Mourning & Death in Ecclesiastes.

One of my favorite scriptures is Ecclesiastes 7:1, where we are told that “… the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.”

Each minute, 107 people die. Each day, 150,000 people die. No one could argue that DEATH is the one thing in life that we ALL have in common.

Life is simply a journey toward death. We are all dying, some soon, some later, some old, some young, but we all are on the same journey. We all have had some personal experience with death, whether it be the death of immediate family, distant relatives, or friends.

The age-old question remains the same…….“What happens, when a Christian dies?” I have written a lot of information on my take on this event and, lately, the subject has crossed my mind on numerous occasions. Many of my high school classmates have posted on Facebook about illnesses, deaths of friends, and regular requests for prayer appear, almost daily.

I thought it appropriate that I post a few of my notes related to this subject, in hope that the truth of what scripture reveals about the subject might set a few minds at ease, or even create an eagerness in the spirits of those that are hurting or fearful toward what is to come.

So, let’s begin with the truth that causes this to be a necessary understanding for all Christians. DEATH IS A CERTAIN EVENT. We are all destined to die. So, it is vital that we accept the truth of the scripture I quoted earlier…….“the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.”

In the Bible, we know that Enoch escaped death (Genesis 5:24), and that Elijah was taken up to Heaven in a fiery chariot (II Kings 2:11). Elijah is commonly believed (by most Bible scholars) to be one of the two witnesses, who are on the earth in the Tribulation (Malachi 4:5), but the identity of the other witness is a continuing discussion. Names such as Moses and John are commonly discussed, but my personal belief is that it will be Enoch. He and Elijah are the only two, from the Bible, who were taken to Heaven without tasting death. We will just have to wait and see. The witnesses are mentioned in Revelation 11:3 and 7, for those of you who enjoy the studies.

Anyway, unless we are blessed enough to be taken in the Rapture, the chances are pretty solid that we are going to die. At my age, the obvious question is “What happens, when you die?” Let me try to shed a little light on that subject, using the insight provide in scripture.

In Luke 16, we read a story, which contains a lot of useful information about the afterlife. This is a story, not a parable, told by Jesus, Himself. In the parables, Jesus never used actual names but, in this story, He does. Because of this, I believe that it was an actual event, which occurred, prior to the completion of the salvation delivered by Jesus.

In summary of the story, the Book of Luke records this actual event about two people dying, prior to the cross. One man dies and goes to Paradise, which was the place where Believers, who died waiting for the Messiah to pay for their sins, went to wait until they were delivered by Jesus and taken to heaven.

The other man went to Hades. We are told, in the story, that he had a body, was fully conscious, could think, reason, speak, remember, and he felt pain. What he says is frightening, to say the least.

In verses 23-24, we read, “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.'”

We, as Christians, trust and believe in the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection, so our sins are not counted against us, and we will (upon death or rapture) go directly to heaven.

Colossians 2:13 tells us “… having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

In II Timothy, 1:10, we read that “Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,”

Heaven is going to be a spectacular place, one that holds wonders that none of us could imagine.

1 Corinthians 2:9 states “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

No matter how great an imagination, the realities we shall find in heaven will be better.

II Corinthians 4:4 calls Satan “the god of this world”, so we, effectively, are living our lives as aliens on a planet, which was hijacked by Satan. Because Satan is hostile to believers, we should all be living our lives looking forward to the next.

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;” Philippians 3:20

Our brief time on this alien planet is referred to, in scripture, as nothing but a “vapor.”

“You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” James 4:14

You know, the Lord allows many blessings, while we are on this earth, and no one is blessed with all good or cursed with all bad. Things can go from extremely painful to absolute perfection in a short period of time. Our job is to keep our eyes on the prize of eternity, while being thankful for the blessings and enduring the bad.

Colossians 3:2 tells us to “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

We also need to be aware that the good times on this earth come as a result of God’s grace. Satan would have our entire lives being miserable.

We tend to describe periods of our lives based on bad things that happened during that period, like sicknesses, times we were in the hospital, earthquakes, tornadoes, divorces, deaths, etc. This is because of the evil influence under which we occupy this earth.

We need to describe our lifetimes based on our blessings, like the day we were born, the day we accepted the Lord, the day our children were saved, the day God delivered us from temptation. The final event should be a joyous blessing, so our death would be the icing on the cake.

You see, even though most of us don’t think of death as a blessing, if you seriously consider it, death is (for Christians) God’s way of helping us to escape all sickness and evil. Those bad things are immediately removed from our lives.

The human race could have ended up living in a horrible sinful condition FOREVER, had not God prevented them from access to the tree of life, after the fall.

“Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” Genesis 3:22

“So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:24

Had God not allowed death, we could not have received redemption. Another one of my favorite scriptures is a truth of the transition to the next life for a Christian. In 1 Corinthians 15:55, we read “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”

God actually looks at our death as a POSITIVE event.

Psalm 116:15 tells us “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones.”

At some point in the life of Paul, probably when he was stoned, he had either a near-death or an actual death experience. In II Corinthians, he talks about being taken to heaven to briefly see the next life. He was never the same, after that experience. He yearned to return to heaven, but his life served as an example for us to live our lives, knowing that God is in control and has a plan for us. This information can be found in II Corinthians 12:2-10, for those of you in study.

