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Advindication Part 6: Dealing With Death

Scripture: Genesis 3:4, 1 Corinthians 15:1-58, Ecclesiastes 12:7
Date: 07/24/1999 
This is the last in a series discussing unique doctrines of Seventh-day Adventists. This sermon talks about the Bible teaching about what happens when a person dies. Can we talk to the dead? Can people who have died come back as a spirit and visit the living?
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

We are continuing a series that we began earlier called “Advindication”. Dealing with some of the specific truths that sometimes are questioned or stand out as maybe unique from general Christianity. Today the subject we’re going to address is the one “Dealing with Death”. You may have come to church today thinking, “I could use a little encouragement.” I want to assure you that before this message is over it does contain a very important dynamo of good news. The message about death that you find in the Bible is actually good news so I hope that you will find some encouragement. You know, for years as I drove up Highway 101 through San Jose for miles before I got there I would see these signs. “Winchester Mystery House.” I’ve never been there. I knew a little about it and I did some research on the Internet to find out a little more. But the way I understand it, and I’ve compared several sources as accurate as I could be, is this lady named Sarah Pardee married William W. Winchester who was the heir, during the time of the Civil War he was the heir of the famous very wealthy Winchester Repeating Rifle manufacture. Shortly after Sarah Winchester was married they gave birth to a baby they named Annie. Annie died one month after birth. A few years later her husband William died of tuberculosis. She was very distraught and reportedly visited a spiritess, a medium, who told her that there was a curse on her family because all of the spirits of the people who had been killed by the rifles built by the Winchester family were after her. That would be distressing. A lot of people were killed by those rifles especially during the Civil War. “But,” the medium continued, “there’s something you can do. If you move west and you build a house and continue building as long as you are in the process of building the house of the highest materiel, highest quality, you can confuse the bad spirits, please the good spirits and earn yourself everlasting life.”

Now some of these rumors have been hard to prove but the fact remains after that encounter she did move from the East Coast, I believe the Massachusetts area, to the San Jose area. Bought a farm house with about eight rooms. She had just about unlimited funds because she was the heiress of this massive fortune, had almost no responsibilities because the company was operated by others, and she began building. For nearly forty years she continued building and building and often tearing down and building. When she died in 1922 the Winchester Mansion had a hundred and fifty rooms. At one point they estimate six hundred rooms had been built but because she had limited space she’d tear them down and start building something else. And it’s the most bizarre arrangement of halls and chambers and steps and no two floors practically are on the same level. Some cupboards, you open them up and they have a half-inch of space in them. Some stairs, and all the stairs seem to have thirteen steps in them, stairs are very short. Sarah herself was a very slight woman. The halls are very narrow. She had to maximize every bit of space and built things just big enough for herself. Secret chambers where she supposedly received information from these mediums on nightly seances on what to build next. She had a team of up to forty servants, many of them carpenters sometimes as many as sixty, who worked thirty-eight years twenty-four hours a day three hundred and sixty-five days a year building, building, building to appease the angry spirits of those who were slain by the Winchester Rifles. Now I’ve never been there. I didn’t want to subsidize someone else’s demonic dementia. I get the information from other sources. This is an exaggerated example of what a distorted understanding of death can do to a person.

There’s a lot of people who are tormented by misunderstanding the simple teachings in the Bible regarding what is the state of man in death. Now I want to go by what the Word of God says. How about you? Let’s find out what the Bible teaches. And I think you’ll discover that the Bible has good news on the subject of death. First of all, why do we need to understand this? Revelation 16 tells about three unclean spirits that come out of the mouth of the beast, the dragon, and the false prophet. Spirits of devils working miracles who go out to the kings of the earth and the whole world to gather them to the battle of the great day of God, the Battle of Armageddon. They deceive them by the means of those miracles they have power to do. It’s been disconcerting how we’ve seen in the last few presidential administrations how it seems like some of these folks in high places are known to consult astrology and visit mediums that supposedly talk to the dead and give them cues on how they’re to proceed. And you can’t help but wonder if some of these things in Revelation are being fulfilled right now. You and I need to understand these things or we are very prime targets for deception in the last days. First of all, the Bible says a lot about death. It’s not a pleasant thing to think about but it’s true.

Over a thousand references to death and dying in the Bible. I think it’s interesting the first five words in the Bible, “In the beginning God created”. First five words in Genesis. The last five words in Genesis are, “In a coffin in Egypt.” Isn’t that interesting? Ecclesiastics 3:1-2, “To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. A time be born” and what’s the rest of it? “A time to die.” Paul tells us in Hebrews, “It’s appointed for men once to die then after this the judgement.” If you live long enough you’re going to die. There’s a profound thought. I heard there was an undertaker in Washington, D.C. and he signed all of his correspondence “Eventually yours.” Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister, Alicia, when she lay dying someone in the room said just loud enough for her hear, “Nothing is as certain as death.” You know what her last words were? “Except taxes.” Those are the most immortalized last words. I thought I’d share with you a little amazing fact. Now people say, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” That was Bonaparte’s sister who said that her final words, “Except taxes.”

