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CELEBRATION
Discerning the Subject of Death

by
 
Bettye A. Fugger, PhD


Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life."         (John 5:24)


Throughout the centuries in every culture around the globe the subject of DEATH has always been shrouded in mystery and surrounded by fear. The fear that this fragile body will molder away in a desolate grave for eternity wars with the idea that it may be possible for it to spend eternity in a fiery abyss or a golden bejeweled city. The first idea of nothingness after death was perfectly expressed by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9: 2-6. Solomon came to understand the feelings of futility that consume a man without hope, a man without a savior. "Everything before them is vanity, since one fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good man, so is the sinner; and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that one fate comes to all; also the hearts of men are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and they have no more for ever any share in all that is done under the sun."

The enemy of our soul, Satan, has used this feeling of futility and the threat of physical death to hold men in bondage since the fall of Adam. And men without a savior or the hope of a savior are spurred to amass possessions and seek unbridled pleasure in this life when they have no hope beyond today and know no power beyond themselves. When there is no hope for tomorrow, everything must be now at any price by any method. Even men who are mired in the hopelessness of poverty and bound by the pain and debilitating effects of illness in this life, search for release. Without a savior they may try to find it in drugs or alcohol. They search for anything that will dull the pain of rejection, loss, and defeat while confusion, hopelessness and depression mark their days. In fact, Proverbs 13:12 tells us that "hope deferred makes the heart grow sick."

Of course, as Christians we have a different perspective, or we know that we should have a different perspective. We know that for us there is not supposed to be fear in DEATH; we know that for us DEATH is supposed to be the beginning of Eternal Life. And yet, when a loved one passes away or we ourselves are faced with the prospects of death, our hearts race, our spirits plummet to the depths of despair, and our imaginations yield to thoughts of painfully impossible life scenarios. How could this be? How could our faith in the Father Godís provision for our well being turn so easily to fear? God has not changed; so, we must look to the Word of God to understand the contradiction of our actions and emotions. We often fear what we do not understand and we often allow what we perceive incorrectly to hold power over us. To understand the feelings and emotions that we experience when we are faced with death, we must consider what the Word has to say about both death and life.

In the beginning God created man in His own image. (Genesis 1:26) So, we are actually a three part being just as the Father is a three part being. We are a spirit. Yes, the real man is a spirit just as the Father God is a spirit. We live in a body. Remember God formed manís body from the dust of the ground; it was simply a body until the Lord God breathed His spirit into it and it became a living being. (Genesis 2:7) So, the real man is a spirit that lives in a body just as Jesus did when He walked the earth And we have a mind to process the information which enables this body to function on the earth.

Equally important for us to see is that all life is divided into good and evil, light and darkness, eternal life and eternal death, the kingdom of God which is ruled by Christ and the kingdom of this world (the kingdom of self) which is ruled by Satan. In John 1:1-5 Jesus is identified as Light, Life and the Word of God which is Truth.(John 17:17) In John 14:6-7 Jesus said of Himself, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father , but by me. If you had known me , you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him." In this passage Jesus is simply repeating the lesson He taught in John 10:10 when He said, "Truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be SAVED, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."

Jesus said I am the way or door back to the Father. I am the way back to life as it was lived in communion with the Father in the Garden of Eden. Jesus said I am the life. Enter into the eternal life of the Father by believing that Jesus and the Father are one. (John 14:8-17) and by confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. (Romans 10:10) By entering into the eternal life of the Father, we are SAVED. What are we saved from? We are saved from eternal death. 1Cor 15:22 "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." Jesus put it this way in John 3:16-21, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have Eternal Life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be SAVED through Him. He who believes in Him is not condemned. He who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God."

