Sermon delivered July 11, 1998

by Pastor Donald J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Quotations from the Bible are from the New Intdernational Version unless otherwise noted.

The Blessing of Death

Today is the second in a series of sermons about the seven S's of Seventh-day Adventism. Last Week was about the Second Coming of Christ.

When you realize that when you go to the grocery store and purchase a bottle of drinking water, it's more expensive than gasoline. That ought to tell us what is happening just over the horizon. Something is about to happen.

Today we're going to be talking about The Blessing of Death.

Do people Die? Is there such a thing as death? The Bible makes a statement in Genesis 3:4 "You will not surely die!" Do you know who made that statement? A snake. Do you know any credible snakes? I don't. I don't know of any good snakes. Not one. This was the first lie ever told. Satan says there is no such thing as death. Eve believed the Devil. Do you? Yet startling enough, most of the Christian world today teaches that there is not death.

Norman Vincent Peal said: "There is no death." He said, "The New Testament teaches the indestructibility of life!" Readers Digest, October 1953.

Millions of people today believe that when you die you are still alive somewhere. Some teach that we are reincarnated into something else, like a cow or a monkey. Others believe that death liberates the real person to higher realms of being gods. Some people believe that death is the entrance to real life for everybody. Most Christians believe death is abolished. They think that if uncle Bob was a good man when he dies, he immediately goes zooming off to heaven. But if Uncle Bob was bad he goes post haste to the Hot Place where he lives forever and is tortured forever and forever. Either way Uncle Bob is alive. He never dies.

But what does the Bible say? "The wages of sin is eternal life..." Right? NO! "The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life." So we need to keep that straight. The wages of sin is death.

Now, Satan says there is no death. If you go back here to Genesis you will notice that in that very chapter God doesn't take very long to set Adam and Eve straight on this. He doesn't want them to believe the first recorded lie. In Genesis 3:19 He makes his statement: "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." That's pretty clear, isn't it? We do die. Keep that in mind.

One of Jesus' best friends was named, Lazarus. You can read this in John. Jesus said to his friend, Lazarus, that He missed him, that He loved him, and in John 11:11 He made a statement about him. He said, "Our friend, Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."

Death is like a sound sleep. Now, keep in mind: death is death. But it's like a sleep. We know nothing until the morning when Someone comes to wake us up.

A little lad named Kenny developed leukemia. He got worse and worse, and there was no cure. Soon he was unable to go to school, then unable to go out at all, and finally confined to his bed. One day he asked the question his mother had most feared hearing. "Mother," he said, "what is death like?" Even though she had braced herself up for that moment, she couldn't handle it when it came, so she excused herself and went into the bathroom and she wept bitterly and prayed, her knuckles as white as the porcelain in the sink top.

Then, strengthened by God's Spirit, she went back into the bedroom and she said, "Kenny, you remember how, when you were a very little fellow you sometimes would fall asleep in mommy and daddy's bed with us? But in the morning when you woke up, you would find yourself in your own bed and in your own room? Do you know how that happened? That happened because while you were sleeping, your father came, and he lifted you up and carried you gently to your own bed and to your own room. That, Kenny, is what it is like when you die."

When you die, you are dead. You're in a sound sleep. You don't know anything. And your Father takes you where you belong, all of us together at the same time. That's what death is like. Death is like a sleep. Are you afraid of sleep? Neither should the Christian be afraid of Death. Dying is very hard, but death is not to be feared by Christians.

LAZARUS, one of Jesus best friends died: John 11:12-14 "His disciples replied, 'Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.' Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead.'"

Make no mistake about it, death is real. Death is like a deep sleep. Ecclesiastes 9:5- "For the living know that they will die, (Do you know that? You are going to die, unless Jesus comes first.) but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten." There's no knowledge in the grave. None.

How much do the dead know? Nothing. They don't even know their name. They don't remember anything. They don't remember their family. They are dead. Sleeping in Jesus until Jesus comes again to wake them up on resurrection morning.

