The Apple Of God's Eye

September 2, 2009

What Happens When We Die: It's Not What You Think!

flatlandhowler.blogspot.com

flatlandhowler.blogspot.com

Public enemy No. 1! That’s how death can be described. It will slay us all, and at a time of its own choosing.

But paradoxically, although we all know we will die, very few know exactly what death is. Certainly death must be the least understood although most relentless enemy!

Yet it need not remain a mystery to those who will look into their Bibles to read — and believe — what God says. For God has not left us in ignorance about this important subject.

The basic doctrine

Since life is merely a temporary, mortal, chemical process (with man being made from the physical elements — “dust”), death is just the cessation of life. One who is dead has no consciousness separate from his body and feels no pain nor pleasure, but is as if asleep. Nonetheless, we all will live again after death, after a passage of time, when resurrected back to life again.

The usual teachings of this world

Most professing Christians believe that at death they do not really die — that is, cease to live in any form. They instead believe that at death only the body dies, and that the “soul” is then liberated to live on in heaven or hell (depending upon the moral merit of the former life).

Others believe in reincarnation, thinking that their soul, which is liberated at death, will be placed in a new body to live again, with this process occurring over and over. Scientists who believe evolution seem to recognize death for what it is (the total cessation of life), but they also err because they know nothing of the hope of the dead — life again after a resurrection. Even other beliefs about death exist.

Yet, surprisingly, these concepts are not from the Bible!

The Bible teaching

Perhaps the main reason why people, religious or otherwise, do not understand death is because, first of all, they do not understand what life is. The Bible makes it plain.

Genesis 2:7 records, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Authorized Version).

Notice! Man does not have a soul. He is a soul. The word translated “soul” here is the Hebrew word nephesh. It means a living, breathing, physical creature. The word carries no implication of immortality. In Genesis 1:24 it is translated “living creature” and refers to animals.

Further, the Scriptures say dogmatically that the soul can die and therefore cannot be immortal. See Ezekiel 18:4, 20 and Matthew 10:28.

The Bible nowhere teaches that man has an immortal soul. In fact, the immortal soul doctrine was adopted by professing Christianity from pagan Egypt through the Greek philosophers.

But note that man, as God stated, is composed of the physical elements of the earth and is dust. God plainly told Adam, who sinned, “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). But men do not want to die, so they do not want to believe God. They do not want to believe that man’s life is merely a physicochemical existence that will run down and stop — die!

Hence, they choose instead to believe the lie Satan told Eve when he said, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). They believe that within this dusty body, as a sort of prisoner of the flesh, is an immortal soul that is unleashed at the death of the body and that continues in conscious life forever.

To be sure, man is not merely an animal. For one, man is made in God’s image and in God’s likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). And man’s potential — that of being born into the God Family — is far more incredible than the fate of any animal.

Further, God reveals that there is a spirit in man (I Corinthians 2:11) that gives man mental superiority over animals. It is this spirit that imparts the power of mind to man, and the power of moral decision, including the ability to grow in character. But this spirit is not the man. And it is not an immortal soul. It is something in man that gives man a dimension of life above the animals. It does not give him immortal life, however.

To understand death requires that we know that man’s life is merely a chemical process involving physical elements. When that process stops, we die. We are dust, and when we die our bodies decay and return to the dust.

When we die, all conscious thought and awareness ceases. Notice Psalm 6:5: “For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give You thanks?”

And compare Ecclesiastes 9:4-5: “For him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing.”

The apostle Peter knew that even the righteous die and lose all consciousness and bodily presence, for he stated: “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. … For David did not ascend into the heavens” (Acts 2:29, 34). Even righteous David was not an immortal soul that left his body and went to heaven. Even David was dust and decayed back to the elements.

Other scriptures supply even more detail about death, comparing it in a figure of speech to sleep (I Corinthians 11:30, I Kings 2:10). When a person is asleep, he loses consciousness and is unaware of his surroundings.

The topic of death is in some ways unique. Most people will not believe what God says if their senses tell them differently. For example, Adam and Eve did not believe God’s warning about the tree of good and evil, because the fruit of it looked good and desirable. Yet, in the case of death, people will not believe God when He says death is what it indeed appears to be to the most casual observer — namely, the cessation of life! People will not believe God no matter what He says, whether our senses tell us to agree or not.

But caution! Nothing said here means to imply that death is the end of all hope of life. It is not. An old saying goes, “Where there is life, there is hope.” But the great God says, in effect, that even where there is death there is still hope — in fact, the main hope.

That hope is the resurrection of the dead from death to life again. Notice Job’s question and answer about death: “If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come” (Job 14:14, AV).

Realize this: The demonstrable fact of the resurrection of the dead proves once and for all that humans are not immortal souls. If we were, why would the dead have to be resurrected? They would already be alive.

And see further Christ’s startling statement: “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live” (John 5:25).

Jesus knew His statement might startle His audience, so He said further: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves 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 [judgment]” (verses 28-29).