Of course, these few verses are just loaded with meat, but what we want to see right away is the plight of all people who have not made Jesus Lord of their life. They are living in Satanís realm of darkness and are spiritually dead. This is not good news since the real man is the spirit man. People who do not choose Jesus as Lord and Savior are already condemned; they are walking in eternal death and will continue to do so after this body dies. People who choose Jesus as Lord and Savior are SAVED from eternal death and begin at once to walk in eternal life. They begin to walk immediately in the life of the Eternal One and will continue to do so after this body dies. This is a very important principle to understand because the common idea that eternal life begins only after death of the physical body is an error. We must renew our thinking to the Word of God and understand that the eternal life that is spoken of is the life of the Father. He is Elohim the self existent one. (Genesis 1:1) He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. (Rev. 1:8) When we acknowledge Jesus as the only begotten son of God and accept Him as our Lord and Savior, (Romans 10:10) we enter into that eternal, never ending life of the Father. We become one with Jesus; we in Him; He in us. We become one with the Father as we are in Christ, and He is in the Father. (John 17:20-23) This is how Paul could say in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; never the lest I live, yet not I but Christ Jesus liveth in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me."

Jesus said it very simply and clearly in John 5:24, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." Now we can understand what Jesus meant when he spoke to Nicodemus in John 3:1-21. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again; he must pass from the eternal death given by Satan in the kingdom of this world into the eternal life given by the Father God in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was telling Nicodemus and us to put aside the flesh and concentrate on the spirit. Jesus was saying we must by choice, abdicate membership in the kingdom of this world with its self-centered behavior and be born again into the kingdom of God where, as new creations, we will begin to renew our mind and change our behavior with the Word of God.

To have the abundant life which Jesus spoke of now, and in eternity, we must enter the kingdom of God today; we must pass from spiritual death into spiritual life. The spirit is the real man. Our spirit man must be the center of our focus. The focus of the kingdom of this world, however, is self or the flesh. Jesus dealt with this extensively in the 12th Chapter of Luke. He began by placing the greatest importance on the spirit man and urging His followers not to worry about the physical death of the body. "I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear; fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you fear him!" In the next verses, Jesus continues to direct the thoughts of believers away from the flesh or material things. In verses 15-21 Jesus speaks of the rich fool, "Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a manís life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. ..... The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, Ďwhat shall I do for I have nowhere to store my crops?í And he said ĎI will do this; I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.í But God said to him, ĎFool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?í So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

The rich foolís body suddenly stopped functioning one night and his spirit continued in eternal death because he had focused on the gratification of his flesh and the building up of his ego. He had thought to Ďsave his lifeí through amassing goods. Ultimately, he had failed and lost his life. (Mark 8:35-38) He had failed to see that the real man is spirit and that the life of the spirit is found only in God. In Luke 16: 19-31 Jesus continued talking about the importance of the spirit man and the entrance of the spirit man into eternal life. Jesus establishes several principles here. One is that no amount of money or power can buy life for the spirit man. The chasm between God and man can only be spanned through the spirit by faith in Jesus Christ. Entrance into eternal life is not dependant on money or good deeds. So many today believe that their worldly morality and generosity will ensure eternal life after their body dies. Of course, we have learned that unless you enter into eternal life through Jesus before the body dies, you are eternally dead and good deeds alone have no effect. These verses also clearly establish the existence of an eternal fiery death for the unsaved man. All too frequently men who are blinded by the illusion of their wealth and power dismiss the thought of an after life all together. They not only fail to see that they are living in the realm of death now, but they deny the existence of a fiery hell in eternity. Therefore, they are like the man that Solomon described in Ecclesiastes; they are living only for the moment and expect only that their body will hopelessly molder away after it dies.

In each of the examples that we have studied, Jesus is simply saying that the flesh is not important but the spirit is. In the 12th chapter of Luke, Jesus lovingly declared that the flesh of the man who is SAVED is provided for and cared for by the Father God. When we moved from eternal death into the eternal life of the Father, we received the Fatherís full SALVATION. The Greek word for SALVATION is soteria which means defense, protection, health and eternal life. Romans 1:17 and Hebrews 10:38 tell us that the just shall live by faith. We live by faith that what the Word of God has said God will do, will be accomplished in our life. God will be our defense, our protection, our provision, our health, our wisdom, our light, our life. In Christ, He is our all in all.

