Are You Living Spiritually Preparing For Death?

Having had heart bypass surgery in 1984 and then again in 2007, this past Thursday another 911 call at 3:15 a.m. and a rush to the hospital. In 2007 my family was told I had a ten percent chance of living. It has been over 30 years that my heart has not been functioning correctly. As a result, I have read and studied the Bible as to what happens when a person dies.

The Bible tells us death is like falling asleep and having your soul immediately present with the Lord or separated forever from God. Death is not an end, it is a transfer to one’s next life.

A recent survey indicates 81% of Americans believe there is life after death. And 9% believe there may be life after death and 10% believe there is absolutely no life after death.

If you ask the average person if they are afraid of dying, what do you think the response would be? It would probably depend on a person’s age, their past experiences and what they might expect from the future. We have no supporting evidence but we would suppose the greatest fear most older people have is the fear of dying. Why does fear affect the lives of so many people? God created a perfect universe and a perfect Adam and Eve. He did not create Adam and Eve to have fear. We know that Christ lived without fear. Genesis 3:8-10 tells us that once Adam and Eve sinned, they became fearful. On earth, before God cursed it, there was absolutely nothing to fear. Once God cursed the earth, man developed fear. There are two kinds of fear. Positive fear requires that we not stand in the middle of a busy freeway and challenge oncoming cars. Negative fear can be a fear of failing, thus an unwillingness to try something that requires faith, confidence or trust. Fear prohibits most people from ever using their full potential or abilities.
When a person dies there are two places their spirit and soul will go and that is heaven or hell. How do we know who goes where? I John 3:10 writing to Christian believers says: “This is how we will know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” Since the Bible tells us that Satan works on people’s fears and promotes hate, on which group do you believe he is placing his attention?

It isn’t unusual for Christians to have fear based on past guilt, a feeling of unworthiness or a belief that we probably deserve punishment. In most cases it is a lack of trust in God and possibly placed there by demonic influence. When God says that Christ died that our sins could be forgiven and wiped clean and no longer remembered, can we trust God to really mean what He promises?

Fear can be the enemy of faith if we let it. Too often our fear is that we just can’t live up to God’s standards. Our faith and trust in God must help us to overcome our feelings, emotions and the belief that we are unworthy. We must sincerely rely on the promises of God and never on our feelings, which can deceive us.

How do we get rid of negative fear? I John 4:18 states: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Perfect love involves faith and confidence and cannot coexist with fear or hate in one’s heart. The Bible says that Christ died to free us from the slavery of fear. Hebrews 2:14 & 15 “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Since fear has to do with death, failure and punishment, it should not be a part of a Christian’s experience. Maybe if we know more about what happens after a person dies it may, at least partially, overcome one’s fear of dying.

I Corinthians 15:51 reads: “Listen, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” And verse 55: “Where O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?”

Physical death can be our doorway to heaven where our spirit and soul shall live with God, Christ and positive-loving people forever. Should we be fearful to walk through death’s door? Not if we have accepted God’s promises.

Knowing about Hell tells us something about Heaven.

Prior to the resurrection of Christ, when a person died under the Old Covenant, both believers and non-believers went to Hades or Hell depending upon their Bible translation. It was a temporary dwelling place for the soul. Psalms 49:15, “God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol or Hell.” Read Luke 16:19-26 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ “ (Once a person is in the Place of Torment, they were unable to cross over.) Purgatory is covered later!

Christ tells us these two men who died went to Hell. Lazarus went to Paradise or Abraham’s Bosom and the rich man ended up in a Place of Torment. Therefore, we can determine that Hell had three separate divisions: Abraham’s Bosom or Paradise (a place of comfort), a Great Gulf that separates them and a Place of Torment. Where some of the confusion comes, is thinking Hell is the “Lake of Fire”. Luke 16:25 says, Lazarus was “comforted here” and the rich man was “in Agony” and asked that his tongue be cooled, because he was in agony in this fire. And the rich man is still there in agony at least 2000 years later. For those in Paradise, Daniel 12:2 says, “You will rest and then at the end of the day, you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance and others will receive their everlasting contempt.” Therefore, Christ says there are two separate places in Hell or Hades divided by a chasm or gulf. Many believe the gulf could be the Abyss or the Bottomless Pit where evil spirits are housed. (Acts 2:34 “David did not ascend to Heaven.”) (John 3:13 – According to John, Jesus said: “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of Man.”) This was before Christ was resurrected.