The Scriptures are plain that all people will be resurrected, even those who will eventually be cast into the lake of fire to die the “second death.”

The apostle Paul chose to comfort the living relatives of those true Christians who had died by reminding them of the wonderful resurrection to come (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).

To alleviate their sorrow, Paul explained that the dead in Christ will be resurrected at Christ’s return, and that they — along with us, if we qualify — will forever be with Christ.

Yes, the truth about death is far less foreboding than the fanciful imaginations of well-intentioned but errant religionists!

Key verses

When properly understood, this topic of death can fill us all with real hope, for then we know the wonderful truth that we will all see our beloved deceased relatives again. Therefore it may be well to note specially the basic scriptures that describe the truth about death. Here are some of them:

Genesis 2:7 and 3:19 — man is a mortal being made from the dust. Genesis 1:24 — the Hebrew word translated “soul” in Genesis 2:7 is translated here as “living creature” and refers to animals. Ezekiel 18:4, 20 and Matthew 10:28 — the soul is not immortal; it dies. Psalm 6:5 and Ecclesiastes 9:4-5 — the dead have no consciousness. John 11:11-14 and I Kings 2:10 — death is compared to sleep. John 5:25, 28-29 and I Corinthians 15 — the dead will be resurrected.

Death is indeed an enemy, but through the resurrection from the dead this enemy is annihilated. Therefore Paul says in I Corinthians 15:26, 54-55 (AV): “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death…. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

Source: Good News, March 1986

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August 27, 2009

Why Does God Get The Blame, But Never The Credit?

claimdynamics.com

claimdynamics.com

We live in a funny world. When things go wrong, God is to blame, but when they go right, we will not give due credit. Take for example the innocent deaths of children dying the world over: It must the fault of God, because he created us and now has deserted mankind, right?

Or what about when a devastating tornado or hurricane hits a small town and wipes it off the map, or the 9-11 disaster: “Where is He when we need Him,” is the oft repeated cry, or “it’s an act of God,” putting God in the position of being accused. Airlines also invoke God when weather causes flight delays or accidents – it’s not the fault of the airline – blame God.

Then there’s insurance policy clauses, contracts or wildfire’s, earthquakes, floods and avalanches. Some people scream at the heavens, or bury their head in their hands and cry, “Why, God?”  Others seek to cast blame, even for those things which are not of human origin.  In legal and insurance realms the reference is made to Acts of God, which may or may not be insurable. Someone’s got to be blamed, even if no fault is found!

Conversely though, when we find ourselves in a life threatening bind, a big financial constraint or when we are emotionally distressed, we invoke God’s name for help. At this time, we may have no other recourse – no one is watching so what harm can a small prayer do, right. If He exists, then perhaps he will help us, because we’re essentially good aren’t we?

Process theology to the rescue

Now comes the school of religious thought called process theology. These modern theologians say that the question of why God allows these tragedies, or why God is not apparently powerful enough to stop them, has vexed religious counselors for centuries. And well it may. Because people simply do not understand that question!

If God is all good, if God is love, he wouldn’t want humanity to suffer, would he? And if God is all powerful, as the Bible says he is, why doesn’t he stop suffering? Why doesn’t he prevent it?

The credibility of God is now at stake, say the theologians. The world, they contend, has grown weary of religious spokesmen trying to defend God and explain why God allows these things – and at the same time saying that God is all love, God is all good, God is all powerful and he could stop it, yet he doesn’t. So modern theologians now have come up with this new theology called process theology in an attempt to explain this apparent paradox.  God, they say, is entirely loving, but is lacking in power.

They say nothing of the real purpose of life. They say nothing about the restoration of the kingdom of God, the only gospel that Jesus Christ preached.

The Origin and Purpose of Life

But what is the real trouble with this question? What is the reason that God has not stopped all this violence, all this human suffering?

In all the religions of this world – the many different religions we call non-Christian, and even the religion of Christianity – not one religion knows who and what God is. What is God? Is he a trinity? Is God one person? They just don’t understand.  Not one religion on earth fully knows what and why man is. Why are we here? What is the purpose, if any?

Notice what God says about all this in Isaiah chapter 40, beginning with verse 17:

“All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?… It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers [that is to God]; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

“… To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might [there it speaks of God’s might, his power], for that he is strong in power; not one faileth” (verses 17, 22, 25-26).

The earth turns on its axis. The different seasons regularly come. It is the power of God that is causing all of that. And that is mighty power.

And God formed man after the God kind, not after an animal kind, but in form and likeness of God. There is a very special purpose for man on earth and when you understand that, you begin to understand why God is allowing all the suffering on the earth today.

Notice, now, Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God [Lord there is the name of the one that became Christ] formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man [made of the dust of the ground] became a living soul.”

Man Must Choose

The man that God created now had to make a choice.