Now letís go back to John 10:10. Jesus said that the man who has entered into eternal life is free to go in and out and to pasture. The unsaved man is subject to the thief or Satan who comes to steal, kill and destroy. There is a marked and visible difference in the daily condition of the man walking in eternal life and one walking in eternal death. Jesus said that the SAVED "go in and out and find pasture." The saved walk around in this earth under the protection of the Father doing the will of the Father. In other words, when we have accepted Jesus as our Savior we are freed of all the sin and misconception which binds us and prevents us from glorifying the Father in the earth. We are freed, therefore, to go in and out doing the Fatherís will unhindered. And as long as we are about the Fatherís business, He provides for us in every way. Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you."(Matt 6:33) Your needs will be met to bring glory and honor to the Father. He is not glorified in the lack of health or provisions. When your thoughts and prayers and energy are focused on the physical, you cannot be focused on the Fatherís business. Romans 8:6-8 says, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to Godís law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Jesus repeatedly told the believers to get their minds off the flesh and the needs of the flesh. Remember, to be focused on the flesh is to be focused on self and the needs of self. When we are bound to the anxious thoughts of self, we are operating in the kingdom of this world; and we have made ourselves subject to Satan and all the death he brings.

Jesus said that the SAVED "go in and out and find pasture." The idea of finding pasture may not seem too significant at first glance, but it is really speaking volumes. Those of you who are familiar with cows or sheep know that when they have eaten until they are full and feel safe, they lay down. They lay down to rest in safety while regurgitating and chewing their cud. The Psalmist expressed the same idea in the 23rd Psalm when he said "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." In other words the abundant life that Jesus spoke of is one in which the people of God are protected and defended by Him; they are safe. The abundant life that Jesus spoke of is one in which God is the provider of all needs or the source of the provision . And He is an abundant provider. Look at what Jesus said in Mark 10:29-31, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel who will not receive a hundred fold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life."

So, if we as born again believers are not to concentrate on or be controlled by the flesh, what are we to be about? 2 Cor 5:18-20 tells us clearly, "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors, for Christ, God making his appeal through us." We are Godís ambassadors; our job is to call every one we meet from eternal death into eternal life. We are to be a praise to the Fatherís glory offering Him continual praise and thanksgiving for the abundance of His eternal life which He has so freely given to us. (Ephesians 1:9-14; Psalms 116: 8-19)

By this time, you have hopefully realized that there is more than one death. There is the eternal death experienced by the unsaved man, which is referred to in Revelations as the second death; there is the death of self (those early learned and long practiced actions of the unsaved man which must be left behind -Romans 8:9-14; Col 3:1-11; 1 Cor 15:31; Romans 6:6-14), and the death of the physical body. Of course, when we began to talk about death, you probably thought we were going to focus on the death of the physical body. But to talk about the death of the physical body, we first had to see how Jesus viewed the physical body in light of all eternity.

Both Old and New Testament refer to the death of the physical body simply as sleep. In Psalms 13:3 David referred to death as sleep; in Daniel 12:2 the Ďend timeí vision is disclosed, "but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book, and many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." The words "those who sleep in the dust" acknowledge that this body is made of dust and will return to dust. There is nothing important or lasting about the physical body. It is rarely born into this world perfect by worldly standards; any beauty it may have fades like a flower; it is in the process of decay or dying as soon as it enters this world. The human body is just the mechanism by which we operate in this world. It does come with a manufacturerís guarantee, however, which is found in Deut. 30:15-20 and Psalms 90:10. Those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior are freely given the Fatherís full SALVATION which includes Divine Health and healing for this physical body. In other words, the manufacturer offers full service and maintenance as long as the physical body is carrying out the will of the Father God in the earth. In Philippians 1:21-25 the apostle Paul explained this so clearly when he said, "with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better, But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account."

In Matt 9:24 and again in John 11:11-44 Jesus, Himself referred to the death of the physical body as sleep. In both instances He was moved to action calling the real man, the spirit man, back into the physical body. This demonstrated that after the death of the physical body, there is still life. He was not distressed over either physical death, because He knew that the real man, the spirit man, was still alive. In verses 25-26 He reminds Martha that the real Lazarus is not dead when He says, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die." Who ever believes in me, who ever lives in me shall never die. In the case of Lazarus, however, Jesus was greatly moved by the distress experienced by the people who loved Lazarus. His compassion was so great that He wept for their distress. He felt their pain of loss just as He feels ours. His compassion may have come from understanding that the pain they felt was for their own lack of understanding.

