Summary: we can face death with confidence and peace because of all the good things we have when we die in the Lord
Intro: In London, many years ago, there lived a man named Solomon Peas. Upon his death, by his request, his tombstone was inscribed with this rhyme:
Beneath these clods and beneath these trees,
Lies the body of Solomon Peas
This is not Peas; it is only his pod;
Peas has shelled out and gone home to God.
I appreciate Peas’ sense of humor, and the fact that he understood what it meant to “shell out and go home to God.” But, what exactly does that mean? One source of infinite wisdom is 9 yr old children:
Some 9 yr old children were asked what they thought of death and dying.
• Jim, “When you die, they bury you in the ground and your souls goes to heaven, but your body can’t go to heaven because it’s too crowded up there already.”
• Judy, “Only the good people go to heaven. The other people go where it’s hot all the time like in Florida.”
• John, “Maybe I’ll die someday, but I hope I don’t die on my birthday because it’s no fun to celebrate your birthday if you’re dead.”
• Marsha, “When you die, you don’t have to do homework in heaven, unless your teacher is there too.”
One thing is for sure – this whole death scene is different for someone who has faith in Jesus Christ. If we die in Jesus, we regard death differently than others. Paul told the Thessalonians we do not grieve as the rest who have no hope. That’s why, when the Lord speaks about death, we find Him using the word “sleep.”
John 11:11, 14
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."…So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead,
Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. "Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep."
Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.
"For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.
The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. (literally – “the bodies of many holy people who had fallen asleep were raised to life.”)
You see, when someone dies it’s not the end. Sure, this body “sleeps.” It ceases to function and even decomposes. But just like sleep isn’t a permanent condition, neither is our physical death.
So, when Peter talks about his own death II Pt 1:15, he calls it his “departure.” Paul talks about the time of his “departure” in II Tim 4. He uses a word that means “to weigh anchor.” Those are words that describe going on a trip, not going into permanent retirement.
Ill - A friend once asked former President John Quincy Adams, when he was 80, “Good morning. And how is John Quincy Adams today?” Adams said, “Thank you, John Quincy Adams himself is well, quite well, thank you. But the house in which he lives at present is becoming dilapidated. It is tottering on its foundations. Time and the seasons have nearly destroyed it. Its roof is pretty well worn out. Its walls are much shattered and it trembles with every wind. The old tenement is becoming almost uninhabitable and I think John Quincy Adams will have to move out of it soon. But he himself is quite well, quite well.”
What is the state of that “real self” after a person leaves this old tenement?
1. We remain conscious, able to reason, and able to communicate
When we die, we don’t go into some kind of mindless, unconscious, speechless state.
But about the resurrection of the dead--have you not read what God said to you, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."
When God spoke these words, Abraham had been dead 332 years, Isaac about 265, and Jacob 199. But God didn’t say “I was their God…” He uses the present tense to speak of the patriarchs, “I am the God…” and that was Jesus’ whole point. God regards these “dead” men as living. Their bodies were quite dead, but their spirits were not. We read about the fact that our bodies are going to be resurrected. But there is no resurrection of our spirits. That’s because they don’t die when our bodies die.
One passage of Scripture that gives us a glimpse of what happens after we die is in Luke 16, a story of 2 men and the scene after they are both dead. One is a rich man whose name isn’t given. The other is a poor man named Lazarus. Some read this story and say it’s a parable, just like the many other parables that Jesus told; that none of the specifics are meant to be taken literally. I’m not convinced that Jesus meant for none of it to be taken literally. For one thing, it’s the only story where He specifically names one of the characters. It also includes details of the heavenly realm. The most important thing is for us to get the most important thing – the main reason Jesus told the story.