In Hebrew, Sheol is the word used to describe Hell or Hades. When Sheol is translated into English in some Bibles, the following verses are referring to Hades or Hell: Prior to Christ’s resurrection, everyone went to Sheol which was either paradise or Hell.
· Sheol, a place where the dead exist – Proverbs 9:18 KJV
· You have delivered me from the depths of Sheol. – Psalms 86:13 KJV
· Sheol, a place for the wicked and those who forgot God – Psalms 9:17 KJV
· A godly Jacob expected to go to Sheol – Genesis 44:29 Amplified O.T.
· All men will go to Sheol, the realm of the dead. – Psalm 89:48 Amplified O.T.

Some confusion exists believing that Hell or Hades was a place of torment where only the unrighteous waited for judgment. However, for the followers of God, there was Paradise or Abrahams’ bosom, a place of comfort for those who were righteous but had not been forgiven of their sins. Hopefully, this will be helpful as we continue our study. In the future, at the Day of Judgment, after Christ’s 1000-year rule on earth, Satan, the fallen angels and all non-believers will be thrown into a ‘Lake of Fire’.

When Christ was crucified He went from the cross to Sheol or Hell. Matthew 12:40, “The Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Some believe Ephesians 4:8-11 – “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men. (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)” This reveals that Paradise is no longer located in Hell and the Old Testament saints were taken by Christ up into heaven. They could not enter the presence of God until Christ’s resurrection and their sins had been forgiven. This is what they believe these Scriptures mean:

Christ descended into Hell to set the ‘captives free’ and take them to heaven to be with Him. He gave the ‘gift of salvation’ to those still alive by grace through faith. Under the New Covenant believers being converted, which occurred after Pentecost, and once they receive the Holy Spirit, may go directly to heaven where we join those saints from the Old Testament as well as New Covenant believers. (II Corinthians 5:8 and Philippians 1:23) The Paradise section of Hell is now empty and Christ holds the keys to the other two divisions. (I Thessalonians 4:14: We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.) The reason the Old Testament believers were held temporarily in Paradise was because the blood of animals could not forgive sins. It took Christ’s blood to do that. Once Christ’s blood was shed, it allowed Him to have the key and open the door to Paradise and take the Old Testament Saints with Him to heaven. The thief on the cross next to Christ was told; “today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Jesus did not say He would see him in heaven.

We also are told that Jesus did not ascend to heaven while He was in the center of the earth. Sunday, the day of His resurrection, He would not permit Mary to touch Him because He had not yet gone to heaven. According to (John 20:17) “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” Later, the disciples touched Him. (John 20:27) Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

The Abyss is described as a bottomless pit where the worst of demonic spirits are all held and from where the Antichrist will come. They are locked up until God determines to release them onto the earth during the Great Tribulation. Some believe this could be the gulf between Paradise and the Place of Torment.

Purgatory was supposedly a place men went to do penance or suffer for the sins they had committed in order to purify themselves for a better afterlife. There is no indication anywhere in our Scripture that supports the suggestion that those in Hades or Hell can be granted the opportunity to receive salvation or that there is a Purgatory. Those who enter the Place of Torment have no hope for escape. Isaiah 38:18 – “The grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise, those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness.” Knowing about Paradise and Hell provides some assumptions for heaven.

What do we know about heaven?

We know very little. We know many confuse heaven with the new earth and the new heaven that God will create for believers when this old world disappears. (Isaiah 66:22 says: “As the new heavens and the new earth that I will make, declares the Lord.”) We know that we must be saved and forgiven to get there. We will be able to recognize people as they did in Paradise. We know there will be a lot of singing and worshipping. There will be a multitude of angels in heaven. We know there will be no pain, tears, sorrow or death. We know that God and Christ are there. Matthew 22:30 tells us there will be no marriages as we will be like angels. Luke 20:29-38 – “’Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second one married her and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?’ Jesus replied: ‘The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

We may assume heaven is a temporary holding place for the souls of believers until God’s plans are fulfilled for Christ to come back to earth to rule for a 1000 years. (In heaven, one day may be as a 1000 years to God.) After that we know we will be transported to a new earth that is indescribable and beautiful which will be covered later.

The Great Tribulation must take place before Christ comes to rule the earth.

Matthew 24:4 – 25 tells us to watch out and let no one deceive you. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Nation will rise against nation. There will be famines and earthquakes. You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death and you will be hated by all nations because of me. There will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now and will never be equaled again. There will be false prophets. They will perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect. There will be seven years that the Antichrist will rule called the time of Tribulation.

