A Matter of Life and Death

Date: 11/07/2017 
There's a lot of confusion about what happens when we die. How does the Bible consistently refer to death?
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>>We have a very important study tonight where we're going to be talking about the big issues of life and death. Now, it wasn't that long ago that - 2016 - I think it was December 11, there was a tragedy in Cairo, Egypt. A bomb went off in a Coptic Orthodox Church - It was St. Paul's Coptic Orthodox Church. Twenty-five people were killed, fifty were injured and it was the largest Coptic church in Egypt - one of the largest church attacks. We've seen that, recently, in our country as well, but this especially unnerved the community there because that church was a church that had already become famous for a Mary apparition. Now, you know what a Mary apparition is. There's a number of places around the world where they say they have seen Mary appear - the Virgin Mary - and miracles have been performed or she's spoken some words, and a variety of other supernatural things have, ostensibly, happened. Back in 1968, above the dome of this church, someone actually snapped a photograph - I have there on the screen - over a period of two years - from '68 to '70 - various evenings this glowing light would appear and hundreds, sometimes thousands of people would gather - some would say, 'It's the street lights that are reflecting.' Others would say, 'No, I see her, she's talking.' And it became very famous for that. Now, technically, the Catholic church frowns on these Mary apparitions but, in reality, they're supported. I think there's about twelve different cases that they have affirmed that the Virgin Mary actually appeared in different parts of the world - I think one here in North America, in New Mexico .

The question is, where in the Bible do we hear that Mary is in heaven? Where, in the Bible, does it say that we're to pray to Mary? Now, don't misunderstand, Mary - a godly woman - chosen by God, but we're talking about what the Bible says. You find, even when you look in the writings of the reformers, there was confusion over this subject. For example, Martin Luther, who did recognize the saints - matter of fact, one time he nearly got killed by lightning and he cried out and said, 'Saint Anne, save my life and I'll become a monk.' And he believed he had made a vow to St. Anne and so he left law school and entered a monastery. But then, when it came to understanding what happens when you die, Luther believed people went to sleep until the resurrection. He said this consistently through his writings - here's one excerpt, "Solomon judges" - he's talking about Ecclesiastes - "Solomon judges that the dead are asleep, and feel nothing at all. For the dead lie there accounting neither days nor years, but when they are awoken, they shall seem to have slept scarce one minute." And then you've got Tyndale, that early English Bible translator, he's speaking on the subject of death. He said, 'In Christ it is indeed not death, but a fine, sweet and brief sleep which brings us release from the vale of tears...and from all the misfortunes of this life."

So even among the reformers you'll find there were two varying views on what happens when a person dies. Some believed you went right to heaven or hell, before the resurrection and the judgment, others believed you slept and it seemed like just a moment, but then they would rise later, and just about everything in between. And if you want to know what that confusion was like, walk around in a church cemetery and read the tombstones. In one church cemetery - you might go to a Baptist - one of these old Baptist or Methodist churches that had their own cemetery out back, you might find one tombstone that says R.I.P - you remember that statement? Rest in peace - 'Our dear mother sleeping in the arms of Jesus until the resurrection morn.' Then you go two graves over and it says, 'Our mother singing with the angels in heaven' - and you don't know, is she singing with the angels or is she sleeping in Jesus? There's a lot of confusion.

I heard about a boy walking through a graveyard one day and he was reading the different tombstones and he came upon one where somebody had a little poetry and a sense of humor. And it said, 'Stop, my friend as you go by, as you are now, so once was I, as I am now you soon will be, so prepare yourself to follow me.' Well, the boy had a quick wit and he had a crayon and so he wrote underneath, 'To follow you I'm not content, until I know just where you went.' (Laughter) So people want to know what happens when a person dies and that's our lesson today. If I could speak to the Christian church at large, I would say we need a revival of understanding about the nature of man, because misunderstanding could prepare you to be deceived in the last days. You'll understand as I go on. So the title of our subject is A Matter of Life and Death. We're going to go through a series of questions - and I've got a lot to cover tonight.

Number 1, how does the Bible consistently refer to death? You can read in John chapter 11, you remember when Lazarus died and the disciples said,' Lord, he's sick. You need to go visit him.' He said, 'No, Lazarus is sleeping.' 'Well, that's good, if he's sleeping he'll get better.' He said, 'No, no, Lazarus is dead.' So Jesus used what term to talk about death? Sleep. Now, I believe - let me tell you what I believe the Bible teaches and then I'll tell you why I believe it, and we're just going to hit this straight on. I think the Bible is very clear that when a believer - when anybody dies - that they sleep a dreamless sleep with no consciousness of time and their next consciousness - and it may be a moment - a twinkling of an eye for them - is the resurrection. Hopefully, you'll be in the first resurrection.

