All Bible quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
A Reminder About Some of the Points in Lesson 3
God’s plan and purpose has been very clearly laid out in the Bible.
We read that God cannot stand injustice, and so he sent Jesus to live righteously and sinlessly, and die for our sins, and be raised to sit at the right hand of God.
Because of what Jesus did, we are able to be saved if we have faith in him, and believe his gospel message of eternal life through faith in Jesus.
In Daniel 2, written down hundreds of years before Christ, we look down on the earth from high above like a bird, and watch as powerful empires and kingdoms rise and fall, until nearly 3000 years later, Jesus himself is sent with authority and power to set up a beautiful, peaceful world-wide kingdom.
Jesus will judge everyone, giving to each what they deserve. Those who will not accept his rulership will fight him, until only those who accept Jesus will be left to live in peace, in the kingdom of God, under the protection of Jesus, King of Kings over the whole Earth.
A disaster is always headline news. Sudden and violent death arouses curiosity; but the subject of ‘death’ itself is not news nor does it generate much interest. Yet, in the time that it has taken you to read these few short sentences it is estimated that twenty-five to thirty people have died. That’s approximately 6,000 people an hour, 150,000 a day or 55 million a year [2011 figures]. One day you will be one of them! Instead of being involved in a disaster, which accounts for relatively few deaths, on one otherwise ordinary day your daily routine will just stop and the world will carry on without you. This is why a study of the subject of death is so important. It’s affects YOU!!.
Thoughts of death give rise to the questions, ‘Who am I?’, ‘What happens to me when I die?’, ‘How do I fit in with God’s purpose in creation?’ ’
Basically there are three possible attitudes to death:—
- Ignore it
- Death is just a doorway to another life
- Face its stark reality and look for a way of escape
Let us look more closely at these three attitudes—
1. Ignore Death
This is the attitude of a growing section of those who are inﬂuenced by Western culture. The goal is pleasure and money. This philosophy dominates Western society. The scientific approach to the problems of life only deals with those things which can be measured. Speculations such as ‘What happens after death?’ do not lend themselves to the scientific method and therefore they are largely ignored.
Many people, dazzled by the bewildering array of marvels which science has produced, dismiss all thoughts of death from their minds as much as possible.
2. Death is Just a Doorway to Another Life
This is the age-old view taken by the vast majority of the world’s religions. Death, it is said, is not the end of life but the gateway to eternity. The great variety of world religions and belief systems think that man has an ‘immortal soul’; that there is something living inside us which cannot die, but which at death is released from the body and lives on in another form.
But these ideas cannot be proved from experience nor from the religious books of the world which apart from the Bible (2 Timothy 3. 16) are only the speculations of human minds groping in the dark. Experiments in telepathy and extrasensory perception may prove that there is more to man than science has yet discovered but they do not prove that that ‘something’ lives on when the body dies. Man needs a reliable revelation from God, his Creator, on the subject of death.
The Bible is the only book which provides this. It demands that man must face reality, our third way of thinking about death —
3. Face the stark reality of death and look for a way of escape
Nowhere In The Bible Can Be Found The Idea
THAT MAN HAS AN IMMORTAL SOUL WHICH LIVES ON AFTER DEATH.
This may come as a shock to those belonging to the majority of Christian churches. But the Bible says,
‘For the living know that they will die: but the dead know nothing.‘ (Ecclesiastes 9. 5)
‘For in the grave where you are going there is neither working nor planting nor knowledge nor wisdom.’ (Ecclesiastes 9. 10)
This fact about death will not be very comforting to think about, but it should make us all realise the urgent need for a way of escape. That way of escape is the salvation that God has provided through his Son.
You Must Be Humble To Be Saved
God has declared,
‘These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.’ (Isaiah 66. 2)
The Apostle James wrote, ‘Humbly accept the word planted in you which can save you’ (James 1. 21)
People are naturally proud. The idea of having an immortal soul, that death doesn’t actually mean death, appeals to that pride. But if we want the truth, we need to put aside all previous beliefs, and to consider carefully what God has revealed in his Word about men and women. We will either find we were right all along, or that the truth is new to us. But being humble and starting from the beginning allows us to find it. We will be happy either way.
Where Did Death Come From
The Bible goes to the very root of this vital subject. It tells how, in the beginning of human existence, death came about. That the record of the ﬁrst human beings, Adam and Eve, is not a myth! Consider the importance of the facts recorded in the opening chapter of the Bible.
‘The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.’ (Genesis 2. 7)
Adam’s body was made from the elements which form the basis of all matter. These elements were shaped by the all-powerful Creator into the marvellous complexity of the human body, with all its delicate and interrelated organs. A bit like how a baby grows in the womb.
Adam’s body of dust was given life from God who ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’ - and what otherwise would have been a lifeless body ‘became a living being’.
Life is a mysterious, indefinable, but readily recognizable quality imparted to dead matter. There is no evidence to suggest that life can exist independently of the body. The Bible reveals and experience shows that ‘body’ and ‘life’ are interdependent and together constitute a ‘living soul’ or ‘creature’.
The word ‘soul’ is widely applied in the Bible both to man and to the animal creation. It is translated, ‘mind’, ‘beast’, ‘man’, ‘creature’, but is never connected in any way with the idea of immortality.
When a ship is sinking or a plane gets into trouble, an S.O.S. message is sent out to whoever might be able to help. This means Save Our Souls. Soul is used in the Bible in the same way to mean our life.
