Our Eternal Hope

Death is something that many people do not like to think about and often a subject of discomfort. However, as Christians, God gives us the hope of another life much better than what we can ever have in this world, and He wants us to recognize the misconceptions about death that are so prominently believed in the world. The Bible says that at the end of time almost the entire world will be deceived and will be led captive by the devil and end up worshipping evil spirits because of their lack of understanding about death. A true understanding of the issue will help us to reinforce our hope of eternal life and be ready when Jesus returns.

Working in a medical institution, one cannot help but be around death. One day a lady was brought into the emergency room shaking with fever and in terrible pain. They tried to monitor what was going on but she got worse. One of the things we were afraid of was what was happening with her heart and blood pressure. Her blood pressure was dropping and she began feeling very light-headed, and began wondering what was happening. She felt like she was slipping out of her body and in a few moments it seemed as if she was floating around near the ceiling looking down at her body. She later reported that while she was in this condition she saw a light, and it felt like she was in the presence of somebody. She said, “I began to feel the most incredibly warm and loving feeling. There was a light and I felt a presence in the light.”

There are many similar reports of near death experiences. Books sold about this subject reach best seller status. People are fascinated by the mystery and by personal accounts of the sensation of leaving one’s body.

But the reality is that people who have had these experiences never actually died. It is very important to remember that they were very near death, but they did not die. Many near death experiences resemble hallucinations. This type of sensation can be brought on, not only as a result of a person being near death and perhaps losing a realistic perspective, but also as an effect of certain drugs, chemicals, or substances.

In an article in the Saturday Evening Post, November 2, 1963, about drugs and out of the body experiences, Timothy Leary stated, “After eating certain Mexican mushrooms I realized that I had died, that I could look back and see my body in bed.” He had not really died, but when he came out of that experience, he reported that the out of body sensation had been very real and he had felt like he had died.

In his book, The Doors of Perception, Aldus Huxley states: “After taking Mescaline my body seemed to have disassociated itself almost completely from my mind. It was odd, of course, to feel that I was not the same as these arms and legs out there.” He felt disassociated from his body with his mind in a different place. Some people who have lived through similar experiences have suffered permanent brain damage or severe memory loss.

In an experiment conducted to investigate the hallucinative effects of external substances, Dr. Lodiscus Maduna gave his subject a dosage of 30% carbon dioxide and 70% oxygen. 100% carbon dioxide would be fatal, but after receiving the 30% dosage, the subject stated: “I felt as though I was looking down at myself, as though I was way out in space. I felt sort of separated.” As in the previously mentioned case, her blood pressure had dropped drastically and her brain was suffering from oxygen deprivation. She lived through a near death experience, but she did not die.

One can find many similar accounts which occurred as a result of eating a toxic substance or taking drugs, either for personal use or as part of a scientific experiment. This type of experiment is very dangerous, and may result in permanent damage to the person.

The most important aspect of these out of body or near death experiences is that they contradict what Scripture says about death. There are no scriptural accounts of people experiencing the presence of light in or close to death. The Bible says that when a man goes down to the grave, he does not return. (Job 7:9.) That does not mean he will never return to life again. Job 14:12 says, “They lay down and they will sleep and they will not stop their sleep, their sleeping will not stop until the heavens [be] no more.” Here Job refers to Jesus’ Second Coming at the end of the world. Job believed that he would be raised again at the Second Coming, but until that time should happen, he would not return, neither would he go back to his house. He also says, “When a few years are come, then I shall go the way [whence] I shall not return.” Job 16:22.

When a person enters the coffin, they will not come out unless they are resurrected. One of the most wonderful things about the gospel is that the God of heaven loves you and me. He “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him would not perish.” John 3:16.

Those who do not believe in Jesus will perish. This world does not guarantee everlasting life or immortality. Our worldly destiny is death, but we have a Friend who loved us so much that He paid the price for our sins and offered the free gift of eternal life to all who accept it.

Many accounts of near death experiences are frightfully similar to what Spiritualism teaches. Spiritualism claims that the dead are not really dead. In his book, Spiritualism, History, Phenomenon and Doctrine, J. Arthur Hill discusses the fundamental principle of Spiritualism and the idea that human beings survive bodily death and that sometimes the living are able to communicate with those who have gone before. According to Hill, Spiritualism claims that the dead communicate with the living.

This is a frightful teaching, because when the living think they are communicating with the dead, they are, as the Bible teaches, not really communicating with those who have passed away, but with evil spirits. A Spiritualist once said that there is no death in the grave yard and that he had frequent talks with the dead and could not doubt that people live after death because he had frequently talked with them.