Character is the ability of some separately created entity to come to a knowledge of right as from wrong, of truth as from error, of good as from evil. To choose the right, or the good, and to reject the evil – even though he might want to do the evil – to have the will to do the good, that is character.

God is the supreme, holy, righteous, perfect, spiritual character. And He is reproducing that character in man. How is that divine character going to get into something made out of the ground? God placed a human spirit in the first man. That human spirit could have a relationship with God, who is spirit.

But God placed before that man two choices, symbolized by two trees in the garden of Eden. The one tree was the tree of life. How does God give that life? It comes through the Holy Spirit. The person that has the Spirit of God has life, and he that has not the Spirit of God does not have life. If the Spirit of Christ is in you, you are his (I John 5:11-12).

If the Spirit of God is not in you, you are “none of his” (Rom. 8:9, last part). And, verse 11, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken [make immortal] your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”

God made us mortal, but he made us to become immortal. And God required that the man had to make a choice, because character had to be built in the man! Character is built through choice.

The other tree, the other choice before man, symbolized the way of man’s taking to himself – deciding altogether by himself – the knowledge of good and evil. How do we come to know the truth of God? In I Corinthians 2:9 we read, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart [mind] of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” – in other words, spiritual knowledge.

God reveals these things to us only by his Spirit. The Spirit of God reveals God’s knowledge – spiritual knowledge and spiritual character. But man decided to take the basis of that kind of character to himself, to decide right from wrong, truth from error, by himself.

So, in punishment, God at that time closed up the tree of life. In other words, he shut up the Holy Spirit from man.

God had set out a 7,000-year plan and purpose in which to develop the godlike character in man, made from the dust of the ground. God’s purpose is to make us immortal like God, until we become God as he is God. That has got to come through human experience, but it has to come from God, with our consent, our desire, our decision and our wills.

I John 3:1-2 says, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us [here is the fact that God loves us], that we should be called the sons of God [ultimately to be born of God, though now begotten of God; for God is reproducing himself, and we’re called the sons of God]:… now [even right now] are we the sons of God [but only begotten, not yet born], and it doth not yet appear what we shall be [in other words, what we shall be one can’t see yet]: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

Man is clay to be molded

The purpose of God is character building. That is why he made man of matter. We could be molded spiritually, in a body of earthly clay, into divine character. We read in Isaiah 64:8, “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”

Even Job asked, “If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait [meaning in the grave], till my change come. Thou [God] shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands” (Job 14:14-15).

Job knew he was the work of God’s hands. We all are the clay. God is the potter. A potter molds and fashions clay into the form and shape he wants. Now God will – if we put ourselves in his hands, if we surrender to him, and to his will – take us and mold and shape us into the godlike character of love.

God is love. God will put his divine love in us, a love with which we were not born. It is a gift of God through his Holy Spirit.

We sow what we reap

Notice Isaiah 45:9, “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!… Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou?… ”

What about the theologians reasoning that today’s divided Christianity is God’s religion, that this is God’s world, and God isn’t powerful enough to stop all of evil?

God is allowing man to make his own decisions. And if man makes the wrong decision, God has said whatever we sow we shall reap. God has told his people that ever since the beginning. He told Adam that. He told ancient Israel that. And Jesus Christ told us that. If we sin we will have to reap the consequences. God allows it. He allows suffering and the pain of sin for a good purpose.

God has given man a mind to think with. He gives man revealed knowledge in the Bible. Man can take that knowledge and learn to go God’s way. That is necessary for the development of character so we can become like God.

In Matthew 24:4-5 Jesus said, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name [Jesus said], saying, [that] I am [the] Christ; and shall deceive many.”

How can they do that? Jesus said in Matthew 15:9, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” They make the commandments of God of no effect by their tradition (verse 3).

The commandments of God are the right way to live; they reveal God’s way of life. Human beings have not kept the commandments of God. They have said, and many preachers are saying today, that the commandments of God are done away.

The commandments of God are the way of love, of love to God and love to neighbor. The first four of the Ten Commandments tell you how to love God, the last six how to love your neighbor. That is the way God lives and the way Christ lived while on earth.

But in Jeremiah 50:6 God says that the shepherds, the ministers of this world, lead his people astray and deceive them. That is exactly what has happened. The world has been deceived, and the deceived theologians can’t seem to understand why God allows all this suffering from disobedience till we learn our ways are wrong.

God allows it to teach us lessons. God allows it because we ourselves have brought it on ourselves, and because we have failed to develop the kind of character needed to become his children, to be glorified, to be given the gift of eternal life so as to live in happiness and peace and joy. There’s no other way for peace.

Man has brought all this on himself, in defiance of God! Man has been shaking his fist at God, telling God he won’t obey God and going his own way, the way that has seemed right to a man. It’s all a matter of cause and effect. It’s the way we have lived that has brought all these troubles on us, not God.

But God will show man whether he has power. God will finally deliver man from the evils of today’s civilization by his divine powers and establish his kingdom of peace over all the earth.

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