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When You Die...


The moment your spirit leaves your body you will be aware of where you are. You will not be unconscious. When the Bible talks about death as “sleep” it is using sleep as a figure or symbol of death (John 11:11-14). When we sleep we are still—like a dead person. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, both of them were immediately aware of their surroundings after they left this world. Lazarus died and “was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom” (Luke 16:22). The rich man “died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:22-23). They were not asleep or in coma. A person may be awake and alert or he may be under medication or even brain-dead in this life, but when his soul leaves the body he will be fully aware of where he is instantly.

When the Bible says, “The dead know nothing,” it means they don't see what is happening “under the sun,” that is, on earth (Ecclesiastes 9:6). The rich man did know that his five brothers were still on earth (Luke 16:27-29). We sometimes wonder what Christians who die say to other Christians who died before them. How much do they tell them about what was happening on earth when they left this life? Do they tell our departed loved ones how we are doing? We just don't know the details. We do know, however, that those who die in Christ are in a paradise of comfort and rest. They may have left this world in great heartache and pain but they are at peace now. Truly “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psalm 126:5).

If you die saved, you will be safe forever. The trial of the probation of life will be over. You will never experience the fear of death again. You will never be tempted by the devil again. And evidently the experience of choosing between good and evil in this world, the awareness of the consequences of sin, and the intense realization of the punishment of God upon sinners will leave such an indelible and permanent impression on our souls that we will not sin. The Bible is even more emphatic about this safe condition when it talks about Jesus’ second coming. Paul said the dead in Christ shall rise first and “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 4:17). Jesus said we will have eternal life—not death, either physical or spiritual, again (Matthew 25:46).

The longer you live and the closer you are to death, the more you think about these things. That is natural and it is good. There are times when you really long for that day. There is nothing wrong with that feeling. Paul said that he had “a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23). He also said that as Christians “we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven” (II Cor. 5:2). And, like Paul, we have mixed feelings about dying. On one hand, we long for that sweet land of rest. On the other hand, we realize that others need us, especially our loved ones and more especially Christians. Thus we sometimes say with Paul, “To abide in the flesh is more needful” (Philippians 1:24) for those we love.

What difference does it make how much we have or don't have in this life? “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (I Timothy 6:7). “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26). The only thing that matters is to fear God and keep his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Kerry

West End church of Christ bulletin article for March 12, 2023

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