that is with Jesus and without a body, is to be with Jesus and to have a glorified body.  This passage emphasizes the promise of God that we will have a glorified body (also called a heavenly body) that is incorruptible and immortal, at the resurrection of the righteous.

Believers in Jesus can be confident that when they leave this life behind, they will not cease to exist or go into an unconscious state.  Rather, we will be in the presence of Jesus in a spirit form, of which we have very little information to satisfy our curiosity.  Right now Jesus is at the right hand of the Father awaiting the command to come to earth and set up His earthly kingdom.  Also, there are countless believers who are with Him waiting for the day that they will receive their resurrection bodies and join Him in His triumphant return to Earth.

Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16

So what about this story that Jesus told?  For the sake of time I will assume you have read Luke 16:19-31.  In this story there is a very poor man who is full of sores and has to beg for his food.  His name is Lazarus.  There is also a very rich man who is apparently healthy, has costly clothing, and never wants for food.  It is clear that the rich man did not help Lazarus.  The only consolation Lazarus received was dogs licking his sores.  Both men die, but they have very different fates.  Lazarus is carried by angels to a place referred to as Abraham’s Bosom.  It is not clear if this is just a description or an actual name for the place.  We are told that the rich man is buried and then finds himself in torment in Hades.

Now Hades is a Greek term that is synonymous with the Hebrew word She’ol.  Both of them essentially refer to the grave.  Though it can be used to refer to a physical grave, it typically refers to a spiritual holding place for the spirits of those who die.  In the story the grave is depicted as having two compartments, a place of torment for people like the rich man and a place of comfort for those like Lazarus.  Clearly the main teaching is that we should be careful how we live our life because our life on earth directly impacts what we will experience after death.

In the days of Jesus it was believed that wealth was a sign of God’s blessing, and so the rich man may have felt that surely his condition after death would be just as fair.  Similarly, a person like Lazarus would be seen as cursed by God, and could not hope for a good condition after death.  Notice the reversal of fortunes.  Those who live selfishly, without thought for God and their fellow man, will be in torment when they go to the grave.  However, the souls of the righteous (whether destitute as Lazarus or else) will receive comforts and no longer suffer.  Both cases are depicted as spiritually alive and conscious. 

Why isn’t Lazarus in the presence of God?  It appears that until Jesus actually paid the price for the sins of the world, those who put their faith in God had to wait in the “nice side” of the grave to enter His presence.  Once Jesus paid the price on the cross, he then went into the grave.  There he proclaimed his victory over sin and death.  This would be good news to the righteous, but a shattering of any hope for the wicked (see 1 Peter 3:18-20).  Some believe that Ephesians 4:8 refers to Jesus leading the righteous captives out of the captivity of the grave and into heaven.  Whether this verse is intended to reference this or not, it seems stretched to think that only believers after the cross could go to heaven after death while those before the cross must stay captive in Abraham’s bosom.  In John 8:47 and John 16:15, Jesus taught that everyone who “belonged to the Father” would believe on Him.  Thus all that belonged to the Father (before Christ came) essentially belonged to Him.  Would not that which belongs to Christ be with Him?  The price has been paid.  At this moment all the righteous and faithful of every generation back to Adam are with Jesus at the right hand of the Father, and believers who die today immediately join that multitude in Heaven.

There are objections to taking Luke 16:19-31 literally.  They say that this is just a parable and thus is only emphasizing that our life on earth sets us up for a good or bad experience in the afterlife.  Thus they would ignore the descriptions as merely props used to get an idea across rather than specifics.  The problem with this is that if this is a parable, it is the only one where one of the characters is named.  An even bigger problem is that the parables of Jesus were always true-to-life.  Jesus did not tell Aesopian Fables involving turtles and hares.  His stories always represented real experiences that happened every day.  Why would this be the one parable where we would say the story does not represent real experiences that people who are dying have every day?  There is no strong reason.  Thus I believe that the story is intended to give us a real look into the grave and give us a rough picture of what it will be like.