Job asks a very penetrating question in his book. “If a man dies shall he live again?” Now much of the world, the humanistic philosophy in the world, they say, “When you die it’s all part of the circle of life and we turn into compost but we feed the trees and the grass which is eaten by the other animals and so we will live again in the apples and the oranges.” I don’t find that very satisfying. I don’t know about you. I remember even when I was in these eastern new-age religions I used to believe very sincerely in reincarnation. Incidentally, the Bible does teach one reincarnation. You’ll die and then you’re reincarnated for the judgement, right? But these multiple reincarnations… And I remember my friends used to get together and have all these goofy sessions where they’d try to figure out who they used to be. You know and they’d see somebody or something they’d say, “I think I knew you in a former life. What were you in your former life.” People would speculate. Nobody ever says, “I used to sweep up after elephants.” Everybody was always something very important, “I used to be Cleopatra!” Or “I was Napoleon” or “Julius Caesar” and, “Yes, in a former life I was Hannibal.” And everyone always has these visions of grandeur of who they were in their former life. It used to really bug me because even when I really believed these things I thought, “What good is it to have lived before and know nothing about it? I’ve got to start learning all over again!” It’s almost like not having lived before, right?

That’s the point exactly. It never happened. Reincarnation. But the Bible does tell us we will live again. This life is really boot camp for eternity. That’s what it is. This life is where we choose our eternal destiny. Amen? And that’s why it’s very important for us to understand the brief even though it’s difficult life that we live here will decide where and how we spend eternity. Man does live again. The biggest lie and the first lie in the Bible is when the serpent said in Genesis 3:4, “You will not surely die!” Now there’s two extremes where people get mixed up on the subject of death. One extreme is that you die, you turn into dirt, that was your life, it’s over. The other extreme is that you’re immortal and you cannot die. The Bible says, “God and God only hath immortality.” Paul tells us in First Corinthians 15, “When Jesus comes then this mortal puts on immortality, this corruption puts on incorruption.” Right now you and I, we’re mortal. Amen? So you’ve got these two extremes. One is that we’re just biological accidents. We turn into fertilizer and that’s it when you die. The other extreme is you are god, which was the first lie, and you will not surely die. You go into a new state or you will come back again. I was appalled in India to find out what I’d heard all of my life is true as we saw these cows wandering the streets, these sacred cows. You’ve heard of sacred cows? And Holy Cow? That all comes from that religion that says that if you’re really good in this life you get to come back as a cow! I shouldn’t laugh because there’s people that believe that but I’ll tell you that would almost motivate me to be bad. Saw these filthy cows with clouds of flies buzzing around them eating out of the garbage cans in India and that’s supposed to be an exalted existence. How tragic!

Well, what happens when a person dies? Ecclesiastes 12:7, “Then the dust shall return to the earth as it was and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” Now this verse has often been misapplied to say that when a person dies your body decomposes but your spirit goes right to God meaning the spirit is the conscious soul of who you are. But when you read through Ecclesiastes it says the spirit of the dogs and the cats and the birds and the bees and the good and the evil all returns to God who gave it. And that word ‘spirit’ there is the breath of life. The Bible said, “God formed man from the dust. He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became a living soul.” Okay? Man became a soul when God breathed the breath of life. When you die it’s a reverse of that equation. The dust turns back into the elements of the earth, the breath of life returns to God who gave it. It does not mean a person goes instantly to their reward at death. This is where a lot of confusion comes in not just from the world’s point of view but even among Christians. I was very sad about what happened with John Kennedy, Jr. this last week. I know a lot of people were. It’s always tragic when somebody who is basically in their prime, intelligent, healthy, good looking, if that’s any credit, dies a senseless death.

When I was growing up in New York City my mother and my brother and I used to ride bicycles. In Manhattan they closed Central Park to traffic on the weekends and they allowed the Manhattan residents to ride their bicycles and their roller skates around the roads of Central Park. And from time to time people would say, “There goes Jackie and the kids.” And so we used to see Carolyn and John-John as kids when we were growing up in New York City. I had a crush on Carolyn. Karen already knows that so you can share that with her when she comes back. So this was very sad but you know what really made me sad also is the way they’re eulogized, “Now they’re in glory and now they’re with their parents and now they’re” doing this and they’re doing that. And the Bible tells us that right now they’re sleeping because the resurrection has not taken place yet. Will you believe what the Bible says, friends? I hope so because let’s look at what the scriptures tell us. First of all, when is the resurrection? Daniel chapter 12 verse 2, lots of scripture here. Daniel chapter 12 verse 2, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,” speaking of when Michael stands up after the great time of trouble. “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to shame and everlasting contempt, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Job 14:12, “So man lies down and does not rise ‘til the heavens are no more.” When are the heavens no more? The Bible says the heavens will depart as a scroll, the sun will cease to shine, the moon will turn to blood. All that happens when? When Jesus comes. Our scripture reading that Richard shared with us, Job 19:25, “For I know that my redeemer lives.”