The Bible says there are two resurrections - you've got the resurrection of the just and the resurrection of condemnation. You want to be in the first resurrection. If you are in a resurrection and you look to your right and there's Adolf Hitler, that's bad news. You're probably in the wrong resurrection. And so - but there's a scripture, it says, 'To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.' And people say 'What does that mean?' Well, if you're a believer and you die, and you have no consciousness of time, your next conscious thought is a resurrection. A thousand years might go, but you're not aware of it, right? So, for you, you're present with the Lord. But we live in the dimension of time, and so, it hasn't happened yet. Otherwise, what would the point be for a resurrection and a judgment day that's still future if people go right to their rewards at death. Does that make sense?

Alright, not only does it say there - you know, I want to say one more thing about Lazarus before I leave that point. This is the greatest of Jesus' miracles You know, Jesus He raised a girl who had just died in sleep and then He raised a man who was on his way to be buried. And then Jesus raised someone who had been buried for four days - that's Lazarus. There's about a dozen resurrections in the Bible. Every one of them, when they rose, said nothing about what they experienced. There wasn't one comment - now, today, if someone had been dead and buried for four days so they already were decomposing, like Lazarus, and they were raised, every news agency in the world would be there pushing a microphone in their face and they'd all be asking, 'What happened?' But, do you notice Lazarus never makes a comment? He doesn't say, 'I was up in heaven enjoying heaven and Jesus brought me back down and now I'm in a grave again.' He didn't say, 'I was burning in hell and He brought me back up and thank you for rescuing me.' He makes no comment about the big question because he had no consciousness.

The Bible says that death is a dreamless sleep. Some other verses: Matthew 27, verse 52, "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept..." Look in Psalms 13, verse 3, it says, "Consider and hear me, O Lord my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;" So that's all through the Bible. Next question: Do dead people come back to converse with or to haunt the living? You know, everywhere you turn, people talk about haunted houses and, you know, especially just coming off the Halloween - everybody was talking about, you know, what's haunted and spooky and - now, there are evil spirits that will manipulate and harass people, but the dead people aren't bothering you. They don't know anything, the Bible says. Read, in Job 14:21, speaking of those who have died, he said, "His sons come to honor, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them."

See, first of all, if people went right to heaven when they died, and you still have loved ones on earth that are struggling, how happy would you be in heaven? You wouldn't enjoy that very much. Job 7, verse 10, it says, "He shall return no more to his house," - they don't go back and haunt their houses - that's what the Bible says. So, if you hear the shutters slapping and the doors creaking and all these things - and footsteps going up and down the hall, just tell the demons to be quiet, you're trying to get some sleep. There's really no ghosts that are there. The devil does, sometimes, try to harass people, but just know what it is and he'll probably get bored.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 - this one's really clear, "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know" - how much? The dead don't know anything, it goes on and says they have no more reward in anything done in this life under the sun. And just a few more verses - Psalm 115, verse 17 - this is all through the Bible - "The dead praise not the Lord" - now, I would think that if I was saved and I died, what would be the next thing you do? You'd be in his presence - you'd praise the Lord, right? If you were resurrected right away. And it says in Psalm 6, verse 5, "For in death there is no remembrance of thee:" - Isaiah 38, verse 18, "...death cannot celebrate thee:" - Psalms 146, verse 4, it says in the whole thing, "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." They're not thinking anything. And so, the dead are not conscious and it's very important for us to understand that.

So what happens when a person dies? The Bible tells you - Ecclesiastes 12, verse 7 says, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was:" - what did God make Adam and Eve out of, in the beginning? Dust - He said, 'Dust you are and unto dust you will return.' And He said, "and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." And you say, 'Aha, there it is! The spirit goes off to God.' Well, that word 'spirit' there is a word 'ruach' in Hebrew, and it simply means 'the breath of life'. I'm going to prove that to you from another verse. If you look in Job 27, verse 3, it says, "All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils." Now, if the spirit is a little soul or ghost or something like that, how many of you would want that in your nostrils? You know, the Bible says God breathed into Adam the breath of life and he became a living soul. So it's the combination of the breath of life and the body - you know, the elements of the earth were all made of - and the dust of the earth He assembles and it becomes a living soul. It's not that God has a little ghost in you that pops out and goes off to heaven and you wait for the resurrection to be reunited with your body. The Bible doesn't teach that, and yet, that's what some churches are teaching and they're setting themselves up for potential deception by doing that.

So where do the dead go when they die? Let's find out what the Bible says, amen? "Yet he will be brought to the grave and will remain in the tomb." It says, again, it says in John chapter 5, verse 28, "And all that are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth." Jesus is talking, here, about the second coming. He said, I think three times in John chapter 6, Christ said, 'They'll live again, the last day.' And He says they will come forth from - where are they? - their graves.

