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By : Lonnie Branam [ Sermon There is Life Beyond Death ]


1There is Life Beyond Death John 11:17-44


From 1969 till his death in 1982 Lee, the actor who played an adult character named Mr. Hooper on the children's television show SESAME STREET, died. This posed a difficult set of issues for The Children's Television Workshop, producers of the show. Should they deal at all with the subject of death? If so, how would they explain it to their 10 million viewers, most of whom are under the age of six? A staff writer describes it this way: "We asked ourselves: What do we want the kids to know? What can they absorb? What might open up things we can't answer?' We try to create boundaries around what we can safely teach without doing any damage."


Child-development experts who specialize in loss and separation provided some specific don'ts for dealing with death on the show: Don't say Mr. Hooper got sick and died, because you don't always die when you get sick. Don't say he was old, because children think their parents are old. Don't say he went to the hospital and died, because people go to the hospital all the time. The staff also decided to avoid religious issues, such as saying that Mr. Hooper had gone to heaven. What about the do's? Early on they decided they were going to say a few basic things. He's gone-acknowledge the reality. He won't be back. He'll be missed. They also wanted the cast to express how they felt about Will. And they wanted the kids to know that death stimulates a full range of emotions. You're sad, you're angry, you're frustrated-all at the same time.


The show that resulted aired on Thanksgiving so that parents could watch with their children. In one segment, Big Bird walks on camera and says to the cast, "I just drew pictures of all my grown-up friends on Sesame Street and I'm going to give them to you." He passes out sketches and the cast members ooh and ahh over the likenesses. He's left with Mr. Hooper's picture. "I can't wait till he sees it," says Big Bird. "Say, where is he? I want to give it to him." One cast member explains: "Big Bird, don't you remember? We told you . . .Mr. Hooper died. He's dead." Big Bird says, "Oh yeah, I remember. Well I'll give it to him when he comes back." Another cast member gets up from her chair and touches Big Bird saying, "Big Bird, Mr. Hooper's not coming back."


And that's true, Big Bird. They don't come back. Unless they happen to be a friend of Jesus." Now that little girl made a very important statement..That little girl apparently had studied the resurrection of Lazarus in Sunday School. It is very important to be a friend of Jesus, and that is one of things we learn in the message of today's lesson from John's Gospel? If we are friends of Jesus, we will come back to life and live forever in heaven.


LAZARUS WAS A FRIEND OF JESUS. Let's notice that, first of all. Lazarus had become gravely ill, and Martha and Mary sent servants to Jesus with this message, "Lord behold, he whom you love is sick " Lazarus was Jesus' friend. Is that important? Indeed it is. In the last book in the Bible, Jesus appeared to the apostle John in a vision and said, "I am the one who lives and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death"(Revelation 1:18). This was Christ speaking to John from heaven. The person who holds a set of keys has the power or authority to open or shut. Hades is a term that means the unseen world, the abode of departed spirits and souls. He also has the key to death. Death is the state of the body after the soul and spirit leave it. The Bible reveals that the human creatures God placed on the eartth have a body, a spirit and a soul. We read these words in First Thessalonians 5:23, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." The soul and spirit are used interchangeably in scripture. When one is mentioned both are always implied. This unique nature of man led Jesus to make the statement, "Do not fear them who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, but fear Him whois able destroy both soul and body in hell"(Matthew 10:28). It is a revealed truth that the soul continues to live after after we die. Jesus revealed that the soul has a natural immortality.


Let's talk for a minute about life beyond the grave and what we believe about the after-life. Please don' t expect me to give you any difficult answers about that unseen world. I cannot. Very little is said about the soul's existence in the after life. The Scriptures provide us with little concrete information about life beyond the grave.We don t know very much about the after-life. The Scriptures give us just a glimpse of things eternal. However Jesus revealed a wonderful truth about the after-life when


I would like to suggest there may be another interesting possiblity about life in paradise that would greatly add to the happiness of saved souls as they await the coming of Christ. I am of the considered opinion that the location called paradise has been in existence from the creation of the world. All people who passed away in a saved condition in the Patriarchal religion,, the Jewish religion, and the Christian religion are all in the same location. I have entertained the pleasant thought, could it be possible that we will know one another there, will we know the famous Bible characters we have studied in the Bible: Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all of the apostles of Christ. If it is so, we will be among the finest and most famous people who have ever lived on earth. Think about it. Paul gave some indication that we will know our fellow Christians in heaven. But Paradise is not heaven. It is the intermediate between death and the resurrection of our bodies at the last day.