I like that verse. I know that my redeemer lives. Amen? “And he will stand on at last” (that means at the last day on the earth) “and after my skin is destroyed this I know that in my flesh (meaning my new flesh) I will see God whom I’ll see for myself and mine eyes shall behold and not another. How my heart yearns within me.” No less than seven times in just the Gospel of John do you find the word “last day” or the phrase “last day” and most of the time it refers to the resurrection. Here’s a couple of examples. John 6:39. Are you writing some of these down? “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me that of all which he has given me I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day.” When? The last day. What would that day be? The last day of their life? Or speaking of the last day of this world when Jesus comes? “And this is the will of Him that sent me that everyone that sees the Son and believes on Him might have everlasting life and I’ll raise Him up in the last day.” Now for me one of the most convincing scriptures is First Corinthians 15 Paul’s long discourse on death. Why don’t you turn there with me. First Corinthians 15:23. I want to read that with you. First Corinthians 15 verse 23 I might even jump to verse 20 to keep the whole context. Some of the Corinthians had serious problems regarding tongues and worship and all kinds of things. They misunderstood the resurrection. Some said it would never happen. Some said Jesus didn’t rise. Some said it already happened.

Paul went at great lengths here to try and clarify things. Verse 20, I Corinthians 15, “But now Christ is risen from the dead and is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death,” by man meaning Jesus, the Son of Man, “came the resurrection of the dead for as in Adam all die even so in Christ (the second Adam) shall all be made alive but each one in his own order.” Here’s the order of when they’re going to be made alive. “Christ the first fruits afterward (that’s future tense) those who are Christ’s at his coming.” When are they going to rise? At His coming, afterward, those that are Christ’s. There’s another scripture that makes that even more clear. Turn with me to I Thessalonians chapter 4. Paul tells us he does not want us to be ignorant regarding this issue. Verse 13. First Thessalonians 4:13, “But beloved I do not want you to be ignorant concerning those who have fallen asleep.” Now how does the Bible refer to death? Sleep. Doesn’t say they’re in purgatory or limbo or in torment or in glory. It would say that if it meant it. It would say, they’re now in their reward. But it says they’re asleep. It’s a painless, dreamless, timeless sleep. Now some of you are saying, “Wait, Doug! What about absent from the body?” I’ll get to that.

Bible tells us they’re asleep. Paul says they’re asleep. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again even so will God bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” Now wait, Doug! It says He’s going to bring them with Him. They’re already with Him. He brings them. No. What it means is we are caught up to meet Him in the air. They’re already there when we meet Him in the air and he goes back to elaborate here. “For this we say,” verse 15, “by the word of the Lord, we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede” in other words go before “those who are asleep.” Here’s the sequence. “For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout with the voice of the archangel with a trumpet of God and the dead in Christ will rise…” When? At His coming. Like Paul said, “dead in Christ…rise first.” Now they’re there with Him. “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air thus shall we always be with the Lord therefore comfort one another with these words.”

Why is it important to understand the sequence of when the dead are raised? Well, you won’t worry about being cursed by the spirits of those killed with repeating Winchester rifles, for one thing. Furthermore these demons that will go out to deceive the kings of the earth they’re going to create dead loved ones that will supposedly be guiding contrary to the scriptures. And if you know that the dead are asleep, a dreamless unconscious sleep you’re guarded against those deceptions. Very important for us to understand that. Go back with me to a couple of scriptures I want you to consider. When do we get the rewards? When is the judgement day? Revelation 22:12, one of the last verses in the last chapter of the Bible, “Jesus said, ‘Behold I’m coming quickly and my reward is with me to give to everyone according to his work.” When does Jesus give the rewards? “When I come.” Now follow me. If a good person dies and goes right to heaven, right to Paradise like some suggest the thief on the cross. Or if a bad person dies and goes right to hell what reward is it that they get when they go? What is Jesus going to give them when He comes? There’ll be nothing left to give. Why would Jesus resurrect at the last day if people are already in heaven or hell? Some say, “Well, he’s coming for the body.” Well, that doesn’t make sense because we’re getting new bodies. He doesn’t need to come back at all. He can make it from glorified dust if He wants to, right? Now stay with me!

Some of you are choking on this right now but stay with me and you’re going to see it all makes perfect sense as we proceed. What would be the sense in the judgement if people go right to heaven or hell when they die? What’s the sense of the judgement? Furthermore, let’s be honest. How did Jesus refer to Lazarus when he died? Gospel of John chapter 11 He said, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep.” You can turn there. John 11:11, “These things He said and after that He said, ‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I might wake him up.’” Then his disciples said, “Lord, he’s been sick. If he sleeps he’ll get better.” However Jesus spoke of his death but they thought he was talking about taking rest in sleep. Jesus said plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” Ephesians 5:14 Paul uses the same terminology. He said, “Awake you who sleep. Arise from the dead and Christ will give you light.” How many people in the Bible can you think of died and were resurrected? Moses. You’ve got Elijah resurrected a boy who died. Elisha resurrected a boy who died. A man who was dead was put down on the bones of Elisha and he rose. Jesus raised Darius’ daughter. Jesus raised the widow of Name’s son. Jesus raised Lazarus. There’s at least half a dozen resurrections in the Bible. Okay. These people were dead. Dead!

