Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Confusion About Death - part I

by Michael C. Garrett

the Great Confusion

On the 13th of March, just a couple of weeks ago, I was given the delicate task of speaking at my aunt’s funeral. Now this aunt was my father’s only sibling, she was eighty-nine years old and seven months. She had a good life. She went downhill real quick, doctor’s don’t even know really why she died. It just happened. And, I would suggest to most people that accepting such an invitation is a risky proposition! Because, you have in the crowd all of your family, and if you say something that they don’t like, or you infer something they don’t agree with, you can really ruffle some feathers. You might not be back at Thanksgiving Day dinner for a while! And, I was shocked when I was asked to do this, because I was not close to this woman. I knew her. Quite frankly she was hard to get a long with. She was the exact opposite of my Dad. My Dad, her older brother, is as sweet and gentle, kind and patient as any human being you would ever want to find. But, his sister, just polar opposites. She was cantankerous, she was controversial, she was confrontational, and it was real difficult to come up with a message – I had to do a lot of thinking on this one. And in the crowd was Baptists, and Methodists, and Catholics, and at least one Atheist that I know of – he was my brother-in-law. But, anyway, who knows how many different selections were out there. I did have an attempt to review her life and to try and capture the essence of her and her life. Both the desirable and the undesirable. At one point I had a line that said, “Aunt Nellie was an independent woman. Proudly so. And sometimes stridently so!” And I said, “She could be a puzzle, a conundrum, an enigma.” And every head in the crowd was nodding. Her own son said, “She’s been mad at me for fifteen years!” So, she was one to hold a grudge a long time.

But, anyway, Mr. Ted Armstrong would have been proud! I was able to get the song, My Way, into a sermon presentation. Because as I was preparing the notes, this song just kept – “My Way, And I did it my way!” And I thought – boy that sounds like Aunt Nellie!

So I looked up the words on the computer, and boy it just fit her to a T! So I read them about 2/3 through the sermon presentation. And everyone in the crowd, once again, began nodding their heads. And I tried to present the concept of death as sleep. Now remember, you get such a crowd, and maybe if you threw in a Buddhist or something you might get all types of ideas about what happens AFTER death. What really struck me once again, is when you go into those settings you literally – as the speaker; the focus of attention – you have in the palm of your hand the feelings and the emotions and the sense of happiness and fulfillment, or great frustration, of the people who are in that room shedding tears. And the ones that were effected most were her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. We had a little break before the service actually began, and there was a little guy – one of her grandchildren – I’m guessing about eight or nine years old, and he was just bawling his head off. And I thought – it just struck me once again – “Mike, you have to be so careful what you say and what you do today.” Because peoples outlook on life will be greatly affected. “If you really mess this up, you’re gonna hurt people for a long time.” And to still tell the Truth of God, it’s not an easy task to perform. But everyone seemed to appreciate the effort and I have not received any death threats, so I think I got through it!

Once again, my family members, my brother and my sister, my nieces, are just utterly shocked when they see me in that setting. Because they’re just not totally use to seeing me in that way. Normally when they see me I’ve got a baseball hat on a t-shirt and shorts. And then all of sudden to be in that setting and talking about eternity and God, it just catches them off guard. Because we don’t normally talk about that at a family dinner.
Well, collecting my thoughts, and preparing my notes, once again gave me the opportunity to ponder the great confusion – the confusion which exists in our culture concerning death and in particular the fate of the dead. It’s a complex web of conflicting religious dogma that leads to a whole plethora of thoughts, teachings, and beliefs, which each group thinking they’re right and each group thinking everybody else is wrong! I mean, the Baptists think they’re the only one’s that knows the truth, and Methodists, too. Catholics believe they’re the only church. You know, each group. The Pentecostals think they’ve got it right.