So where are the dead now? They're in their graves. Number 5, the Bible makes it pretty clear - when you read in the Bible, it's pretty clear King David, the one who killed Goliath, is going to be saved. How many would agree with that? So, if anybody is good - Jesus is called the Son of David, you think that David would have died and gone right to heaven. If somebody's going to, you know, go to heaven without passing 'Go,' that would be David. But listen to what Peter says about King David in his sermon in Acts chapter 2, "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead" - that's a picture of his tomb up there - so you can see it today - "he is both dead and buried and his sepulcher" - his tomb - "is with us unto this day." He said, 'it's right here in the city.' And then he goes on and says, later, in verse 24, "For David is not ascended into the heavens." So, dead, buried, not in heaven - so it's not really fair for us to create another option and say, 'Well, it's because he's in purgatory' or 'he's in limbo' or 'he's in Abraham's bosom'. David - or Peter made it as clear as he could make it that he's dead. Now, David, the Bible says he slept with his fathers. That's what the Bible says. That's roughly 3,000 years ago. Jesus is coming soon, I believe.


>>When the trumpet blows and Jesus comes and the graves open and David comes up, how long will it seem like for David? A moment - twinkling of an eye. Any of you remember when you were a teenager and you'd go to sleep and the next thing you knew the alarm rang and 16 hours had gone by? (Laughter) You had no problem sleeping that long back then - and you'd think, 'Wow, did I go to sleep? I thought I just laid down.' And just like that (snaps finger) that's what it's going to be like. So, for the believers, to be absent from the body, your next conscious thought is the presence of the Lord. But it hasn't happened yet. We live in this dimension of time - it hasn't happened yet in history. So, when beings ostensibly appear and they say, 'I've come from God from heaven' - they're dead people from the Bible or somewhere else - and they start giving you messages, you might be hearing messages, but maybe they're not messages from God. I'll say more about that. Is there anyone in heaven now?


>>Yeah, well, I'm talking about, obviously, besides Father, Son, Holy Spirit, the angels, unfallen beings - I'm talking about from earth. Yeah, there are a few. Mark 9, verses 1 through 8 - you remember when they climbed the mountain Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus and spoke - because Elijah went to heaven in a fiery chariot - he was an exception - the Bible tells us, in the book of Jude, verse 9, that Michael the archangel came and resurrected Moses so Moses could watch the children of Israel cross over into the Promised Land. It was a special resurrection. But, generally, it is appointed unto man once to die and they stay in their graves until the judgment day, which is still future. Am I right? And you can also read - there's another small group - it tells us in Matthew 27 - when Jesus died there was a great earthquake and the graves were opened and many - not all - many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep locally, around Jerusalem, were raised and coming out of their graves. After His resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. This must have been a small group, it was a local group - we don't know who it was - might have been Isaiah, could have been Jeremiah or one of the other prophets that were raised. It wasn't David - small group. Matter of fact, the other gospel writers don't even mention this, but at the resurrection of Jesus, He led captivity captive - He took a trophy small sample of resurrected saints with Him to the kingdom. So, that's all we know about that. But the general resurrection is in the last day.

So why does Satan want us to believe that the spirits of the dead are really alive? It tells you in the Bible - Matthew 24, verses 24 and 25, Christ warns us, "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." And what could be more convincing than if somebody is visited by a spirit of the departed? Does it happen? I was just in my hotel room, since I've come here, and my TV, when I turn it on in the hotel room, always starts at the same channel every time, so I've got to go and try to find something decent to watch, and I scanned by where this person was giving counsel to another person and I thought, 'What's going on here?' They said, 'I've got messages from your dead father.' I thought, 'Boy, that's really spooky.' And the person was drinking it in - 'Oh yes, oh that's wonderful. I'm so glad to hear it.' And they say all these lovely, encouraging things and they never say, 'Your father told me to tell you he doesn't really love you.' They never say anything like that. There have been a couple of books that have come out, you know, Twenty Minutes in Hell - or someone, Twenty Minutes in Heaven - or - and they made a movie about one called Heaven Is It For Real? about this baby who supposedly dies and he has these scenes and sees all their departed loved ones and seems to come back knowing stuff that - how would he know? Well, does the devil know about grandpa? Yeah, all the things that the boy knows, in the story, the devil would have known and could have revealed.