Adam and Eve were created to have eternal life and if they had not eaten the forbidden fruit, they would never have died. The devil’s first lie was, “You will not surely die.” Genesis 3:4. God said, “If you eat of the forbidden fruit you will die.” (Genesis 2:15–17.) The devil contradicted God when he told Eve she would not die.

Spiritualists today believe the devil’s lie. They say that the dead know more than the living. They believe that the devil told the truth and that the Lord was in error. Referring to the devil, Jesus says, “There is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar and the father of it.” John 8:44.

The Bible predicts in Revelation, that evil spirits are going to deceive the whole world in the last days of earth’s history. How will this happen? The devil is now in the process of deceiving the entire world through the miracles of his evil spirits and people believe all kinds of reports. There are accounts of apparitions of the virgin Mary. Others claim to have spoken to famous men who are dead from past ages, and multitudes flock to the places where these signs or wonders have happened.

The Bible says that, “In the beginning the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7. It was not until God breathed the breath of life into his nostrils that man became a living soul. Only this combination of dust plus spirit makes man a living soul. When a person dies, the exact opposite occurs. Death is a reversal of creation. Ecclesiastes 12:7 says, “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was: and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” The Bible says, “All the while my breath [is] in me and the spirit of God [is] in my nostrils.” Job 27:3.

When a person dies, he/she stops breathing and goes into an unconscious state. The Bible says that when a person dies, his thoughts perish. “Put not your trust in princes, [nor] in the son of man, in whom [there is] no help. His breath goeth forth, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” Psalm 146:3, 4. If somebody’s thoughts have perished and he/she is in an unconscious state, it is impossible to learn something from that person. You may think you are talking to that person, but you are actually communicating with an evil spirit capable of impersonating the dead perfectly in body form and tone of voice. In that way, people may be deceived into thinking that they are talking to the spirit of a dead person.

The element of earth minus breath equals a dead body. If you disconnect the electricity from a light bulb, the light will go off. The light bulb is still there but there is no spirit in it; there is no electricity in it. The breath of God also involves electricity. The electrical currents in the brain can be measured by taking an EEG. When somebody dies his/her brain wave registers flat because there is no current, and he/she is brain dead. Life support machines might be used to keep him/her breathing and maintain heartbeat, but if the EEG is flat, he/she is brain dead. The spirit is gone, so how much does he/she know? Nothing, for the Bible says, “The living know that they shall die; but the dead know not anything.” Ecclesiastes 9:5. Neither do they praise the Lord. The Bible says, “The dead praise not the Lord.” Psalm 115:17. “For in death [there is] no remembrance of you: In the grave who will give you thanks?” Psalm 6:5.

I remember when I was a small child that I did not like going to bed and always wanted to stay up all the time. Once asleep, eight or ten hours can pass very quickly during which time it seems to the sleeper that only moments have passed. Time passes in the same way for a person who is sleeping in death and it will seem to them as if only moments had passed when they awake at the Second Coming. Even for someone like Abel, who has been dead for over 5,000 years, the resurrection will feel like waking from sleep.

This shows us how merciful God is. When a person dies, they no longer feel pain or experience disappointment. They do not look down from some other planet of heaven to watch their loved ones struggling and suffering. They do not have to go through any of those things again. They sleep peacefully, and in what seems like an instant, Jesus will come again and give them life.

The Bible teaches that human beings are mortal and the devil is mortal. The Bible says that “the soul that sins, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:20. The devil said, “You won’t die.” The Bible teaches that human beings are mortal. The word mortal means that you are “subject to death.” (See Job 4:17; Romans 6:12; Romans 8:11; II Corinthians 4:11.) Neither does the devil have eternal life. The Lord says He is going to destroy him and bring him to ashes. God is the only One who has immortality. The word immortality means “not subject to death.” If you follow Jesus and give your life to Him you will receive the gift of immortality when Jesus comes and you will still be alive a million years from now. You will never die and you will have a life that goes on equal with the life of God.

This is the most stupendous, marvellous gift that the Lord can give to us—the gift of eternal life when Jesus comes. Romans 2:7, and I Corinthians 15:51–55 describe how it will be when we will receive immortality.

Many churches believe that man has an immortal soul. The 19th Century English parliamentary reformer and former Prime Minister of Great Britain, William Gladstone says, “The pagan doctrine of the immortality of the soul crept in through the back door of the church.” Ancestor worship is based on the false doctrine of the immortality of the soul.