And, think about it! Even within the structure of the Church of God, the many descendants of the Worldwide Church of God. Think about how many of those groups actually have the audacity to believe and to teach that they and their religious leader is the only person who now can relay the truth from God to the people. You know that to be true. I won’t name the names, but you know they’re out there! Thankfully I don’t believe that is our outlook. I know in many of those groups, I have brothers and sisters that… we’re just not gonna talk for a while. But hopefully sometime out there we will! And yet, some of these people – especially the leaders – go so beyond anything that is rational, that you have to believe that some of them attempt to present themselves as being the great High Priest that stands between God and mankind. And the last time I read the Book of Hebrews, that title belongs to Jesus Christ! And to presume that title or that duty I think is a blasphemous thing to do! But again, I’m not their Judge, and they probably should be thankful for that! Because I have a difficult time appreciating the troubles that many church people out there and other organizations have to go through just to satisfy their egomania – and that’s what it is, a form of madness. The egomania that resides in some of those leaders.
Well, many people just don’t know what to think. You know, you’re average person on the street – most of my family members; if I was to walk up to my brother, my sister, and say, “What do you think about the fate of the dead, or the future of the dead!?” They could not give you a solidified, codified, idea about what they actually believe. Because they DON’T believe! Because they don’t know what to believe! They’re just in a state of ignorance. And that’s not a dirty word. Ignorance just means lacking knowledge, or unaware. In a state of unknowledge.
Well, today’s message is a presentation which discusses and examines some of the following issues: 1) Death and dying. 2) The state of the dead. 3) The ultimate fate of the dead. What is going to happen to them!?
Every time I think about a death and a funeral, I think about Hebrews chapter 2, verse 15 – when he said, “and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” And that describes so many people!
They’re just in fear. They don’t know what death is – because in the back of their mind, they have all these stories that they’ve heard in Sunday school, or from their fire-breathing preacher – and there’s a lot of agony that’s created by that! Even a young child will wonder, “Well, who am I!?” And, “Where did I come from!?” And, “Where am I going!? What will become of me somewhere down the road!?” And the older we become the more we ask ourselves, I believe, “What is going to happen to me when I die!?” And the older we get I think the more we become aware of our temporary status upon this earth and our approaching mortality. Not a pleasant thought, but, it is reality. You know, Paul said ‘it was given to all mankind to die ONCE.’ And unless we’re in that generation where Jesus Christ returns, the fact that we were born ensures that someday we will die. Again, these are not real pleasant – maybe that’s why I wore a red tie to brighten things up a bit!? Because, it’s sort-of morbid. You know much of the fear and the controversy which drifts through society stems from the teachings of so-called mainstream nominal Christianity. They talk about the soul. “Having a soul.” They talk about the immortality of the soul. And “having an immortal soul.” They talk about “I’s goin’ to Heaven!” as Billy Graham would say in that North Carolina accent! Or, and this is the favorite of the Pentecostals and the Baptists – “Goin’ to Hell!” They like that one! Why, I don’t know. Because they think they’re not going and everyone else is! Because, “you see that’s what they deserve, because they didn’t come and join us!” And then the ‘lake of fire.’ Every so often you hear people throw in the ‘lake of fire,’ and it gets confused with everything. And then, the ‘Kingdom of God.’ I think is what we would like to think about!
However, true Believers, and true practitioners, must know what definitive authoritarian source upon which they can go, that they can rely, to form their opinions on these things. And before you even get to say:
·        Where do I go?
·        What book do I go to?
·        What reference book do I read?
I think there’s a series of questions you have to ask yourself. And everyone reading this at one time or another has asked yourself these questions. And it’s basic logic. The questions you have to ask yourself:
1.      Is there a God? Or, is there not a God?
Basic question. Now, if there is no God, you might as well be like Paul – 1st Corinthians chapter 15 – and he was quoting from the Old Testament, “Eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow we die.” Or, as my atheistic-leaning brother-in-law once said, “Well, when I die, they’re just gonna put me in a box, and I’m gonna rot!” And I thought, “Wow, what a great hope and expectation!” I’d love to go to bed every night thinking, “You’re just gonna be food for worms someday! That’s all you’re gonna be!” And I still shake my head every time I see Jim – especially in that setting the other day. In the final prayer I actually said, “And for those of them who don’t actually believe in You,” and I was referring to my brother-in-law, “at least allow these words to give them some sense of hope in case, perchance, You might exist.” You know, they can somehow, “Well, if there is, then what Mike said today sounds pretty good.”  And, once you establish that there is a God,  you have to ask the question:
   2.  Do we utilize the teachings of the Bible, or, are we just simply going to trust the traditions of human beings and human institutions?