Man — A Creature To Give God Pleasure
Men and women have been created to delight God, to give him pleasure by their obedience to his commands.
‘Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commands, for this is the whole duty of man’. (Ecclesiastes 12.13)
‘The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love’
‘The LORD detests those whose hearts are perverse, but he delights in those whose ways are blameless.’ (Proverbs 11.20)
Unlike the animal creation man was given free will to obey or to disobey, so that he could exercise a certain degree of choice over his behaviour. We can appreciate how much more pleasure we can give God by using our free will to please God and not ourselves. It is a pleasure which, in a lesser way, parents gain from children who voluntarily obey and respect them.
To test man’s response to the use of his free will, God gave Adam and Eve one simple test. Adam was told:
‘And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’ (Genesis 2. 16,17)
They failed the test. This brought upon them the sentence of death, as God had warned them. Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent’s suggestion that they would be like gods, knowing good and evil, and the fruit looked good to eat. In this way their pride and desire overcame them. Humans are the same today. Note carefully the words of the serpent tempting Eve
‘Ye will not surely die.’ (Genesis 3. 4)
This was a lie, a denial of God’s word, this lie that “death isn’t real” has formed the basis of man-made religions ever since.
Adam and Eve were judged by God. The words of the punishment they were given are significant for they give us the basic definition of death.
‘For dust you are, and to dust you will return.’ (Genesis 3.19)
That is, when a person dies their body grows cold, and decomposes into the elements from which they were made, and they are no more.
‘Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal man who cannot save. When their spirit (breath) departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.’ (Psalm 146. 3,4)
Death is a punishment for disobedience. After God had pronounced this sentence, He set a guard to prevent man from eating of the tree of life,
‘He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ (Genesis 3. 22)
So God tells us plainly that we all die, that our life does not go on for ever.
‘Death came to all men because all sinned’(Romans 5.12)
Death is a punishment for sin.
There is a simple logic in this statement. SIN BRINGS DEATH. It is therefore very important to find out what ‘sin’ is, and if there is a way to escape eternal death.
Sin is the disbelief of God’s Word and disobedience to His will. It affects everyone.
‘All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.’ (Romans 3. 23)
Adam and Eve have passed on this fatal tendency to all their descendants. This ﬂaw in man constitutes ‘human nature’ or what the Bible calls ‘the ﬂesh’, or ‘the sinful nature’.
It can take many forms.
‘The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like’ (Galatians 5. 19-21)
These are the natural consequences of the way of life upon which Adam and Eve embarked six thousand years ago. Obstinate disregard for God’s way of love has brought the world to its present troubled state.
The Only Hope
In Lesson 2 some of God’s characteristics were examined. These contrast clearly with the characteristics of human behaviour we have just considered. This contrast is expressed by God in these words:
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ (Isaiah 55. 8,9)
It is clear then not only why man dies but why he must die. God is just and His justice cannot permit sinners to live forever. But two of God’s many attributes are His mercy and His forgiveness.
‘But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.‘ (Psalm 130. 4)
There is a vital need for God’s forgiveness, because man cannot stop sinning. ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.’
(1 John 1. 8)
The Bible describes in detail God‘s way — the only way to be set free from the vice-like grip of sin and death. The Way, in a phrase, is ’through faith’.
The faith which God requires is a very special quality. It is deﬁned as ‘being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.’ (Hebrews 11. 1)
Faith is not blind belief in the absurd. It is complete trust in God and the firm belief that He will really do what He has promised, even if its fulfilment appears to be an impossibility. Our faith then has to be demonstrated by obedience to God’s commands. Hebrews 11 describes many practical examples of faith. Foremost among these is the faith shown by Abraham.
‘He believed the LORD; and he credited it to him as righteousness.’ (Genesis 15. 6)
His faith was then shown by his obedience to God. Read Roman 4 and James 2. 17-26.
Thus faith and obedience can, in God’s mercy secure the forgiveness of our sins and as a consequence, death also can be overcome.
THIS IS THE ONLY HOPE MAN HAS OF ATTAINING IMMORTALITY.
Eternal life is a gift.
‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.‘ (Romans 6. 23)
The way in which this has been made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is dealt with in a later lesson. Eternal life is to be given at a future time when there will be a resurrection of the dead.
‘Multitudes who sleep (that is, who are dead) in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.’ (Daniel 12. 2)
Then those who are worthy of this precious gift will be changed into immortal beings. The resurrection of the dead may sound incredible but it is one of those things which God requires us to believe. We know that all things are possible with God.
The resurrection will occur when Jesus Christ returns to the earth.
‘For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command - and the dead in Christ will rise first.’ (1 Thessalonians 4. 16)
We remember in Lesson 3, how the statue of man’s power was hit in the feet of iron and clay, and destroyed by a stone “cut out of a mountain without hands”
The signs that Jesus is coming soon will be explained in Lesson 9 of this course.
We need to be ready for that day.
- Death is the end of life, not the gateway to eternity.
- Salvation begins with humility.
- Death is caused by sin.
- Sin is disbelief of God‘s Word and disobedience to His will.
- Man cannot stop sinning.
- Man can be forgiven by belief in God’s Word..
- Faith is belief of God’s Word and is shown by obedience to it.
- Eternal life is the gift of God, to be given to His faithful children.
- Eternal life will be given at the resurrection, when Jesus Christ returns to the earth; this is man’s only hope of living forever.
Passage For Bible Reading
Genesis 2 and 3
Psalms 49 and 146
Romans 5 and 6
1 Corinthians 15