They came back to life. Did any of them say, is there any account, any record of any of them saying, “You brought me back from hell. Thank you very much.” “Why did you snatch me out of heaven? I was having a good time!” Is there any? I mean you would think. Everybody wants to know, when you die, what’s it like? Right? That’s the big question. Everyone’s saying, “There’s no evidence.” Here we’ve got living testimony of people who died and they came back silence. Every single resurrection in the Bible, nobody talked to the reporters. You know why? How much did they have to share? Nothing because the Bible says in Ecclesiastics chapter 9 verse 5, “The living know that they will die,” but how much do the dead know? Nothing! They can’t haunt you. Job tells us a man might die his sons come to honor or they’re brought low he does not perceive it of them. If you want to see your children succeed watch them now. If you want to honor your parents with flowers don’t wait ‘til the funeral. Their smeller isn’t working anymore. They won’t know. You’ve got to give them the flowers now. Am I right? The Bible tells us a living dog is better than a dead lion. The Bible concept about death is very clear with a few exceptions that people always run to. What are some of those anomalies that often confuse people?

I already alluded to a couple of them. Absent from the body. II Corinthians 5:8-9. II Corinthians 5:8-9. I’m not afraid of these scriptures. I asked the same questions at one time. I wanted good answers. Paul says, “We are confident. Yes,” II Corinthians 5:8-9, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and be present with the Lord therefore we make it our aim whether present or absent to be well pleasing to Him.” And there are a couple of other references similar in the same passage. Someone assumes absent from the body means instantly you are beamed into the presence of the Lord. And you know what? There are others who have created a whole new doctrine that’s really new called Abraham’s bosom. It’s the protestant version of limbo. It’s where spirits go and sort of abide in bliss. And do you know what? How many times is Abraham’s bosom mentioned in the Bible? One time. Is it safe to build a whole doctrine regarding the state of man in death over one parable? No, I don’t think that’s good theology. But what does Paul mean? Absent from the body means bingo! You’re in the presence of the Lord, right? I wanted to name Nathan “Bingo.” Karen said, “No.” I said, “That’s a cute name.” Any of you ever met a little boy named Bingo?

That’s what he looked like when he was born. I said, “Bingo!” She wouldn’t let me do it. Anyway you know when you’re talking about death you’ve got to lighten up a bit. So keep in mind you and I live in a dimension of time. Is God restricted to time the way you and I are? Does God demonstrate in the Bible that He has the capacity to instantly take people years into the future and show them prophecies? God can transport them back in Revelation to a war in heaven between Michael and the Dragon. God is not restricted by time. He lives in eternity, right? You and I are confined to this dimension of time and our time here is very limited. Just like a vapor, the Bible tells us. When a Christian dies, Paul said, “The time of my departure is at hand. I’ve fought a good fight.” He knew it. He looked forward to that crown of righteousness the Lord was going to give him, but when did Paul say the Lord was going to give it to him? In the judgement day. In that day. He didn’t say I’m going to go right away. But wait! Paul said, you know I’m struggling whether or not to stay and work for you and to depart and to be with the Lord. What did he mean by that? Sounds like you’re instantly with the Lord when you die. You are… as far as you’re concerned.

If you’re a Christian, if you’re the apostle Paul who was beheaded by Nero nineteen hundred years ago and he died in a saved condition covered by the blood of the lamb, what is his next conscious thought? His next conscious thought is coming out of the grave he says, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump.” But when does it happen? At the last trump. He comes out of the grave. For him to be absent from the body the next thing he knew is the presence of God. He’s caught up, but does he say he’s going alone or does it say in First Thessalonians, “We are caught up together.” You know I resent the very popular cartoons people have about St. Peter’s gate. You know you’ve heard cartoons and you’ve heard jokes about so-and-so comes to St. Peter, he’s at the gate. You all know what I’m talking about? It’s like they’ve got a check out center there and a check in center and people come to the gate. One by one they come dragging into the kingdom. That really distorts the picture God paints in the Bible. When the redeemed go to the kingdom we are going as a grand procession, a glorified parade. We’re going the Bible says, “together.” We’re not going to get there and say, “You know I’m a little late I’m looking for my family. Where will they be?”

