Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Death and Resurrection

Written by Rev. G.R. Procee
What happens to me when I die? Nowadays many say that death is the end of our existence. Is it true what certain philosophers have claimed and still claim that with death man's existence is ended? Atheists--modern heathens--think that man dies just like the animals. Others consider the existence after death to be very vague. They think that man enters some hazy, sub-conscious level of existence--some spirit world--in which the spirits wander around in the realm of the dead.

Others refer to death as deliverance. The Greek philosopher Plato (427-347 B.C.) taught that in death the soul is delivered from the earthen shell in which it is imprisoned. By death, man is delivered and returns to his real and spiritual existence. There also those who hold to the view of reincarnation, meaning that the soul of man always returns to life in the form of another physical being. In this view, our existence becomes a repetition without any conclusion and life and its preservation become very arbitrary.

Death is the Separation of Body and Soul
What a blessing that Scripture clearly states what happens to a person at death! The body dies, but the soul continues to exists. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Mt.10: 28,

Scripture never presents death as total annihilation or a dissolving into nothing, as for example, the Jehovah Witnesses teach. Death is the separation of body and soul; it is the end of the earthly existence of man. Scripture shows us that death is never to be seen as something natural, as if death is part of man's existence. Man was not made to die, but to live. The fall into sin caused death and does not originally belong to our existence. Death is a foreign element in our existence; it is the result of sin. The wages of sin is death (Gen.2: 17; Rom.5: 12,17; 6:23). Death is an expression of God's wrath (Ps.90: 7,11); it is a curse (Gal.3: 13); it is a judgment (Rom.1: 32; 5:16).

For God's children however, death is no longer a punishment but an entrance into everlasting glory, because Jesus fully bore the punishment for sin for them. Now their death is a dying to sin. For a child of God death is the last phase in sanctification. By death the old man dies completely.

The Dead Praise Not the Lord.
In Scripture there are texts that say that the dead do not know anything, such as in Psalm 6:5: For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? In Psalm 115:17 we read, The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence. What do these texts mean?

These texts refer to the physical world. The dead are removed from this world. They can no longer praise the Lord here on earth. That does not mean, however, that they have no awareness as such. The believers who have passed away, have a full awareness of their condition. We can learn that from the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. In 2 Corinthians 5:8, we read, We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

No Soul Sleep
Some teach that the soul sleeps after death and it will be awakened at the Second Coming of Christ. This is a heresy. If that were true, the soul would be deprived of its comfort and Christ of His glory. The Lord said to the thief on the cross, Today thou shalt be with Me in paradise. In Romans 8 we read that nothing can separate us from the love of God, that is, from the experience and knowledge of His love. Not even death can bring that separation. Stephen saw the heavens opened to him. Psalm 73 speaks about being taken up into glory. Paul testifies in Philippians 1:23, For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.

LordÕs Day 22
Lord's Day 22 of the Heidelberg Catechism sums up beautifully what happens to God's children after death. There we see three stages: Immediately after this life my soul is taken up to be with Christ. Next, my body will arise from the dead. Finally, I shall be fully glorified and with body and soul I will forever be with the Lord. This Lord's Day provides true and Scriptural comfort when we face death.

The Taking Up of my Soul to be With Christ.
For God's child, death is the entrance into everlasting life. At the moment of death, the soul is taken up to be with Christ and the child of God is with Him in glory. What a comfort to be with Christ, where all the saints are gathered! The Heidelberg Catechism says that this will happen immediately after death. There is no time lapse. It will happen immediately. There is no purgatory, as Rome teaches. This teaching denies the atoning work of Christ. GodÕs child does not need to pay for sin after this life, for Christ is a perfect Saviour.

The emphasis is on the soul going to Christ, her Head, rather than on going to heaven. Christ constitutes the glory of heaven and not the streets of gold or the pearly gates. Therefore, Christ must be our Head now, in this life. We cannot wait till our deathbed, but now is the time of grace. Christ must become our Head, our Lord and our Saviour. Only one deathbed conversion is recorded in Scripture: the thief on the cross. That indicates the urgency to seek the Lord now, while we are in the land of the living.

If Christ is your Head, He guarantees that you will be taken up to heaven. Christ is the Surety. Because you belong to Him, He watches over you. The corruption of the body will not break the bond between Christ and His child.

Does this privilege apply to you? Next week death could be reality for you. Do you have the comfort that you belong to Christ, your Head?

The Glorious Resurrection of the Body.
One does not need a body to enjoy God. However, to fully glorify God, one does need the body. It will be restored to us in the glorious resurrection of the body. My body has to be added to the soul. How will that be?

My body will be resurrected, but it will be a glorified body. This is explained in 1 Corinthians 15. It will be a glorified body. We believe the resurrection of the body, even when the body has been dissolved, consumed by fire or eaten by wild beasts. It will be raised. The resurrection body will be a spiritual body, meaning that it will be without sensual or physical needs.

This is difficult to understand. I think of a story told of Isaac Newton, the famous physicist, who also was a believer. When he passed a cemetery with his students, some of them asked how we can believe in the resurrection of the dead. The next day in class Newton mixed iron dust with sand and other materials. How can the iron particles be separated? He used a magnet. He asked, ÒIf God has given a dead magnet power to raise up iron from the dust, can He not also give a new body to dust that is dead and corruptible?Ó

The apostle Paul uses the illustration of a grain of wheat, sown in the earth, from which a plant comes forth. The farmer looks to the future and has great anticipation. That is how God has His people sown in the earth, anticipating the future, glorious harvest. Luther referred to the grave as being a little bedroom for him, where his body will wait until the Lord shall knock on the door to wake him.

Because of the glorious resurrection of God's children there will be no hindrance whatsoever to glorify God fully with body and soul. That leads us to the third and final stage of the glorification of GodÕs children.

Full Glorification
When fully glorified, God's child is forever with the Lord, body and his soul. This glorified life with the Lord is different than what we now know. There will be no physical weariness, no sickness, no death, and no tears. We cannot imagine how this will be. There will be no marriage and no children will be born. There will be no eating or drinking. It will be a perfect, incorruptible existence.

God's children will be raised in glory. To be buried is the bitter consequence of death; it is shameful. But the resurrection will be glorious and perfect. The body that now often is a hindrance in serving the Lord will then be made fully suitable to glorify and praise God forever. The body is sown in weakness and in corruption, but it shall be raised incorruptible. Then God's child will be perfect and without sin, pure, perfectly holy and made conformable to Christ.

Do you long for this moment? Do you long and sigh for that day? Have you learned to yearn for the Last Day? That can only be if Christ is not a stranger for you. The dead will all rise. The sea will give up her dead and all God's children will be with the Lord forever.

Life Without Hope
But there is also another possibility and that is to live on earth without hope and to continue in your sin. For these people the resurrection of the dead is a terror, for it will be a resurrection of misery and condemnation to their everlasting dismay. 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 (Jn.5: 29).

This verdict will not only be yours then, but it already rests on you now. This present life is decisive for you and me now. If Jesus is not our Saviour, we are outside this realm of glory. How terrible to have heard the way, but not to have entered in!

Have you ever thought about standing outside of God forever? To be with the damned and never more to praise God, but to be under His eternal and just damnation? Flee now from the wrath to come! That is possible, for Jesus breaks down the works of the evil one. He causes dead sinners to rise to new life with Him. Those who believe in the Son have everlasting life. That gives perspective for life everlasting and the resurrection of the body.

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