Given as a devotional at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, May 6, 2001
"If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:17).
During my times with you recently, I have been encouraging you to look beyond the flesh into the realm of spirit. May God open our eyes today to see what He would have us see and hear what He is saying to our spirits. I want to talk to you this morning about death. I have asked the Lord to show us how He sees death, and believe me, it is not at all the way we have always seen it. There's an old saying that nothing is sure except death and taxes, and so I included this little cartoon to make you smile and also to make the point, that death is NOT the end of all things as we have always believed it was.
Let's begin with Psalm 116:15: "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." If death were the end of all things, the horrible tragedy that most of us have thought it was, then this verse would be absurd. Mother had this verse put on my father's tombstone, but at the time of his passing, it was hard to understand how God could be pleased with anyone's death. In the flesh, we hurt emotionally and physically when someone we love crosses over Jordan. We miss them; we wish we had said or done more to let them know our feelings. Sometimes, people are upset because they had unfinished business with the person who passed over. Other times, they just love them so much that they cannot imagine life without them. When my daddy died, God was gracious enough to allow all of his daughters to be there with him. He was ready to go. In the hospital in Springfield where they had moved him into the cardiac care unit, he was hooked up to tubes and monitors. We took turns staying with him so he would never be alone. On one occasion when I was there with him alone, he said, "Jani, unhook me. I want to go home." At first, I thought he meant he wanted to come back to the farm, but later I realized he was telling me that he was ready to go home, to the Father's everlasting arms of comfort and unconditional love.
At the moment my beloved daddy passed, my husband Lenny had a mystical experience. He said, in the Spirit, he went with him across the great divide into eternity, and he loves to tell about the peace and love and joy and contentment that he felt there. All was well and all was peace. Lenny was still in California at the time of dad's death, but space and distance and time mean nothing in the realm of spirit. When I called him to tell him dad was gone, he said, "Yes, I know. I went with him." That has continued to mean so much to me, to this day, and while I would have wished to have had the experience myself, nevertheless, I rejoice that Lenny had it and could share it with me.
The second scripture is "A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death, than the day of birth" (Ecc. 7:1, RSV). If anyone today said that the day of death is better than the day of birth, he would probably be diagnosed as clinically depressed and put on Prozac, or some other antidepressant, and yet, God has left put this verse in the bible for us to consider. How can we get to the place where we view death not as the end, but merely another stage in our spiritual growth? One of our dear friends says that "Death is a graduation," a passage from this realm of life to a better one. I like that. It reminds of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account" (Phil. 1:21-24, RSV). More and more, this expresses the way I have come to view death. God has delivered me from the fear of death that gripped me most of my life, and I pray He will deliver you as well, if you need to be delivered.
Like you, and like Jesus, who wept when Lazarus died, even though He knew He was going to raise him from the dead, I hurt when someone I love dies. Many of you know that I am a fierce prayer warrior, on behalf of anyone who is hurting emotionally or physically. God can do anything. His hand is NOT shortened and He can do today what He ever did. I often pray for you in this home, that the Lord will restore your bodies and your minds to the glory of God the Father. The age of miracles is now, depending on God's will for the person. When someone is at death's door, I pray that if it be His will, He will restore her to perfect health. However, if the person dies, I know that my husband is quite right when he says, "She experienced the ultimate healing." Yet, there will come a time when death will be completely swallowed up in life. Isaiah prophesied, "He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken" (Isaiah 25:8, RSV).
In our times together here, we have talked about how the Apostle Paul says that it is the LIFE of Christ which saves us, rather than His death (Rom. 5:10). I suggest to you today that to the degree that we are still hung up on death and dying, to that degree, we have not seen with our spiritual eyes wide open what it means to be "born again." When Adam bit into that fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he plunged the whole human race into the death realm. The scripture is very plain about this. Paul wrote, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Cor. 15:22, KJV). Because Adam sinned, we were all born into trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), which we've talked about many times here as well. The good news is that this verse proclaims that Jesus came to reverse the effects of Adam's sin, to transport ALL from death into life. He said to Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:3-5, RSV). Notice that Jesus did NOT say to Nicodemus that he must be born again or he would burn in hell. That's not in there, though you may look long and hard to find it. Preachers may have said it to scare you into repentance, but it is just not there. What He did say was that being "born again" means that we can see the kingdom (Vs. 3) and we can enter the kingdom (Vs. 5).
