Today I was given yet another reason to look forward to heaven. At 11:30 AM my mother called to tell me that my father passed away (picture to the right is my dad and our daughter).
Just four days earlier, I received a call in the evening to tell me that my pastor, mentor and friend (Dr. Richard Gregory) passed away.
Many years ago, Pastor Gregory led my dad to Christ. It was a result of what he always considered one of his worse sermons. He and my dad were the same age. I love the thought that they can now fellowship together in heaven with their Lord and Savior!
As the oldest son of eleven children (with seven boys), I was always amazed at my dad’s perseverance in providing for what many would consider three families. And he did this under great trial because in his mid thirties he was afflicted with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. His badly bent up hands will always be remembered because he often held them out to tell others of God’s grace in his life.
Not knowing that my Dad was soon to pass away, I did a message last week and will continue this week on his life verse – II Corinthians 12:9 – “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.'”
The Heidelberg catechism asks, “What is your only comfort in life and in death? Answer: “That I am not my own, but belong body and soul to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.”
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (I Corinthians 6:19-20).
Those who take the promises of Scripture seriously know that there is never a loss of personhood and consciousness with death — only the temporary death of a body.
Scripture specifically states that, “the body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). By spirit, it could refer to “breath” or in keeping with the way Scripture views humans, as the immaterial part of our being separating from the material — the departure of the inner person from the outer body.
When Jesus died, he cried out, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit” and breathed his last breath and died (Luke 23:46). His body was laid in a grave, when he was “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (I Peter 3:18).
The distinction between inner person and body:
Philippians 1:21-24 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”
II Corinthians 5:6-8 “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (with 4:16-18)
7 truths about death
- Death is a curse – Death, according to Christian teaching, is the result of a curse on humanity because of our rejection of the rule of our Creator. With vivid description, God declared that humans must “return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). This has been the experience of all people from the time it was announced.
- Death is a penalty for sin – “For the wages of sin is death….” (Romans 6:23)
- Death is an inheritance – “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
- Death is an enemy – Death is an enemy and a thief – not a welcomed friend. Death is a separator. It brings things to an end and removes loved ones from our presence. But gratefully, our Creator did not allow death to have the final word. Jeremiah the prophet animated death when he wrote: “Death has climbed through the windows and has entered our fortress; it has cut off the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares.” (Jer. 9:21). In a sense the apostle Paul also animated death when referring to is as: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15:26). Death is an enemy that stalks and threatens us.
- Death is agony – “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:24)
- Death is a spiritual and a physical reality – “As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to live …. We were dead in transgressions…” (Eph. 2:1-2, 5)
- Death occurs twice for unbelievers – “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 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; 21:8).
Should we expect to live after our earthly lives end?
The story of Jesus didn’t end with death because, “God raised him up putting an end to the agony of death since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:24). And because Jesus broke the power of death, those who trust him as their Savior rest confidently in his promise, “my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39-40).
Based on this promise, I expect to be resurrected one day. But when I say I expect to be resurrected, I am not merely saying I expect to live after the death of my physical body. Resurrection is more than life after death. Resurrection is life after life after death. Yes, you read that correctly. Resurrection is bodily life after life after death. It’s postmortem existence stage two. I expect to return to identifiable bodily existence just as Jesus returned (see: Philippians 3:20). I expect the same for my Dad and former pastor.
Six major points of biblical history support the importance of the body.
- Creation: God fashions the body from the dust of the earth
- Incarnation: God became man
- Resurrection (Christ’s and ours)
- Ascension: Jesus retained bodily existence at the Father’s right hand
- Salvation: The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit
- Glorification: Final redemption of the body (Romans 8 )
If we take Jesus Christ at his word, everyone who has lived should expect to be resurrected. Jesus said, “a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29).
7 Great truths about heaven
- Heaven is a place of unhindered fellowship with God.
- Heaven is a place where we always do what pleases God.
- Heaven is a place of unhindered fellowship with believers. No more conflicts!
- Heaven is eternal — no separation in heaven.
- Heaven is home to Jesus our Savior, the Holy Spirit our comforter and the Father of mercies.
- Heaven is beautiful beyond comparison: It’s architect and builder is God (see: Revelation 4:1-6).
- Heaven is a place of unimaginable joy! (see: Psalm 16:11; Luke 15:10)
Here I rest and here I flourish — in living and dying and anticipating a reunion with those who go before.
To God be the glory!