And, most of you reading this realize that the majority of people have their understanding of religion - as what they learned in church. But, that’s as far as it goes! And if you ever have the opportunity – and I don’t suggest you seek it out, but if it comes to your door step – to ask people about where they get their ideas, or, if you challenge them on a thought or something they say, Heaven, Hell, all of this. And, it won’t take long before they will be totally overwhelmed, and most of them have said to me, putting their hand up, “Mike, I’m gonna go talk to my pastor. And I’ll come back and get back with ya.” And not a one of them ever has. And I think the pastor just said, “You stay away from that Mike Garrett! I know he doesn’t have much hair, but if you look under there they’ll be little nubbins of horns! Probably a tail swishing!” Because they claim, “He’s the Devil! Stay away from him!” So, it comes down to, “Is there a God?” And, again, if there is no God, this entire discussion is simply wasted time! So, all people, they need to go through this progression of thought – is there a God!? You know, David was inspired to write back in Psalm chapter 14, that “the fool,” and if you look up that word, it means the stupid, the wicked, the impious, maybe in our language, the thickheaded, the lug headed, “the fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God.’” And yet there are people on this Earth right now who don’t believe in God.

And they certainly don’t believe in a Christian God. And isn’t it shocking that we live in a country upon who’s money is printed “In God We Trust,” and yet increasingly – at all levels of our society; not just the Church of God, but out there among mainstream Christianity – that to be labeled a “Christian” is actually going to hurt you! Harm you! That there are institutions and people that – more and more – are geared up to be angry, upset, dismissive, against people who have thoughts of the Bible and Christ, and God! And yet, if you’re carrying under your arm a Koran, and if you’re screaming “Allah Akbar!” in a market place, well, that’s a perfectly normal expression. You know, we shouldn’t judge those people! And it’s just literally, we’re talking about a world – that in my short lifetime – that has turned upside down! Upside down! “They call good evil, and they call evil good. Sweet for sour and sour for sweet.” That’s what Isaiah was inspired to write.

Those “who hold back the truth.”
Well, turn to the Book of Romans chapter 1 – Paul had some things to say about the existence of God and how human beings conduct themselves. Starting in verse 18 – “For the wrath of God [will be revealed – as this verse’s tense should be] from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who [hold back] the truth in unrighteousness.”
I remember one time I was out in Arizona, and I had a large number of citrus trees growing in my front yard. At one time I had thirty-five varieties of citrus. That’s a lot of fruit! And I could literally eat fruit fresh off a tree, about ten months out of the year! It was very nice, and that was long ago, but, had a neighbor right next door, Manny Ramirez – nice guy! And, one day I was outside watering my citrus trees, and Manny came up to the concrete block fence and we started talking. And Manny had recently become a – sort-of like a Deacon in a Catholic church, because they didn’t have enough priests to cover all these different territories. Manny and people like him would actually be serving in this sort-of semi “priest” roles. And because of that Manny had to go to classes. And one day out of the blue – I didn’t prompt this – Manny goes, “Well, you know the Sabbath is not Sunday.” And I almost dropped my water hose, and I said, “Yeah, Manny, I know that! How do you know that!?”
“O’ well I’ve learned it in my classes. You know, I’ve also learned that we Catholics simply changed it.” And, I said, “Well, indeed Manny. I think that you have some correct information there!”
And, in their mind it was perfectly fine to change what God had ordained. And, it says here – “who [hold back] the truth.” Here Manny, who was just a normal middle-class guy, he knew that the Sabbath wasn’t Sunday. And yet he was told by his priests and his institution that he had to go to church on Sunday – that that was the right day. Well, Paul went on to write – Verse 19 – “because what may be known of God is manifest [or obvious in them or to them], for God has shown it to them.” Verse 20 – “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they [the unbelieving] are without excuse, 21) because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became [vain] in their [imaginations and their traditions of their institutions], and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22) Professing to be wise, they became fools.” It says down in Verse 28 – “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a [reprobate] mind, …” -  a mind which is simply worthless, no longer working correctly! And I love this chapter – this whole chapter!
