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Posts Tagged ‘Death’

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Photo Credit: Shannon Hicks/Newtown Bee.

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On December 14, 2012, crazed gunman, Adam Lanza, forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and brutally shot and killed 20 children and 6 adults.  He also murdered his own mother a short time before arriving at the school, and eventually took his own life when it was all over.

In times like this, many are asking, “Why would God allow such heinous and senseless violence to happen – especially to innocent children?” Some have made reference to God and prayer being taken out of schools; that this is the reason it was allowed to happen.  Perhaps it’s a contributing factor, but it goes much deeper than this.

The following is a sermon that was given by Pastor Steve Hadley from Harvest Family Felllowship regarding this tragedy.  He does a great job of answering the above question (and more) in his sermon entitled, “Why Tragedy?”  May it bring some sense to this horrible event and maybe even to personal tragedies that some of you reading this may have experienced.   I hope it blesses you.

 

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German Box for Board Games Wikicommons Walters 7193

After the game, the king and the pawn

go into the same box.

~ Italian Proverb

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In the game of chess, the players strategize to corner or checkmate the opposing side’s king.  Many pieces are used in order to do this – some more expendable than others.  At the bottom of importance is the lowly pawn.  But even though the king is the most valuable piece and the pawn is the least valuable, after the game ends, the fate of both is the same.  They both are placed in the same box.

Such is the case in real life.  All people – whether kings or commoners, rich or poor, famous or obscure – all will have the same fate one day.  We all will die.  Death is no respecter of persons…and neither is God. (Colossians 3:25)

We’re all made of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7), and no human life is more valuable than any other to God.  We are all made in His image and He loves us so much that He sent His Son to this earth to save us from the punishment of sin, which is eternal death.  (John 3:16)  He did this by becoming the perfect human sacrifice and shedding His blood to cover our sins because “without the shedding of blood, there is no remission” or forgiveness of sins.  (Hebrews 9:22)  He had to do this because the blood of animals could not permanently erase sin.  Only the blood of a perfect human being, without sin or blemish, could satisfy once and for all the requirements for permanently blotting out the sins of mankind.  This perfect human being is named Jesus Christ.  (Read all of Hebrews Chapter 9 for a thorough explanation of this.) 

Whether you’re a king or just a regular person, if you confess to God that you are a sinner and believe that His Son, Jesus, died on the cross to cover your sins, then when the day comes when you die and are placed in a box, you’ll have the assurance that you will have eternal life with God and not have to face an eternal death of unimaginable horrors.  The choice is yours.

Just something to think about…

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51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,* at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55  “O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?” 

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58  Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

                                                                 ~ I Corinthians 15:51-58

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*  “General Electric Company tells us that the twinkling of an eye is eleven one-hundredths of a second.” ~ Dr. Jack Van Impe

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Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to take.

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What happens when we die?  This is a question most people have no doubt pondered at some time in their lives.  It’s only natural for us to wonder about this mysterious event that threatens to overtake us all one of these days.  (Hebrews 9:27 But before tackling this question, let us first define the word “death.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines death as “a permanent cessation of all vital functions: the end of life.”  Basically, when the life-sustaining components of any living organism lose their ability to function, this produces cessation of life… or death.  This is the generic, scientific description of this occurrence which happens to every living thing on the planet.  But there is a parallel approach to defining what exactly “death” is.  Let’s see what the Bible has to say about it.

There are many references to death in the Bible and most imply the above dictionary definition.  However, there is another dimension added to this when we look at passages such as James 2:26, which states, the body without the spirit is dead…”  What exactly does this mean?

Humans were created as three-part beings.  We have a body, a soul, and a spirit.  (1 Thessalonians 5:23)  We were also created in the image of God, who also has three parts – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  This is known as triunity or “The Trinity” when referring to God.  Although we have three parts, we are considered one person, just as God is considered one God.  As humans, when one of our three components – the spirit – permanently leaves the body, the body ceases to function and is, therefore, considered dead.  (Ecclesiastes 8:8)

So, what caused death to come into the world?  According to the Bible, after the first humans, Adam and Eve, were created by God, He gave them specific instructions to follow.  One of the things He told them was to not eat the fruit of one particular tree in the Garden of Eden, which they had been placed in.  This tree was called “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”  He said that “in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

Some reading this may be wondering, “If this is true, why didn’t they die that same day?”  There are at least three possible answers to this question.

  1. It could mean that when Adam and Eve sinned, and the curse of death was pronounced on them, then at that moment, their bodies began to deteriorate and this began the death process.
  2. Some theologians speculate that since a thousand years is as a day to God (2 Peter 3:8), then in that “day” they died.  No man has ever lived over 1,000 years.  Methuselah, the oldest man who ever lived, died at 969 years of age. (Genesis 5:27)  Adam died at 930. (Genesis 5:5)  So, technically speaking (they reason), Adam and Eve did die in that “day” because they didn’t make it to the 1,000 year mark.
  3. Another belief is that their “spirits’ died the day they sinned.  Even though their bodies continued living for hundreds of years, their spirits were dead and needed to be “born again” or renewed.  (John 3:3; Psalm 51:10)  If they had died physically in that state, they would have suffered eternal death.