We’re going to heaven together. We’re going to go through the corridors of space together. Now there are some exceptions. Are there any examples in the Bible of humans who have already gotten there? Who? Who was the first? Enoch. Enoch walked with God and God took him. The Bible tells us this happens. God always tells us about, like I said, there’s exceptions and He tells us what the exceptions are. Who else? Enoch. Elijah. How did Elijah go? Fiery limousine he took to the kingdom, right? Chariot of fire. Who else is there? Moses. Was Moses translated or did he die and got a special resurrection. Now the Bible tells us in the book of Jude that Michael came to resurrect Moses. He came for the body. He wasn’t going to bury him in heaven. He came to resurrect him. Okay. Who else might be there? Matthew 28, does the Bible tell us there was a special resurrection when Jesus died and does it say all of the graves of everybody in the world opened? Or does it say many of the graves of those who slept in Jerusalem opened?

They appeared in the city, they ascended with Christ as a wave sheaf. You know during harvest time the High Priest would take some of the first of the harvest and wave it before the Lord as an offering. Christ was taking some of the great harvest that is going to happen when He comes in the near future. He brought it to glory with Him. You read in Revelation about the twenty-four elders that are around the throne. It could be comprised of some of those who were in that resurrection. So there are some people there but the general resurrection of the dead, the general rupturing of the saints, when does that take place? When the Lord descends and we are caught up. That’s what the word rapture means. I don’t believe in the secret rapture but I do believe we are caught up and that’s what the word means when Jesus comes back. Oh but, Doug, what about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus? That seems like that poor rich man. (I wondered if anyone caught that.) It seems like that poor rich man he went right to hell right after he died and life is still continuing on earth. The word used for hell there was the word Hades. It’s a word from Greek mythology. Every Jew was acquainted with some of these stories in Greek mythology. Pluto, the god of Hades, you’ve heard of the “hounds of hell”?

The idea that the devil is in charge of hell, where is that in the Bible? It’s not in the Bible, but is it in Greek mythology? Yeah, Pluto was in charge of… Where does it say the devil has a pitchfork? Greek mythology. It’s not in the Bible. A lot of these things sort of got amalgamated into the Christian theology that aren’t biblical at all. But the Bible tells us that the parable of the rich man is a parable. It comes on a series of several parables Jesus is using to teach the Jews a lesson that if they spurn the gift of the truth it will be taken from them and given to others. And the idea of this rich man who is feasting on the truth while the beggar the gentile is starving at his gate only comfort he got was from the dogs that’s symbolizing unclean, the unclean people. In the judgement, lo and behold, Lazarus the gentile is in Abraham’s bosom. Every Jew thought he’d be with Abraham and the Jew by blood is cast out into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth and for the purpose of teaching the lesson the Lord allows conversation to go on between Abraham and the rich man. How many of you think that those in heaven will be able to commune with those in the lake of fire? I’m not going to enjoy any of your theology if you think that because that is an appalling thought.

Now there will be a brief time when the righteous see the wicked destroyed, right? But are we going to be faxing each other and e-mailing each other those in the lake of fire burning and talking back and forth? No. Christ is telling a very vivid parable to illustrate a lesson that the tables may surprise us and turn. And many will come from the east and the west and sit down in the kingdom with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob while the literal Jews and church members are cast out because we don’t appreciate the bread of life, the food of truth. That’s the purpose of the whole parable. It’s a parable. You do not build a whole doctrine about the state of man in death regarding a parable where it says one drop of water is going to cool the tongue of a person in torment. Very broad analogies and symbols there.

Ok, one of the other anomalies that’s often referred to saying that people go right to paradise at death. What is it? The thief on the cross. Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke chapter 23. Luke is probably my favorite of the gospels but he also presents some unique challenges. Luke was a gentile. He’s the one who’s got the rich man and Lazarus and he’s got the thief on the cross sounding like he’s going right to paradise. Turn to Luke chapter 23 and I think we’re going to go to verse 43. Well, let’s go to verse 42. Now the story of the thief on the cross is a wonderful, wonderful message. It’s what you call an eleventh hour conversion. There’s only one example of an eleventh hour conversion like this in the Bible. That’s so none despair. Matthew Henry says, “There’s only one example of an eleventh hour conversion so none dare presume.” A lot of people say, “Well, there’s the thief on the cross so I’m going to wait until my deathbed and I’ll call out to Jesus.” You might be talking about taxes instead. You don’t know what you’re going to say.

You remember what I said about Napoleon’s sister? Her last words? You can’t predict where you’re going to be spiritually on your deathbed. It’s terrible to presume you’re going to give your life to the devil and give the leftovers to Jesus on your deathbed and then you’ll be saved. The Lord saved this man because he didn’t plan on it that way. I think those who plan on giving the last part of their life to the Lord never can and do not, not capable of it. And so he says here, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He admitted he was a sinner. He says we’re getting what we deserve. He said that Jesus had done nothing wrong. He said Christ was the spotless Lamb of God. He repented. He confessed. He called Jesus “Lord.” He called Him “King.” “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He went through all of the steps of salvation. Christ, in spite of all of His suffering... I love this story. In spite of the fact His hands were nailed, the devil couldn’t keep Him from saving. Isn’t that good news? He turned instantly, neglecting his own misery and gave this man hope. “Assuredly I say to you, today you’re going to be with me in Paradise.” Well, that’s pretty clear. Today you and I will be in paradise together. But if you read it that way there’s some problems. First of all, please remember there is no punctuation in the inspired manuscripts. In the original language, no punctuation. That’s added by translators who have to calculate where they’re going to put it.

