Coming to Terms with Dying|
Richard Allen Reeves
Although the prospect of experiencing the physical part of dying is not something anyone looks forward to, Christians can rest assured that the instant our bodies "quit" or die, our souls go to be with Christ in Heaven.
Death is Foreign
Physical death is foreign to us. It is often dreaded because mankind was supposed to live eternally in the Garden of Eden. This would occur as long as mankind obeyed God and refrained from eating the "forbidden fruit." The idea of bodily death was unknown until sin entered into the lives of Adam and Eve after they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:9).
Death isn't a Popular Topic
Since then death has followed man wherever he went. It became a very real and scary prospect. It is certainly not a popular discussion topic in most social circles.
The Second Death
Everyone now alive will eventually experience physical death, or "first death," no matter how good science gets or how great the medicine becomes. Those who have accepted Christ and who have been born again spiritually will not have to face a "second death" (which is the penalty for sin).
"Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power…" (Rev. 20:6, ESV).
…"This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:14-15, ESV).
Those who have not accepted and believed in Christ as their Redeemer from sins will be separated from God for eternity. This is called "the second death."
"But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8, ESV).
Appointed to Die Once, then Judgment
Much has been written about the "other side," about the "white light," and about "out-of-body" experiences. Some swear that they have seen Jesus. Some say they have been sent back to do some more work. I don't know about all this. But, I do know that the Bible says that once you are dead, you are dead. You are not coming back short of a miracle!
"It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27, NASB).
Beware the Lie
Remember, Satan and his demons (angels which were cast out of Heaven along with Satan), can create a mindset where people are convinced that there is no God. Some people are led into religions where the one true God is replaced with a god that makes it easier to accept lifestyles without humility and with too much pride. Such people are taught that they are inherently "good." They are taught that they really do not "sin." Rather, they only make "mistakes."
One of Satan's masterful ploys is to seduce people from knowing the whole truth about God. In fact, Satan uses the same lies today as he told to Adam and Eve!
"He said to the woman, 'Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?…But the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:1, 4-5, ESV).
Satan knows our weaknesses. Our own pride says we can save ourselves. Our own pride says we can be like a god. Pride goeth before a fall - always!
Are we willing to take that risk in believing such a lie? If we believe the lie, we need to know that the penalty will be indescribably horrible. If we die before accepting Christ as our Savior, there will never be a second chance, not ever!
This is what the Word of God says. It is not something made-up by a preacher just to scare you. This truth is not something I "ginned up" just to scare you into becoming a believer. Know this, however, the Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). We need to believe what God says.
Many people are unaware that Satan has already been defeated by Christ's work on the cross. Satan is fully cognizant of his predicament. During this spiritual warfare which is taking place until Christ's return, Satan's primary goal is to take as many souls along with him to Hell as he can! Satan wants to keep people from knowing Christ as their Savior. He wants to keep as many as possible from going to Heaven when they die.
This ongoing war is a spiritual war. It is being waged in every venue ranging from personal relationships (e.g. marriages) to wars between nations (e.g. terrorists and religions).
At the same time, many people are coming to know the beauty and love of Christ and are experiencing a new and loving relationship with their spouses, family, and friends. They now understand why events are happening as they are, and they want to share the Gospel of Christ through the Holy Spirit with others.
Living the Gift of God's Love
Those who come to know Christ are "born again" and experience spiritual healing. Although we must live with the consequences of sin, we can be forgiven through Christ. We can begin to live our lives for Him. In doing so, we find that we begin to share His love with our loved ones. We begin to forgive others, and we show love to those around us. We begin to give up our desires to please ourselves first.
We do these things not expecting rewards, but rather to please the Father. When our bodies eventually expire and we "give up the Ghost" (our spirit), it will be taken up into Heaven. That is the victory over death and over Satan provided by Christ's redemptive work on the cross, and His triumphant resurrection.
God said He will reunite our souls with our bodies. But, it will not be the body as we know it today. It will be a heavenly glorified body, no longer to suffer from deformity, old age, pain, illness, and the prospect of death. This new body will be sinless and no longer tempted by sin.