Can the devil give information and visions to people? You know, the story of King Saul, just before he committed suicide he went to see a witch who was a medium and brought up a spirit that pretended to be Samuel the Prophet and he died the next day. And the devil used that whole scenario - a witch doesn't have the power to resurrect anybody, it was an apparition to deceive and the devil's going to do that again in the last days. And people say, 'Well, but I've had a near-death experience, you know. I died on the operating table and I saw Jesus and I had a dream and it changed my life.' Well, you know, I don't know what you experienced - you don't have to die to have a dream from Jesus. People have dreams that change their lives. You can have a dream from the devil that'll scare you half to death. Even Job talks about the terrors of night when his hair crawls. And so, having a dream doesn't mean that it's from God. And, if we're going to base our theology on dreams people have when their heart stops and the oxygen stops running to their brain - you know, in North America, Christians, when they die on the operating table - or temporarily die - they often think about Jesus. If you go to India, and they have near-death experiences, they think about Krishna and the Hindu gods. And if you go to China or some of the other countries, they dream - they say, 'I died and Buddha appeared to me.' And so, whatever their religious belief happens to be in their culture that tends to be the spiritual revelation they have when their brains are robbed of oxygen.

And so, are you going to base your theology on someone's near-death experience? Everybody around the world has different ones. I've got friends that say, 'Oh, I had this experience, you know, I died on the operating table. I was going through this tunnel and I was going to be reincarnated and there was a pink door and a blue door and they said, 'If you go through the pink door you'll be a girl in your next life. If you go through the blue door you're going to be a boy in your next life.' And that's when I hung around with all these hippies that took LSD and we believed in reincarnation and so that was their experience. And so, I don't - you may have had it - I've met people who caught me after a program like this and say, 'Pastor Doug, I know the Lord spoke to me. I died on the operating table.' And I don't question that their heart stopped. Now, if someone removed your brain and put it back again, that would really impress me. But, typically, when your heart stops you're not dead yet, it just means your brain is robbed of oxygen and you're going to have all kinds of hallucinations.

I used to play a game with my brothers - don't ever do this, it's very unhealthy - where we would hyperventilate and then they would squeeze you and we would choke each other out that way. Do some of you know what I'm talking about? Don't do that, it's not good for you. And when they did that to me, I had visions. I don't remember them all right now, but that's not where you base your theology. So how effective will Satan's use of these evil spirits be in the last days? Revelation 18, verse 23, "...by thy sorceries were all nations deceived." Revelation 12, verse 9, "...that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world:" - and one of the ways he deceives is through spiritualism. Communication with the dead - listening to noises and mutterings and knockings and tarot cards and having your palm read and astrology.

You know, my mother, when I grew up, she was a writer, she was in the entertainment business in New York City. She had friends who wrote astrological columns for the newspaper that people read every day. And I remember asking them, I said, 'Do you believe these things?' They said, 'No.' The people who were writing the horoscopes that the papers were buying said they don't even believe it. They'd say, 'Oh, I've got to write a new one.' I mean, do we really believe that because of the time of year you were born and the month, that you are going to be a certain way - you're destined to be a certain way? The nearest star is four light years away - Alpha Centuri or Alpha Proximi, meaning if you travel 186,000 miles a second it's going to take you four years to get to the nearest star. They have absolutely no illumination or gravitational pull on our world and the idea that, depending on where the stars are, it's going to affect your life and your destiny. Think about that. I used to be a hippie - I was all into that. 'Hi, what's your sign? I'm a Pisces, what are you?' 'Oh, yeah, we should really get along.' And when you think about it - I don't want to insult anybody but really, there's nothing to it. And my mother - she wrote a whole record - twelve songs - she was a songwriter - astrological love songs - she had a song for every symbol of the Zodiac - and people bought the record. My mother didn't even believe it. And people were probably listening to it, 'Oh yeah, that's me.' It's like fortune cookies - 'Sorceries shall have their part - those who are involved in sorceries shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.'

You know, the Bible's pretty clear, Old and New Testament Christians should have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness - having your palm read and your cards read - and you're playing, actually, with spiritual sciences there that are not healthy. Oujii boards - we did all that growing up and it's just not good. Number 9, Since wizards and psychics cannot contact the dead, who are they contacting? Revelation 16, verse 14, 'They are the spirits of" - what?


>>Devils - doing what? 'working miracles.' Can devils work miracles? Can devils create illusions? Can they impersonate? Do they know what your ancestors looked like? 'Now, Pastor Doug, are you telling me that every time, you know, 'My husband died. I love my husband' - I'm just creating a scenario here - 'and we were married 50 years and I just sense his presence and I know he's watching over me.' How many of you have heard that? 'They're gone now, but we know they're watching over us' and, you know, 'Robin Williams died and he's in heaven telling jokes to Jesus and making the angels laugh' - and we always say all these things, but that's not what the Bible teaches. You may think about your loved one and feel their presence because your mind is filled with them. And so, it's on your mind. And God may want to comfort you by giving you a dream or something to encourage you that they're going to be okay. I don't know, but you don't base your theology on that.