I believe that the phrase “you shall surely die” in Genesis 2:16-17 means that they died spiritually and that physical death was set in motion, as well.

Now back to the question of what happens when we physically die.  Let’s take a look at a passage of scripture in the Bible that tells the story of two men who died and what each experienced after death:

19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”  (Luke 16:19-31)

According to this passage, the rich man went to Hades, which is another name for Hell, and Lazarus went to Abraham’s bosom, which is another name for Paradise.  Both of these places were located in Sheol – the abode of the dead.  (See “NOTE” at end of article.)  Notice that the rich man and Lazarus were both cognizant of their surroundings.  The rich man was in torments and Lazarus was finally comforted, which was the total opposite of their states while they were still alive.  Apparently, Lazarus had believed what the prophets said about the long awaited Messiah (Savior) and had repented of his sins while he was still alive.  The rich man did not.

This next example from the Bible is that of a man named Jairus whose 12-year-old daughter was very ill and near death.  He came to Jesus begging Him to please come and heal his daughter.  But he found out moments later that it was too late.  The little girl was already dead.  However, that didn’t phase Jesus.  Here’s what He did:

49 While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.”

50 But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” 51 When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. 52 Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” 53 And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead.

54 But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.” 55 Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat.  (Luke 8:49-55)

So we see that Jairus’ daughter had died; but at Jesus’ command, her spirit returned and she was no longer dead.  What a wonderful sight that must’ve been for her parents!  How grateful they must’ve been to Jesus!

And speaking of Jesus, His is the greatest example in the Bible of what happens when we die.  He was scourged and crucified, and hung on the cross for several hours until He finally cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)  After He said these words, He took his last breath.  The King James Version of the Bible actually says that He gave up the ghost.”

Most people have heard of what happened three days later when He was resurrected from the grave.  But the Bible also tells us of what transpired between the time of His crucifixion and His resurrection.  Even while He was still alive and hanging on the cross, He gave us a glimpse of what would happen to Him later that day when He finally died.  He told one of the thieves who was hanging on an adjacent cross, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)  What an odd thing to say to someone as they were both in so much pain and dying!  But because that particular man had faith and believed that Jesus was truly the promised Savior of mankind, he was allowed to enter into the “Paradise” section of Sheol at that time.

After Jesus’ death, there are a couple of scripture passages that give us a clue as to what happened during those three days and three nights that His physical body remained dead inside the tomb.

 9 Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?  (Ephesians 4:9)

This tells us that when Jesus died, He descended to the lower parts of the earth.  This is where Sheol is located.

18 Christ himself suffered on account of sins, once for all, the righteous one on behalf of the unrighteous. He did this in order to bring you into the presence of God. Christ was put to death as a human, but made alive by the Spirit. 19 And it was by the Spirit that he went to preach to the spirits in prison. 20 In the past, these spirits were disobedient—when God patiently waited during the time of Noah. Noah built an ark in which a few (that is, eight) lives were rescued through water.  (1 Peter 3:18-20

While in Sheol, He preached or proclaimed His message to all the disobedient spirits of the people who died during the time of Noah’s flood.  These people were still cognizant and aware of their predicament in the prison of Hell after approximately 2,400 years at the time that Jesus died, and I have no doubt that they are still cognizant of their predicament today.  If only they had listened to Noah!

There are other conjectured scenarios that supposedly happened when Jesus died and went to Sheol.  These are drawn up from loosely applied passages of scripture – and sometimes just from men’s imaginations.  Therefore, as a Bible student and writer, I do not feel comfortable espousing them.  We have to be very careful about just believing everything we read or hear – especially when it pertains to biblical matters.  We should always compare it with scripture to make sure that it’s accurate – just as the Bereans did.  (Acts 17:11)

I’m very interested in writing a future article discussing the phenomena of Near Death Experiences (NDE’s).  This is where some people, upon dying, are aware of their spirits leaving their bodies and then having various experiences happen to them ranging from traveling through a dark tunnel towards a bright light – to going to Heaven and seeing lost loved ones – to some actually going to Hell.  But for now, hopefully I’ve proven from the Bible that physical death is not the end of our existence – or at least I’ve sparked an interest in the reader to look more into this fascinating topic.