In the Garden of Eden the devil told Eve that if she ate the forbidden fruit, she would not die. She ate the forbidden fruit and died, and both Adam and Eve have been dead for about 5,000 years. The devil tried to win the argument by telling another lie and invented the pagan doctrine of immortality of the soul. The ancient Egyptian religion subscribed to the idea of immortality of the soul and the Cairo museum contains many interesting artifacts which testify to this belief. They worshiped the serpent which according to the Bible represents Satan. The symbol of the serpent was used extensively in religious ceremonies. The snake’s head decorated the front of the crowns of the pharaohs. Ancient Egyptians believed in the pagan doctrine of immortality of the soul. When their rulers died they were buried with food, boats, clothes and jewels and everything thought necessary for the afterlife.

The Babylonians continued with the belief of immortality of the soul. This pagan idea of the ancient civilizations is the same doctrine that has been carried through the ages and is still taught today by Spiritualists and Satanists who believe in immortality of the soul. This was never a belief of the Hebrew people, and a thorough search of the Scriptures shows overwhelming evidence against the idea of immortality of the soul. Old Testament Bible writers used the phrase slept, or rested with their fathers, as an expression for death. Jesus, the One who created the world and everything in it (John 1:1–3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2) said when Lazarus died, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.” The disciples said, “Lord, if he is asleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death, but they thought he had spoken of taking a rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” Jesus went to Bethany to raise Lazarus and He was met by Martha who said, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” Jesus answered her, “Your brother will rise again.” (John 11:11–14, 21, 23.) Neither Martha nor Jesus had the idea that Lazarus was in heaven, or hell, or anywhere else. They just knew that he was asleep—he was dead. Martha said, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Verse 24. Martha understood the state of the dead. But Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” “Take me to where he is buried. Take me to Lazarus’ tomb.” Verses 25, 34. So they went out to a cave which had a stone covering the entrance, and Jesus said to them, “Roll away the stone.” Martha said, “But Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Verse 39.

When Jesus returns, it will not matter whether a person has been dead four minutes, four days, four years, or four thousand years, because when He speaks, they will be given life. “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” I Thessalonians 4:16, 17.

One may ask about the thief on the cross. “He said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto you, today you shall be with me in paradise.” Luke 23: 42, 43. The problem in this verse is the punctuation, which was added hundreds of years after the Bible was written. It should read: “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto you today, you shall be with me in paradise.” Jesus was saying, “I am telling you today—today as we hang on these crosses—that you will be with Me in paradise.”

Even Jesus Himself did not enter paradise the Friday of his crucifixion. Jesus was resurrected three days later on Sunday morning, the first day of the week. Mary Magdalene, so distraught from grief that she did not recognize with whom she was talking, met Him the morning of His resurrection and He said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you seeking?” The Bible says she thought He was the gardener, and she said to Him, “If you have taken Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary,” and she recognized His voice and wished to embrace Him, but Jesus said to her, “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” John 20:15–17.

Jesus did not go to paradise on the day of the crucifixion. Three days later when he saw Mary, He still had not ascended to His Father. He told her, “Go to my brethren and say to them, I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.” Verse 17.

The resurrection of Jesus guarantees that everyone who believes in Christ will also be resurrected and taken to heaven at His coming. Jesus said, “I [am] he that lives and was dead: and, behold, I am alive forever more, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” Revelation 1:18.

For a non-believer, pagan, an atheist or an infidel, death is goodbye for all eternity, goodbye forever. If you are a Christian, then death is simply goodbye until we meet again. Goodbye until the resurrection morning. Paul tells us that when Jesus comes, all the dead in Christ will rise first. It is one of the most exciting things to think about.

Some years ago when my brother was alive, he was preaching about the resurrection. In the congregation was a woman who was suffering from the recent death of her baby. Even with the help of psychiatrists and counselors she had not been able to escape depression and come to terms with her loss. Life for her was unbearable, but that day she learned of the hope of being reunited with her baby, and God’s love inspired her to keep going. Jesus is coming, and for Christians, His return will be the most exciting event we have ever seen. Those who have died in Christ, will be reunited with their loved ones for all eternity.

The Bible says, “The person who has the Son has life, and the person that does not have the Son of God will not see life.” (1 John5:12.) It is that simple. There is nobody else in the whole universe who can give eternal life—only Jesus Christ. He desires to give the gift of eternal life to all those who choose to follow Him and not rebel against His government. The exciting part of this news is that we are now living in the last days and this event will soon come to pass. It is now that you and I need to be ready to meet Him.

Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316–788–5559.