Do lost people go directly to hell at the time of death? Now we're talking about the lost, not the saved. This is - this is really part 2 of this presentation and it's very important. Understanding this - I can't over- emphasize how crucial it is because there's a lot of dear, Christian people that are taught something that is not taught in the Bible, that if you're good, you die, you go right to heaven; if you're bad and you die, you go right to hell. And, while your loved ones are walking the earth, you're burning in fire and brimstone in just unexplainable agony, blistering and screaming and it's going to happen forever. Are you aware that a lot of Christians believe that? Think about that for a moment; you've got a 15-year-old girl, she turns her back on Jesus, she dies in a lost condition. Maybe she doesn't know about Jesus, but she dies lost. She's past the age of accountability so, as soon as she dies, she's going to get plunged in a molten lake of fire and brimstone and she's going to writhe and scream and - in anguish and pain.

I don't know if any of you remember, but not too long ago, I think it was a Jordanian pilot was shot down, he ejected, and ISIS got ahold of him. And they put him in a cage - bars - they doused him with gasoline and they videotaped him burning to death. Now some people think that's what God does. That's a doctrine of devils. The Bible tells us God is love. I want to show you, from the Bible, what it says about what happens to the lost. There is punishment for sin and, just in case anyone misunderstands, before you change the channel, I do believe in hell. I do believe in the punishment. I don't believe it lasts for eternity. Let's find out what the Bible says. Does that sound fair enough?


>>Job - let's find out where they go - Job 21, verses 30 and 32, "The the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? ...yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb." And so the wicked is reserved - he's waiting. You can read in 2 Peter chapter 2, verse 9, "The Lord knoweth how...to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:" - so, are they being punished now? Or are they being reserved? Matthew 13 - listen to what Jesus said. He tells that parable of the wheat and the tares. 'Therefore, as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so will it be at the end of the age.' When are they going to be punished?

>>The end of the age.

>>The end of the age - the Son of Man'll send out His angels and they'll gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and those who practice lawlessness' - we talked about the law - 'and cast them into a furnace of fire.' So, is there fire? Is there punishment? Yes. Is anyone burning in hell now?


>>No. And that's very important to understand. Jesus said, 'John 12, verse 48, "...the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." When is the judgment?

>>In the last day.

>>Jesus said it's in the future - it's not right when they die. Number 11, What will happen to the wicked in hellfire? This is the point I especially want you to capture: "For yet a little while and the wicked will not be. The wicked shall perish into smoke. They will consume away." The Bible says they're going to be devoured. Malachi 4, verses 1 through 3, "The day will come that will burn as an oven and all that do wickedly and all the proud will be stubble." It's like after a field has been harvested in the summer and then they set it on fire and they scorch it and it's just charred stubble that is left. The day that comes will burn them up and you will tread down the wicked for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet. If that's clear, say 'amen.'


>>Yeah, I think it's pretty clear, the wicked are going to be burnt, but do they burn forever? You know, I get passionate about this because even though my mother and father were pretty much agnostic, they sent me, for whatever reason, to two different Catholic schools. And I was taught, like millions of others - you don't have to be a Catholic, you can be Baptist - a number of churches - that if you're bad - and I wasn't a real good boy - you die, and you're going to go to a lake of fire and the idea of burning through eternity. Do you know - think about eternity - that means a billion years go by and somehow you swim to the surface of this burning molten lava and you cry out, 'Lord, how long?' And He says, 'You haven't even started.' A billion more years go by and He says you still haven't started. You know what eternity is? I wouldn't do that to my worst enemy for ten minutes. I hated God. I said, 'If there is a God, He's a sadist.' I mean, first of all, I don't remember anyone asking me if I wanted to be born - I used that against my father one day - I said, 'It's your fault I'm here.' You ever had your kid say that to you? I was having a hard time, I was like, 'Why does life got to be so hard? I didn't ask to be born.' And then there's a god who says, 'Because you're having a hard time and you're not being good, I'm going to burn you forever and ever.' Well, that's a wonderful world view, isn't it? You know how many people have that?

So, if you want to understand what's going to happen in the judgment, the Bible says there are a couple of cities that are exhibit A of what to expect. What two cities are given as an example for the destruction of the wicked? Sodom and Gomorrah. 2 Peter 2, verse 6, "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example to those that after should live ungodly;" - Sodom and Gomorrah are an example. Well, how were they burned? Notice this: you read in Jude verse 7, "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them...are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." Now that's - there you've got it, Pastor Doug. It's eternal fire. What does that mean? That means the result of the fire is eternal. It burns them so they are burnt up forever. Are Sodom and Gomorrah still burning today? Did God rain fire down out of heaven and burn them up? Yes. Here's, actually, a picture of the area down south of the Dead Sea - it's the lowest point on earth - not far from where Sodom and Gomorrah were. There's nothing burning down there now. They were burnt up with eternal fire, meaning they were never given a second chance - and the wicked are burned with eternal fire - the results of it are eternal.

