Wednesday, October 16, 2013

LifeShape Prayer & Discipleship Module 4 – The Future: Block 3 – Death & The Grave


Death is a fact.

The Bible says; “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,”
(Hebrews 9:27 ESV)

We don’t prepare for death – spiritually or otherwise

…and yet it is the one event common to all humanity

All of us will face it. We try to dress it up.
We try not to think about it. We push it to the back of our thoughts.

Statistically, very few of us even make a basic plan relating to our death – less than half of adults in America actually make out a will.

A survey in 2007 revealed that about 55% of all adult Americans do not have a will. Of those, only 32% of African Americans and 26% of Hispanic Americans had wills.

Another survey in 2012 showed approximately the same percentage. Also in the 2012 survey, 63% did not know what would happen to their digital assets…online passwords and accounts, ebooks, etc.

I would encourage everyone to seriously engage in some estate planning, obtain life insurance, get your wills done or updated, develop a business succession plan, etc, and don’t forget about including the church and the kingdom of God in your estate giving!

“for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” (1 Timothy 6:7 ESV)

It has been said that it wasn’t until the late 1960’s that the medical community began to become more aware of the need for supporting the dying and grieving from a psychological perspective. The seminal work of Elizabeth Kübler Ross published in her book “On Death and Dying” after interviewing hundreds of patients for many years and the development of her now well known “stage theory” of grief helped many come to grips with death and grieving and counsellors to give needed support, perspective, and comfort. While not universally accepted, the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) are certainly identifiable, experienced by many, and are useful for patients and counselors alike.

Now there is a greater proliferation of grief counseling available. In fact, next week here in Beaumont, there is a training session on supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through life ending illness, grief and loss.

Life Expectancy in the USA
The average life expectancy in the USA in 2011 was 78.7 years. In 2011, the age adjusted death rate for the United States was 740.6 per 100,000 people. Hispanic females had the longest life expectancy.

The state of Hawaii had the lowest death rate, and Mississippi the highest.
States in the Southeastern region (OK, AR, LA, MS, AL, TN, SC) had higher death rates, along with KY, IN and WV.

Causes of Death
The leading causes of death in 2011 for ages 1 through 44 were accidents, homicide, and cancer.  For ages 45 to over 65, the leading causes were cancer and heart disease, with heart disease taking the lead for the over 65 group. 

Key Scripture: 1 Cor 15:55 “O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”

Before we understand more about death, we have to understand what man is—

We need a Biblical view of human nature .

The Judeo – Christian view of human nature holds that man is not an eternally pre – existent being, but is a conscious, immaterial soul which is a separate entity from the body (mind – body dualism) that will live on in eternity after physical death. The soul, which is not the same as the brain, uses the brain and body to communicate with the natural world. Man has various characteristics that distinguish his nature from the rest of the created order such as posture, larger brains, articulate speech, cumulative cultural traditions, aesthetic appreciation, and religious expression.

Why death?

Death was not part of the natural order or cycle intended by God – it is the curse for disobedience.

“but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.””
(Genesis 2:17 ESV)

Death passed on to all men, because all sinned because Adam sinned.
Death entered the world through sin. Death is part of the curse of sin.

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—”
(Romans 5:12 ESV)

“But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”
(Romans 8:10 ESV)

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
(1 Corinthians 15:20–22 ESV)

Death encompasses the entirety of man’s makeup:
The curse of sin involves physical, spiritual, and eternal dimensions.

The wages or payment for sin is death – physical, spiritual and eternal.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 6:23 ESV)

As Michael Horton says; “As it is, after the fall, we are dying from the moment we are born.” (Pilgrim Theology, Zondervan 2012)

Death is called “the last enemy.”

“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
(1 Corinthians 15:25–26 ESV)

What happens at death? What is death?

Physical death is variously represented in Scripture.

It is spoken of as:

- as the death of the body, as distinguished from that of the soul, Matt. 10: 28; Luke 12: 4,

- as the termination or loss of animal life, Luke 6: 9; John 12: 25

- as a separation of body and soul, Eccl. 12: 7; Jas. 2: 26.”
It is never an annihilation, but may be described as a termination of physical life by separation of body and soul.

Louis Berkhof (2013-04-30T05:00:00+00:00). Summary of Christian Doctrine (Kindle Locations 2309-2313). Kindle Edition.

Berkhof on the nature of man and death:

“…according to Scripture, physical death is a termination of physical life by the separation of body and soul.”

“For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”
(James 2:26 ESV)

Death is also described in the Bible as an “exodus” that involves departing from your body. Luke uses the term when he writes about the experience on the mount of transfiguration – Moses and Elijah are speaking to Jesus about His “departure” – the greek word used here is “exodus.”

