The mass media is full of stories (and films) about the dead and they tell them under a lot of salacious headings; the zombie dead, the living dead, the undead, the secret dead, the dead walks, alien dead, brain dead, dawn of the dead, etc and under genres like ghosts, mummies, vampires, zombies and the like. Most of these are offered as horror and entertainment but in truth these directors and actors know virtually nothing about the real situation as we are about to see.
Our contemplation is based on a straightforward, simple, sincere statement of observation by the Apostle John as God gave him a glimpse of eternity, "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God" (Revelation 20:12a) This scripture, along with many others, affirm that life exists beyond the grave and no amount of idiocy by scientists, philosophers or anyone else can in any way alter the truth of divine revelation nor obscure the clear teaching of the Holy Bible.
There are many questions people ask as regarding the dead, i.e. Where will I go when I die? What will it be like? Will I have a memory of things and people on earth? Will I be conscious or in a sleep state? Will I be able to recognize others who have died? Will I be with Jesus? Will I be able to contact the living? I do not think we have, as yet, all the answers but believers are to teach, preach and defend the truth as given to us in the Bible and as the Holy Spirit reveals to us as we walk the Christian's pathway.
In normal situations when we are dealing with issues of the dead we are usually at a wake or a funeral, trying to bring some comfort to the living and facilitating a measure of closure being mindful of the real pain and deep lost of the bereaved. Here in this meditation there is no funeral but I want us to look at this topic and see what God has to say about the matter.
To begin with there are some things we should take serious note of:
We can call it what we may, believe what we wish, death is a reality and it is hereby granted.
Death will come to everyone sooner or later so it would be wise to know what to expect.
To wait for proper answers from science is to expect a man with one leg to jump over the moon; it just will not happen.
Man knows nothing about the future except as told by God in the Bible or through revelation.
With these thoughts in mind let us proceed by examining:
DECLARATIONS ABOUT THE DEAD
Sureness of death
Whether we are good or bad makes no difference because in the scheme of things death is sure to come to all of us because it is:
Appointed by God, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." (Hebrews 9:27)
Appropriated through Adam, "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)
Assigned few years, "The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." (Psalm 90:10) Even when those living before the flood were living an average of nine hundred years, even then in the scheme of things that was considered fleeting.
Standing of the saved dead
We will surely all die but we do not all have the same standing in the eyes of Almighty God for the saved are seen as:
Being precious in God's sight, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." (Psalm 116: 15) Both living and dead we see that every act of the believer is significant to God.
Having peace and rest, "The righteous perish, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds" (Isaiah 57:1-2a)
Knowing persistent blessedness, "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." (Revelation 14:13a)
Status of the unsaved dead
The unsaved dead by their decision not to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are confined, like some demons, to prolonged suffering:
In torment, "And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." (Luke 16:23) The kind of torment is debatable but sure all the same.
In darkness, "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." (2 Peter 2:4) Some believe that this is the same place where the unsaved dead will stay until judgment day.
In terror. "How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors." (Psalm 73:19) Who would not be terrified awaiting final damnation?
DETAILS OF THE DEAD
As regards the body
Some people confuse what happens to the body with what happens to the spirit; but there is a difference because the body, made from the earth, returns to the earth as dust, "What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? Shall it declare thy truth?" (Psalm 30:9)
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust is an apt litany at any funeral. Whether the body is burnt or buried makes no difference for that body is gone forever; it was merely a housing for the spirit.
As regards the spirit
The spirit of the saved goes to Paradise and the spirit of the unsaved goes to Hades, "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43) and for the wicked, "And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died and was buried. And in hell he lifted up his voice" (Luke 23:43)
As regards their location
Many people get confused when hell is mentioned because hell is used to mean so many different things; the grave, Hades, Gehenna, etc. The unsaved will stay in Hades until the second resurrection but the saved will remain in paradise (in spirit form) until he is re-united with his immortal body at the first resurrection.
It is believed that Paradise which was once a part of Hades is now a part of heaven, "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) such an one caught up to the third heaven...How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which is not lawful for a man to utter." (2 Corinthians 12: 1-4)
The saved dead goes to Christ, "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5: 8)
Paul affirmed, "For I am in a straight betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better. Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." (Philippians 1:23)
DESTINY AWAITING THE DEAD
Surrounding the resurrection
Jesus, by his death and resurrection, has set the example for all mankind and as he rose from the dead, the first from the dead (Acts 26:23); we shall in similar vein be resurrected.
Resurrection is for all, "And have hope towards God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." (Acts 24:15)
Resurrection; the first is for righteous, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." (Revelation 20:6)
Resurrection; the second is for the unsaved, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." (Revelation 20:13)
Surrounding the judgment
The Bible leaves us in no doubt that God is the God of Justice and everyone will be held accountable to God in judgment. That's right; kings and queens, Prime Ministers and Emperors, Popes and dictators and all those who, while on earth, were regarded as untouchable.
Judgment will be for all. "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained" (Acts 17:31a)
The Judgment seat will be for the righteous, "But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at naught thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ." (Romans 14:10)
The White Throne Judgment will be for the unsaved, "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before Godand the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." (Revelation 20:11-12)
Surrounding the eternal state
Following the judgments every soul will enter the eternal state.
Some to everlasting bliss, "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matthew 25: 34)
Some to everlasting damnation, "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25: 41) and they shall depart, "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." (Matthew 25: 46)
As in this contemplation we see that God has spoken and the situation is clear; death is not the end. Beyond the grave there is no second chance; there was none for Dives and there will be none for unbelievers. Now is our chance to make it right with God, now is the time to be saved, and now is the time to seize the opportunity before we join the dead.
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013