Finally, there is comfort and hope that we may each one take from the raising of Lazarus and the words He spoke to Martha. When Jesus finally reached Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days. Martha was the first to meet Him and had a conversation with Him while Mary was still sitting at the house. She was so glad to see Him and said, "If you had been here, my brother would never have died, but even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." Jesus said, "Your brother will rise again." Sh e responded, "Of course I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." She knew a great truth that most people in the world today do not know and believe. All Jews, except the Sadducees, believed there was to be a universal resurrection of the dead at the last day. But that was not what Jesus meant when He said, "Your brother will rise again." He meant that He had come to specifically raise Lazarus from the dead. Are we not all like Martha in our misunderstanding of sone of the great sayings of Jesus? I fear we are almost as far off as Martha was from fully comprehending all His gracious teachings. We all need to have our intellects expanded to understand His wonderful teachings.


He corrected her misunderstanding by saying to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this? One thing He meant was the One who has the power and will raise all people from their graves is now standing here beside you Martha, and I have the power now to bring Lazarus back to life, if I so please and I so please. I don't have to wait till the last day to raise your brother from the dead. Martha really didn't understand all that about Him. That is what He meant by the words, "He who believes in me, though he die, he shall live," and that was about to happen to Lazarus. He did that for a few others during His earthly ministry. Furthermore, He said, "and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" Martha said that she believed Jesus was Lord and Christ, and Son of God that God sent into the world. When he said that those live and believe in Me in this life will never die, he meant they will live forever in glorified bodies.. But all who do not live and believe in Him in this life will die the second death mentioned in Revelation 2:11; 20:14. The second death applies only to the unbelieving unsaved world and the fallen angels. Neither Martha nor anyone else understands all that is involved in the second death.


 


 


 


 


 


 


He spoke these words to the penitent thief on the cross, "Assuredly I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise"(Luke 23:43). The word paradise means a garden or pleasure ground, a grove park. As Jess used it, it means that part of Hades, the unseen world, to which the soul goes at death and is the abode of souls of saved people until the general resurrection of the dead at Christ's coming. In Luke 16:21-26 Jesus indicated that people in Hades, the intermediate state between death and the resurrection, will be able to recall their experiences which they had on earth. In that passage he was discussing the life of an unsaved person in Hades. He also indicated that persons in Paradise will always be among people who are saved and comforted. We can conclude that the thief who Jesus said would be in paradise with Him that very day they died, was forgiven and saved on she cross. If you ask how Jesus could save a person like that who was never a disciple of Jesus and had never baptized, we should remember that the Jewish religion was still God's law and the Christian religion was not yet binding. While Jesus was living, He had the right to forgive and save people on any terms He saw fit, or without any terms at all. But after the church was set up by the apostles on the Day of Pentecost after Christ returned to heaven in 33 A.D., , there is no case recorded where anyone was ever saved except by faith, repentance and immersion in water(baptism). We therefore can conclude that all whose souls go to paradise are in a happy place, are comforted and joyfully awaiting their new glorious bodies that will be united with their souls and spirits, the bodies they will live in forever, life without end.


 


 


FROM TIME TO TIME. I have to say that to you, because so many of us have lived such protected lives that we have built up the notion in our own minds that nothing really bad can ever happen to us. And when it does, we are shocked, and we are in despair and some of us never recover. Earlier generations of people were not as fortunate as we, but they were better prepared to deal with life's heartaches because they were much more familiar with these heartaches.