“And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”
(Luke 9:29–31 ESV)

Peter uses the same word and also uses the metaphor of “the removal of his tent”:

“I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off (gk – removal) of my body (gk..tent) will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure (gk-exodus) you may be able at any time to recall these things.” (2 Peter 1:12–15 ESV)

“Death is not a cessation of existence, but a severance of the natural relations of life.”

Louis Berkhof (2013-05-08T05:00:00+00:00). Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 15076-15079). Kindle Edition.
In Pastor Ron Hammond’s oft-used illustration, our body is an “earth suit” for our soul (our mind, emotions, and will) that gives us legitimate expression and communication on this earth. Once the earth suit dies, we no longer have a way to express ourselves, communicate or to exist in the natural world. All continue to exist after death, but in another plane, in heaven for believers in Christ, or in hell.

““The two words ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ are used interchangeably. Death is sometimes described as:
- a giving up of the soul, Gen. 35: 18; 1 Kings 17: 21
- sometimes as the giving up of the spirit, Luke 23:46; Acts 7: 59.

The dead are in some cases named “souls,” Rev. 9: 6; 20: 4,
in others, ‘spirits,’ I Pet 3:19; Heb. 12:23.

The two terms of spirit and soul denote the spiritual element in man from different points of view.

As spirit it is the principle of life and action, which controls the body, and as soul it is the personal subject, which thinks and feels and wills, and in some cases the seat of the affections.”

Louis Berkhof (2013-04-30T05:00:00+00:00). Summary of Christian Doctrine (Kindle Locations 784-788). Kindle Edition. (editing mine)

At death, the souls of believers immediately enter God’s presence and enjoy direct fellowship with Him.

“Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
(2 Corinthians 5:8 ESV)

“And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.””
(Luke 23:42–43 ESV)

(Paradise is heaven) - “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—” (2 Corinthians 12:2–3 ESV)

For Christians, death is not to be met with fear, but with joy, because of the prospect and promise of going to be with Christ.

“in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalms 16:11 ESV)

“as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”
(Philippians 1:20–24 ESV)

Physical Death cannot separate us from God’s love
For I am sure that neither death… nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 8:38–39 ESV)
The Bible uses analogical and metaphorical language to describe a number of things about God and His relationship with man, including death.

 The Bible likens death to ‘sleep’ in a number of cases:

One reason sleep is used as a metaphor for death is because death is viewed Biblically as only temporary for Christians, just as sleep is temporary.
The Souls of the Dead are Conscious not sleeping

When a Christian dies, they are immediately present with the Lord.

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6–8 ESV)

““Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep.” (John 11:11–13 ESV)

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:8–10 ESV)

“My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:23 ESV)

Revelation tell us that at some point there are souls of martyrs under the altar in heaven – souls that are speaking, praying, communicating with the Lord.  They are in heaven and not in the ground, and they are not unconscious or sleeping.

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”” (Revelation 6:9–10 ESV)

Jesus said his Father is the God of the living, not the dead.
“But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”” (Luke 20:37–38 ESV)

Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration – they were in recognizable form, and were able to communicate with Jesus and he with them. (Matthew 17)

What about other false ideas about death?

-      Naturalism/Materialism

The teaching of Scripture is that man was a direct creation by God, made a “living soul” by breathing into the body the breath of life.

We are not a mere collocation of random atoms that by sheer chance evolved into the highest order on earth.

True materialists cannot say that they care for anything or anyone, nor for life itself and still remain intellectually honest.

-      Universalism / rejoining the universal soul

Individual souls matter to God.  Jesus died for a humanity of individual souls who EACH must make their choice to believe and obey the Gospel.

-      Reincarnation

Death seals the eternal state.  Scripture knows nothing of returning as a fly or a beetle if you were sinful in your life. You cannot pay off your old sins in the next life because you too busy committing new sins in your current life!

For believers, a greater life awaits.

Those in Christ will be made alive.

Christians have a “blessed hope” – a confident assurance beyond the grave, because Jesus himself conquered death, and will reign until death is completely done away.

“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
(1 Corinthians 15:12–26 ESV)

Through his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus destroyed death and delivered us from the bondage of the fear of death.

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14–15 ESV)

The Story of The rich man and Lazarus

-      2 distinct, and fixed destinations
-      Were conscious of their environment – one a place of bliss, the other of torment
-      Neither could cross to the other
-      Could see, communicate, feel
-      Expressed concern for family
-      Rich man was not repentant

““There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried,and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’””
(Luke 16:19–31 ESV)


Important Points
1.   When we die our soul does not simply go to sleep and await the resurrection.
2.   Death separates the soul from the body.
3.   When separated from the body, a believer’s soul is immediately present with the Lord.
4.   The grave holds a believer’s body until the resurrection.
5.   Death has no victory and the grave loses its sting in Christ.