Death, you see, is just the reverse of Creation. And many churches don't even believe in Creation. We, Seventh-day Adventists believe in Creation. We believe in the resurrection. And why have a resurrection if everybody is already in heaven? It doesn't make much sense, does it. Well, look at what happens at Creation. Genesis 2:7 says we came from the dust. "The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (soul)." That's all the soul is, it's a being. It's a person.

Dust plus the Breath of Life equals a living being, a soul! When we die what happens? Ecclesiastes 12:7 "and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit (or breath, the spark of life) returns to God who gave it." And the person ceases to be. That's pretty simple.

Death is the reverse of Creation. The body returns to dust and the gift of life returns to God Who gave it and the living person is gone. But the make up of that living person with its unique personality and character traits is perfectly stored in Gods celestial computer- like mind to reappear on resurrection morning brand new.

So death is like a long nap. We sleep in the dust of the earth until the great call of the Life-giver, Jesus. There is no Bible evidence that we go to heaven the moment we die. We sleep in the dust until the great reawakening morning at the end of the world.

Look at the life of David: The beloved writer of most of the great Psalms. David is called by Scripture "A man after God's own Heart." He wrote much of the book of Psalms. Do you think David will be in heaven? Absolutely! Is David in heaven today? Well, not really. Where is David today?

I think it is good for us Seventh-day Adventists to review these things once in a while because we believe differently than the entire world on this topic. The state of the dead is one of the distinguishing marks of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Acts 2:29 "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day."

Verse 34 "For David did not ascend to heaven...."

Now, if David did not ascend to heaven, how do you think you're going to ascend to heaven? Maybe you must think: I'm better than David. No! If he didn't ascend to heaven, nobody does. He did not. Did Jesus ascend to heaven when He died? No, He rested in the tomb. David a man after God's own heart is still sleeping in the dust waiting for the grand resurrection day just like every other Saint who has ever died.

And yet, over ninety percent of the Christian world today believes that there is no death. Seventh-day Adventists are almost alone in their teaching on this subject. I want you to really think this through.

Let's just suppose that I am a young married man with a wife and two children. Somehow I meet with a tragic and sudden death. Let's suppose, just for the sake of the doubt, that I go instantly to heaven. Now, that's the way many people believe. There, presumably, I can look down and I can see this earth and I can see my wife and my two children. In fact, I can even hear what they say. So billions of miles away, up in heaven, I intently observe my family. I do this every day.

I am proud when my little girl enters the first grade and does well. I hear her prayers to Jesus every night. But one day my wife starts to date another man. Now, I'm happy up there in heaven, right? I see this. He treats her nice. I watch. They fall in love. After a time they marry. It is OK, but she is still my wife. I don't want her to be alone I guess.

Then, after a time, he begins to drink. That could happen. And he begins to physically abuse my wife. Does that ever happen? Yes. I hear her cries. I hear her prayers. I am unable to help her. It gets worse. This man begins to physically have relations with her, abuse her. Things get worse. I am in constant turmoil. I'm in heaven.

Friends, can you see that going straight to heaven at "Death" is the best thing? It isn't the best thing. Death could be a bitter sweet experience. I believe that God's plan is best. Where does the Bible ever say that when human being get to heaven, and it never says that, that we will be able to look down and see our wife or our husband on this planet? Where does it say that we can hear what they say? It doesn't say that.

The truth is that the only way death could be a blessing is if death is a sleep. That's the only way. We all go to heaven at the same moment. God's plan is the best plan. Praise the Lord for that plan. And yet hardly anybody believes the truth of the Bible on this subject.

I have walked through many an old cemetery reading the granite tomb stones. Someone gave me this inscription:

"Under the sod beneath these trees 
     lies the body of Solomon Peas.  
Peas is not here but only his pod.  
     He shelled out his soul and went up to God."

That';s the way most of the world believes today. Now, let me ask you a question. It really doesn't make any difference, does it, what happens. Because when you die, you're dead anyway. It really doesn't make any difference. What difference does it really make whether I believe that Christians go immediately to heaven when they die or whether they wait until Jesus comes. It is the same result so why worry about it. Right? ..or.. Wrong! True or false? False

It makes a tremendous difference which way it is. Why? Think about this: If death is real and we really do die then we are not alive until the judgment day when Jesus comes and distributes the rewards. We are dead. Sleeping in Jesus.