You know, back in Owensboro, Kentucky, you look up at night and you might be lucky to see a dozen stars. And two or three of them are probably planets, if the truth be known. But out in Arizona, you could go out to the countryside – what I call, ‘up into the hills’ – and it seemed like there were a million stars! They were so bright, you actually felt at times you could actually reach up and grab one! And it was just spectacular!
And I remember my brother one time, he came out to visit me, he flew out to Las Vegas, and I drove up to pick him up out of the airport. And he had never been to Las Vegas, and he had wanted to see a casino, just as a tourist. And so I took him to the – at that time was the hottest property in Vegas, Caesars Palace. And, we went in there, and walked through, the different gaming devices and people. Then he wanted to go downtown Vegas, and if you’ve ever been to Las Vegas the motels on the strip are big and fancy and shiny. But if you go to downtown Vegas, you get into the original type casinos. And their much more earthy – as it were. More urban - as it were. And, the high-rollers tend to go to the strip, and the common people tend to go downtown.

And he had seen that in movies and on television, he just wanted to see it, we went there. So after we played tourist, we got in the car and headed south, back to where I was living. And about two-hours down the road, he needed to – shall we say irrigate some of the local plants. I’m being polite. And so he wandered off and did his thing. And all of a sudden out of nowhere I heard him scream – I mean he let out a shout! And I thought, “O’ no, a rattlesnake has found him! Or a scorpion!” I said, “What happened!?” He said, “I looked up!” And when he looked up he saw a sky that he had never seen before!

And these thousands upon thousands of stars – constellations. He was just shocked! And he said, “I’ve never seen this before!”
Well, as you read Isaiah chapter 40, verse 12 – talking about God! “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, Measured heaven with a span And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales And the hills in a balance?” – to God everything that we know is pretty small. He goes on to say, Verse 13 – “Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has taught Him? 14) With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, And taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, And showed Him the way of understanding?”
Verse 15 – “Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, And are counted as the small dust on the scales; Look, He lifts up the [islands] as a very little thing. 16) And Lebanon [that ancient force of Lebanon] is not sufficient to burn, Nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering. 17) All nations before Him are as nothing, And they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless. 18) To WHOM then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare Him?” And he goes on to say Verse 25 – “’To WHOM then will you liken Me, Or to whom shall I be equal?’ 26) Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, WHO brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing. 27) Why do you say, O Jacob, And speak, O Israel: ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, And my just claim is passed over by my God?’ 28) Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. 29) He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.” And just the last verse there, such a beautiful promiseVerse 31 – “But those who wait on the LORD [someday] Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” That’s a promise of a future existence that we can look forward to!
Creation Without a Creator?
David, in Psalm chapter 8 was inspired to write, “when I considered Your heavens, the work of Your hands!” And David, too, as a young boy, out there in those hills tending the sheep, probably many a night laid back and just looked at the different stars and constellations and the comets and the meteorites, and the planets. Was just fascinated by it – too bad he didn’t have a telescope! He looked up and was just overwhelmed! How can this have accidently happened!? And yet science would have you believe – it’s all just an accident! Just some strange coincidence. They would have you believe that sometime way back there, there was just this giant “thing.” This giant sort-of molecule. And it just erupted like a big old boil! And stuff went everywhere! They call it the “Big Bang” theory. That is their explanation as to where the heavens, the Earth, the universe came from. That’s pretty pathetic – I’m actually ashamed of it! I mean, you would think that those highly educated people could of at least come up with something better!?
But just the eruption like a giant boil! BANG – and it all came into existence! Well, it did! But God was the One that did it - God was the One which directed it! Not just by accident.
   3.  Can I prove that God exists?
Remember, earlier, I asked, “Is there a God?” Can you know it – can you prove it!? And, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and Mr. Ted Armstrong wrote booklets  - and I have a feeling that Mr. Ted did most of the writing but… he gave seven proofs that God exists. I often come back to this, and I have used this in conversations with people. I’ve even written this at times on the Internet – different places.
CREATION – the very fact that we have a creation requires that at sometime there was a Creator. It just didn’t happen by accident!
DESIGN – throughout the whole of the universe there’s design. From a snowflake to different mineral deposits. You look – the scientists tell you – at an atom, that you have a little nucleus and flying around it like little satellites are electrons. But it’s the same thing you see when you look at the Earth! You see the Earth (the nucleus) and flying around it is a satellite. Well, you look at the entire solar system. You see the Sun (the nucleus) and surrounding it are these little satellites. The design is consistent throughout nature. It’s consistent because it had ONE DESIGNER! The Almighty God!