Where will hellfire be located? Well, you read it's actually going to be here on earth - it's going to be especially hot not far from where you're sitting, in Washington D.C., I suppose. (Laughter) It says they went up on the breadth of the earth and compassed the camp of the saints about and fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The idea that hell is a chamber somewhere - and, by the way, this is at the end of Revelation chapter 20, where it talks about Satan gathers all the wicked, Gog and Magog and they attack the city of God and, when they launch their final attack, God rains fire down from heaven, devours them, everyone burns according to what they deserve, forms a big lake of fire - God uses that to purify the planet and that's when you read in 2 Peter chapter 3, verse 10, "...the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." That's hellfire. But I was always taught that, you know, if you dig deep enough, that's where the devil lives, way down in hell.

Now, you know why we come up with that tradition, is there's four words that are used for 'hell' in the Bible. Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus. Most of the time in the Old Testament, Sheol - and that simply means 'the grave' - that's all it means, the grave - it means going down into Sheol - you go down into the grave. Most people don't go up to their grave, they go down to their grave. And so, because people go down to the grave, Hades, came from Greek mythology - there's a god named Pluto who's in charge of the underworld - again, down - and those ideas affected Christianity and so they said, 'Yeah, the devil, he's in charge of hell, he's down there with his leotards and his pitchfork and he's way down - he's got this chamber.' I was standing in line one day at a store checking out - how many of you will admit you sometimes read the tabloid headlines? Don't admit if you buy them. But you're standing there - sometimes you go (laughs) you know - and I read one of them - this is years ago - and it said, 'Russian oil drillers go too deep and hit hell - voices of demons heard shrieking from the opening.' Or 'Demons escaped' or something like that and I could hardly keep from laughing right there in line, but it doesn't say that in the Bible - hell means the grave. Isn't it true that only the body dies but the soul is immortal? Have you heard this before?

Tell me, please, where is the verse in the Bible that says we have an immortal soul? I'm always willing, you know, to take a risk - there is no verse, is there? And yet, how many people sing about and preach about and talk about you got an immortal soul? You'll either live forever in heaven or you'll live forever in hell, but you can't die, you're going to live forever. Isn't it kind of what the devil said? He said, 'You will not surely die. You're like gods. You're going to live forever.' God said you disobey, you'll die. We've got two choices, life or death - and the devil's deceived a lot of the world and they can have a bunch of surprises and they're setting themselves up for deception. You can read - does the soul die? Is the soul immortal? Ezekiel 18:4, "...the soul that sinneth, it shall" - what? It'll die. Job 4:17, "Shall mortal man be more just than God?" - that's a good question. 1 Timothy 6:15 "...the King of kings, the Lord of lords; who only hath immortality," - is that pretty clear? So when do the righteous receive immortality? You can read in 1 Corinthians 15 - and this is so clear - it says, "we will all be changed in a moment - in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, for the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, this mortal must put on immortality." Paul says, 'we're mortals now, but we get our immortal bodies when Jesus comes.'

The wicked do not have immortality. God is not going to give immortality to a sinner. Why would you want to immortalize sin? God wants to eradicate sin. He wants a universe that is pure. He doesn't want, like, a maximum federal prison somewhere with all the sinners burning forever. And where's the justice in that? I used to live up in the mountains and - some of you know my story - I used to lived in a cave for about a year and a half and I was a hermit and, ultimately, found a Bible up there and became a Christian, but when I lived up in the cave I had a cat and the cat's name was Stranger. And I called him that because he just showed up one day - and I was way back in the mountains - he just stayed with me. And he would occasionally do what cats do and he would catch a mouse, you know, and he'd catch these cute little kangaroo rats - these little desert - they look like little kangaroo rats, is what they look like - and they've got a furry tail and, you know, cats are kind of sadistic. If a dog catches something, it just eats it - usually doesn't even chew. But a cat, he plays with his food - and he doesn't want to kill it right away, he wants it to, kind of, die slowly. And I was cooking my dinner there at my camp fire and he's playing with it and, you know, he'd let it go and it's there quivering, you know, and it'd try to hop away again and he'd pounce on it and then he'd let it go. He did this and, you know, I always felt bad for the poor little thing, but he's a cat, he's got to eat, and so I just, you know - and this one time he let it go and the thing went to hop away and it was dazed and trying so much to get away from the cat it hopped into the fire. Listen to you. (Laughter) I'm talking about a rat and you're all grieving out there. You hate the idea of a rat burning for a few seconds, am I right? Isn't that right? I said, 'The rat hopped in the fire' and you went 'Ohhhhh' (laughter) 'Ohhhhh,' and yet, if I say that God is going to take people and put them in the fire through eternity - there are people who think, well, you know, He's God, He can do that.' But in our hearts we know there's something wrong with that, don't we?

