Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Preparing To Enter Glory (Part One)

Preparing to Enter Glory (Part One)
Saint Looks At Death

By Steve Horne


Introduction:

For several months now I have been thinking of the realities of the mortality of mankind. This has been on my mind for several reasons. One, I have observed my father approach his death. Two, I have read a wonderful booklet written by Thomas R. Johnson, M.D. in February of 2004 entitled DEATH AND DYING: A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE. And thirdly, I have been faced with my own mortality since the diagnosis of cancer and the battle it brings. All of us, however, have this subject close in our minds since we have seen grand parents, parents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters along with best friends life slip from this world. Each of us have known of others that have been born, educated in their cultures and life work, established great plans, and then they are gone from this life. As difficult as this is, and it is difficult, this is the way of life. It is something we all need to ponder and understand. It is my desire to set forth a clear Biblical perspective on death and dying to help everyone hear and understand why death happens, briefly touch on the three types of death and how we should respond now that we have a clear understanding of why death is a part of life.

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The Certainty of Death for All:

The Bible makes it plain that, "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" Heb. 9:27. As seasons come and go and the grass turns green then withers away so is life. Peter, quoting from Isaiah 40 stated the certainty of the death of all flesh in this manner, "For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever." 1 Peter 1:24-25.

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Why, is it that death comes to mankind? This is a fair question that needs to be answered. God in his mercy has revealed to us some information of the cause and effect of death. Death comes to us by way of the sin of our first parents Adam and Eve. As divinely appointed representatives of the whole human race, the guilt and penalty of their sin was imputed to (applied to) all humanity. God had told Adam that if he ate of the fruit "…Thou would surely die," (Gen 2:17). Note that the Apostle Paul stated also that death has happened in this way: (1Co 15:22) "…in Adam all die,…and again, (Rom 5:19) "….through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners,…". So the answer regarding why death comes to mankind is simply that sin brought death. When Adam willfully disobeyed transferring his allegiance from God to Satan death passed to all of Adam’s offspring (the whole human race).

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Death: the Penalty for Sin:
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One essential truth concerning death is that it is the penalty for sin. Adam disobeyed God and the result of that sin is death for God declares that "the soul that sins it shall die." (Exodus 18:4). Adam and Eve were our first parents and we know that had they not eaten the fruit of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" sinning against God there would not have been death but eternal life forever on earth and in the garden. Death therefore is not natural to life but is foreign and hostile. Note what God stated to our first parents and then what the Apostle Paul stated in his writing to the church at Rome: "And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou latest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Gen 2:16- 17); "For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 6:23). This foreign invasion and the reality and certainty of it fills the heart with dread, anxiety and fear. The essential truth is that, because of sin, death holds its sway over us and we are doomed to die.
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There is more than one type of death in the Bible. Actually there are three types of death mentioned: 1. spiritual death, 2. physical death and 3. eternal death. All men have died spiritually since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. Most men will die physically. Only those that are alive at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ at the last day will escape physical death (1Co_15:51, 1Co_15:52; 1Th_4:17). Those that have not repented from sin and placed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will experience eternal death.


1. Spiritual Death
- The Bible in Genesis 1-3 teaches the primary penalty and greatest death that all men experience is the spiritual death. God told Adam and Eve that if they ate of the fruit they would be alienated in their soul from Him. Spiritual death then, being the alienation of the soul from God separates men from God’s favorable presence. On the day Adam and Eve ate of the fruit they did not physically fall on the ground die that day. However a death did happen! They died spiritually becoming alienated in their soul from the creator, the God of all life. They fulfilled their desire in running from God, going their own way, walking according to their own thoughts. They did not seek after him at all (cp. Rom.3). They ran from Him selfishly instead of to Him for mercy. They went from listening to God and having fellowship with Him to being dead in trespasses and sins walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that (even now) works in the children of disobedience. They walked in a manner of life in one desire and the order of pursuing the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling their own desires of both the flesh and of the mind so that by nature they became the children of the wrath and anger of God (Eph 2: 1-3). The relationship and favorable fellowship they had with God prior to their sinning had broken their relationship with Him. They no longer had eternal life. Take note dear friends God had to come and find them - "And Jehovah God called unto the man, and said unto him, Where art thou?" (Gen 3:9).