If those who so deeply loved Lazarus wanted the best for him, how could they not want him to experience the fullness of the Fatherís love. In death of the physical body we who are in Christ simply move out of this clay house and move completely for all time into the eternal life and being of the Father God. 2 Cor 5:1-10 says, "For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Here indeed we groan and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; 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. We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body." So, in Him we put on the imperishable; we no longer have a body which is subject to the decay of this world. But rather, in Christ Jesus we will have an imperishable, glorified body which has been raised in the glory and power of God. (1Cor 15:12-58) We will be once for all time, like Him. (1John 3:2-3)

So, why do we still panic at the thought of our own death? If you feel panic at the thought of your own death, you must first consider your personal relationship with the Father through Jesus. If you have acknowledged before men that Jesus is the only begotten son of God and that God has raised him from the dead you have entered into the eternal life of the Father. If you have not done this, that is the first thing you need to do to remove the fear of death from your mind.

If you have received Jesus as your personal Savior, then you may need to concentrate on developing a personal relationship with the Father, Himself. To do that you must spend time in the Word renewing your mind to Godís way of thinking about life and death, about healing and health, about giving and receiving. You must spend time in His presence in prayer - not just you expressing your needs and desires, but you listening for His direction and council. You must make a definite decision to walk in His council and to change your behavior until it aligns with His Word. In short, we simply must choose to walk by faith that what the Father God has to say about death of this physical body is true. We must consciously choose to believe that the real man is spirit. When our will becomes aligned with the will and thinking of the Father, we will no longer fear death of the physical body. Physical death will become a natural step in our growth into the life of the eternal one. It will become something we eagerly await.

But what about the death of a loved one - the untimely death of a loved one? Well, it is true that Satan looks for opportunities to terrorize and brutalize the saints of God and their children. If he can stop our ministry of reconciliation; if he can keep the kingdom of God from being manifest in this world, he will. Some believers are deterred by being refocused on the needs and desires of the flesh. Others are permanently silenced by sudden and violent death. We must remember that God created us in His image, but we are not puppets. We have a free will to choose at every moment of the day how we will walk, talk, think, and act. When we choose to place ourselves outside the protected sphere of the Fatherís love, we open ourselves to any and all that Satan has to offer - even physical death.

It is not for us to reason or judge why someone has died; but rather, we must understand that God never fails His children. When sudden accident and death occur that does not mean that the child of God has fallen from the Fatherís grace and no longer has the benefits of eternal life. In John 10 27-30 Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the Fatherís hand. I and the Father are one." In Romans 8:35-39 the apostle Paul says, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ: Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ĎFor thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.í No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, not things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Well, if we have this great assurance that our loved ones who are in Christ have gone on to be in the Fatherís presence, why do we mourn so long? If we really believe that to be with Christ is better than to continue our alien existence here on earth (Hebrews 11:13), why do we regret their going home to be with the Father God? If we believe these things, then we should rejoice and praise the Father for His great provision. After all our loved ones who are in Christ are doing just that; they are standing in the presence of Jesus and the Father singing His praises.

Only the physical body as we knew it is dead and that is not the real man. The dead in Christ have put on the eternally beautiful imperishable glorified body of the child of God. So, our only cause for sadness is our own fleshly desire to be with them on this earth - to see their face and hear their voice. These are desires of the flesh; and if we yield to them by withdrawing from society to mourn over long, if we yield to them by ceasing to tell of the Fatherís great love and eternal life, then, Satan has effectively stopped the spread of the GOOD NEWS in two lives. So, it is very important that we, like believers of old receive our dead to resurrection through faith looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.... that we might not grow weary or faint hearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3). And that the world might see our confidence in God, we should with great joy and thanksgiving CELEBRATE!

 


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Smith Mountain Lake Virginia