You cannot contact dead people. Spiritualism cannot exist without Satan's lie about death. Can you see how the real truth about death is a wonderful protection against the un-Biblical viewpoint of spiritualism. We don't believe in Ouija boards and spiritualism and anything like that.

What happens in the last day, when Jesus comes? John 5:28,29 "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice (They don't hear their wife. They don't hear the prayers of their children. They hear His voice on resurrection morning. You, yourself, will hear your name called.) and come out--those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned."

              "YOU CAN KEEP THE FORK"

The sound of Martha's voice on the other end of the telephone always brought a smile to Pastor Jim's face. She was not only one of the oldest members of the congregation, but one of the most faithful. Aunt Marty, as all of the children called her, just seemed to ooze faith, hope, and love wherever she went. This time, however, there seemed to be an unusual tone to her words.

"Pastor, could you stop by this afternoon? I need to talk with you." "Of course, I'll be there around three. Is that okay?"

It didn't take long for Jim to discover the reason for what he had only sensed in her voice before. As they sat facing each other in the quiet of her small living room. Martha shared the news that her doctor had just discovered a previously undetected tumor. "He says I probably have six months to live". Martha's words were naturally serious, yet there was a definite calm about her.

"I'm so sorry to..." but, before Jim could finish, Martha interrupted. "Don't be. The Lord has been good. I have lived a long life. I'm ready to go. You know that." "I know," Jim whispered with a reassuring nod. "But I do want to talk with you about my funeral. I have been thinking about it.....

The two talked quietly for a long time. They talked about Martha's favorite hymns, the passages of Scripture that had meant so much to her through the years, and the many memories they shared over the years Jim had been with Central Church.

When it seemed that they had covered just about everything, Aunt Marty paused, looked up at Jim with a twinkle in her eye, and then added, "One more thing, preacher. When they bury me, I want my old Bible in one hand and a fork in the other."

"A fork?" Jim was sure he had heard everything, but this caught him by surprise. "Why do you want to be buried with a fork?"

"I have been thinking about all of the church dinners and banquets that I attended through the years," she explained, "I couldn't begin to count them all. But one thing sticks in my mind.

"At those really nice get-togethers, when the meal was almost finished, a server or maybe the hostess would come by to collect the dirty dishes. I can hear the words now. Sometimes, at the best ones, somebody would lean over my shoulder and whisper, 'You can keep your fork.' And do you know what that meant? Dessert was coming!

It didn't mean a cup of Jell-O or pudding or even a dish of ice cream. You don't need a fork for that. It meant the good stuff, like chocolate cake or cherry pie! When they told me I could keep my fork, I knew the best was yet to come!

"That's exactly what I want people to talk about at my funeral. Oh, they can talk about all the good times we had together. That would be nice. But when they walk by my casket and look at my pretty blue dress, I want them to turn to one another and say, 'Why the fork'?

"That's when I want you to tell them, that I kept my fork because the best is yet to come!'"

Death is a blessing because it is necessary before we can inherit the mouth watering dessert that God has prepared for those who love Him. Actually this life is not quite even the appetizer. This life is but a drop in the bucket compared to Eternal life.

We might die at midnight and the very next thing we know we will see Jesus. A hundred years could have passed by while we slept the sleep of death. But to us it would be the very next thing. Then from down in that dark earthen grave we will hear Someone calling our name. It will be Jesus, calling us to eternal life.

I Thessalonians 4:16-18 "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 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. Therefore encourage each other with these words."

The key words here are "In Christ." If you are In Christ you will live again. Accept Jesus as your personal Savior. Fall in love with Him. Serve Him. Become as much like Him as you can. Someday you will see Him face to face never more to part.

Opening Hymn: Lift Him Up #371
Scripture Reading:    Responsive Reading:   # 726
Closing: Take the Name of Jesus with You    #474


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