The United Nations Bureau of Statistical Statistics just released their findings from a decades-long study recently completed. Here’s that startling statistic: “Since the dawn of human history there has always been one death per person!” What an amazing and startling statistic. You know, don’t you, there is no such Bureau in the UN? But you also know, don’t you, that the above statement is true? Let me make it more personal: You are going to die! I don’t know when. I don’t know how you’ll die or under what circumstances . . . but you will die. That’s a true and genuine statistic.
Yes, your death is absolutely certain—you are going to die? Everyone has so far; everyone will. I’m not being morbid or negative. That’s just a fact of life. We’re going to die; why deny it or try to fight it as many people do? The Bible indicates that when Jesus returns to earth, the people who are living at that time will not die in the same manner we presently perceive of death. But if I were you I wouldn’t stand around idly waiting for that to happen. Stay occupied until you die or until Jesus returns. Yes, Jesus will return to earth to establish his Kingdom, but God is the only One who knows when that will happen. You don’t know. I don’t know. Only God knows.
Will We Live Again?
In one way or another for thousands of years, every human ever born has asked the same question a man named Job (pronounced Jobe) asked thousands of years ago: “When people die, will they live again?” (Job 14: 14 in the Bible) The answer? If 2,000 years ago Jesus of Nazareth really was born of a virgin, if He really died, if He really was brought back to life after being dead, yes, people will live again after they die. If those events did not occur in historical time and space 2,000 years ago, forget it because, no, people won’t live again after they die.
Before the end of this year, any one of us could die; in fact, of the thousands of people who receive and read The Traveler each month I can guarantee that many of you will die before December 31, 2012, I don’t know who, but I guarantee some of you will die. I might even die before 2012 ends. Who knows? God does . . . and He doesn’t let most of us know ahead of time when we will die. Are you asking: “What in the world is going on, Bill? Why are you writing about death? I thought you write The Traveler as a source of encouragement and hope for our journey through life; I thought you write it to be positive and uplifting. So far, this is pretty morbid; I don’t want to read about possibly dying this year!”
Our Last Great Enemy
The Bible declares that the last great enemy of humankind is death. But . . . the Bible is also very clear that death does not possess the finality so many people dread. For authentic believers in Jesus there is something beyond death—something much, much better. But before I write about what’s “better,” I must first teach a brief summary of human makeup—how God fashioned us when He created humanity. God created us humans as three-part beings.
We are a spirit. Our human spirit is “encased” in our human soul. Our human spirit and soul are both encased in our human body. Each human being consists of a spirit, a soul, and a body. Our spirit is that “part” of us that connects us with God; it’s where Jesus lives inside of us in his “unbodied form” of the Holy Spirit . . . assuming we’ve invited Him to come live inside us by our being born again. Our soul is that “part” of us which consists of our “self”—our personality, our mind, our will, our thoughts, our character, our emotions, our attitudes . . . our “me-ness . . . our person-ness.” Our body is . . . well, you know what your body is.
When we die our spirits return to God—just as when Jesus released and sent his spirit back to God at the instant of his death on the cross. When we die, our bodies and souls are buried in the ground, buried at sea, cremated, frozen . . . whatever.
Our bodies and souls then “sleep” in death until Jesus returns—when they are raised from the dead and re-united and re-integrated with our spirits. After that, then we will be complete and whole forever, fashioned after Jesus’ “likeness” and “image” when He was raised from his sleep of death after being buried 3 days and 3 nights in a tomb. When Jesus returns, we will be raised to new immortal LIFE, never to die again. I know there are differing views in the medical profession about the actual moment of death; until I’m clearly convinced otherwise, I’m going to continue to believe our moment of death occurs when our spirit returns to God, leaving behind our body and soul.
During the normal course of events, if a person goes to bed at night, enjoys a good night’s sleep, and then awakens in the morning—upon awakening, that night of sleep seems only a few moments, even if that person had slept many hours. To me, it’s extremely comforting to know that as far as consciousness is concerned, the sleep of death obliterates the interval between the moment of death and the moment of resurrection. To our consciousness, the moment of resurrection will seem to immediately follow the moment of death, no matter how long we’ve been “sleeping” in death.
What I stated above about what happens to our spirits, souls, and bodies when we die is controversial in some circles. Some teach that when we die both our spirits and souls return to God to live in some sort of intermediate or temporary heaven before Jesus returns to earth to establish his Kingdom, followed some time later by eternal life in heaven.
