THE LIVING WORD TRANSCRIPT
Program Air Date - 9-21-03
LESSON TITLE: FINAL THINGS:
"WHAT HAPPENS AFTER DEATH?"
Greetings to all in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Let me thank each of you for joining us this morning - welcome to the program. Today we have the privilege to once again assemble before the throne of God. In this time of worship we will have the opportunity to sing songs of praise and to study from His Word. May we each do our part in praising God according to His Will, as we make these sacrifices and offering toward His Throne. Now as we begin talking to our God, will you bow with me in prayer!
What a great blessing and privilege it is for us to have the opportunity to praise and magnify our God. If you like me, I love to sing and accomplish God's Will as we teach and admonish one another. But ultimately, how wonderful it is to have the avenue to worship our God. So this morning, let's begin with a song which lifts the name of Jesus up above all others. Won't you join in with the congregation at this time as we sing together, "All Hail The Power Of Jesus Name!"
(BREAK FOR SONG # 1)
I find it very interesting to see that many comparisons the New Testament writers use to those things of old. In fact, we see men like Paul continually comparing the literal things of the Old Law, to the new and better things of the New Law!
One such reference is made by the Hebrew writer in chapter 5, verses 5 and 6, of that book. There we read, "So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You." As He also says in another place: "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek." Christ in a spiritual since is our High Priest today, just as Aaron and Melchizedek were literal High Priest of Old!
So what does this mean to us as Christians? Well, let's read another verse back in Hebrews chapter 4. Verses 14 and 15 say, "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." Praise be to God that Jesus Christ is our High priest, who truly knows about our sufferings and trials in this life? And why, because He Himself also, lived as us, suffered and endured these same temptations. However, the only difference is, when Christ was tempted He endured and sinned not! What about us, is this how we respond to trials and temptation. Do we look to God for help and endure without sinning?
May we always learn from the great example we have in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Although we can not be perfect as He was, we can at least be complete before Him. Which means, knowing His Will, doing it and putting our God first in all things. What type of response are you giving to Jesus, the One who loves you and has shown you so. Are you serving your God, by following and obeying our High Priest?
As far as our main study this morning, we will be beginning a new series of study that deals with "Final Things." I know we all wonder from time to time what will really happen after we breathe our last breath or when the Lord comes again.
So our new series will be entitled, "Final Things," and our specific lesson of the morning will deal with, "What Happens After Death!" So please stay with us and after our next song together, I will be leading us in this interesting study from God's Word. Now let's again join together in song, as we sing the hymn, "There Is A Place of Quiet Rest!"
(SONG # 2)
Speaker: Ray Sullins
"Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow, for what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away."
We read these words from James, James chapter 4 and verse 14 and in these words I believe we are reminded better than anywhere else in scriptures of the reality not only of life but the fact that as sure as we all live as soon as we are brought into this life by birth, we also someday will die. I think here James is trying to remind us that certainly we are those who in this life at some point have a day when we will no longer live, breathe, or move upon the face of this earth. So we would like to begin over the next several weeks just a brief series in relationship to final things in talking about really not only what happens after death today, but also the concepts of hell and heaven and are they real and do they exist? What is it that the Bible tells us? Because there's no better place to go than God Himself in trying to understand these things.
I would encourage you first of all today to please get a pen and paper. We're going to talk about a lot of scriptures that there is no way in the 15 minutes or so that we have that we can really read each of the scriptures, but I hope you will write these down and read them later. If you would like a transcript, please contact us because there are so many great scriptures that remind us not only of the brevity of life that we have just read, but also scriptures like Hebrews chapter 9, verse 27. It says there that "man will be judged someday after death, that all men will be die." We all have an appointment with death, but then after death we read there about something that is called judgment, a judgment that is coming.
I like also the way that Jesus said it because Jesus said that "we need to be ready, we need to be watchful. We need to be prepared," because He said,
"no one knows the hour," the time, the day, the month, the year. I find it interesting that many in our world today and many in the recent past have tried to set a certain day, a specific day that God will come again, that Jesus will come from the sky with His mighty angels and judge the world. But the Bible tells us in the words of God Himself, there in Mark chapter 13 and verse 32 that "no man knows the day. No man knows the hour or the time." In fact, Peter said in 2 Peter chapter 3 and verse 10 that "the Lord will come as a thief in the night." When is the last time that you knew when a thief was coming? Especially during the night time. So the point is be ready! Be ready. Be watchful. Always make yourself prepared for that day when Christ will come again and in the fact that we don't know when it will be. You see, we must always be prepared.
If there had been a certain time, we might all live in sin and riotousness and say, "Well it doesn't matter because I know that that day, a month away from that day or maybe a year away from that day or maybe just a week away from that day, maybe I'll get may life right with God." Well God says, "You don't know so always be ready. Always be prepared. Always know that I will come someday like a thief in the night and I will come to judge the world, to find out those who are righteous and to find out those who are unrighteousness." And basically that will be our discussion over the next several weeks.
