Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Gary Petty] Today we’re going to explore what the Bible says about life after death and the answer is different than what many of you think.
As a pastor I’ve done a lot of funerals. Funerals for people that I knew very well, including my own parents, funerals for people that I never even met before, some for believers, some for non-believers. One time I was at a funeral, I just finished doing the funeral and I was talking to some of the adults and this little boy walked up and he just kept standing there staring at me. So after awhile I sort of looked down and said hello, and very intently he said, “Are you God?” He was a little disappointed with the answer but he had a question about what happened to the person who had just died. What happened to them? And since I was the one speaking I must know. And then about will he die someday and what will happen to him?
You know it’s a question that all of us ask sometimes in our lifetime. What happens to us when we die? I mean do we go to heaven? Do some people go to hell? Why can’t we contact people who have “passed on” as we say? Why is it there’s this gulf between us and people?
Because of the uncertainty of that question and the answer to those questions we live in fear of death. None of us wants to die. We live in fear of death.
Many years ago I knew a woman who one day just came to that realization, she realized that she was going to die someday and it made her very depressed. Twenty years later I sat and talked to her as she talked about how she’d missed out on so much joy of life, she’d missed out even on close relationships and accomplishments because every day practically she asked herself “Is today the day?”
We all live in fear of death. What happens to us? Now you actually may have to reevaluate what you think about life after death and what the Bible actually teaches. But when you discover the plan that the Creator God has for us, why He made us and there is a life after death, your life today even with its problems and its issues can take on new meaning and new vitality and new purpose and death can lose a little bit of its fear.
You know the most common teaching in Christianity today is that when you die your soul leaves. You become a disembodied spirit and you either go to heaven where you are with God or if you are a bad person you go to hell where you are tortured forever and ever and this is what most Christians believe and this is what is taught in most Christian churches.
The question is what did Jesus teach? What did Jesus Christ actually teach? Well in John 3:13 He says something very important here. Jesus, and this is an exact quote, He says, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” Now when you read this I mean for me, the first thing that comes to mind is, in my mind, is no one went to heaven?
Abraham, there is no more important person except for Jesus in the entire scripture, than Abraham. Abraham and Sarah. The one through whom God gave the promises that the Messiah would come from them. In the New Testament he is called the “father of the faithful.” Not just the father of the faithful in the Old Testament but the father of the faithful in the church, in the New Testament. Isn’t he in heaven? Well according to Jesus he’s not. According to Jesus no one has ascended to heaven except Him.
You know the Gospel accounts about the life of Jesus, and also the book of Acts which tells the story of the original disciples of Jesus and how they went out and they taught people and there were great miracles that they did. And you will see that there are a number of times when either Jesus or the Apostles raised somebody from the dead. Back to a physical life. Someone that’d died and came back to life again. Now if you believe the scripture you have to believe that these things took place. People actually were dead and the grave opened up and they came out and you know what is really interesting about every one of those accounts, every single one of them, in the life of Jesus or the life of the Apostles, that those people who came back from the dead there is no account of them telling their friends and relatives “Let me tell you what it was like in heaven. Let me tell you what it’s like to see God face to face. Let me tell you what it’s like to be a disembodied spirit. It’s wonderful!”
You know when Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb, Lazarus had been dead for days when you read the account and Jesus calls him out of the tomb. And he comes walking out and sort of like something out of a horror movie cause it says he’s all wrapped up you know and he comes out of there and they unwrap him and he’s okay. What a perfect opportunity for Jesus to say “Lazarus, tell everybody what their future’s like.” What’s amazing is He didn’t do that. Lazarus doesn’t tell us anything. In fact the Bible is silent about what happens to people who immediately go to heaven. Well according to Jesus we don’t immediately go to heaven.