I was reading that once it was a custom in Russian villages, at a time when many children did not survive infancy, to have a mourning hut at the outskirts of every town. All women who lost children were sent to live in that hut for a month of solitude and grief. At the end of the month, the hut was set on fire. The woman inside had to decide whether to live or die. If she came out of the burning hut, this indicated that she was prepared to live, and she then rebuilt the hut for the next mourner. (3)


Earlier generations of people knew for a fact that life was hard and sometimes cruel. So they prepared spiritually for the hard times they knew were coming. We, on the other hand, expect life to be relatively pain-free. So we are unprepared when we see our illusions shattered. That may be why we are so much more prone to depression than earlier generations-why we depend so much more on the deliverance of drugs. Just because you are a friend of Jesus does not mean that you will not get your heart broken. Ask Mary and Martha. Mary was angry with Jesus because he had not come to see about her brother sooner. And John tells us that even Jesus shed tears as he was confronted with the depth of his friends' pain.


One of the most troubling and one of the most troubled young women on today's scene bears the interesting name, Madonna. Our young people know much more about Madonna than I do. I don't believe any of our young people, though, would ever choose Madonna as a role model. It may help us to understand this somewhat pathetic young woman, however, if we know her past. For instance, in TRUTH OR DARE, a documentary about one of her concert tours, she is seen visiting the grave of her mother, who died when Madonna was only five years old.


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"My mother's death was just a big mystery to me when I was a child, and no one really explained it," Madonna said. "She was really religious, so I never understood why she was taken away from us. It just seemed so unfair. I never thought that she had done something wrong, so oftentimes I'd wonder what I'd done wrong." (4)


We can t help but speculate that Madonna s attitude toward religion might be a whole lot more wholesome today if someone had been there to offer her some guidance and answer some of her questions at that critical time in her life.


Cable TV magnate Ted Turner had the same kind of negative reaction toward religion when his sister died. The death of someone you love is a painful experience. Even if you are a friend of Jesus you can have your heart broken. But fortunately, that is not the end of the story. JESUS CALLED LAZARUS FROM THE TOMB AND GRANTED HIM THE GIFT OF NEW LIFE.


Here is where we want to focus our attention this day. Jesus is the giver of new life. Not only new life beyond the grave, but new life here and now.


For some of us new life may be the chance to start over with our lives. For others of us new life may mean new energy to deal with burdens we are already carrying. The main thing is that new life is available and it is a wonderful thing.


In Berlin in 1908, a twenty-one-year-old Polish pianist Arthur Rubinstein was lonely, hungry and in debt, his career at an impasse. He felt there was nothing left for him but suicide; the problem was finding a way. He had no gun, no poison, and the idea of jumping out of the window was revolting. ("I might have to go on living with broken arms and legs," he explained.) He chose strangulation with a belt from his robe. He went into the bathroom, stood on a chair, and secured one end of the belt to an overhead hook. Then he tied the other end around his neck and kicked over the chair. The worn-out belt immediately came apart, and Rubinstein fell on the floor with a crash. For a time he lay where he had fallen, weeping. Later, going to the piano, he cried himself out in music. Afterwards, on the street, he saw the world as if reborn. The famed pianist never forgot what the experience taught him; "Love life," he said later,


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"for better or for worse, without conditions." (5)


Is there any greater gift than the gift of having a second chance to live life anew? That was the gift that Jesus gave Lazarus. New life. As if to explain his action Jesus said, "I AM the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. . . ." That is the promise he has given us for the day. Jesus IS the resurrection and the life! It does not mean that we will not have our heart broken from time to time. But it does mean that if we are in Christ neither life nor death will ever defeat us, for the One who raised Lazarus from the dead will give us new life as well.


So, if you run into a big, yellow bird whom you recognize from the SESAME STREET television show, would you give him a message for me? Would you tell him that it is true that a person who is dead does not come back-unless he happens to be a friend of Jesus.


Robert H. Waterman, Jr., THE RENEWAL FACTOR, (New York: Bantam Books, 1987), pp. 100-101.


Contributed by Gerald Hill, Powderly, TX


Joe G. Emerson, I WANTED THE ELEVATOR, BUT I GOT THE SHAFT, (Nashville: Dimensions for Living, 1993).


"Desperately Seeking Something, " by Lee Strobel, ASPIRE, Dec. 94/Jan. 95, p. 53.


Contributed. Source unknown.


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"Why not?" Big Bird asks innocently.

"Big Bird," explains the cast member, "when people die, they don't come back."

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