Today, I encourage you to think about your life.  We are not all as destitute and seemingly cursed as Lazarus, and most likely you are not as well off as the rich man in the story.  However, it is important how you live this life because it will impact what you will experience after your death.  If you want to be in the presence of God when you die, then I encourage you to put your faith in Jesus, rather than in yourself or the things of this world.  Admit to God that you are a sinner in need of saving.  Believe that God sent Jesus to pay the price for your sins and that His teachings are the way for you to live your life.  Then publically confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  Those who embrace Jesus in faith have a bright future ahead of them in which not even physical death and the grave are bad things.  They simply become our promotion from the teaching grounds of this life into the presence of God Himself.  Choose to follow Him today!

What is after Death audio

Tuesday
Aug282018

Your Personal End Times

Multiple Passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 26, 2018.

There is much talk from both the secular and the religious world about the end of the world, or at least the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI).  In such discussions we have come to use words and phrases like: Armageddon, Extinction Event, Antichrist, One-World Government, Seed Banks, and… the list goes on.  As we look forward and contemplate the idea that the world as we know it could come to an end (whether we cause it to happen or it comes upon us), we should keep in mind that the majority of mankind will not experience these events.

This is not an attempt to minimize those foreseen or unforeseen forces that could alter the systems of the world and mankind’s destiny.  It is instead to make us think about the reality that for most of mankind the end times have to do with the end of our life on this earth.  It is our own personal world coming to a close as we leave our bodies in death.

My life will one day come to an end.  If I use the numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics, I could determine approximately how much life I have left, at least on average.  In 2017 it was listed in rounded numbers as 76 for men and 81 for women.  However, both of my grandfathers lived to be 86 and 97 respectively.  They were +10 and +21 above the average.  Though that may make me confident in what I have left, my father passed away at 61 years of age, -15.  I have a cousin who died in his 40’s a niece who died in her early teens.  Ultimately, none of us can really know how much time we have left, short of a doctor giving us the terminal news.  When you consider disease, tragic accidents, or purposeful attacks/wars, you recognize that our personal future is not as firm as we tend to think it is.  In fact, I cannot guarantee that I will have any advance warning.

Many, who either fear the future or are prudently prepping in various fashions for what may come, have given less time to prepare for the event that all of us will have to face, and that is death.  I am not talking about getting a will in place and having burial insurance.  Those things are to deal with the stuff that is left behind.  What about that part of you that is not physical, the soul or spirit?  I am not trying to make us afraid of the end of our life, but it is important to make sure that you are prepared for it.  Few of us are ready to die in the sense that we want it to happen right now.  But we can all be ready in the sense that if it were to happen today, I would be ready for what’s next.

I am going to physically die.

Let’s bring a couple of passages to mind.  Genesis 2:16-17 is the command that God gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If they did then, “you shall surely die.”  The phrase translated here does emphasize that the death will be sure.  However it also does so in a construction that allows for it to be a process- translated more literally it is “Dying you shall die.”  It is clear that at this time Adam was not a dying being.  But I will come back to that.

Of course we must think about Genesis 3:17-19.  After Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God places a curse upon them.  As he speaks to Adam he mentions that “in the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”  Though humanity was originally formed from the dry ground, our original state or condition was not one of a dying species.  It isn’t exactly clear from the Scriptures whether this was an inherent immortality or if it was dependent upon something else like remaining sinless or eating from the tree of life.  Regardless, it is clear from Scripture that something happened at the beginning of humanity, and this event set in motion our current state of existence.  We are born, grow old, and then die.  The statistics so far are impressive.  100 out of 100 people do not survive life on earth.  They all physically die.  This was not God’s plan in making humans.  However, He did allow it to happen and has worked it into His overall plan.

Another verse to keep in mind, from the perspective of God’s Word, is that of Hebrews 9:27.  Here we are told that God has appointed for men to die once, and after this the judgment.  Thus the idea that we keep coming back, reincarnate, until we “get it right,” is never supported by the Bible.