LAWS – the existence of laws require that those laws came from somewhere. I mean the old song, “What goes up, must come down.” And all of you know – you know when you’re a child you can run around the room, fall down, you just get up, dust off your knee and just keep right on going. But, when you get a certain age – and I won’t name anybody – the idea of falling down just isn’t a whole lot of fun. Gravity is a good thing, and when I get out of the shower, gravity is a bad thing! I don’t have my teenage figure anymore – I don’t know where it went!?
FRICTION – I was thinking about friction this morning getting into the shower. Normally I don’t like friction. Because it slows everything down, makes it heavier. Increase gasoline mileage, wears you out.
But think about it, if you had no friction – try getting into a wet bathtub. Or shower. Why you would just – BAM! Be like walking on ice! So friction, not always as bad as we think it is!
But all these laws that govern everything consistently happen over and over and over. And all true science is - is an organized philosophical thought which has made accurate observations of the laws which God put into effect. They didn’t create the laws, they just have observed the handy work of God!
LIFE – I’ve watered a lot of rocks in my life, not one of them has come to life! But those potatoes I put in a few days ago, boy, that’s so hard for me to conceive – you order, they call them “Seed Potatoes,” and they just look like normal potatoes when you get them! And they say, “Now, take this potato and cut it up into chunks, make sure that each chunk has one or two eyes, and let it dry out a couple of days, and then plop it into the ground.” And I say to myself, “Why doesn’t it just rot!?” But I am assured that in a few days I’m gonna look out there and my little potato plants are going to come up! And I hope so, because it was a long time putting all that in. LIFE COMES FROM LIFE! And life requires a life giver! The continuation of all things, beit  our bodies or earth, the solar system, or atoms, and molecules, and the polarity of North or South Pole, all of this requires that something sustains it! And so the universe requires a Sustainer. And all of this points to God.
FULFILLED PROPHECIES – your non-believers would have a little more difficult time explaining. And that is the fact that you can look in the pages of the Bible and see prophecies which were fulfilled! How does something happen four-hundred years in the future exactly the way God said it was going to happen!? Or sometimes four-millennia in the future!? Fulfilled prophecy, a proof that there is a great God and that the Bible is indeed His rule Book!
And then the ultimate proof that God exists is MIRACLES. If you’ve never seen a miracle, it would be sort-of hard to understand one. I think I have. And I’m amazed! You know the times when I’ve maybe had that opportunity were the moments when I was at some of my lowest points in life. At that very moment a great Being, I think, took pity and said, “I think the kid needs a little encouragement right now.” Wham! Saw something that no way can be explained other than the fact that God intervened!
You have the miracles of illnesses and diseases, and maladies being cured. And if you think about it, the greatest miracle or the greatest healing of all is the resurrection of a dead body and bring it back to life! We, unfortunately, have not yet seen that in this age. But the Bible talks about it happening many times! Where people who were dead came back to life! How do you explain that, other than – a great Creator God!? And the greatest resurrection of all is when a human being changes from mortal into immortal! Up to now, it’s only happened ONE TIME! Jesus Christ! But in the future, that opportunity will be open to the vast array of mankind! And we, who hopefully, are among His firstfruits, will be the first to experience that! And I think about the fact that there are people who are now reading this, who have an excellent chance for the first time in the history of mankind, to never die! If we live long enough, maybe some of us can see that!?
Search the Scriptures
Well, if God exists – and the Bible is His Word – then we need to learn what the Book says about it! In 2 Timothy chapter 3, verse 16 – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, …” He also wrote in the 2nd chapter of 2nd Timothy, verse 15 – “[Study, obviously meaning what!? Study the Bible] to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” And Jesus Christ Himself said in John chapter 5, verse 39 – “…’search the Scriptures, for in them you [will know that] you have eternal life; …’” And then John chapter 17, verse 17 – “…’Your Word is truth.’” Where do we go to get our information about death and dying and the fate of the dead, the future of the dead!? It’s from the Bible! Not blindly believing and following the traditions and practices of human beings and human institutions. And yes, that’s what most people do! They just want to run to their priest, their rabbi, their pastor, their whatever, and say, “Tell me what the Bible says!” Well folks, God gave us a brain, and he gave us the ability – most of us if we don’t have a problem – to read, and then He gave us the Bible, and He provided the opportunity for the Bible to be translated, and almost everyone reading this has, probably, five or six copies of the Holy Bible! READ THE BOOK! Don’t rely upon some supposed “holy” man. Don’t rely upon some collection of human traditions. Grandmother was a wonderful person, most likely, but it doesn’t mean she understood the truth of God.