Each one of us have the guilt of sin upon us. All men have died spiritually since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. Each has died spiritually and will stand before God at the Day of Judgment, .for "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" (Heb. 9:27).


How can you escape the judgment of God upon your soul which spiritual death brings? The only answer to spiritual death is for you to repent of sin and place soul saving faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus called salvational faith and deliverance from sin and spiritual death, spiritual life when he said to Martha "…I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die…. (John 11: 25-26). Do you believe this? Then if you do hear the word of Jesus regarding saving faith, that is seeing your death and the need of the Savior, hear and take comfort at his words of deliverance and comfort- "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hearth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life. (John 5:24)


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2. Physical Death – Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. Physical death happens when the soul is separated from the body and the things of this life which we normally do in the world are no longer things that we can do. It is at this time that the body returns to the earth out of which it was taken while our spirit returns to God (Ecc12:7; Lk 23:43). This judgment and penalty for sin, also came by Adam and Eve through the disobedience to God and their eating the forbidden fruit. Paul states, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men."(Rom 5:12) Most men will die physically. Only those that are alive at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ at the last day will escape physical death (1Co_15:51, 1Co_15:52; 1Th_4:17). It cannot be escaped. As stated before "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" (Heb. 9:27).
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Now those of you that have faith in the Lord Jesus has spiritual life. It is through faith in Jesus Christ, that we can take comfort in that He died and, was buried and rose again and that by Him comes our future resurrection power (1 Cor. 15:21-22) of the body for you will be resurrected to life living with and in his presence forever.


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3. Eternal Death – Eternal death is the culmination and completion of the spiritual death. Those that have not repented from sin and placed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will experience eternal death. The Bible teaches that all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil (Ecc_12:14; Mat_12:36, Mat_12:37; Rom_2:16; Rom_14:10, Rom_14:12; 2Co_5:10). John stated this at the time of the writing of the Revelation of Jesus Christ: And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:12-15).


You see, it is in eternal death that the desires and corruption of sin find its end result. Eternal death brings the anger and judgment of God. Upon the spiritually dead, the non believer judgment is pronounced and the smoke of torment arises for ever and ever (Rev. 14:11). It is in the eternal death that the judgment of God is upon those that continue in their life to run and do their own desires and forget God and do not worship him. Those judged to eternal death are forever separated from the presence of God, spending eternity in everlasting destruction. The souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day (Luk_16:23, Luk_16:24; Act_1:25; 1Pe_3:19; Jud_1:6, Jud_1:7).


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Perspective for Everyone:
.The Bible teaches that no one has ever left this world through death before the appointed time by the Father in heaven. Some people seem to be doing great things then suddenly they die. Some are taken at a young age. Some live to be eighty plus or ninety plus years old. In all of these different ages of death one thing can be certain God takes them from this world at the time that He has ordained that they go to Him. He will take us home when our life is completed in His decreed plan..We find the truth of this in the example of Christ’s life and death. These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. ( John 17:1-5 ).The Apostle Paul is also an example of a life finished and completed and death not coming until that plan was completed. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Tim 4:6-8).


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Take comfort that you cannot die early! Your life is planned by God and nothing will happen to anyone outside the plan of God.

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The Christian View of Death:


.Dear Christian, death should not have any terror over you. While it is true that death is "the last enemy" (1 Cor. 15:26), is not natural and is violent in its ripping the soul from the body, death is a thoroughfare through which you advance to a far better world. It is the threshold between this world and heaven. It is a translation from this present evil world into the presence of the Father where the Christian’s citizenship and heart strings are (Phil.3:20). To put it another way it is the pathway into the presence of God. It is the "river’ that is to be crossed in order to enter the celestial city of God. Death is part of the path that we are on in a journey to reach that country which is made and built by God (Heb. 11). It is the reaching of the homeland, the heavenly country, the city God has prepared for us. It is God’s leading us to our inheritance away from sin, sorrow, pain, disappointments, toil and hardships.