Punctuation can make big differences. You’ve heard me share the story about a hundred years ago or so this very wealthy lady went on a holiday to Paris back in the days of Western Union. And she was there during her birthday and she sent a little telegram to her husband in New York City and said, “Since it’s my birthday I’d like to buy a mink coat.” And he telegrammed back, “That’s fine.” She found the one she wanted and she said, “The mink coat cost $2000.” And he telegrammed back, “No price too high!” So she gets off the ship after her vacation and she’s wearing this beautiful white mink stole and husband is in shock and he said, “I told you not to get that!” This was back when wives obeyed their husbands. “You’re defying me!” You know it’s interesting in the marriage vows now. I’ve still got that old pastor’s manual where it says “to obey”. I haven’t found any takers for that lately when I’m counseling. And he said, “What’d you do? I told you, ‘No, price too high!’” Well the man at the telegraph office left out the comma. She thought he said, “No price too high!” Oh, he loves me so much. Priceless! He said, “No, price too high! No, comma, price too high!” Completely opposite meaning. Well, that’s what happens in this passage. He said, “Verily I say unto you today, comma, you’ll be with me in paradise.” The emphases is I’m telling you today and that’s really the way it makes sense. Christ did not look like a lord or a king or a savior when the thief addressed Him as such that day. Everyone is standing around saying, “He’s defeated.” They’re mocking him. And Christ is saying, “I know I don’t look like much right now but I’m making you a promise today. You’re going to be with me in paradise.”

Another reason we know that’s the way it must be read and some translations render that correctly. Another reason we know is if you go to the gospel of John when Mary clings to His feet, Mary Magdalene. He says, “Do not detain me for I have not yet ascended to my Father.” And the Bible says the Father is in paradise so how could Jesus be with the Father in paradise if two days later He still hasn’t made the trip yet? How could the thief be with Him in paradise that day? So that one is really very easy to understand if it’s correctly punctuated. And remember we’re not changing the Bible when we change punctuation. That’s a flaw of translators. Anyone can do their own translation. It’s the manuscripts that we need to go by. These three scriptures are the most popular reasons that people turn to. There are a couple of others but they’re the most popular reasons people turn to to try to say that the dead don’t really sleep but they go right to heaven or right to hell at judgement. Turn with me to Psalms 146. I’m kind of winging from memory right now. Any evangelist worth his salt ought to be able to do this study pretty much from memory. Psalm 146 is another famous passage that illustrates the state of man in death. “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, oh my soul!” I’m in verse one. Now I’m in verse two. “While I live I’ll praise the Lord. I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Put not your trust in princes, nor in the Son of Man in whom there is no help. His spirit departs,” that’s the word breath, “He returns to the earth in that very day his thoughts perish.” That means he stops thinking, right? It also says something very similar in Hezekiah’s prayer when he had been healed from his affliction.

He says, “The living! The living will praise you, Lord!” The dead don’t praise the Lord. It’s very clear from the scripture. Now you and I need to understand this because we… you know it’s amazing to me the dichotomy of a society that is so ultra technological and sophisticated and scientific and the medical advances and all of the fast-paced rat race we live in how spiritualistic people can be. I’ve got to be careful how I say this. I have cable TV and they’ve got a preview guide that tells you what’s on. I think TV’s are very dangerous and that’s why I always hesitate to even tell people. I told Karen, “You tell me when you are ready and we’ll get rid of them.” Because I really do think that TV’s are probably one of the most dangerous things if you can’t control it. But they got a preview guide and while I’m looking to see what’s on I’ll tell you I like CNN. I like the History Channel. I like the Discovery Channel. You’ve got to weed through all the evolutionary things that you see there. But they have all these advertisements for psychics. And I understand something about supply and demand. There are more and more of those appearing and the reason more and more of them are appearing is because there is a big enough market to sustain them financially which means there are millions of people around the country that are paying these over the phone psychics (and it’s the biggest scam in the world) to guide them regarding big decisions; who they’re going to marry and business and where they’re going to move and all of these things. They’re calling total strangers and paying big bucks and they try and keep you on the phone as long as possible because you’re paying by the minute. Spiritualistic! Others go to mediums. I remember I used to drive through these cities and on the outskirts of the city there’d be some broken down building with a cracked fence and little shingle sign out front and it would say, “Psychic.”