In his letter to the Christians in Rome (Romans 7:24), Paul says “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”

Later in his life, Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, and relates that he was really torn between staying on earth and a deep desire to die.

“But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” Philippians 1:22-24

He relates a similar feeling to the Christians in Corinth. He said he would rather be dead, because he knew he would immediately be with the Lord.

“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. …I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” II Corinthians 5:6 & 8

Paul refers to death as a victory in 1 Corinthians 15:53-54.

“For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.”

There is no reason to have a fear of death. Jesus told us that His death rendered the devil powerless. We can live in confidence, without fear.

Hebrews 2:14-15 says “through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”

Death is, effectively, the end of the race, when we cross the finish line and win the prize. Death is literally an upgrade for Christians. In one instant, at the second of our death, we go from this earth to the glory of heaven. We win!

“I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6

We need not fear death. Instead, we need to be grateful. We will excape the temptations of the flesh and the pride of this life.

When we die, we get a new house, a new home, a new and perfected body in which to dwell for eternity. Paul described it like this: “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven,” II Corinthians 5:1-2

We will have a new body, conforming to that of the Lord Jesus in His glory, after His resurrection.

“…the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory…” Philippians 3:21

Jesus walked around, ate and drank after His resurrection. So, our new body will be flesh and bone.

Luke 24:39 tells us “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Our new body will have arms, legs, eyes, ears, and we will be recognizable to other. The beauty of it is that we will not be subject to the effects of sin. Additionally, and I really look forward to this, we will be able to move at the speed of thought. Jesus appeared and disappeared at will, and He was able to walk through walls. We will be able to do all these things, and we will be able to eat and drink. I like that!

“Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:25

Any Christian, who has a handicap in this life, will have no such restriction in the new body. There will be no pain, no restrictions, no handicaps. The blind will see, the deaf will hear, there will be no heartache.

“and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Death will be an immediate healing for all. In fact, it is not really death, at all. We will immediately go to be with the Lord…….IMMEDIATELY! We will not have a trial, we will not be evaluated, we will not be judged. Jesus paid the price, so that we can go to be with Him IMMEDIATELY, when we die.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

In the Gospel of John, we see his position that we attain “no condemnation”, the moment we first believe the Gospel.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” John 5:24

It is important to understand that our time on this planet is pre-determined by God PRIOR to our being born.

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Psalm 139:16

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven – A time to give birth and a time to die;” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

God has told us, in scripture that there is no need, in fact it is fruitless, to worry about death.

“And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?” Luke 12:25

God does determine how long we each will live, but that is not an open invitation to jump off a building. We should never put the Lord to a foolish test. We need to live for Him, knowing that the rewards will come, after death. Death is gain.

“For to me, to live in Christ and to die is gain.” Philipians 1:21

Knowing that death is gain, shouldn’t we all (Christians) look forward to this transition? God says to wait eagerly for our body to be redeemed!

“…waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” Romans 8:23

Death for Christians is security. We have heaven waiting for our entry.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,” 1 Peter 1:3-4

You see, our “spot” is “reserved.” We are simply waiting on God’s timing for our transition.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.'” John 11:25-26

We can all live boldly in this life. We can have confidence in knowing that God is in control of our death and our destiny. Even if we see death approaching, we can take full comfort in what God promises will follow.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

There is a possibility, and a good possibility for those of us living in this generation, that we will be part of the great Exodus. The two main verses (although there is much more to this subject), which describe the Rapture are:

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-53

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

The Rapture is a necessity because Believers are not appointed to God’s wrath.

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9

“… Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:10

“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” Romans 5:9

So, we Christians, who are alive at the end of the Church Age, will be translated in a split second to meet Jesus. This removal of Believers from the earth will open the way for the 7 Year Tribulation, and the anti-christ, when God’s wrath will be poured out on those who are left on earth.

Things to come, include:

“…the wrath of God…” Revelation 15:1
“…seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God,” Revelation 15:7
“…seven bowls of the wrath of God.” Revelation 16:1
“…the wine of His fierce wrath.” Revelation 16:19

If you are a Christian, who is alive the moment God ends the Church Age, you WILL participate in the Rapture! You will not die a natural death, although the result will be the same. You will be one of millions, who immediately disappear from the earth and go to be with the Lord Jesus, forever. You will also be part of the group, which returns with Him at the end of the 7 years, to assist in setting up and overseeing the 1000 years of peace and love on this planet earth.

We truly live in the most exciting times. That is why I post so many pieces of information on this Facebook page. I pray that as many as God wishes will read these words and prepare themselves for what is to come. I pray that as many as God wishes to comfort because of sickness or loss will read these words and take comfort in what God has taught us by His word.

Knowing all this, how then should we live. We need to look up, and await our blessed future. In Romans 14, verses 7 and 8, we are told:

“For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Let me leave you with these wise words from 2 Peter, Chapter 3. I pray that you read them, pray on them, and live by them.

2 Peter 3 New King James Version (NKJV)

God’s Promise Is Not Slack

3 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, 3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[b] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

The Day of the Lord

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.[c] 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Be Steadfast

14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens

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