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There is no wonder then that Paul’s words are so comforting …"absent from the body …at home with the Lord." .Christ has so conquered death that it is not to be feared. The Apostle John said in his Epistle 1 John 3:2 "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." In this there is no fear. The love of God in Christ has prepared the horizon of our life and we, His children look forward to being like him. We love Him desiring to be sitting and resting "at His feet" knowing that He loved us first and has redeemed us. Therefore dear child of the living God, do not fear the day that He will call us into His presence.

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Believer you can and may grieve and weep over the loss of family and friends, after all Jesus wept (Jn 11:35). But the long black dresses and hours of bitter weeping because a loved one has died is not proper for His blessed sheep. For the scriptures call the Christian to sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (1 Thess. 4:13). The Christian funeral and days after the death of the believer should be a time of looking to the God who has appointed a day when He will take every one of His people home to be with Him. This is a time for rejoicing that our loved ones have gone to their heavenly home. We can speak with living expectation (hope) that one day we too will to be in His presence.


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Here is a list of Scriptures that will help each Christian to focus upon a proper view of death:


Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.


Philippians 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.


2 Corinthians 5:6-8 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.


Psalms 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.


Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.


1 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.


2 Timothy 4:6-8 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
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Non-Believers Call to Salvation:

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In this message it has been explained: 1. what death is, 2. the types of death and 3. how Christians are to view death. Now it is time to speak to you who have not faith in Christ, concerning how you should view your death as well as present to you the call of the Gospel of Christ. Perhaps God will grant you true conversion - repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.


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You may seek to hide the fact of death by pushing it in the back of your mind. Or perhaps you view death as annihilation or a ceasing of your being: soul and body. But if this is your thinking you have surely walked away from the Bible and from what is stated concerning the eternal punishment due in eternal death. The view of death which you need to embrace is that you are now: dead in trespasses and sins; spiritually dead; in need of a spiritual resurrection; you are without God; without hope; in need of deliverance from the judgment of God by the gospel and grace of Jesus Christ.


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The gospel is that Jesus died for sinners on the cross, was buried, and rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-4). His death was a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God (1 John 2:2). This is the only way to be saved.Jesus is the one who died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). He is the only way to the God the Father (John 14;6). He alone reveals God (Matt. 11:27). He has all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18). It is only through Him that you can be saved from God's wrath (Eph. 2:3). He can forgive you of your sin (Luke 5:20; Matt. 9:2). He can remove the guilt that is upon your soul. Jesus can set you free from the bondage of sin that blinds your eyes, weakens your soul, and brings you to despair. He can do this because He bore sin in His body on the cross (1 Peter. 2:24) that those who trust in Him would be saved.


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If you are not a Christian, and want to be delivered from the righteous judgment of God which is coming upon you due to your sin against Him, then come to the One who died for the sins of the world. Come to the One who died for sinners (Matt. 11:28). Turn from your sins. Believe and trust in Jesus. Receive Jesus, who is God in flesh, who died and rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-4) as your Lord and Savior. Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins. Receive Christ (John 1:12). Only He can wash you clean from your sins and only Jesus can deliver you from the righteous judgment of a holy and infinite God. Pray to Jesus. Seek Him. Ask Him to save you - He will.


If you pray and ask Jesus to deliver you from your sins and save you from God's wrath, then please let me know and lets celebrate and praise God together for your spiritual resurrection and new life in Christ.

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Let us pray:


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Almighty God, our Father in heaven, before whom live all who die in the Lord: Receive our brothers and sisters into the courts of your heavenly dwelling place. Let their heart and soul ring out in joy to you, O Lord, the living God, we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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