Songs About Death
Much of what many of us believe about what happens after we die is based upon hymns and Gospel songs that have become part of the religious culture! I’m not kidding. Check what you believe about death with what the Bible clearly teaches. Then check it against what you have learned from religious hymns and Gospel songs. Don’t misunderstand me. I dearly love hymns and Gospel songs—especially about life after death, but many of them aren’t really based upon the clear teachings of the Bible. In fact, right this minute, I’m listening to a CD about heaven. That’s all I’m saying. Many hymns and Gospel songs are based upon pretty sketchy bits and pieces of information in the Bible—and upon the almost universal human longing to have a better situation after death than we have in this life. Sorry folks, but that’s the truth.
Most of the Bible’s teachings about what happens after death is really about what happens after we are resurrected in the future—which may be a long, long time after we die!
On this subject of death and resurrection, a number of people have asked me about the near death experiences (NDE’s) thousands of people report they have had. You know—the tunnel, the bright light, being reunited with loved ones who have died, figures bathed in bright, scintillating light, paradise-like settings, etc. I don’t pretend to have a complete answer to such questions, but here’s what I believe is really happening when people have such experiences. First, I want to say I believe many such reported experiences are real. Who am I to deny their reality? Hey, there are lots of things I don’t know.
I believe the people who have near-death experiences actually have post-resurrection experiences. No, they’re not experiencing what happens immediately after death. Rather, they are “fore-seeing” what will happen immediately after they awaken in the resurrection, having already been “asleep” for a “few moments” in the grave. There are no time and space limitations once a person has died; In NDE’s, I believe God simply lets people experience ahead of time what will happen to them when they are resurrected, not what happens right after they die.
Hey, I could be wrong; I’ve been wrong before. And I’m quite certain I will be wrong again. I haven’t had a near-death experience; I haven’t been there. I don’t know for sure. There are many things beyond the limitations of this mortal experience we just don’t know about—and should stop pretending that we do—and stop inventing “religious fairy tales” to proclaim what the Bible clearly does not teach us! Now don’t go reading anything into what I just wrote about alleged near-death experiences. I simply wrote what is my present understanding about such experiences—nothing more, nothing less, okay?
The Bible Says:
“Since Jesus lives within you, even though your body will die because of sin, your spirit is alive because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as He raised Jesus from the dead, He will resurrect your mortal body by the same Spirit living in you.” (Romans 8: 10 and 11)
“Jesus said to [his friend, Martha]: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The person who believes in Me, even though he or she may die, will live again.’” (John 11: 25)
“The fact is Jesus has been raised from the dead. He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again . . . Jesus was raised first, then when He comes back, all his people will be raised.” (1 Corinthians 15: 21 – 23)
Yes, Jesus will resurrect each of us. I am profoundly grateful that He is the one who abolishes death and brings true LIFE to us through his resurrection!
A Great Modern “Theologian”
Woody Allen said on one occasion, “I’m not afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” George MacDonald, a famous writer from the 19th century, wrote, “How strange this fear of death is! We are never frightened at a sunset.” For centuries, people of all faiths, creeds, and persuasions have prayed in one way or another for Jesus to return to earth. Because we have the Bible—God’s written revealing of Himself to humankind—we believers in Jesus have more insight into Jesus’ return and what his coming Kingdom will be like. Much has been preached. Much has been written. Much has been painted. Much has been sung. I can’t add much more.
To summarize: we will all die. When we die, our spirit returns to God. When we die, our body and soul “sleep” in the grave. When Jesus returns to establish his Kingdom on earth, our body and soul will be awakened from where they have been sleeping and will be re-integrated with our spirit, and we will then be immortal beings, never to die again.
Dear reader, that’s the Gospel. That’s Good News! That gives us genuine comfort when loved ones die. That helps assuage our grief and gives us solace. We have authentic hope beyond the grave. That breaks the stronghold of fear that many people have about our last Great Enemy, Death!
“Jesus was resurrected first. Next, those who await his return to earth will be raised from the dead. After crushing all opposition, He will hand over his Kingdom to God the Father. Jesus won’t stop until his last enemy is down–and the very last enemy is death! When everything and everyone is finally under God’s rule, Jesus will step down, taking his place with everyone else. And then God will be All in all–everything to everyone everywhere and everywhen.” –1 Corinthians 15: 24 – 28, paraphrased
To Think About This Month:
I’m on a lifelong, pilgrim journey. I will not “homestead” here, because I have not yet reached my True Home beyond death. My death will merely be the portal to my True Homeland.
Life Enrichment Services, Inc.
Revised and Updated December 2020