Death and the Soul - Part 3

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, John 5:28-29, Job 14:12-21
If we are not immortal by nature, will there be a day when we shall be changed into an immortal being? Yes. The Bible speaks of that great day when Jesus comes. Until then the Scriptures show that all, both the wicked and righteous, are in the grave. The story of Lazarus in John 11 clearly explains this doctrine.
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We've been studying for several days about the soul of man and what happens at death. Millions of people have wondered about this down through the years. They want to know about their beloved dead. Where do they remain during the time they wait for the great resurrection day? Today we're going to answer this question. We are not immortal. We've found that there is no such thing as a naturally immortal soul. We've found that the body and the very life is made up of a combination of breath plus the body. And when the breath returns to God and leaves the body, there is no longer any conscious existence on the part of the individual. The soul is not in existence as long as the breath is not in the body. These things have been established on previous broadcasts.

But today we want to know this: If we're not immortal by nature, when will the saints of God possess immortality or immortal souls? Will there be a day when God's redeemed will become immortal? The answer, of course, is a positive "Yes." The Scripture for that is 1 Corinthians 15:51-55. "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." Now you see the Scripture is very pointed and very specific on this. There is no question but that man will receive immortality and it says "at the last trump." That's at the second coming of Jesus.

Now we need to make two positive statements in regard to this immortality. First, no one has natural immortality except God only. That was found in 1 Timothy 6:13, 16. "God ... only hath immortality." Secondly, the righteous will receive it at the second coming of Jesus. Now the question naturally arises, "Where are the bodies of the dead if the soul ceases to exist and the breath goes back to God, where are the bodies?" Let's hear Jesus answer this, friends. He gives a specific answer in John 5:28, 29. He said, "... for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." Now notice what Jesus taught. He taught that those who have died are in their graves, both the good and the evil, and they will hear the voice of God call them forth, the righteous to the resurrection of life and the evil to the resurrection of damnation. Now that's too plain to be misunderstood, friends, because Christ Himself taught it. You can depend on it. He makes no mistakes.

Now I know how you feel just about this time. If you've never heard this before, you're saying probably, "Well, isn't there some part of man somewhere or somehow that separates from him at death and that goes somewhere and that might even keep knowing and thinking after death?" Yes, I have heard those things, friends, most of my life. I've read about it, too, in books and pamphlets, that some part of man must keep on living even after death. But what about the Scriptures? What do they teach? They say, "No." In Job 14, let's see what he had to say about death and the condition of man in death. Job 14:12 and then verse 21. "So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep." Here he's speaking of this man who is dead, friends, and who is in his grave in the tomb. And then he goes on with his words, "His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them." Well, you say, that's just the opposite of what I've heard most of my life.

Friends, I say this with kindness and sympathy because this is a very delicate subject. It touches the hearts of individuals because I know many people, most people, have lost loved ones and they're very, very closely tied up emotionally with this topic; and how many times have you heard ministers in public services say, "Your mother is in heaven now. Don't be alarmed. She's looking down right now and knows everything that's taking place here." Well, on the authority of Job 14:21, friends, you can be sure that your loved ones are sleeping the sleep of death in the grave waiting for that glorious day when they will receive immortality at the coming of Christ. Here's another text, Psalm 115:17. "The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence." Now that's clear. If one should die, a righteous one, and be ushered into the presence of God, surely they would be praising God. But this text says, "No, they do not; they can not." Now to me this is a wonderfully comforting doctrine. I've often tried to think of what I would say to people if I didn't know and teach this Bible truth. If I had to teach what men usually teach today in regard to this subject of the dead, I don't know what I could say to comfort people when we stand by the open grave. I'm grateful for this wonderful message of comfort. It's comforting to know that our loved ones are sleeping in the tomb, that's what Jesus called it.