What the Lord showed me some time ago was that death is not the end of the story! I have been a Bible student all my life, and now that I have sophisticated computer bible programs, I have many translations available to me and I can find anything just by typing in the word or phrase. There are plenty of instances in the Old Testament where God punished the unrighteous, rebellious sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with physical death on the earth, but nowhere does it talk about endless punishment after you die. God punished them with flood, fire, sword, plague, earthquakes, serpents, and hauled them off into captivity, but nowhere do you read that their punishment lasted beyond the grave. Another proof of this is the fact that Moses was NOT allowed to enter into the promised land, because he struck the rock at Meribah (Num. 20:8-13), in order to get water, rather than speaking to it, and yet, he was on the Mount of Transfiguration with Elijah and Jesus (Matt. 17:1-5), evidence that his punishment was only for this earth. After death, he was with Jesus and Elijah.
I know this is radical and it is NOT what you have heard, but I invite you to check the scriptures for yourself and ask the Holy Spirit to show you. The Apostle John said, "but the anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him" (I John 2:27, RSV). I take that verse literally, and absolutely. When we are "born again," we have the Spirit of the living God dwelling within us and we do not need for a man or woman to tell us anything. So, don't take what I say as truth. Look it up for yourself.
The main reason I say that death is not the end of the story is because of this verse: "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water" (I Peter 3:18-20, RSV). What does this verse say? That after His death, and after He was made alive by the Holy Spirit, Jesus went to the realm of the dead and preached to the disobedient souls who were killed in the flood. Do you hear that good news? Everyone on earth except Noah and his family, eight souls in all, died in the flood, but death was not the end of the story for them because Jesus came to them and preached the Gospel to them. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul lets us in on what happened after that: "Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." (In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things)" (Eph. 4:8-10, RSV). God is not a respecter of persons (Eph. 6:9; I Pet. 1:17). That being the truth, I take great comfort in knowing that God provides a way for the disobedient to come home, even after death. Last week, I read Phil 2:10-11: "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:10,11, RSV). That is the first verse the Spirit opened my eyes to in showing me that all will confess Christ, sooner or later, in this life or the next. The text says every tongue in heaven and on earth and under the earth. Since all who confess Christ will be saved (Rom. 10:9-10), all will eventually be saved.
I personally believe the bible teaches that no one will burn in hell for all eternity. There are hundreds of scriptures which indicate this. I'm not trying to sell it to you, but God sent me here to tell you that He loves you unconditionally and that you do not need to fear death because of hell. You will be in heaven with him. That is incredibly good news. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, hidden in Him from before the foundation of the world. Many in the church world want to crucify you when you tell them this. Why? I suspect that it is because they have been brainwashed by the traditions of men, by religious doctrines.
Shall I tell you where the doctrine of hell came from? (See End Note "A") Egypt and Babylon. I've done a lot of research on this, read every scripture I can get my hands on, and prayed that God will open my eyes to the truth. The doctrine of hellfire and damnation, and a god who would send His children to endless punishment for not following the rules, I believe, is the main reason church attendance is at an all time low in this country. People cannot believe in a god who is so weak and powerless than He cannot figure out how to save His world. I get e-mail from many of these hurt and wounded folks every week. I told you before that sometimes it seems to me that people see God as a feeble old diety, sitting in some celestial rest home for aging gods, unable to save the creation that He took such pains to bring into existence, having only the power to throw them into hell. This is not the truth about our loving and all powerful heavenly Father who is "kind to the ungrateful and the selfish" (Luke 6:35, RSV).
Death has to do with our physical bodies, which the Apostle Paul calls our "tent." This next passage has a wonderful description of the transition awaiting all of us: "For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life" (II Cor. 5:1-4, RSV). This is the very good news I bring you this morning. Death is NOT to be feared. It is NOT the end; it is a passage, a graduation from the physical realm, the flesh, into the Spirit. When that happens, what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. In that wonderful day, when we behold our Father face to face, we can rejoice with Paul, "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Lo! 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. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?"" (I Cor. 15:49-55, RSV).
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Poem, "From death into life"
End Note "A": "Primrose Path to Gehenna"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
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