WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOUR DEATH
Phil, 1:21—24 says, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what J shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which Is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh Is more needful for you.” Paul tells us he was in a strait between two desires, One desire was to live and the other to die, A man was driving in the mountains and came to the mouth of a narrow gorge. When he enquired of the operator of a gas station about the road, he replied, “You can get through without too much difficulty, but you can̓t get back if you change your mind. There is no place to turn around.” Paul said that he was In a strait, and this word means a narrow passage between rocks much like a narrow gorge through the mountains. Paul was walking a narrow trail between two conflicting desires, and he knew that he was not coming back. One cannot reverse time; the fountain of youth exists only in the imagination. I want to talk to you about some tings you ought to know about your death.
The first thing you should know about your death is that it a departure. I would like for us think on a particular desire which Paul had and which Is recorded in verse 21, “having a desire to depart and be with Christ.” Row brief the distance between life and deathi Today we see our friends in health; tomorrow we hear of their decease. It is the pronouncement of the Christian religion that death is a gain to the Christian. What a thought—provoking statemenu We have learned full well by experience that we are here only for a season, and a short season at that. Not knowing what the future may hold for us, well does It become each one of us, who wear the name Christian, to be questioning ourselves as to the view we take of the world to come, We are speeding on through our brief life like a bullet shot from a gun; we are being propelled onward by a force which is too mighty to be restrained even by death. That force is God himself. In 2 Cor, 5:5 Paul says of our immortal existence In the world to come, “Now he who has prepared us for this very thing is God." Paul was thinking about this very subject arid was questioning himself about death. He finally reached a decision and said it was his desire to depart and be with Christ. What is your attitude toward the future state? I wonder how many of us have attained to the position of the apostle Paul when he could say he had a desire to depart and be with Christ? I think that our view of our own death is one of the best means of judging our own spiritual condition. As we study Paul's feelings in prospect of departure, I hope it will have the effect of leading each one of us to self—examination. The first thing I would have you note from the text is that death is a departure. In depicting death as a departure to be with Christ, we must under stand that he is describing the death of a faithful Christian and not one who is not a Christian. Furthermore, you will notice that he does not call the Christian's death a plunge into the dark. According to the philosophy of humanism that does not recognize the existence of God or a future life, death indeed might be called a plunge into the darkness, To those who are not Christians, death is truly a plunge into the unklnown. but not so for the Christian; it is simply a departure.
According to Thayer's Greek lexicon, the Greek word translated “depart” means to unloose and was used to describe a ship being loosed from it mooring Just before it sets sail. Ships are held in place to the shore by ropes, cables or chains, and before a ship can set sail the cables must be unloosed, Paul described death metaphorically by comparing it to a ship, unloosing from shore and departing on a Journey. Let me describe what 1 think the apostle meant by the figure of a departure. The death of many Christians is preceded by a long season of sickness, and I think we might picture their death by the departure of a ship from its moorings. Many people have emigrated from Europe to America, and their experience must have been something like this, Relatives would go to the port where their loved ones were to set sail, and there lay the ship in its haven, The mother gives her son the last kiss; his friends have shaken his hand for the last time and relatives give him the last embrace, Then the signal is given; the anchor is taken up and the rope which held the ship to the shore is loosed, and slowly the ship begins to move toward the open sea. Friends and relatives wave as the ship departs, but before long he is out of sight. He is gone; it is his departure. Weep as they may, they cannot bring him back again. Now even so is the death of many a Christian. His ship is quietly moored in its haven. He is calmly lying upon his sick bed in a hospital or at home. The time of his departure is at hand; he knows it, and we know it. It is just a matter of time, and a little time at that. He bids us farewell and tells us that he is going to a better land. He bids us a last farewell. Shortly the soul leaves the body, and the body falls asleep until the day of the resurrection. The Bible says that the body without the spirit is dead, but it says nothing about the soul being dead. When Paul said he had a desire to depart, he was speaking of his soul. His body remained here and returned to the ground, but his soul went to be with Christ. Whether a Christian depar Is after a long illness or suddenly arid unexpectedly by accident or disease, we should not weep as those who have no hope. In spite of our shock and sorrow, there is something pleasant in the picture. It is but a departure; they are not destroyed or annihilated. It is but a departure from one place to another. They still live, and they are still happy, if they died in Christ. We .
The second thing you should know about death is that it is an arrival. as well as a departure. Paul said it was his desire to depart; yes, but where? Where did he desire to go? Listen to the text again, “Having a desire to depart and be with Christ.” He wanted to leave this world and go to the world where Christ was. Just observe how quickly these scenes follow each other. The sail is spread and the soul is launched upon the deep. No sooner has the soul departed than it is with Christ. I firmly believe that the moment faithful Christians they are with Christ. The instant we close our eyes on earth, we will find ourselves in another world. We see of the departure of the Christian when he closes his eyes. But there is an invisible part of death; in death we go to be with Christ. When Lazarus died Luke 16:22 says that the angels carried him to Abraham̓s bosom. I don't know if that is the way our departure takes place or not, but it says just as soon as he died Lazara~ went to sonic place of happiness and joy.