So when we die, we are told that the body decays, returns to the ground, but Scripture is clear that a part of us remains and is not destroyed.  We can call this the soul or the spirit depending on your theory of the metaphysical part of humans.  We are more than just brains, heart, and blood.  Otherwise we would have to recognize that all human “thinking” is a mere firing of synapses that none can take credit for.  They are just operating along the lines of physics much like a penny dropped on the ground can end up in any number of places, but physics will define them all.  No.  Humans are able to make true choice, though at times we surrender to the external stimuli around us.  There is more to us than just the physical processes that make us up.

Even if you are not a Christian who believes the Bible, you are facing the same issue.  Christians see a biblical answer to this predicament and prepare in a biblical way.  For others the answer is to use their wealth to create technology that will overcome the defects of our body and the limits of our life.  Whether mankind comes up with a technical solution to physical death or not, most of us will not be alive when it does.  So where are you putting your hope?  Brady Hartman reported in the Financial Times that Ray Kurzweil, the famous futurist who also works at Google, used to eat 250 pills a day, but now he is down to 100.  In an interview a few years back, Kurzweil told Caroline Daniel of the Financial Times that he spends a few thousand dollars per year on vitamins and supplements.  He also spends one day a week in a doctor’s office receiving intravenous longevity treatments in a bid to stay alive longer.  His hope is to be alive when the technology is perfected for downloading our brain to a new, designer, human body, whether cloned or not.  Of course even if one was to be able to transfer the data of the old brain and then successfully write it onto the new brain (a big if), the question would remain, would that really be me?  God’s Word makes it clear that there is a different way to prepare ourselves for our own death.  So let’s look at His plan.

As we have stated, God did not create humans initially to die.  However, Scripture tells us that He has a plan to bring mankind out of this dying state, or mortal state, which is our current status.  Let’s look at Daniel 12:2-3.  “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.  Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.”  Though the Old Testament is somewhat cryptic about the fate of the souls of men, here we have a passage that gives an astounding prophecy detailing some of what it will be.  1 Corinthians 15:51-52 gives us a similar idea from the New Testament.  “Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”  Thus the Bible speaks of an incredible event, in which wise and foolish, righteous and wicked, will be made to come back to life in what is called resurrection.  It may sound unbelievable to hear that God’s plan involves a time in which He will resurrect those who have died.  It is easy to scoff at the idea, but we cannot escape the reality that this is God’s plan according to His own word.

In fact, God’s plan has one aspect that is far better than a human technological solution.  Even if we can get to a point where we can essentially keep ourselves alive forever through genetic therapies, etc., we will still have the problem of the sin nature.  God’s plan leaves behind the mortal flesh and the sin that goes along with it and takes on an incorruptible body.  No matter what man designs as an answer, it will be tainted by our own sin nature.  We cannot heal ourselves.  Only the untainted Creator can heal us.

There is a special case that is spoken of in Scripture and it is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.  Here it says, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  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.”  Paul makes it clear that the dead will rise first and then those who are still alive will be instantly changed.  1 Corinthians 15 says, “in the twinkling of an eye.”  Whether that is in a Planck second or not, it will be extremely fast.  So there will be a group of people who will still be alive when the resurrection of the righteous occurs.  However, that moment will catch them much like death catches us now.  They will need to have already made the necessary preparations for their body to be transformed (not unlike death as the mortal dissolves and immortal takes its place) and made immortal.

Thus for all the body of this world will come to an end at some time.  Then we will wait for the day of resurrection in a state in which we have no body.  For some that has been thousands of years.  For others it may only be 5.39 × 10 −44 s. 

Regardless, we are left with the question.  What will be my condition during that waiting period?  We can call it the intermediate state between physical death and immortal resurrection.  In the following weeks we will look at what the Bible says about this intermediate state.  However, today I ask you this.  Have you prepared for your physical death in the way that God’s Word tells us to do?  God is offering all mankind forgiveness of our sins and eternal life beyond this world.  How can I accept that offer?  We must simply confess that we are sinners and fallen in our nature.  We must then put our trust and faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior of our soul and the Lord of our life.  Lastly, we must publically stand with Him before the world.  If you have and are doing that, then you are prepared for your physical death.  But, if you have not, then I beg of you to rethink this question of what will happen when I die.  Don’t put it off.  Make the choice to trust the Creator today.

Personal End Time Audio