“One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath” (Ecclesiastes 9:2).
There’s one event that happens to all living creatures that is inescapable.
That event is death.
There is one place where the dead go when they die. That place is the grave.
By one man (Adam) sin entered into the world and so death passed upon all mankind—for all have sinned (Rom. 5:12-19). The one event— death — that each must face, brings us back to the grave (ground/dust) where we originated from (Genesis 2:7, 3:19, Ps. 89:48, 1 Cor. 15:47-48). The Bible tells us that there is no consciousness or memory in the grave (Ps. 6:4-5, 88:11-12, 115:17, 146:4, Eccl. 9:5, 10). Death is likened to sleep (Deut. 31:16, 1 Kings 2:10, Job 14:12, Ps. 13:3, Dan. 12:2, 1 Cor. 15:6, 1 Thess. 4:13-14).
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19).
ONE RISEN SAVIOR
Thankfully we don’t have to be left in the dust. There is one hope of escaping the grave according to the Scriptures. It is through the One Who died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. This was witnessed and recorded by men— but the witness of God is greater (1 Cor. 15:3-4, 20-22, 47-49, Ps. 16:10, Isa. 53:5, 9-11, Jonah 1:17, Matt. 12:39-40, John 11:25-26, Rom. 6:23, 2 Cor. 5:21, Heb. 2:14-15, Acts 1:3, 1 John 5:9-10).
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” When God sent His Son into the world the first time, it was not to condemn or judge the world, but on a rescue mission to save it (John 3:17, 36). The believer may suffer death but their lives are ‘covered’ (as they are hid with Christ in God) where no man can threaten their spiritual blessings or inheritance. It’s a ‘sealed’ deal the moment one believes. After that it’s just a waiting game until Christ appears—then they’ll appear with Him in glory (Eph. 1:12-14, Col. 3:3-4, Phil. 3:20-21).
The unsaved sinner will find an eternal dwelling in the depths of the grave forever. This is how God will eradicate wickedness; the evil man will be consumed within sheol (the grave) and forgotten (not perpetuated in an eternal hell as so many have been misled to believe) (Job 24:19-20, Ps. 92:7-9, 145:20, Prov. 13:13, 24:20, 2 Thess. 1:7-9). The last enemy that will be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:26). The word ‘destroyed’ means to put down and be brought to nothing. This is consistent with the Hebrew words abad and shamad used in the Old Testament (Ps. 37:18-20, 37-38, 145:20) that denote death and destruction (not an eternity of being punished and burned). When a man or woman doesn’t have a savior who can redeem them from this death, then the condition is made permanent and the wages of sin are paid out eternally. In the New Testament, as the Messiah enters there is a consistent continuation of the Old Testament teaching—contrasting life and death. Jesus Christ comes into the world and offers life in His name. Those who reject this offer will receive the opposite of eternal life—death (John 3:14-16, 36, 14:6). One of God’s great purposes throughout the Bible is the removal of sin from mankind in order to achieve perfection in the world to come (Rev. 21:4, 22:3, 1 Cor. 15:25-28). The Bible’s doctrine of death and resurrection allows that God will thoroughly and effectively accomplish the removal of sin from His creation. The penalty has been paid completely and in full by the Lord Christ Jesus.
I grew up (like many others) believing that when someone dies, they go immediately into the presence of God. This idea (though it may be comforting) is not biblically true. In the Bible the words “immortal” and “soul” are never put together to describe mankind. The word ‘soul’ (nephesh in Hebrew and Psuche in Greek) are always associated as being mortal. Man does not possess a soul—he is a soul, a living ’being’ (one might say ’soulical’). God alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:14-16). The apostle Paul explains the differences between ‘soulical’ or natural body and the spiritual one in 1 Corinthians 15,“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. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being (soul).” The last Adam became a life-giving (quickening) spirit” (1 Cor. 15:42-49).
Some misinterpret what Jesus said to the thief who hung on the cross beside Him in Luke 23:43:” And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto you, today shall you be with me in paradise.” You will note that the comma is after ‘you’. The correct reading is to have the comma after the word ‘today’. The reason for the confusion is due to the Greek manuscripts not having punctuation of any kind until the 9th century (and then only a dot, in the middle of the line separating each word). The comma was placed incorrectly. By going back to the original Hebrew writings it is found that a common Hebrew idiom, “I say unto this day,” which was used in a consistent manner that indicated a very solemn emphasis (occurring 42 times in Deuteronomy alone). So the true meaning was ‘this day’ or ‘today’, the moment or time that Jesus told the thief (because of the great faith he expressed in Messiah’s coming Kingdom) that he would be with Him in the future paradise of Revelation 22.