1 Thessalonians 4:16 – 18 – “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command and the dead in Christ will rise first. (The dead may refer to those having died and are in heaven.) After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” This has been called the rapture. I Corinthians 15:52 reads that we will be changed and receive an imperishable body and will become immortal. The Bible says we will be like Christ. 1 John 3:2 – “When he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

The question has always been: when will believers be raptured? Will it be prior to the seven years of Tribulation, in the middle at 3½ years or when it is finished? During the Great Tribulation there will be massive earthquakes, chaotic plagues, stars will fall from the sky and the oceans and streams will turn to blood. There will be disease such as AIDS and worse. Some believe the church will be raptured before the Tribulation. Some believe it will be after 3½ years while Satan is ruling. Others believe we will be raptured after the seven years of Tribulation. (Pre-Mid-Post)

How do we know if we will be taken? Ephesians 1:13 tell us, “We were marked in Christ with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” If we have received the Holy Spirit we have been sealed. The knowledge that the Holy Spirit is in our lives is all we need to know to be assured that we are saved, secure and one of God’s children. Thus, if we are alive we will be raptured.

Following the Rapture

Revelation 20:4 & 6 – “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”

Those who came to life, (we believe those coming from heaven) will rule with Christ a thousand years on this earth. And, they will not die a second time for they will rule with Christ during the thousand years. We believe the earth will have its curse removed and it will be an environment similar to what it was like before Adam’s sin. As Peter says, if God promised it, He then knows how to do it.

At the end of the thousand years Satan is let loose once again. Rev. 20:7 – 10 – Satan will convince millions to go to war against Christ and His people. Scripture says a fire will burn them up and the Devil and his followers will be thrown into the “Lake of Fire”. From the beginning of time, anyone whose name was not entered in the “Book of Life” was hurled into the “Lake of Fire”. This is where all non-believers will end up. (2nd Peter 3:7, 10, 12 – Luke 21:25-27 – Malachi 4:1.)

Rev: 21:1 – 4 – “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Gone will be our present earth, destroyed by fire according to 2nd Peter 3:7. The new world is prepared for God’s people. God, Christ and the Holy Spirit will live with His people as God did with Adam and Eve in the garden. There will be no more pain, mourning or death for the old order is gone. Our diets will be different as we eat fruit from the Tree of Life. The same tree that Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat. There will be no sun and sin is banished. Christ said that He was going away to prepare for us a mansion. Keep in mind that we are talking about the new earth. Our present heaven, the third heaven as Paul describes in II Corinthians 12:2 where God dwells now, is not necessarily paved with streets of gold. In this heaven, it doesn’t talk about eating or describe how we will live.

Rev 21: 5 “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

God says He is making everything new. Those who are victorious will inherit all these blessings and He will be their God and they will be His Children. Those who do not accept Christ, as their Savior will spend eternity separated from God.

Revelation 21:15-18 “The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold.”
The angel measured the city, its gates and its walls. It was 1400 miles square. Its walls were 200 feet thick. The new earth will be a perfect cube. The Holy of Holies in the Old Testament temple was also a perfect cube. The measurements are all in multiples of 12. The number 12 in the Bible stood for perfection and completeness. There are 12 tribes, 12 apostles and the walls surrounding the earth will be 12 by 12. The walls will have 12 layers. There will be 12 gates. It will be large enough to hold in excess of one billion people. The walls being 200 feet thick symbolize security. Everything on the new earth will radiate the presence of God. It will have no impurities; nothing will impede its ability to transmit God’s Glory.

Revelation 21:19 & 22 – “The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone.” “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

The picture of walls made of jewels reveals that the New Jerusalem will be a place of purity and durability. On the new earth there will be no need for a temple because God’s presence will be everywhere. He will be worshiped throughout the city.

Revelation 21:23-25 “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.”

The city doesn’t need a sun or a moon for light. God’s glory is its light and Christ is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light and the earth’s kings will bring in their splendor. Its gates shall never be shut because there is no night. In the new earth there will be no need for a sun or a moon. The temperature will be very comfortable the year around. There will be no darkness because it cannot exist in the presence of light. Since there will be no sin in the presence of God there will be no need for darkness or a need to lock the gates. We will walk in the light of God.

Revelation 21:27 “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

The glory and honor of the people will be brought into the city. Nothing sinful will enter the city and no one who defiles (does shameful things), or deceives; only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be able to enter. The Holy City will be beyond one’s imagination when it comes to beauty. God’s kingdom will remain forever for those who are believers. God’s foreknowledge is absolute. He has known from the beginning of time who would worship Him and who would not. Scripture tells us if we die with Christ we will live with Him forever. (Matthew 19:28-30)

Revelation 22:1-2 “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

We know there was a time when humans ate only vegetables and fruits. We believe this will be our diet in the new earth. Water, which is necessary for life will come from a river that is crystal clear. The leaves of trees will cure all the hurts of nations. We will have no fears for God will provide all of our needs.