Okay what about hell? Surely Jesus taught about hell and that people who are rebellious against God they go to hell where they’re tortured forever. Well there’s an interesting thing that is recorded in Matthew chapter 10, and this is what Jesus said. Now I’m just picking a couple verses here. We’re going to have to talk about something more than this, but let’s just start with a couple direct statements by Jesus. I mean these are direct statements by Jesus so they’re important. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him,” this is God, “who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” “Able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
When you read the Old Testament you’ll see the word hell. In the Old Testament the word, that the Hebrew word that’s translated hell literally means a pit, a grave. It’s a hole in the ground. I mean if you look at the Hebrew Scriptures and you understand Hebrew, everybody goes to hell because when everybody dies they go into a hole in the ground. That’s what the word means. Now that’s important because it helps us to understand that in the Bible what we call the Old Testament which was the only Bible they had at Jesus time, the word that is translated hell does not, does not have the concept of an everlasting burning fire. It’s not there. All you have to do is look up any Hebrew dictionary and it’ll tell you the word hell doesn’t mean that in Hebrew.
Now here Jesus is using a different word. He uses the word gehenna. Now gehenna is very interesting because gehenna, what did it mean to the people He was talking to? Gehenna was an actual place. It’s a valley there around Jerusalem. And the thing about this valley is that at the time of Jesus it was a giant garbage dump. Gehenna was a place where they just dumped their garbage and it burned all the time. This is actually the place around Jerusalem now where gehenna was, it’s not a garbage dump anymore. But for a long, long time and at the time of Jesus this was a garbage dump. And they just dumped their garbage there and it burned and it burned and it burned. And if you lived in Jerusalem and he mentioned gehenna, you know the fires of gehenna, they knew exactly what you meant. It’s where you threw the garbage. I mean they could smell it when the wind went a certain way, blew a certain way. So it’s not like this was an odd idea. That’s why you won’t see Paul using the word gehenna because Paul was talking to people who didn’t live in Jerusalem and they wouldn’t have known what the word meant. But it meant something to these people because it was an actual place. So what Jesus says is that people can be thrown into gehenna and there God can destroy both the body and the soul. God is able and capable of destroying both the body and the soul. The soul is the very life, the very life, of a person. So we have something interesting here. The teachings of Jesus don’t support that you die and go right to heaven. He doesn’t say that any place. And he doesn’t support the idea that you die and go to an everlasting burning hell. To the Jews he was talking to at the time that would have been a foreign concept.
And that’s why we’re doing the program today and that’s why this is important. If we’re going to deal with what happens to us when we die and is there a future, a future afterlife. And that’s why today we have a booklet that we want everybody to get. We’re asking you to, if you would like this, to further study. Because what the Bible teaches about death and the afterlife is not what many people think and it takes Bible study to figure this out. And we’re not asking you to take our word for it. I mean I quoted two verses out of the entire Bible. You can’t prove anything from two verses out of the entire Bible you have to look at what the entire Bible says about something. And you need to discover what the Bible actually says. It’s more than two passages.
So this booklet What Happens After Death? is very important. You get a copy and you read every scripture. You study every point. And for those of you who are watching you can get your free copy by simply dialing the number on your screen or going to beyondtoday.tv. You can download it or you can read it directly online.
So if we don’t die, let’s just take Jesus’ words there, and go directly to heaven or don’t go to hell, what happens to us? What happens to us? I mean the Bible talks about everlasting life so there can be a life after this, is it a matter of we just become disembodied spirits and we go haunt houses? I mean what do we do? Are we just disembodied spirits? Which, by the way, is the teaching of basic Christianity or most common Christianity, is that you become a disembodied spirit without a body and you are now this immortal soul that goes some place. And Christianity has an interesting problem with that and we’ll talk about that in a minute.
When we go back to the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead He tells His disciples he’s asleep. He tells His disciples he’s asleep. Now the disciples think what that means is, is that he’s resting. And he has to say no, no, no I’m telling you they’re dead. They died.
Now let’s think about this idea of sleep. He says he’s asleep, no I’m telling you he’s dead. He’s using sleep as a metaphor for death. You see this concept throughout the Old and New Testament. I want to read a passage here. What happened, the miracles that happened, after Jesus died. After Jesus died a number of things happened that were dramatic that let people know that God was saying the death of this man Jesus was really part of my plan. This is the death of My Son the Messiah the Christ. And here’s what it says, “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two,” this is the veil that was in the temple there in Jerusalem, “was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,” so everybody in Jerusalem knew this was happening. There was an earthquake, rocks are falling, “and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” They’re asleep. They come out of the graves. They appear to many and it doesn’t say anything about preaching the gospel of going to heaven. It’s not there. That’s not what happened.