And for a lot of us, or most people in our society, they’re a Catholic, or Baptist, or Methodist, or whatever, because mom and dad was. Because grandmother and grandfather before them were.
Well, we get to these ideas which cause so much confusion. The soul. The word soul in the Old Testament, in the Strong’s Concordance is word number 5315. And it’s simply the word nephesh, you’ve heard this word many a time. And all that it means is “a breathing creature.” We are souls. It’s not that we have one, we are souls. And my pet kitty-cats are souls. And the birds which flirt around outside are souls. And the horses and cows, deer, and elk, and everything else that runs around as a breathing creature is Biblically speaking a soul. Human kind doesn’t understand that. They somehow think that we have this immortal soul. And yet, Ezekiel chapter 18, verses 4 & 20 say, “ The soul [the being, the living creature] who sins shall die.” Now, if you believe in the Bible, my Protestant and Catholic friend, how do you explain these Scriptures!? Or, do you simply take a black marker, and just mark them out!? And make believe they don’t exist!? Are you like the guy who goes to the smorgasbord – the spiritual smorgasbord – and just picks out the things that he wants!? That’s what most people do! Most peoples approach to religion is just picking out the things that they like! And they ignore everything they don’t like. But, you’ve got the whole Book – you need to study the whole Book! You can’t just blindly throw stuff away because Pastor Jones doesn’t agree with that or doesn’t teach that.
An Immortal Soul?
Well, the immortal soul. That’s when they really ramp up the soul idea. Not only – they say, “I have a soul.” But now, “I am an immortal soul!” Really!? 1st Timothy chapter 1, verse 17 – it reads, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, [the only] God who alone is wise, …” – Paul said that God was immortal. 1st Timothy chapter 6, verse 15 – “…the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16) who ALONE has immortality, …” Was Paul lying, my Protestant and Catholic friends!? Or, did he mean exactly what he said!? That only God is immortal. And for a human being to think that somehow he or she is somehow immortal is actually ascribing to yourself the very characteristics which belong to God! That’s a dangerous game to play! Ecclesiastes chapter 9, verses 5 & 10 – it says, “…the dead know nothing, …” No, they’re not an immortal soul! “…there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom IN THE GRAVE WHERE YOU ARE GOING.”
When we die we go to sleep. And we have not the vaguest understanding of what is happening or the passage of time. And we’re not in pain, we’re not roasting in “hell,” and we’re certainly not floating around on clouds somewhere in the “great beyond.”
If you would, turn to Psalm chapter 103, verse 13 – “…the LORD pities those who fear Him [He has empathy with us]. 14) For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” I’ve often said that we’re nothing more than walking, living, dirt. Because everything we are, everything we put into our mouth, came from the soil, or came from a stream, river, or pond, or a well. We are nothing more than a collection of beets and radishes, and carrots, and cabbage, and whatever else we might consume, beit good or bad. He goes on to say, Verse 15 – “As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. 16) For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.” – just gone. And I often, when I read these passages and passages like it, I think of that song from the 1980s – by the group called Kansas, Dust in the Wind. How many of you remember that song!? Great song! Haunting. “All we are is dust in the wind.” And that’s all we are! Unless God intervenes, at some future time, and restores our life in one form or another! Romans chapter 6, verse 23 – again, I don’t know how the Protestants and Catholics cope with this next comment. The apostle Paul – and you gotta believe that the apostle Paul who spent three and a half years, as it were, in private study with Jesus Christ out in the deserts of Arabia, you have to think that maybe Paul knows what he’s talking about! And Paul probably knows a whole lot more than the local priests, pastors, or rabbis, imams, or whoever else they go to. He said, “the wages of sin is death.”  He didn’t say, the wages of sin is ‘burning in hell fire.’ Or, being in ‘limbo.’ Or, some other – being a cricket – remember reincarnation. “O’ don’t step on that cricket, it might be your grandmother!”? Well, no, it’s ‘the wages of sin is DEATH!’ “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We are not immortal. We are inherently temporary. And every year that passes, every candle on our birthday cake screams at us – doesn’t it!? O’ it doesn’t scream when your twenty. And it doesn’t scream at you when you’re thirty. But somewhere there in the early forties it starts peeping. And, all of a sudden, one day, you find yourself getting up out of a chair, and you start to make those grunting sounds. “Where did that come from!?” And then you look in the mirror and  - for some of us – you say, “Where did my hairline go!?”