Now right in the middle of town they’ll have neon lights and they’re very sophisticated and they’ve got a waiting room and it’s big business. And people of influence, intelligent people, they go to these mediums to talk to departed loved ones and get guidance. What about near death experiences, Doug? First of all, don’t base your conclusion on somebody writing a book, Through the Light, about people who have near death experiences and you know they go through these tunnels and there’s doors and they see all their loved ones and they’re in heaven and they say, “Oh it was a mistake. You’re not supposed to be here.” And they send them back to earth. A lot of people try to get their theology based upon somebody’s heart that stops beating and supplying oxygen to the brain and they hallucinate. They say, “This person died on the operating table and this is what they saw. That must be true!” Oh, you’re going to have the most convoluted, bizarre theology if you get your theology based on what happened to somebody when they hallucinated dying on an operating table. And no two seem to agree. All the people, their experiences are all different. What about folks who say they’ve received visits from loved ones or some guidance. Grandma died and I feel she’s with me.

Have you heard this before? Some of you maybe have felt it. I remember after my brother died. There was never a time in my life when my brother was not available. He was my older brother. From the time I opened my eyes there he was, brown eyes flaming red hair. We grew up together. I had his number stored on my telephone AutoDial and just on a whim I used to always call Falcon. I needed him to tell me how stupid I was from time to time. That was his most favorite saying. I needed that guidance. But we really loved each other. And when he died I was at his side when he died. And I remember I was at home a few months after he died and I picked up the phone to call him. I had forgotten he was dead. And I had this fleeting thought that he was there. Well, what caused that? Was that Falcon in the room trying to communicate with me? Maybe if I’d dialed that number he would have picked up. Or was it your mind? Your brain is a computer. You’ve got a lot of stuff that’s stored back there in the hard drive. Women who are married to men for years, I say women because they usually outlive men. Their husband dies. Sometimes for months even years after the death of their husband they forget for a moment they’re gone. They’ll call their name down the hall or through the house and then start crying because they remember that they’re not there anymore. Other people interpret this to mean they’re trying, they’re there, they’re with you, they’re close! And what is it really, friends? They’re in your mind.

They’re in your heart. But where are they as far as their consciousness is concerned? They’re asleep. If you believe the Bible it says they don’t know anything. I don’t know how… it’s a dictionary definition. Well, I told you that this is really a message that has good news. Death is an enemy. Death is not God’s plan. Do you know that? Good news is, most people die, but you don’t all necessarily need to worry about it. Are you aware that because we have the privilege of living in the last generation some of us will not die? Doesn’t that excite you? I don’t want to try and do one more statistic. I’m hoping to live and be here when Christ comes. I Corinthians 15:51 and verse 52, “Behold I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep.” And what does he mean by sleep? We shall not all die but we’ll all be changed. You’re not going to heaven with that body. The Bible says flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of God. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump, for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, glorified bodies that do not age. And we will be changed. You know Karen had this miraculous surgery on her eyes a few months ago. Did I mention that to you? I told I guess some of my friends here know.

Karen was born with very poor vision and her glasses when you didn’t see her with contacts… she’s been wearing glasses you may have noticed the last six months because they can’t do the surgery while you’re wearing contacts. Your eyes have to assume their normal form. They’re like coke bottles. And when Karen went to sleep at night I always knew she took off her glasses and put them up on the dresser. She went and had this laser surgery and now she’s got like 20/30 in each eye. It is so astounding to me because after all the years that we’ve been married she can see. I used to work it to my advantage that she couldn’t see and I can’t do that anymore. But she used to say, “What are you doing?” and I’d say, “Oh, nothing, dear.” Now she doesn’t ask anymore. She knows what I’m doing.

Now I don’t know she’s asleep until I hear her snoring. Before it used to be I’d hear the clunk of the glasses on the dresser. Now my eyes are going! And I’m beginning to feel my mortality and aches and pains and you creak around a little bit after a game of racket ball and I realize it’s just going to get worse as time goes by. I hope the Lord comes soon because it’s scary, isn’t it? Some of you are getting really old. You know how scary it is. I remember one of my old friends said, “It gets to the point when you bend over to pick something up you say, what else can I do while I’m down here?” So I’m not looking forward to that. I’ve always been active. Death is an enemy. But the Bible tells us that Christians don’t die. Christians go to sleep. Amen? The Bible tells us King David went to sleep. It’s been three thousand years for him but you know, in the New Testament it says, David. This is Acts chapter two proof you don’t go right to heaven or hell. It says in Acts chapter two, “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David that he is both dead and buried.”

It goes on a few more verses and says, “He is not ascended into heaven. His sepulcher is with us to this day.” How clear can you be? Good King David is dead, buried, not in heaven, in the tomb. But for David when he went to sleep what was his next thought? Has it seemed like three thousand years for him? To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Next thing David knows is the resurrection when the trumpet blows and he comes out with his glorified body and he’s going to meet Solomon and Uriah and Bathsheba and that’s going to be very interesting. First Corinthians 15:55, “Some of us will get to declare, ‘oh, death where is thy sting? Oh, grave where is thy victory?’” Amen? Revelation 20:14 tells us that death is an enemy. Death and hell, death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire. One of the things destroyed in hell is hell because the word hell means grave there. Death and the grave are cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And then I love Revelation 21:4, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes…” How many of you know this by heart? If you’ve been to enough funerals you know this. “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death.” Do you know death not only affects us, our whole creation is built on a foundation of death.

