June 4, 2014

What happens when we die?

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil . . . (Psalm 23:4)

In our world, there are many euphemisms for death. People say someone has “passed away” or “gone to his rewards” or “left this earth” but rarely say of someone that they are dead. That word is too harsh, too final.

The Bible also uses a different term for the end of life here, but it is less of a euphemism and more of a change in vocabulary because Jesus changed the meaning of death . . .

And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59–60)

To my knowledge, after Jesus died and rose again, the Word of God never says of any Christian that they died, only that they have fallen asleep. This is because Jesus conquered death. It had no power to rob Him of His life and because of this amazing good news, those who believe in Jesus cannot die. We pass from this life to the next as if going through a shadow. In other words, Jesus destroyed the power of death . . .

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil. (Hebrews 2:14)

Our bodies die, that is, cease to function, but for those who are in Christ, we share the same life — the life of Christ that cannot die — and we will be raised again.

I’m always amazed at those who stumble over this and ask questions about the nature of a resurrected body. It is like a person who wins a new car and before he sees it, he is worried about the color. However, God is gracious and gives us some clues. He compares our life here to a seed that becomes something quite unlike the seed. He says also that each kind of living thing has a different kind of physical flesh, so also will the glory of a heavenly body be different from the glory of an earthly body.

Another description says it is the same “with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:35–44)
Paul likened the human body to a tent and to clothing . . .

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:1–8)

In this life, our bodies take a great priority. We want to be healthy, well fed, and look our best. Science works hard to create medicines to cure diseases and prolong life. We want the best food and drink. The cosmetic industry is huge. Even pagan tribes in remote places have beauty rituals and adornments.

I don’t know if I will wear jewelry in heaven, or have nicer hair, or have a stunning wardrobe. I have no idea what we will eat but I know there will be no more tears and sorrow. I also know that death is a mere passing from this body to a new one. The Lord makes it clear that focusing on my faith and being with the Lord is more important than concern over what my body will look like. 

Because of Jesus, I also know that whether people here say I am dead and gone or merely asleep, I will be more alive and awake than I ever was!

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