So we find numerous biblical passages that talk about, it’s both in the Old and New Testament, that death is like sleep.
Now let me ask you something, have you ever fallen asleep and I do this late at night. I’ll turn on some kind of mindless television, I’ll be watching the American Pickers, and some of you know what that is. Okay. And I’ll be sitting there watching that and I’ll fall asleep and I’ll wake up and there’s a different program on and I’m trying to figure out what happened. And it takes a second to even realize I’m watching something totally different than what I was watching. Oh yeah, an hour went by.
You could go to sleep and have no dreams, you have no sensation. You wake up and you don’t even know that time passed. Now we really like as you get older you really like when that happens because it doesn’t happen that often, right? If you’ve ever had anesthetic you know exactly what I mean. Count down 100, 99, 98 and you wake up and it’s 3 hours later. And I mean you’ll never get those 3 hours back because you have no idea what happened, right?
That is how the Bible describes death. Now that’s very interesting because when you are in that deep of a sleep you have no emotions, no pain, no worries, you have nothing, no consciousness. And you know what you also don’t have? The experience of time. You go to sleep, you wake up. We always look at things in the terms of our daily existence but those who die go to sleep and wake up, time doesn’t mean anything. That’s an important understanding. What death really is. Takes some of the fear out of it too because we have to understand then what God promises us is that there is a future for those who sleep in His care. There’s a future.
I mean God is not going to leave people who die, I mean Abraham who has not ascended to heaven, is not left there forever and ever. That’s not God’s intent.
Let’s look at another promise that was given by Jesus Christ in John chapter 6. Jesus says, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me,” speaking of the Father, “that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life;” So this is the plan of God that you and I can have ever lasting life. This is the hope. But notice He says when. He says when. “And I will raise him up at the last day.” He didn’t say you will have everlasting life because you’ll die and go to heaven. That’s not what Jesus promised. What He promises is that “I will raise him up at the last day.”
The Apostle Paul talks about that to the church in Thessalonica. Listen to what he says, he writes to them, and what happened in Thessalonica there must have been a number of people who had died. The church was very discouraged about this and he says. “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep,” it’s the same message all through the New Testament, “lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” He didn’t say we wouldn’t grieve. We grieve whenever we lose somebody but it’s like we still have hope, and here’s the hope: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain” and he thought and there will be Christians alive when Christ returns, this is all centered on the last day when Jesus Christ returns, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” just like He promised “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
This message that death is simply sleep and the message that Jesus Christ is returning to resurrect those who have turned to God is the whole central message of the entire New Testament.
Jesus promises, which is in accordance with the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, that He would return to set up God’s Kingdom on this earth. There is a promise of an afterlife from God for those who turn to Him through Jesus Christ. Now there is another resurrection we won’t talk about today. There is a resurrection of those who reject God. There is a gehenna but that’s really for another program.
This leads us to some more important questions: Why do we die in the first place? How can I be in the resurrection to eternal life? And what will it be like in the resurrection? Now obviously we can’t cover all that. We’re going to touch on it in the last little bit we have left.
You know, but when it seems that we deal with, and by the way that’s why we’re asking you to get this booklet. That’s why call that number on your screen and get this booklet, because we can’t cover all this. But this is the most encouraging message you can receive.
It seems like when we deal with the great questions of life many times we go back to Genesis. The first human beings had a perfect life with their Creator. They had no sin, they had no negative emotions, they had no fear and they sure didn’t have any death. God told them if choose to go against His instructions the result would be death. They chose to disobey God and we’ve been sinning and dying ever since. We’ve been sinning and dying ever since. But God didn’t allow us to sin –cause He allowed us, He didn’t cause it He allowed it – He did not allow us to sin and not give us a way back to Him.
From the foundation of the world the scripture says, Christ was sacrificed so that He could bring us back to come and live a perfect life, to die as a substitute for our sins and be resurrected and return back to the Father.
You know you and I die because we’re not designed to live in this. You and I were not designed to live in sin. This is not the world God created. War and poverty and sickness and starvation and this isn’t what He designed. How do we survive it? We can’t even live to 150. There’s people who want to stick themselves in a robotic body thinking that they can maintain their consciousness. You, we can’t do that. We can’t survive this.