Our Savior, who paid the price for us by dying for all of our sins, has through His resurrection, won the final victory over sin and death. Our bodies (transformed from sin to sinless through death) will also be resurrected and reunited with our souls, which were cleansed of sin by the blood of Christ on the cross.
Fate of those who Believe
When the weary and worn-out bodies of believers give out, our souls (spirits) will go to Heaven instantly. What a beautiful gift from such a gracious God! What a comfort we can derive from that promise. A person's journey into eternity to be with Christ begins right here on earth the moment he or she believes and claims Him as Savior!
A New Earth&Heaven
In the new earth and heaven that God promises to make for believers, there will be no more wars, sickness, hurting or pain. Since God said it, we can believe it will come to pass!
We will have no sorrow, tears, or worries, because we will not remember our days on the old earth, although we will recognize one another. (How this works, I'm not sure. But, that's what is written in the Word). We will experience and see such beautiful things that earthly eye has not seen nor minds even thought. Check out Revelation, chapter 21, to read what John saw. These are the promises of God that were left for us in His Word, the Bible, for those who believe in His Son Jesus.
The Fate of Unbelievers
One may ask, "What happens to the souls of those who die without Christ? " God's Word says that upon their death, their souls go to a place of torment called Hades (not Hell) to await the Day of Judgment called the Great White Throne Judgment.
The souls of those temporarily residing in Hades will eventually be reunited with their resurrected bodies to stand before God. However, unlike the saved, Christ will not be there to act as their intercessor. They will weep in the deepest of sorrows because they rejected Christ (and the Holy Spirit) as Savior while they lived on earth.
They will be judged for sins which have no forgiveness due to their rejection of Christ. If one's name is not written in the Book of Life, they will not reside in Heaven or inherit the new heaven and new earth. Why? Because they did not choose to have Christ's blood cleanse their sins. They remain in sin.
At Judgment Day, many will tell God that they have prophesied in His name and have done many good and religious things. God will respond that He never knew them! Again, the only test is whether or not they believed in Jesus as Savior and had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in their heart, period. Nothing more, nothing less. There will be no arguing, no appeal, no nothing. They will be eternally separated from God.
Once in Hades it is absolutely too late to change your destiny no matter what. Hades lies at the end of any of the world's roads a person may have chosen. All roads do not lead to Heaven! After waiting in Hades for the Day of Judgment, unbelievers will be found guilty of rejecting Jesus. Along with Satan and his minions, they will be cast into Hell for eternity.
No Halfway House
There is no "halfway house" such as "Purgatory" as preached in Catholicism. There is no second chance. The choice must be made now. The decision is ours to make while we yet live.
It is our decision and ours alone either to accept or reject Christ and therefore where we will spend eternity. God does not send anybody anywhere. He gives us that choice.
God does not desire that we spend eternity away from Him. He wants you and me to make the choice that will bring His blessings now and forever.
Assurance of Salvation
If we lay dying in our deathbed today, we can have blessed assurance of salvation. We can be assured that through God's plan of salvation, we will be with Him for eternity.
1. The Only Way to Heaven
Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6).
2. Everyone is a Sinner
Romans 3:23 says that, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."
3. A Price for Sin must be Paid
Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death. But, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
4. Jesus Christ Died to pay our Price
Romans 5:8 - "But God commandeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Ask Jesus to be your Savior from sin and death. Claim His promises of eternal life. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13).
Remember God Loves Us
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whomsoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16).
"For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him" (John 3:17).
"He who believes in Him is not judged. He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).
About the author:
Richard Reeves has been active in Christian Education for many years. He co-founded a Christian School K-6 in Corvallis, Oregon, in 1986. His career was with the U.S. Forest Service in Engineering and Land Management Planning. He retired in 1994. He is active today in several group bible-studies and his church in the Southern Oregon area.
In July of 2004, Mr. Reeves suffered a life-threatening stroke. Having brushed death's door, he understands the urgency of our upward call of belief in Christ as our Savior. This article is excerpted from his book, The Spiritual Roads of Life printed in 2004. Christianity is the only faith that he found to be absolutely true, and it is the only faith that he entrusts with his eternal destiny. In Christ's love, he shares this with you.