There are many places throughout scripture that talk about the concepts again of heaven and hell. I know that 2 Peter deals a lot with it. In 2 Peter chapter 1, verse 11, we have one clear idea about those who will live in an eternal life, an eternal existence with God.
On the other hand, it also talks about those who will live in eternal damnation. There again, in 2 Peter, the same book, in verses like chapter 2 and verse 9, we see there that there are those who will go to destruction, in eternal destruction.
Chapter 3 again and verse 7 talks about how that those who have done evil will receive a reward that is equal to that evilness. Again, destruction. They'll be condemned. They will lose their eternal souls in eternal torment.
So again, those are things we will talk about more as the time goes on, but what we're trying to establish today is what happens after death. We know that now in general at least that there is going to be something eventually that is referred to as heaven or hell and we'll understand those even clearer in the near future.
But what is it that happens exactly after death? The moment after as we breath our last as we really are those who are sick or suffering or many today who have trials and tribulations and health problems and they know they are at the point of death, as Peter or even Paul says, "My time is at hand. I'm about to die. I'm about to be one that is poured out that will leave this earth. " Paul said, "Is it a great thing for me really to live? Not really," he says, "only to the glory of God," but he says, " the great thing is to die." Paul knew his time would come. Peter did. All the writers of the Bible knew that as they lived, they would die. The greatest thing they could do was die. And why? Because they could go to be with God after that great judgment.
I think one of the best examples that we have in the Bible that we'll look at just briefly and we'll be referring to this book over the next several weeks as well. But there in Luke, Luke chapter 16, very familiar story, a parable in fact that is told by our Lord specifically, that is the son of God, God in the flesh. And it tells us there in chapter 16 the beautiful story of the one that is often referred to as that follower of God, that poor Lazarus, that one who seemed unworthy in this world, but the one who was greatly rewarded there after death.
And then we, on the other hand, we have in the story a man who seemed to be very wealthy, who seemed to be very rich, who had all the things that he could want, all the things that life could seem to offer. Again, in this situation we find that as they were there in this story and as we are really having it described to us in verse 19 of Luke chapter 16. We see it play out very well that one is blessed in life and one suffers in life but then after death we see who is rewarded. We see then who suffers. It's interesting though that they both die in the story around the same time. A story again that Jesus tells.
I want to mention just a brief thing about parables. Jesus used parables over and over and over again. One of the most precious and interesting things that we find in scriptures are parables. Parables were always wondrous examples to help prove a point. But I want you to notice something about parables. Parables were always using things that were in reality. Jesus never used weird concepts like dragons or this or that, things that didn't make sense or things that couldn't be real. Jesus always used stories, ideas, applications there in His parables and in these examples that were true to life that could really happen. So that's why when we look at the story of the rich man and Lazarus, it's more than just maybe something make-believe. It's something that Jesus seemed to have indicated by using it as a parable that was not only possible, but probable. It could happen as it happened to these individuals that we could end up in either of these situations. "Well the rich man dies," as the Bible tells us, "and as he dies," it tells us there that "he goes to a place," that is referred to in scripture in verse 23 again there of Luke 16 "that is known as Hades, a place of really not final, eternal damnation, but yet he was tormented," the scripture tells us. And really "there in the flames, it says that he was just in agony, in suffering so much," in fact, so much so in verse 24 that "he cries out to Father Abraham." But notice who he cries out in relationship to, to Lazarus who is where? "Who is there in Abraham's bosom,?" verse 22 tells us. When Lazarus died, he went to be it seems in a calm, a peaceful place, Abraham's bosom and the rich man went to a place of torment, of trouble, of fire, of great flame as verse 24 tells us. So there was this rich man begging Abraham to "please send Lazarus to cool my tongue." Why? Because the flames were a great torment. Yet, what do we find? We find that Abraham said that Lazarus could not do this. Why? Because there was a great goal. The two are divided. The decision had been made. He had had an opportunity to follow God, to help the poor, to do those things that God had asked, yet the rich man had decided not to. But Lazarus evidently at least being obedient and doing his best that he could being a very poor, poor man in his life. He now was being openly rewarded by God. This rich man then just pleads "Well send some back to my family. Let them know what the truth is." Abraham said, "If they won't hear the prophets, if they won't hear those who have been sent already, then why are they going to believe someone from the dead or anyone else?" He says, "They have the same opportunity you do."
Brethren, we do today also. We have the privilege and the great opportunity as those who have now heard the gospel of Jesus Christ to respond to that and to know that when we respond we have eternal life there in heaven with God forever rather than losing our souls to destruction or that which really will last for an eternity as torment as it says here.