You remember the story in John 11 about the death of Lazarus and how He went quickly to comfort those sisters? The word came to Him from Martha, "Come quickly. Lazarus, your dear friend, is dying." But Christ didn't make it soon enough and they sent the message saying, "He's dead already." Well, He was discussing this with the disciples and He said, "Lazarus is asleep. I'm going to wake him up." The disciples said, "Well, if he's asleep, you'd better just leave him alone; he's better off sleeping." But then the Scriptures say the Lord answered plainly saying, "Lazarus is dead." Over and again the Scripture uses that term "asleep" in reference to death. That's the way the Lord wants us to think of it. Now at your house is there great sadness when somebody rests or sleeps for the night? No, indeed. You go into the other room and there one of the members of the family has gone to bed early and is sleeping. You're not sad, are you? You don't say, "My this is a great tragedy." No. You say, "Well, they're tired and they'll feel better in the morning." And that's what God wants us to think, friends.

Death is a sound, dreamless sleep and we will awaken in the morning, that is on the glorious resurrection morning. You know how it is when you sleep at night, you're tired, your body is fatigued, you get a good night's sleep and before you realize it, you're not conscious of the passing of time, before you realize it that alarm clock goes off and you cannot believe that the night is over. It doesn't seem possible. And that's the way it will be with those who sleep in death. It will seem but a moment of time. They will not be conscious of any passage of time between that moment of falling to sleep in death and waking on the glorious resurrection morning. Just try to picture this. In their last moments, they're lying in a hospital bed perhaps, with the family gathered around weeping and saying goodbye. Then they close their eyes and go to sleep in death. But it seems to the person who's been in the tomb just a matter of seconds and he wakes up again expecting to be in a hospital room, but no, there's an angel reaching out a hand to help him out of the grave. Is there anything sad about that, friends? No, indeed. It's one of the most comforting teachings in all the Book of God. It's what Christ taught and He knew what would comfort men's hearts.

On the other hand if the popular idea is taught, I can't see how anyone can be comforted really. I can't see how there's any comfort at all. For example, a man died; if he's righteous, then he goes to heaven. His wife is left behind to struggle along and things don't go too well. She loses her home. She loses the automobile. She becomes ill and finally even loses the children. They're sent off to different places to be kept in different families. Finally the wife, herself, passes away. Now, tell me, would heaven be an enjoyable place for a man under those circumstances? For him to look down and see his family being divided and parcelled out? Oh, no, friends, that would be hell for a man, wouldn't it? Or supposing a mother dies and, according to the popular teaching, goes right into heaven. Behind are left her children in desperate need; no one to care for them; no one to help them. Could that mother enjoy heaven under those circumstances? Why, of course not. She would want to leave heaven and go back down at any cost to help her children. Or supposing a loved one were not saved, that we never like to mention, this we always try to avoid, but the popular teaching is if a loved one is not saved when he closes his eyes in death, he's plunged right straight into hell where he begins to shriek for mercy throughout all eternity. I'm thankful that such a doctrine is not in the Bible and I don't need to teach it.

A man can be ever so wicked and I can say to his loved ones, he's sleeping peacefully now, and it's true because that's what the Bible says. The wicked are asleep just as the righteous are asleep until the judgment day and then they all come forth to receive their rewards or punishments. Now let me give you the plainest text. In Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10, "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing," isn't that clear? " ... neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in anything that is done under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." So you see, friends, God doesn't leave us in the dark. There's no question about these things. We could not possibly be confused if we just read the simple statements of the Bible concerning the condition of man after death.

Peter preached the day of Pentecost sermon and if ever a sermon was preached under the direct function and supervision of the Holy Spirit, this was it. Notice now, friends, what was said in this sermon. Acts 2:29, 34, "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. For David is not ascended into the heavens." Now isn't that clear, friends? You say, can we be sure that David will be saved? Is he a saved man? Yes, Hebrews 11:32 puts him on God's honor roll with all the faithful of the ages. David will be saved, but in the days of Stephen and Peter he was in his grave and he had not gone to heaven. Neither have any other righteous people. They're all asleep in the graves waiting for the coming of Jesus.

Well, these are great thoughts, friends, and we need to understand these things. The soul does not live on in conscious torment or conscious paradise and glory after death. Those things will come after the judgment. Oh, friends, how could there be punishment until after the judgment has taken place? How could a person be rewarded until his life record has been examined and his judgment has taken place? No, God is righteous; God is just; He will give out those things after the resurrection, after the judgment takes place at the end of this world.

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