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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