But how can we see though really that the scripture here is talking about these two places again, a place known as Hades, a place known then as Paradise? How can we see the difference in this in the final reward? Well I think there has to be a difference because obviously it says there in scripture as we've already pointed out in Hebrews 9:27 that after death it's appointed for man once to not only die but to be judged. All will be judged. In fact, there are several scriptures that tell us of this interesting concept that someday all will die. In fact, Acts chapter 17 and verse 31 says that "the true God," Paul says, "will someday judge according to the time that He has set." He has set a time to judge. So when we die, we know that we will be judged and God has somehow set a time that will be the judgment and we don't know when that time is as we've already read in Mark. So we've got to again be ready for it. We've got to know that it's coming and know that those who die will someday have to rise again and be judged. We'll look at that in the book of Thessalonians in just a moment, but before we get there, I wanted to look a bit further at some concepts that Jesus made.
Look now over into the book, the gospel of John. In John chapter 5, we see that Christ said some interesting things once again in relationship to these ideas about those things after life. Again, John 5, verse 28 and 29, it says, "Do not marvel for the hour is coming in which all who are in the grave will hear His voice and come forth those who have done good to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation." He says, "the day is coming when all will even come out of the grave, those who are dead." Why? To be judged. So we know the final judgment had not taken place here with the rich man and Lazarus but know that there lives had already determined the state that they were going to wait in kind of an intermediate place until that final judgment. The rich man, living a bad life, was already in intermediate torment until the final torment which was eternal. As well Lazarus, living a good life as best he could, was now in a type of paradise until the final reward and placement of that mansion in heaven that he would be given.
We further see these concepts clearly in places like Jude 1, verse 6 where it says there that "there are those who are reserved until the day of judgment." It was talking there about some who were still alive and even some who had died and that they were being reserved until the day that they would be judged finally.
2 Peter 2 and verse 9 talks again about "the evil one and how those who are wicked and doing contrary to the Will of God are being reserved until that day of judgment."
So how will that scene play out as far as what scripture tells us? I want you to turn now to the book of Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians. Really there are several places in Thessalonians that give us a clear concept of this and as well the book of Corinthians helps us quite a bit with those things after death. But in 2 Thessalonians or rather 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 if you'll look there, we're going to begin reading in verse 14 as really there was a concern here in verse 13 and earlier about those who had already died and those who were asleep. People were saying, "Well how can they be there for the judgment if they're already dead and they're in the grave?" Well here again this is addressed by Paul. Basically it says, "Don't worry about it," in verse 13, "as if they don't have hope." In verse 15, "For if we believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again even so God will bring Him those who sleep in Jesus, He'll bring them up. For this we say to you by the Word of the Lord that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means prevent those who are asleep for the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with a trump of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words." There we have the scene. He says, "Don't worry about those who are dead." Why? Because they will be brought forth and in fact when the Lord comes again notice that it's the dead who have come forth from the graves who will be taken up first because through their lives they have already been in a temporary resting place according to the life that they had lived. But then at this final judgment scene, he says, "even us who are alive will receive that final judgment and as we are there before God we will rise with Him in the clouds if we have lived righteously and if not then we'll find ourselves," as it even talks here and later in the book of 2 Thessalonians who will be destroyed, those who will not be among the rewarded, those who have fallen and are doing contrary to what God would have us to do.
So there we have it. God comes. He takes the faithful home. And He destroys the earth and the wickedness of it. He destroys that which is really contrary and against the law and the will that He had given. And as it says there in 2 Thessalonians chapter that "He'll come again in glory," in verse 7, "and at that time taking flaming fire and vengeance on those who do not know God and who have not obeyed the gospel of Christ."
Peter said that "the earth and all of the elements there of the earth will be destroyed and burnt up with their wickedness." And why? Because they had been involved in that which is contrary to God and as the rich man chose not to serve God on this earth. So don't fret. Don't worry. As he says here, "Comfort yourselves in knowing that as a follower of God that whether you die before the Lord comes again or not, you will rise and be judged and everyone someday," as the Bible says, "will stand before that judgment seat. Every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess. Everyone will say it is Jesus Christ and they will know it and then all will be judged according to the reward. The faithful going up into the clouds to be in heaven eternally and the ones who there are wicked or contrary to the things of God will be judged accordingly and receive what we'll discuss even next week those things that are theirs according to torment."
So please let's try to live a Christian life. Let's turn to the Word of God and study His Will and do what He's asked us to do so that we truly will be found faithful in the end and so that we also will not have to worry in this life about those things that are physical or those things that are eternal because we know that God will provide and care for us and that we will not lose our soul. God doesn't lie. God always tells the truth. And as sure as He said there is a heaven, there is an eternal home for us if we are found faithful, that we will receive that crown of life after death as He has promised in Revelation 2 and verse 10.
(SONG # 3 - "Let Me Live Close To Thee!")
Thank you again for choosing to be with us today, in giving this time to God. What a blessing it has been to share this time together in Christ. We invite you back every Sunday morning at 7:30, as we commit ourselves through this worship to God!
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May we all realize more every day the brevity of life, so that we will make ourselves prepared for that day when we will be called to our eternal home! Are you ready to meet your God?