Revelation 22:3 & 4 – “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”

The throne of God and the Lamb will be at the center. His servants shall worship God and offer their services. They will see His face and His name will be on their foreheads. Nothing cursed will be in God’s presence for He has lifted the curse that He placed on earth banishing Adam & Eve from the garden. God and His children will never live in an imperfect setting. Our relationship to God in eternity means there will probably be duties that we are required to perform. God’s face has not been seen since Adam and Eve were in the garden. However, we will see the face of God and we will be sealed with the Spirit of God. Our character and our behavior shall be the same as Christ. We shall have a close relationship with Him. He will not always be on a throne but walking among His people.

Revelation 22:5 – “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever.”

No one will need lamplight or sunlight for God will be our light. We shall rule with Him forever and ever. This indicates there will be no more evil in the world or need of darkness. The night and day was to mark the passage of time. In the New Jerusalem, in eternity, there is no need to measure time. We shall rule with Him forever and ever, which has been the promise and hope of every Christian. This is what it is all about. Is living a disciplined life, saved, totally surrendered, having repented and committed to Christ for eighty some years or however many, worth forever and ever?

Revelation 22:6 & 7 – “The angel said to me: ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.’ ‘Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.’”
An angel said these are dependable and accurate words for everyone. God has sent His angel to tell you what must take place and soon. “Tell them I am on My way.” Blessed are those who keep the prophecy of this book. An angel is attesting to what John has written is trustworthy and true. Throughout history God has told His prophets what the future holds. God told Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah and the other prophets what would happen at the end of the age and it was told to John so that a comprehensive presentation could be put into this one book, the Book of Revelation. The word ‘soon’, as I will return soon, could be interpreted to mean imminent, implies with certainty and suddenly. It has also been interpreted to say, when these events occur, as described in Revelation, they will happen in quick succession.

Revelation 22:8-11 “I, John saw all of these things with my own eyes and heard them with my ears. I fell down to worship the angel that showed me. He objected saying, I am a servant just like you and all who keep the words of this book. Worship God! Then he said not to put this book away on a shelf for time is near. Let those doing wrong continue; the one who is evil, let him be; the one who is good should continue to be good and the one who is holy should continue to be holy.”

John, we believe a cousin of Jesus, didn’t just imagine what he had written. Could an Apostle of Christ, one that Jesus had in His inner-circle, possibly make this up? Daniel had seen many things in heaven and he was commanded not to tell what he had seen because it was not a message for Daniel’s time. John is being told, everything you have seen and heard you are to make sure it becomes published. God wants His promises available for everyone to read. This is also how we will know when events unfold so we will not allow the Antichrist to deceive us. The angel is not recommending evil living. Do not be swayed by how others live. The consequences of how we live will determine the choices we make and the heavenly rewards that we will receive.

Revelation 22:12-15 “I’m on my way. My reward is with me. I will reward everyone according to what they have done. I am the first and the last, the beginning and the end. How blessed are those who have washed their robes. The Tree of Life is theirs for good and they will walk through the gates of the city. All the evildoers will live outside the city.”

We believe this is an illustration that nothing evil will enter the city. Scripture tells us that the evildoers were cast into the Lake of Fire. The reason for walls around the city was to denote security. Walls are not needed if the gates are always open. In the Old Testament rewards were often immediate for living according to God’s principles. In the New Testament the rewards in most cases were to be deferred until Christ’s judgment. Otherwise all good Christians would be rich based upon Old Testament history. Rewards probably will be based more on one’s heart and attitude, their love for God and others, rather than having been a teacher, minister or never missing a church service. However, it is very clear in verse 12, “My reward is with me and I will give to every one according to what he has done.” This is why our church emphasizes serving, giving of our time and money, being in a small group and becoming connected to God and others. But it is not works but deeds that will receive rewards. Works is defined as expecting something in return for what we do for others. Deeds meaning we serve with unconditional love expecting nothing in return for our service.

Mark 13:24–31 tells more about the second coming. How can we know that we will go to heaven? I John 3:14 “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” These verses tell us if we love our brothers and sisters we will have life. If we have hate in our hearts and not love we will die. If you want to know what true love is Christ gave us an example. He laid down His life that our sins could be forgiven. Real love may require real sacrifice. How much are we willing to help others? What does it mean to lay down our lives for another? It may mean giving up our rights; it may mean putting others’ needs or interests above our own. Love produces being selfless and sacrificial giving. It may mean serving others without any expectation that they reciprocate. Two Christians who marry and have this kind of love in their hearts can have a lifetime of happiness. Their lives are not dead, they are children of God and they are alive.

I John 3:21 & 22 “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”

I John 3:24 “Those who obey his commands live in him and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us. We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” The Apostle John tells us there are ways to know we are going to heaven: We have unconditional love in our hearts and we do not hate fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and we know by seeing Holy Spirit inspired supernatural events taking place in our lives. The Holy Spirit teaches us, we receive fruits from the Holy Spirit and we are led or checked by the Holy Spirit.

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