And you say, “What hairline, fella!? What’s all that gray stuff!?” “What are all these wrinkles I’m looking at!?” My Mom said one time, and I’ll betcha many of you who are a little older can identify with her, she was up in her upper seventies and said, “When I think in my mind who I am, I’m still twenty years old, able to get out and play tennis. And then I look in the mirror, and I ask myself, ‘who is that person?’” Well we are not immortal.  We do not possess an immortal soul. We are inherently temporary. We are all hoping that God, someday, will grant to us the gift of eternal life, and then we will have immortality!
Not While Flesh and Blood
1st Corinthians chapter 15 – and, again, the whole chapter of 1st Corinthians 15 is great! Verse 50 – “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.” – did you know the Mormons, I am told, believe that you enter eternal life as a physical human being!? In a physical state!? That’s what they told me out in Arizona! Every time I read this verse I go, “What do ya do with that one!?” “Well, we just don’t read that one! We read something else, from the Book of Mormon.” Verse 51 – “Behold, I tell you a mystery [a great unknown, because the people of the world do not understand this!]: We shall not all sleep, …” – again, death is portrayed as sleep. “but we shall all be changed – 52) in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” – and that is what all of us – that is the hope of eternal life – which all of us, at one level or another, that is why we’re here!! That’s why we, the collective group, is here!! Because we’re hoping and praying that God will grant us the mercy of giving us eternal life. And we want it for ourselves, and we want it for the ones we have loved. And all of you reading this, know people who now sleep. And you wait, and you wait, and you wait. But someday – if you believe there is a God, and you believe in the Bible – you know that someday you are going to see them again! And, every time I think of that, I think about the idea of ‘what if.’ What if I didn’t make it!? What if I go haywire and go off into the deep end!? I will never have that opportunity to see them again! And can you imagine how sad, how broken hearted they would be, when they come up out of the grave and say, “Where’s my wife/husband/child/friend!?” And you’re not there! For their sake we simply cannot fail to hang onto this gift that God is freely giving to us. We just have to hang on!
Hang on to the end! He says in Verse 53 – “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54) So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’” – where we will actually have the opportunity to mock death! “You had your icy fingers around me once, but no more fella – get outta here! Because LIFE has won out! Because Jesus Christ has won out! Because the power of God has won out over you!” “Death – you are now vanquished!” That’s a great day to look forward to!
We Will Someday Be Immortal
And then, 2nd Timothy chapter 2, verse 7 – “Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.” – here’s Paul wanting us to have understanding on this. Verse 8 – “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to [as we have spoken], 9) for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the Word of God is not chained. 10) Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Verse 11 – “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. 12) If we endure, We shall also reign with Him.” – but sadly enough, “if we deny Him, He also will deny us.” – let’s not think on that part.
And then 2nd Timothy chapter 1, verse 6 – Paul said, ‘Timothy, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7) For God has not given us a spirit of fear, …” – remember, Paul’s comment about most people spend their entire lives in bondage of the fear of death!? That is not to be our fear! But He has given us instead a spirit “of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – and a part of that soundness comes from the fact that we know that when our eyes close for the last time, our heart stops beating, and our lungs stop – we know that we will live again! Because the power of Jesus Christ will make it so! Verse 8 – “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9) who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, …” – the calling He has given us is to be eternal members of His eternal Family! “not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before [the world] began.” 
But it will soon be obvious – Verse 10 – “…by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through [this Message] …”
We are not an immortal soul, but someday, through the gift of God, we will be immortal!

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