You know how much room cemeteries take? And golf courses? Jim, where are you? We waste a lot of room on golf courses. Do you know that everything in society is built expected to die? Have they built a car yet that doesn’t die eventually? Some are better than others but they all die. Your refrigerator, you live long enough it’s going to die. Your dog, one year is seven for him. Even a pike, the fish, can live two hundred thirty years and then it dies. Falcon might live eighty years. They got some ants that will live three years, a crab that can live twenty, a lion thirty, a horse twenty-five, but then what happens? They die. Redwoods! I was just up in the redwoods a few weeks ago. They’ve got some that are almost 4,000 years old. That means they sprouted around the time of the flood. But if time goes on long enough lightening hits them, mold sets in, they die.

There’s going to be a world where nothing dies. I like the complete way the Bible states that, “No more death.” Isn’t that good news, friends? You know the Bible tells us that you can have eternal life now. “He that has the Son has life.” I’m so tired of death in this world. My Uncle Harry, my father’s brother, my father had four brothers, him and three others, and Harry was actually younger than my dad. I lived with Harry when I was a teenager in New Mexico. You’ve heard me talk about him, a real character. Died of cancer a couple of weeks ago. Very sad. You know you see your parents growing old. My mom is gone now. My brother is gone now and you get tired of saying, “Good bye.” The Bible tells us that soon the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, trumpet that will bring the dead in Christ from their graves. We will be caught up together with them in the clouds with glorified bodies. They’re going to look better than they’ve ever looked. You’re going to recognize them. The Bible says, “Now we look through a glass darkly but then face to face.

Now we know in part but then we’ll know even as we are known.” Some people say, “Will we recognize Grandma in heaven?” Your gifts of perception and discernment are not going to be worse in heaven. They’re going to be enhanced. Of course you’re going to recognize each other. Amen? You’re going to look beyond the outward deformities and defects into who they really are and you’re going to know them. Just like you need to know God now. And then we’ll be “caught up together in the clouds” and I love the way that passage closes. You know what it says? “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” Someday there will be a day when we’ll have no more of these sad good-byes and no more funerals and no more death. Are you looking forward to that? Let’s sing about it together. We’re going to turn to a hymn I don’t think we’ve ever done here at Central. “Never Part Again” and I want to invite Don out to lead us in this and sing from your hearts. Let’s stand together. 449.

Now this song, this message is delivered with an assumption that you’ve got the Son. The Bible says, “He that has the Son has life.” If you’ve got the Son you’ve got hope of claiming a day when we’ll never part again. You don’t need to fear death. You’ll just go to sleep and wake up in glory. Amen? But there may be some of you here today who do not have that assurance. You don’t know that your sins are under the blood of the Lamb and that your old life has been covered with Jesus’ pure life. If you’d like to have that assurance and not be afraid of death you can have it today by coming just like you are. If that’s your desire come to the front. We’ll have special prayer with you as we sing the second verse.

This is an encouraging hymn to me. I don’t know if it moves you like it moves me but I’m tired of these long good-byes. You know for a Christian when you lay somebody you love in a grave and they die with the blessed hope it’s still sad. Paul says, “we sorrow but not as others that have no hope.” I tell my friends that have had to bid farewell to those who have gone to their dusty graves that it’s like saying good bye for a while until we meet again. But if you don’t have that hope it’s a long goodbye. It’s an eternal goodbye. If you want to be in that number that’s caught up together when Jesus comes and not be separated from the redeemed then you need to have Jesus and consecrate all that you are and all that you have to Him. Have you done that? Today is a good day if you don’t have that assurance. Come, we’ll pray with you as we sing the last verse.

Father in Heaven, Lord, we want to thank You and praise You for the news that though death is an enemy in this life it’s a temporary enemy that will be ultimately and eternally vanquished when Jesus comes. Lord, we are looking forward to that eternal morning when we can gather together and be caught up to meet you in the air and go on to Paradise together. We’re looking forward to that day, Lord, where there will be no more death. To a world where even the leaves will not wither and flowers will not fade, where eternal vigor and youth will be the experience of all creatures. Lord, I pray that we will avail ourselves of the sacrifice you have made in sending your son that we will take advantage of the sacrifice Jesus made in coming to be our substitute. Lord, I pray that we can all know that we can have the assurance that we are under the blood of the Lamb.

That we with Job can say, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that He will stand in the latter day upon the earth.” And though this body might be consumed yet in my flesh in my new glorified body I will see my King my Redeemer. Bless us all to that end, Lord. I pray that we can go from this place just abiding in the halo of that hope that the curse of sin and death is temporary and that someday we will mock death and say, “Where is your sting? Oh grave where is your victory?” And, Lord, we thank you for the hope we have that there may be some here who will live and remain and see Christ come, that will be transformed in an instant when Michael blows the trumpet. So bless us, Lord. I pray that we can find comfort in these words that all of this is temporary if we have Jesus and it’s in His name we pray. Amen.

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