But when we return to God, accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as our substitute for what we deserve and submit to God’s re-creation of our hearts and minds there’s a promise of a resurrection back to life. A resurrection not to corruptible physical life but something more wondrous.
Now I mentioned this booklet. There’s something in this booklet you need to read. And that is, what is it like to be in the resurrection? What is it like to be in the resurrection?
You know if death is like sleep, it’s without consciousness, there’s no pain, there’s no despair, there’s no sense of a loss of time – right? One moment you fall asleep and you wake up. But what happens when we wake up? What happens when you wake up in this resurrection, when Jesus Christ returns and you wake up? Well is He going to start handing out harps? Will we float around on clouds? What is it like?
That question was asked of Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. The church in Corinth was a Greek church, they didn’t have a Jewish background, and they believed in the immortal soul. The Greek’s all believed in the immortal soul. They believed you died and you became a disembodied spirit. Paul said no, you get a body. Now this was just craziness to them. So they write to him about it and he says to the church in Corinth, “But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” Okay so you’re telling us no body? Well no the body is dead because the duality of the Greek thought was you have a body, you have a soul. Their two different things and he said no you get a body. And Paul goes on and tells them look at the sun and look at the moon. Now it’s very interesting because we scientifically know something that he did not know. The sun generates energy. The sun is amazing and it generates heat. What is the moon? It’s a rock that reflects light. And he said this physical life is like the moon. That’s what this body is like. The body in the resurrection is like the sun with power and with life. So he’s trying to explain to them there is a body we’re supposed to get. He goes on he says, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” And then he says to make sure they understand what he’s saying, “there is a spiritual body.”
So when do people get a spiritual body? You go to sleep. You wake up at Christ’s return and that’s why in this same chapter, 1 Cor. 15 known as the resurrection chapter, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell 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 trumpet.” He says and then we will become immortal.
He didn’t believe, Paul did not believe we already were immortal. We become immortal when we wake up. So we’re just zeroing in on one resurrection. The Bible says there’s more than one. But we zeroed in on that one because you can be part of it.
So what are we going to do? Christ comes back and according to the scripture the Messiah reigns on the earth. He comes down and He reigns on the earth. Now I’ll just mention once again there is a whole section in here called How Eternal Life Will Ultimately Be Offered to All and it describes a little bit of what we’re going to be doing, those who are in that resurrection. So I encourage all of you to get and read that section.
So what will we be doing? Well then the question is what will Christ be doing? I mean the Messianic prophecies in Isaiah, the Minor Prophets, the Olivet Prophesy of Jesus, the book of Revelation all describe Jesus reigning on this earth. And He’s got a work to do. All those prophecies tell what He’s going to be doing. That’s what the resurrected saints will be doing. They will be serving Jesus Christ in His work of establishing God’s rule on this earth.
What will He be doing? Well a number of things He’ll be doing. He’s going to be bringing justice and safety for all people. He’s going to be create a religion that leads people to the true God, He’s going to be Healing the environment, an end to all war and violence, an economic system He’s going to create that rescues the poor. These are all well there’s a last one here, an agricultural system that erases hunger. These are all prophecies. You’ll find all these things mentioned in the Old Testament about what the Messiah will do.
So guess what those resurrected are going to be doing? Helping Jesus Christ do all these things. You want to be part of this amazing future? This is what God is offering to you. Ask God to open your eyes to understand this that Christ died for you so you can help Him do this.
Do you want to change the world? You can. God wants you to embrace the reality that you were born to fulfill His original purpose, an eternal purpose, to be His child now and forever in His Kingdom.
[Narrator] Please call for the booklet offered on today’s program “What Happens After Death?” This free study aid will help you have peace about what God has in store for all mankind. Death isn’t the final answer. Eternal life is being offered to you by the Creator. The promise of life after death is for everyone. God doesn’t want you to fear. Order now. Call 1-888-886-8632 or write to the address shown on your screen. When you order this free study aid we’ll also send you a complimentary one year subscription to our Beyond Today magazine. Beyond Today magazine brings you understanding of today’s world and hope for the future. Call today to receive your free booklet “What Happens After Death?” and your free 1 year subscription to Beyond Today magazine. 1-888-886-8632 or go online to beyondtoday.tv.