Our text is considered a difficult passage because Paul revealed that immediately following our death we shall be with Christ. One controversy has to do with the intermediate state. By intermediate state, I mean the state of existence which the Christian enters immediately after death, that period of time between death and the resurrection. Some religious people maintain that there is no conscious existence between death and the resurrection. They even deny that we have an immortal soul; it is simply physical breath or life, Hence, at the moment of death, annihilation takes place, and there is no longer any conscious existence. When we awake at the resurrection, then and only then will immortality begin. With all respect to those who espouse this view, it must be stated that this belief is contradicted by the clear teachings of the scripture. Time does not allow me to discuss the subject fully, but our text clearly contradicts this idea. Paul distinctly affirms that there is a gain in death for the faithful Christian, and the gain is in the fact that when the Christian dies he is with Christ. However if the soul—sleeping, annihilation doctrine be correct, what gain would there be in death? If we are annihilated when we die, we literally become nothing. The only possible gain in annihilation would be relief from intense physical sufferings of body and mind because of illness or persecution. However, this was not a consideration in Paul's desire to die, In fact, his desire to live was almost as great as his desire to die, because he was needed so greatly by his fellow Christians. There was absolutely no reason for Paul to want to die, if annihilation is all he had to look forward to According to the soul—sleeping doctrine, Paul would be saying, “It is better to die and be rwthint until Christ calls me out of the grave at the resurrection.
When Paul said he wished to depart and be with Christ, the resurrection was not before his mind at all. His desire was not to die and be annihilated till the resurrection and then be with Christ. He was in a quandary whether he wanted to live or die. On the side of living was his value to the churches; they really needed him for a few more years. But he said it was such a gain to die, he could not resist the desire to depart and be with Christ. If death is nothing but annihilation and unconsciousness, Paul would have had no problem whatsoever in settling the matter of life or death. He would have chosen to live and help the churches, since there was nothing to gain by annihilation. According to the soul—sleepers, Paul did not know what he was talking about. He died over 1900 years ago, and if they are correct he is not with Christ yet. Soul—sleeping advocates have a lot of trouble explaining this passage on the gaom pf death
and other clear passages in the New Testament.
Another controversy regarding this text has to do with the question, “Just where does the soul go at death? Where does the soul spend the time betwen death and the resurrection?” Preachers and Bible scholars disagree on this interesting question. Some think that the soul of the faithful Christian, at the moment of death, goes directly into heaven in the pretence of God and Christ. This theory is based on such passages as our text which speaks of the Christian being with Christ immediately after death. In addition, 2 Cor. 5:6 declares, awhile we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.” He goes on to say that he would rather be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Hence, these passages lead some to conclude that at death the faithful Christian enters into the heaven of heavens, into the very presence of Christ and God,
Other better informed students of the scripture maintain that this conclusion conflicts with the plain teaching that we will not go to heaven until after the general resurrection of the dead and the final judgment. Furthermore the New Testament quite clearly speaks of an intermediate state of existence between death and the resurrection, and the place of this existence is called hades. The Greek word hades means “Unseen,” At death the soul enters the unseen world. In Luke 16:19 Jesus told the story of two men who died. One died in a lost condition and the other died in a saved condition. Of the lost man it is said, “And being in torments in Hades”(Lk. 16:23). Of the saved man it is said, “He was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom” (Llc. 16:22). Immediately after death, one man was happy and the other unhappy. However, the lost man was not in the place of final punishment for the wicked, and the saved man was not in the final abode of the saved. While separated from their bodies, their souls were in the intermediate state, and both were very conscious.
When Jesus died the apostle Peter informs us that his soul went to hades for three days. On the third day Jesus was raised from the dead and there was a reuniting of his soul and body (Acts 2:27). Furthermore, Jesus said to the penitent thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Ut. 23:43). The soul of the penitent thief did not go the final resting place of the saved in heaven, but a, region in hades called paradise. J incline toward the view that at death the souls of human beings go Into a region of the unseen world called hades, This region consists of two different provinces separated from each other by a wide interval. The souls of the lost go to one region and the saved to another. While in these regions they are in the intermediate state, that is intermediate between death and the resurrection. There they will remain until the the general resurrection of the dead. This will be followed by the final judgment, after which the saved will enter into heaven, their abode forever. At that same time the lost will enter their place of eternal punishment. Which of these views is correct each one of us will know a few minutes after we die.
Be that as It may, there is one thing we can all agree on. At the moment of death, the soul of the faithful Christian will be with Christ. Whether the exact location will be in heaven itself where God is or whether the location will be in a heavenly region of hades called paradise, one thing is certain. We will be with Christ, and that is all that really matters. And if you ask rite how 1 can be so certain and speak with such authority, I answer, Becaise God said so.” In Rev. 14:13 the Bible says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.” This verse provides exciting information about Christians who die in the Lord, It informs us that when a faithful Christian dies, he is happy from the moment of death onward. However, in order to die in Christ, we must be in Christ at the moment of death That means we must be faithful Christians. The only way to be a faithful Christian in death is to be a faithful Christian in life. Paul said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” The meaning is, “If I am permitted to live, I will live for Christ and serve him, and if I die I will be better off for I shall be with him.”
How does a person get into Christ? Gal. 3:26, 27 says, “You are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” If we are baptized into Christ, how say some that baptism is not necessary? Unbaptized people are not in Christ. Faith without baptism will not put one in Christ, neither will baptism without faith. Scripture declares that believing and penitent sinners get into Christ and his favor by baptism. And this being so, it necessarily follows you cannot get into Christ there by your television set. A simple act of faith or repeating what is called a sinner's prayer will not put you in Christ. You must obey this command of Jesus, “He who believes and Is baptized shall be saved, and he who does not believe shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15,16)