“Absent from the body” from 2 Corinthians 5:8 is another Scripture verse that’s often misinterpreted because it’s taken out of context. The apostle Paul was not making an assertion, but expressing a choice between two alternatives, saying “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” The ‘tent’ (or earthly house) in which we currently reside in will one day be dissolved or taken down. The wonderful alternative is not some ‘unclothed’ condition, but a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:5-8). Only in the resurrected body can a believer be at home with the Lord. No one can live eternally without his/her resurrection body. This happens, not when the believer dies, but when the corruptible puts on incorruption, and the mortal puts on immortality. So when this corruption has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then (and only then) “mortality might be swallowed up of this life” and “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:42-44, 51-55, 1 Tim. 6:14-16, Phil. 3:20-21). The believer shall pass from death to life with no awareness of the intervening years—sleeping in Christ and then awakening in glory.
ONE LIVING GOD TO PRAISE FOREVER
What a beautiful thing that God has allowed us to partake of. For those who choose the eternal life found in Christ alone, they can anxiously await saying, “O Death, where is your sting? O Grave, where is your victory?” They will be satisfied when they awake in His likeness (1 Cor. 15:53-55, Ps. 17:15, 1 John 3:2).
Alleluia! Praise God! Thanks be to Him for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)
Note: I’d encourage anyone who is interested in exploring these topics further (in more depth biblically), the book “Asleep in Christ” by Helaine Burch. The author not only includes an index of Hebrew and Greek words from the Bible on this subject, but she tackles problematic passages from Scripture that have been misinterpreted and improperly taken out of context. (2 Timothy 2:15, Acts 17:11)
“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. For man also does not know his time: … Like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.” Ecclesiastes 9:11-12
Isn’t it funny how much of what goes on in the world is beyond our understanding and yet we think we can steer and control it? I’m learning that doing so is a great waste of time. There’s so much going on ‘behind the scenes’ in the spiritual realm that would blow our minds if we were privy to it all. God’s only allowed us small glimpses of it. See Job 1:6-12, 2 Kings 6:16-17, Dan. 9:21, 10:11-13, 20-21, Eph. 6:12, Jude 9, and Rev. 12:7.
THE ONE EVENT
It’s part of human nature to be fixated on self. Ironically, it doesn’t matter how rich, famous, beautiful, fit, skilled, talented, or wise one is, the one event that happens to everyone (regardless of status) is DEATH (Eccl. 9:11-12). Man, like a bird caught in a snare, does not know when death will suddenly fall upon him (Eccl. 9:11-12). All the tiresome toils and passing pleasures of this life can be traced back to the nature and fall of man. One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the consequences of it were life changing as man and woman no longer had access to the Tree of Life. Now bound in time—life subject to limitations—it advances toward the one event that brings them back to the dust that they came from (Gen. 2:7, 17, 3:19, Eccl. 12:7, 1 Cor. 15:47, Ps. 103:14).
GOD’S TIME IS NOT OUR TIME
All’s not fair in this life. Often the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. The question, “Why would a loving God permit evil and suffering in the world?” is a common one. God’s allowed men and women to have freewill, giving each to choose to follow what’s good or what’s evil. God’s already provided a remedy for sin and His mercy and longsuffering are beyond human comprehension (John 3:16, Rom. 5:8, Ps. 86:15, 2 Pet. 3:9). To us mere mortals, ensnared in a fallen world, it may seem like an eternity, but God’s timing is always perfect. His work goes beyond the scope and sphere of our work and His purpose dates back before time began, and continues on after it’s ended. We’re unable to ‘find out the work that God does from the beginning to the end’ (Eccl. 3:11, Rom. 11:33-36, Acts 1:7, Ps. 115:3, Isa. 40:28). So why do we think we can?
The endless cycle of human experience described in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is a faint echo of the mighty purpose of the ages. Whatever God does, it will be forever. Not a thing can be added to it or taken from it (Eccl. 3:14). God works in the way He does ‘that men should fear before Him’ (Eccl. 3:14). This fear of the Lord (reverence) is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). It’s only the “beginning” as Job discovered (Job 42:5-6, James 5:11). King Solomon found that the conclusion of all his searching and testing was to “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Eccl. 12:13).