Will the devil be in charge of hellfire? Have you seen these pictures before? The devil is there standing in his molten, you know, glowing red cavern and he's got his pitchfork - first of all, could you trust him to be fair in the way people are - that's like having the fox guard the chicken coop. You don't want the devil in charge of hell. And the devil that deceived them - you read in Revelation 20:10 - he was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, amen? The devil is going to go to hell. Matter of fact, hell is not originally prepared for you. You read in Matthew chapter 25:41, it says, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' And the work of that fire is eternal - it is everlasting. When the devil and his forces are destroyed, we never have to worry about them escaping again. They're gone. But the devil's not in charge of hell, he fears it. The Bible says he's come down with great wrath because he knows his time is short. That's in Revelation 12.

So are both the body and the soul destroyed in hell? Some people say, 'Well, Pastor Doug, you're right, you know? It says pretty clearly that the body is destroyed but the soul is what burns forever and ever. Let's find out what Jesus said. These are the words of Christ - Matthew chapter 10, "Fear not him which can kill the body, but is not able to kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy soul and body in hell." How much more clear can you be? What happens in hell? Soul - body - destroyed.

A few years ago I was up in the hills - do some of you remember, you know, Family Radio, there was a speaker who became rather famous - or infamous - named Harold Camping. Now, Family Radio has some great programs. I still listen, you know, they read the Bible, they've got some nice music - and I used to listen to it. I was up in the hills, I had a battery radio - lived up in the woods - and at night I'd listen - he had a program called Open Forum where he'd take Bible questions. And I'd get so exasperated at some of the answers, but I'd still listen. I'd be up there, sometimes, just talking to myself - I'm so mad - 'Oh, that's not right! That's not in the Bible - what are you talking about?' And one time I remember that he got this call and a lady called and she said, 'Brother Camping, I've got a question.' And she said, 'My son died last week. He was not a Christian. He was driving, he was drunk, and he hit a tree. Is he burning in hell right now?' And he tried to, kind of, skirt an awkward question. She said, 'No, no, no, I'm telling you, I know he wasn't a Christian. Where is he?' And he said, 'Well, you know, yeah. There's only two choices and he's in hell.' And you could hear the lady make this gasping noise and she hung up the phone. Oh, that bothered me so much. And then, immediately after that a college student got on. She said, 'I'm a young college student. I want to believe in God. I want to love Jesus, but the idea that He would take these objects that He's created and torture them forever and ever for the sins of one lifetime, I don't see the justice in that.' And he started giving some mealy-mouthed answer about that and, at this point, I'm just - I'm walking in circles I'm so mad. I thought, 'I've got to call in.' But I didn't have a telephone and they had not invented cell phones back then. So I got in my car and I drove to a friend's house that was like 12 miles away and I went storming in and said, 'Let me borrow your phone.' And I prayed all the way down - I said, 'Help me get through.' There was people all over the country calling, so that would have been a miracle by itself.

The first time I called - busy signal. Second time I called they said, 'Please stand by.' So I waited and then, next thing I know, he comes on, 'Welcome to Open Forum'. I said, 'Brother Camping, I'm a Christian - I'm a Seventh-day Adventist Christian' - I wanted people listening to know where to go - I said, 'I believe the Bible clearly tells us that once a person dies, if they're lost - first of all, they sleep until the resurrection and the lost do not burn forever and ever in hell, the Bible says they are devoured. The Bible says they are consumed. The Bible says they're burnt up. The Bible says they perish. The Bible says never will they be anymore.' And I started going one verse after another and my friend had a radio on next to it and pretty soon I noticed I wasn't hearing my voice anymore. He had a pause button and then he came back and he let me respond to his answers. And then he hung up on me. He wouldn't take any more questions for the remainder of the program. And I was praying that those people were listening. And on my way home that night I was praying, I said, 'Oh Lord, I wish someday I could have a radio program and give people the right answers.'


>>And you know what happened? God gave us a radio program.


>>And for the last 20 years we've been sharing the answers on Bible Answers Live with people and we've had a lot of people written us and said, 'Praise the Lord, I can love Jesus now.'


>>'Because I never knew this before.' Well, you want to hear the rest of the story? Before Harold Camping died, he changed his view on the state of the dead and hell.


>>Any of you listened to the program in the last few years of his broadcast, you know that. But there's a lot of people out there that are just struggling to love God because they don't understand this subject about life and death. Number 18, What are the only two choices for all people? The Bible is pretty clear - it says, 'The wages for sin is' - what?


