“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
~ Jesus ~
(John 11:25-26, NASB)
Video Lesson Transcript:
Welcome back to Video Lesson #12, the final lesson in the series: “My Walk With God.” I’m your host, Phil Stroud, and I want you to know that it has been my great privilege and joy to be able to share these lessons with you. To all of you who have communicated with me, and who have completed all the “lesson response forms,” I am happy that we have got to know one another a little better; and I’m grateful for our new friendship. Those of you who have completed all the “lesson response forms,” and who are ready to graduate from this class and move on, can expect to receive your official “Certificate of Completion” soon. If you are a Christian, if you have become a Christian during the course of this Bible study series, or if you are still contemplating becoming a Christian, I invite and encourage you to take the next course of study: Online Bible Study Series #2 — entitled, “Covenant Child – A Quest for Authentic Christianity in the Third Millennium. It’s a little different format, but rich in content, and I think you will really enjoy it.
As we bring this lesson series to a close, I want us to briefly touch upon one final Biblical concept: Our Divine Destiny. What will happen to us we die… when I die, when you die? And what does the future hold for planet earth, and for life on earth? The Bible is not silent on these matters. There are a few things that God wants us to know. Listen to this little story told by Jesus about life after death, and why it matters how we choose to live our lives here upon the earth:
“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
(Luke 16:19-31, NASB)
Some have said to me, “Phil, Phil… you can’t make to much of that passage because, well, it’s only a story.” Hummmmmmm… “ONLY a story?” Really? Let me ask you, can you point to any other story that Jesus ever told that was not true… that was not rooted in reality? Is there any other example, anywhere in scripture, of Jesus making things up, or sharing fictional fantasies? Are you equating Jesus with Esop, saying to me that, “Well, Jesus is just sharing mere fables or fantasies?” Need I point out to you that every other story Jesus ever told, every parable He ever shared, every example He ever gave, every illustration He ever used was rooted in reality and grounded in truth. Jesus was not some sort of fictional playwright. I think, based on all the historical evidence available to us, that we can determine that Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus is an accurate and descriptive picture of our human existence following physical death.
I learn from this that we will have a conscious existence; that we will inhabit some sort of a habitable body — even while our flesh and blood bodies disintegrate in the soil or turn to ash, or whatever. We will know pain, or pleasure. We recognize others. We will be able to communicate. We will remember and know why we are experiencing whatever it is we are experience in life after death.
However, it is also important to note that, according to further Bible teaching, what is going on with the rich man and Lazarus is not the end of the story. Jesus is not detailing the final scene, but is only describing a temporary state of being. For the scriptures go on to teach that there will be a final day of resurrection when our physical bodies will be brought back to life, reanimated, changed, and made new. At that moment, our resurrected bodies will also be reunited with our spirit. Jesus, Himself, went on to say:
“The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.”
(Luke 20:34-38, NASB)
The Apostle Paul weighs in heavily on this matter when he describes for the Corinthians, and for us as well, what is going to happen to us all at the very end of time. He says:
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body… Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will 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 will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
(I Corinthians 15:44,50-55, NASB)
Later, the Apostle Paul writes to the Christians living in the city of Thessalonica, tell them:
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 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 not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
(I Thessalonians 4:13-18, NASB)
Some have used this passage of scripture as proof of what the premillennialist refer to as, “the rapture.” They think that Christ is going to secretly return and whisk away all His faithful children on earth prior to what they think of as “the tribulation” and all the Christians are just going to vanish from the face of the earth as they are caught up to the Lord in the air. That whole series of books and movies, entitled “Left Behind,” was based on that premise. But, when I read this passage, especially in relation to all the rest of what the Bible has to say on the matter, I get the impression that this is not something that is going to happen in secret prior to some tribulation. People are not going to wake up some morning and find that all the Christians are missing, you know, with runaway eighteen wheelers careening down the highway out of control and airplanes falling out of the sky. No, but rather, what Paul describes here in 1st Thessalonians, the actual “rapture,” if you will, will occur right at the end of time, when our Lord Jesus returns, on that great resurrection day, the judgement day, the day of destruction and renewal. It’s all coming down all at once!
So, we see from scripture that, when we die physically and leave this old earth, we do continue to have a conscious existence in a temporary dimension; a place where we await the final, coming great day of the Lord. On THAT day, our bodies will get up from the grave, or from wherever they happen to be scattered, to be reunited with our spirit. And, at that time, those who belong to the Lord will be caught up to meet Him in the air.
But what we need to know is that that great final day will also be a day of destruction and renewal, a day of punishment and reward. Listen to more of what the Apostle Paul had to say to the Christians living in Thessalonica:
For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.
(2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, NASB)
Then, the Apostle Peter also weighs in on these matters as he encourages the Christians of his generation, and us as well, to remain faithful to the Lord no matter what, saying:
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
(2 Peter 3:3-13, NASB)
So, this earth, and everything in it will be destroyed. He even says that the “heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with an intense heat” and I wonder, hummmm… Is he talking about our solar system, as in the sun going supernova, or perhaps colliding with a dark star, or something like that? Or is he talking about more than that, perhaps all the visible stars in our region of the Milky Way, the ones we can see with the naked eye? Or is he talking about the whole galaxy, or maybe even the entire universe collapsing in upon itself. I don’t know — what’s about to happen. But it looks like something pretty big.
Finally, in closing, let’s turn our attention to last few pages of the very last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation, and consider these visions that the Lord shared with the Apostle John concerning our divine destiny. John writes:
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
(Revelation 20:11-15, NASB)
The resurrection day will culminate with the complete destruction of the world as we know it… but, just like the Apostle Peter mentioned, John also says that there will be “a New Heavens and a New Earth.” This will be followed by the great judgement. In our newly resurrected bodies, we must all appear before the judgement throne of Christ. There, final judgement will be pronounced and our destiny sealed for all eternity. Ah, I want my name written in that Lamb’s Book of Life, don’t you? I mean, I know I don’t deserve it; I know that, because of my own sin and rebellion, I don’t deserve to find my name written in that Book of Life. But, because I’ve put all my faith and hope in Him, by His grace, and only by HIs grace, I expect to find my name written there.
I don’t want to close our study together with this scene of judgement, so let’s read on, just a little bit further, and see what God has in store for us, His people. John says:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall be no longer any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true. And He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”
(Revelation 21:1-7, NASB)