Summary: Questions about life and death
Having just returned from 6 days of vacation that included three different hotels (and rides on 6 different roller coasters in two different amusement parks) I can relate to Stephan Brown’s comments about packing and unpacking while on vacation. He says, “some people when they go on vacation, they get to the hotel room and they unpack everything. They take it all out of the suitcase and put it into those bureaus. I think I did that once when I was staying in the same place for three weeks.
But if I’m only going to be around for a week or a few days, I don’t even bother to unpack. I just leave everything in the suitcase and when I need it, I just take it out. I couldn’t be bothered to get everything settled, because I know that very soon, I’m going to have to pack it all up again.”
But I also agree with what he says next because it relates to our sermon topic of this morning. Notes Brown, “we must have this sort of way of thinking when it comes to life. Now we may be here 80 or 100 years, but compared with eternity, that’s just a weekend trip. If we spend our time focused on this life and this world, then we have wasted our life.
Sometimes we spend our energy trying to build a comfortable or successful life here. Sometimes, it seems that we can so easily forget that we’re just passing through that we not only unpack our suitcase, but we try to decorate the hotel room too. We want to paint the walls, put in a new carpet, refinish the furniture, and hang a few pictures on the wall. Who cares?! Life is too short. We’re just staying for a short trip. No time to unpack.”
We are spending the summer responding to questions people have of God. We have responded to questions about children and their well-being and to questions about how to love our enemy. This morning we focus on some questions that Brown, and more importantly the Bible, answer in regard to the beginnings and endings of life.
Here are some questions about life and death and even the afterlife that were shared with me in response to the question, “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?”
“I was very close to my father, who was a Christian...he passed away about 8 years ago...I would ask God, Can I be assured that I will see my loved ones again in heaven?”
“How is it going to end?’ “Am I going to have a happy memory of life during my last moments, and is my death going to be gruesome or peaceful or painful, and is anybody going to care and if so who is and who isn’t, and will it matter to me when I hear when/which people didn’t care?”
When will you come down to earth so I can meet you in person?
How will people who are as a whole accustomed to everything having a beginning and an end going to cope with the idea of living forever in the next life?
How did God come to be? Are people married in heaven? Are there pets in heaven?
Interesting questions aren’t they?
Does the Bible have any answers for these questions? Yes, there are quite a few answers. In fact, there are so many passages that address these questions that I had trouble knowing where to begin. So, we will take one question at a time and go from there.
“I would ask God, Can I be assured that I will see my loved ones again in heaven?”
The Bible has two seemingly contradictory answers to this question and the question of “Are people married in heaven?” In Romans 8:16 we read, “For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.”
This is an important text with regard to the issue of our assurance of our salvation and the eternal life with God in heaven this salvation offers. We also read in Hebrews 6:18, “So God has given us both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can take new courage, for we can hold on to his promise with confidence.” In other words, through the internal witness of the Holy Spirit with our spirit and through the truth of God because of His character that is Truth, we can have the assurance that our salvation “sticks” because God wants us to be sure of our salvation.
Yet on the other hand the Bible indicates that there is no marriage in heaven. In fact this question is a very old one and is some what asked by the Sadducees who, as Matthew states in chapter 22 of his gospel account, did not believe in the resurrection after death but they come to Jesus with a question about who will be the husband of a wife after the resurrection who had been married seven times (all to the men in the same family and all of whom who had died).