>>It doesn't say the wages for sin is eternal life in the fire. Death means absence of life. The wages for sin is death. It is the gift of God to get everlasting life for the saved. There's only two choices. Why did God evict Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden? You remember what He said, 'Lest they reach out, take from the tree of life, eat and live forever.' They are not going to live, they're going to die and they're not going to live forever because they're not going to eat from the tree of life - you've got to eat from the tree of life if you want to live forever. The tree of life will only be acceptable - or accessible, I should say - to the redeemed.


>>So this idea that the wicked are somehow immortalized, the Bible doesn't teach that. That's kind of come out of mythology and some misunderstandings and the church really needs a reformation in their understanding of this because there's people out there that would love God and believe in God if they knew the truth. Brilliant people like Mark Twain and Robert Ingersoll - and I could name many others - that became atheists - Voltaire - you know why they became atheists? Because what the church was teaching about hell and death was so abhorrent to their reasoning they said, 'How could you ever love a god that would do that to somebody - that would torture a person forever and ever for the sins of' - and you know what else that means? That means that Adolf Hitler, Stalin - who are responsible for the death of millions of people are - have not burned as long as Cain who killed one person. You see, according to the modern teaching right now, they're basically saying, 'Well, Cain, he killed somebody, he died and went to hell and he's only killed one person but he's burned 5,000 years longer than Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin.' Where's the justice in that?

Now, are there varying degrees of reward? Yes. Jesus said he that knew his master's will and did not do it will be beaten with many stripes. He that did not know, with few stripes. If everybody burns forever and ever, everybody gets the same reward. But the Bible says there's varying degrees of punishment and that could mean in time or in intensity. We don't know how God's going to do it, but Jesus said He'll reward everybody according to their works. But if everybody goes to the same lake of fire, you know, really, you're all going to burn forever and ever. There's no justice in that. God is a god of love. He is a just God. And so, I know there's some difficult verses and I hope some of you will write down and maybe we'll have some time in our follow-up program to answer some of these other questions, but they're good Bible answers and once you understand this, it makes it easy to love God. This, for me, was so liberating. I said, you know, 'God so loved the world He gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but' - what?

>>Have everlasting life.

>>Everlasting life. What are the two choices? Perish or life, amen? Now think about this, what is the penalty for sin? Death. Does it say anywhere in the Bible the penalty for sin is burning forever? Did Jesus pay our penalty on the cross? And how long was He on the cross? It says three days and three nights, but from Friday night until Sunday morning. Was He on the cross forever and ever? No. If the penalty for sin is everlasting torment in the fire, Jesus didn't pay your penalty. Did you get that? How does the Bible refer to this work of destruction of the wicked? Does God enjoy it? Oh no. Isaiah 28 says 'The Lord shall be wroth that He may do His work, His strange work, and bring to pass His act, His strange act.' God has no desire at all that the wicked should die. I remember, one time, my cousin had a kitten. The dog got ahold of the kitten, broke its back. There was nothing that could be done. And, in spite of what I just told you about cats, it broke my heart that I had to take the cat out and put it to sleep, as you say. Was it the loving thing to do? It was.

You know, sinners are miserable. God is going to put them out of their misery, but He doesn't enjoy it. It is His strange act. God wants to make life. He wants the world to be good, good - to be very good. So, after sin and sinners are destroyed, what will Jesus do for His people? Ah, this is so exciting, friends, He tells us, in 2 Peter 3:13, "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for" - a what? - "a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness." And God has promised He will wipe away all tears from our eyes and there'll be no more death - notice this: neither will there be any more sorrow or crying, neither will there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away. No more death, no more pain, no more sorrow - if the Bible says no more pain, that must mean that there's no torture chamber somewhere where people are shrieking. If the Bible says all things are made new, that means there's no old sinners that are being burnt somewhere. God is going to purify the universe and He wants you to be in that new world with Him.


>>But He's offering to purify you now and we need to come to Him just like we are if we want that experience. Would you like to have that experience, friends? Let me pray with you. Father in Heaven, we've talked about a broad spectrum of issues related to life and death tonight and shown, from Your word, what the truth is. I pray that it'll sink down deep in our hearts. Help us to see that You are a reasonable God - You are a loving God - that there is life after the grave, that Jesus will come, the trumpet will blast and the graves will open, the dead in Christ will rise and we can look forward to being with You. We don't need to fear death, it will be a dreamless, peaceful sleep. Most of all, Lord, we want to have Christ in our hearts and lives now, that we can have that new life - Your kingdom coming now - we pray in Jesus' name, amen. Thank you, friends. And before we go, I want to tell you we have a new magazine we've just released called The Afterlife Mystery - free copy for everybody here tonight and those online, you can find out more about that and we'd love to hear from you. God bless you.

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