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MEN NO LONGER FEAR GOD?
When men no longer fear God they sin without hesitation. The fear of consequences isn’t a deterrent when the fear (reverence) of God is gone. Proverbs 19:21 says, “There are many devices (schemes) in a man’s heart, yet the counsel of the Lord shall stand.” Yet throughout the ages man has turned to the creature and not the Creator to seek counsel apart from God using everything from fortune tellers with crystal balls to tarot cards and horoscopes. Even turning to witches, enchanters, wizards—those who use spells, divination or consult with familiar (evil) spirits to seek the dead. These are of no real help and an abomination to the Lord (Rom. 1:25, Ps. 115:4-8, 146:3-4, Deut. 18:10-12, Lev. 19:26-31, 1 Tim. 4:1-3, 2 Tim. 4:3-4, Titus 1:10-16). This in the end led to King Saul’s demise (1 Chron. 10:13-14).
OBEDIENCE LEARNED THROUGH SUFFERING
Jesus’ death and resurrection has given the believer a hope and a purpose to wait patiently and endure this present evil age. If the dead won’t rise then the “Let’s eat, drink for tomorrow we die” mentality would suffice. But that’s not the case. The counsel of the Lord will stand and all works will be brought into judgement (Eccl. 12:14, Ps. 37:1-2, Heb. 10:23). Sin came through disobedience while righteousness comes through obedience (Rom. 5:12, 19). “Though He were a son, yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8, 12:2, 1 Pet. 2:21-24). Obedience is the cadence in which a believer must learn to walk in. One can’t bypass suffering in the chain of events that lead to hope (Rom. 5:3-4). Being conformed to Christ’s likeness happens as the believer has faith through trying times, while keeping their eye on the prize (Rom. 8:29, Phil. 3:14, 20-21, 2 Tim. 4:7-8, 2: Cor. 4:8-10, 16-18). Though we may not understand it, God disciplines because He desires for us to be partakers of His holiness. It’s not always pleasant going through it but afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:5-11, Gal. 6:8-9, 2 Tim. 2:11, 2 Cor. 4:17-18).
FAITH IS MEASURED IN STEPS
Our finite minds can only see in part. It’s not for the created to question the Creator. God justifies man/woman when they come to Christ and receive Him as Savior, knowing that it’s not based on any merit of their own. The believer becomes a new creation and learns to live and walk by faith, not by sight (Eph. 2:8-10, 2 Cor. 5:17, 7, Gal. 2:20). Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” God sees the whole staircase. He knows where it’s going. We need to trust and obey His direction and will in our lives. Even when we trip and fall, we need to get up and take the next step in faith, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began (Titus 1:2).
May the poem, “The Weaver”, by holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom, inspire you to see with eyes of faith:
“My life is but a weaving
between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaves steadily.
Oft’ times He weaves sorrow;
and I in foolish pride
forget He sees the upper
and I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
and the shuttles cease to fly
will God unroll the canvas
and reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
in the weaver’s skillful hand
as the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
who leave the choice to Him.”
•Even though He had connections He didn’t use them to gain special advantage or privilege to become socially mobile or to impress the ruling class, but chose to make Himself of no reputation (Phil. 2:5-7).
•His first bed was a manger and His earthly family ordinary (Luke 2:12, Matt. 13:54-57).
•His own people did not receive Him (John 1:10-11, 5:43).
•His ministry was heralded in by a scruff, wild man who wore animal skins. (Mark 1:6, John 1:29-34).
•His disciples weren’t gathered from the most prestigious schools or curated from those who had the best resumes, but from the shores of Galilee, where there were fishermen (Matt. 4:18-22).
•He was basically homeless as He traveled about (Matt. 8:20).
•He didn’t allow polls, ’fake news’, ‘what was trending’, or man’s opinions to affect the mission He was set out to accomplish. He didn’t give in to false praise, worldly temptations and taunting snares meant to entrap Him (John 2:24-25, 9:16, 10:20, Luke 4:1-12, 23, 11:53-54, 16:15).
•He made his triumphant entry, not on a noble steed, but on a donkey—a mark of lowliness (John 12:13-15, Matt. 21:1-22—prophesied in Zech. 9:9).
•He was likened as a worm and not a man; a reproach of men, and despised of the People (Psalm 22:6).