I’d like to end by appealing to those who are not sure about their eternal state of being after they die to please consider researching Christianity further.  It’s the only belief system that explains how human beings can have the penalty for Adam and Eve’s sin, which was passed down to us throughout successive generations, erased.  It’s the only one that gives us a way to have our relationship restored with God, our Creator.  And it’s the only one that can give us the assurance that when we die, we know that we will truly be in a better place if we have accepted the plan of redemption that God laid out throughout the pages of the Bible – accepting the gift of salvation through the Messiah, Jesus Christ. 

I hope you’ve found this article interesting and helpful.  As always, please feel free to comment.  Be blessed!

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(NOTE:   Before the Messiah paid for our sins with His death on the cross, all people – the righteous and the unrighteous – went to Sheol when they died.  This place was divided into two parts – Hell and Paradise – which could not be crossed over from one to the other because of a great gulf or chasm between the two.  There was no access to Heaven for humans before we had a way to permanently have our sins cleansed and forgiven.  This was done by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross.  When Jesus was resurrected from the grave, the resurrected bodies of the righteous went around and appeared to many people in Jerusalem.  (Matthew 27:52-53)  One can deduce that these were the people from the Paradise side of Sheol and that this area is now empty.  Now the righteous go straight to Heaven when they die.)

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“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.”  ~ Proverbs 21:23

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Such wise words!  All of us have had to “bite our tongues” at one time or another.  Sometimes it’s just not worth letting what pops into our minds slip out of our mouths.  We could really hurt others, or even ourselves, by saying the wrong things. And in certain instances, our words could even cause death.  (“Death and life are in the power of the tongue …”  ~ Proverbs 18:21a) So, we can see why it is important to watch what we say.

The Bible clearly tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) So basically, we should always strive to speak words that are uplifting and beneficial to others; not words that tear down, degrade, or corrupt.

However, this is not such an easy thing to do.  Our ability to control what we say is pretty much summed up in chapter 3 of the New Testament book of James.  It says in verses 8 through 10:  “but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”

So, what’s a person to do?  How can we control our tongues and keep ourselves from saying something we’ll regret later?  The answer is, “We can’t!  But God can!”  He tells us that we can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens us.  (Philippians 4:13)  And this includes controlling the words we say.

Perhaps the next time we’re about to say something that we know could be considered gossiping, rude, or just plain taken the wrong way, we should stop ourselves, ask God for the right words, and then say it in a way that would be kinder and more acceptable.  If we feel that this is not possible, then we should follow the advice our parents gave us when we were growing up.  And that advice is, “If you don’t have anything nice to say … don’t say anything at all!” Amen!

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Tree of Life

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” ~ Deuteronomy 30:19

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This seems like a no-brainer.  Right?  If given the choice, most people would choose life over death.  Likewise, most would rather be blessed than cursed.  So why did Moses feel the need to tell the people to choose life?

The Israelites were a pretty rebellious and stubborn bunch.  They continuously sinned against God by adopting other nations’ religions and ways of doing things which were contrary to what God told them to do.

People today are no different.  Most live their lives totally oblivious to the fact that there is a God in whose image they were made.  And of those who do claim to acknowledge that there is a God, most have no clue that it takes more than just believing in God to be “okay” with Him.  James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble!” And we all know that demons are not “okay” with God!  Also, Jesus Christ makes a very sobering statement in Matthew 7:21.  He says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” This is very sobering, indeed.

In the first passage above, Moses didn’t just end by saying “choose life.” He went on to say, “so that you and your children may live.” This statement was made because the people’s actions had a direct effect on their lives, as well as the lives of their children.  It’s the same today.

Those of us who are parents have more influence over our children’s lives than anyone else.  We are responsible for teaching them right and wrong, good and bad – basically everything they will need in order to grow up to be well-balanced, responsible, and conscientious adults.  So it’s important that we know the truth so that we can pass correct information on to them.  We don’t want any erred beliefs we may have to cause them dire harm in the future because we taught them wrong things.

Ever since humans were created, we have had an adversary, Satan the devil.   He tricked the first humans, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden and he’s had almost 6,000 years of experience to continue deceiving and manipulating the human race to disobey God’s commands.  He knows fully well that the penalty for sinning against God is eternal death and separation from Him in hell, and he does all he can to deceive us into going against God.

But God provided a way for us to have life.  He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind.  By the blood of His sacrifice, we are able to have “death” pass over us and to have life eternally!  (“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16)

So how exactly do we choose life?  We do this by accepting what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.  He gave His life so that we may live.  The Apostle John said of Jesus, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4) Also, Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) So when we choose Jesus, we choose life!

Some of you reading this may be thinking, “I don’t believe this stuff!”  You may be following along with the great majority of people who don’t believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.  If this describes you, I would encourage you to study the Bible for yourself to see if these things really are true because time is very short!  You can’t afford to be wrong about this!  You owe it to yourself – and your children.

May God bless everyone reading this, and may we all make the decision to choose life! Amen.

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