I guess one could say that Jesus Christ was a PR nightmare.
The only begotten Son of God humbled Himself, having no set agenda of His own, but obeyed only what His heavenly Father told Him to say and do, even to the point of death on a cross (John 5:30, 6:38-40, 8:28-29, 12:49, 14:10, 24, 17:8, 14, 19:30, Phil. 2:8). Some have said of Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ” that it was excessive and went ‘over the top’—exaggerating Christ’s humiliation. The Scriptures say otherwise:
•“…His visage was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men…” (Isaiah 52:14)
Prophesied of the Messiah in Isaiah 53:
• (vs 3) Despised and rejected by men…a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief
• (vs 5) Wounded for our transgressions—bruised for our iniquities—chastised for our peace
Matthew records its fulfillment, showing Christ was: seized (26:57), falsely accused (26:59-60), spit on, cuffed, slapped (vs 26:67), scourged, surrounded by a cohort of 600 men, while He was stripped & redressed in a scarlet robe with a crown of thorns on His head and a reed placed in His right hand while they ’bowed before’ and mocked Him, spit on and then beat Him on the head with the reed. After they were done mocking Him, they took off the robe & put His other clothes back on and led Him away to be crucified (27:26-35).
While all this was going on He said nothing (as prophesied in Isaiah 53):
• (v 7) Oppressed and afflicted (yet He opened not His mouth)——Led as a lamb to the slaughter —Christ the Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 4:7, John 1:29, 1 Pet. 1:18-19, Rev. 5:9). His innocence was affirmed by 6 witnesses: (1) Judas (Matt. 27:4), (2) Pilate (Matt. 27:24), (3) Pilate’s wife (Matt. 27:19), (4) Herod (Luke 23:15), (5) the malefactor (Luke 23:41), (6) the Roman centurion (Luke 23:47).
The true, pure, unblemished Lamb of God remained silent and submitted to the Father’s will and ultimate purpose (Phil. 2:8). This all was part of God’s greater plan. It was necessary, not only that the Scriptures be fulfilled (John 19:28, Luke 24:6-7, 44, Matt. 26:53, 56), but of the long standing prophecy that God made in the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve disobeyed His Word, which allowed sin and death to enter the world (Gen. 3, Rom. 3:23, 5:12, 6:23). The 1st promise and prophecy of Genesis 3:15 foretold the temporary suffering of the Seed (Christ) and the complete destruction of Satan and his works (Heb. 2:14, 1 John 3:8). Until the promised Seed came and accomplished God’s will on the cross, the only way mankind could have peace with God was through the substitutionary sacrifice of a male, unblemished lamb who took their place to make atonement for their sins—for the life of flesh is in the blood (Lev. 17:11, Heb. 9:22, 26, 1 John 3:5, 1 Peter 2:22-23, 2 Cor. 5:21, Rom. 3:24-25, 5:1, Eph. 2:13).
Re: Jesus’ burial, His enemies went to the governor, Pilate to make sure the tomb was sealed tightly and guarded so that Jesus’ disciples wouldn’t come in and steal His body and claim that He’d risen from the dead as Jesus proclaimed earlier in His ministry (John 2:19-22, Matt. 27:62-66, Luke 9:22).
The stone was rolled away and Christ Jesus had risen, just as He’d foretold His disciples and it wasn’t by any trickery, but by the omnipotent power of God. Only God’s almighty power could be worked in Christ to raise Him from the dead and then seat Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come (Matt. 16:21, 17:22-23, John 2:19-22, Eph. 1:20-21).
The bedrock of the Christian faith (and what sets it apart from other religions) is tied up with Christ Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. And there were many that were witnesses to it (1 Cor. 15:3-8). As Paul preached to the Corinthians in his first letter to them, ”And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive (1 Cor. 15:17-22).
Jesus was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, but now crowned with glory and honor so that He, by the grace of God, would taste death for everyone. “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:9-10).
Philippians 2:9-11 says this, “…God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-19).
God loves us so much that even when we were dead in trespasses, He made us alive together with Christ Jesus, and raised us up to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in ages to come He might display the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. We are saved by grace through faith. There is nothing that we can do to earn it on our own—it is the gift of God. It’s not related to our works so that no one can boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:4-10).
“O Death, where is your sting?”
“O Grave, where is your victory?”
…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:55-58).
“For our citizenship is in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)