I’ve been out of step with you for a long time, in the wrong since before I was born. 6 What you're after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life. 7 Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean. Psalms 51:5-7 (MSG)
God has a plan and a program to bring about that plan. David felt he had been out of step with God for a long time. Marching soldiers must stay in step with one another. Otherwise the marching looks bad and is extremely disorganized.
Peter warned that in the last days men would be out of step with God’s program because they either forgot his plan or were unaware of it to begin with. That program would seem to have been to some degree evidential from the beginning.
- Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." 5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 2 Peter 3:3-7 (NASB)
I would suggest this to you: Unless and until we get a firm handle on what exactly death is all about, we will be out of step with God and his program for the future as revealed to the Apostles and Prophets. Perhaps the first logical thing to do is to determine a good definition of the term “death”. In my “Family Word Finder” the following is said about "dead":
- The doctor pronounced him dead on arrival at the hospital: deceased, expired, perished, lifeless; no longer living, having no life.
- Scientist believe the planet Mercury is a dead planet; devoid of life, having no life.
- A language that is no longer spoken is called a dead language: defunct, extinct; obsolete; no longer in use.
- The battery was dead and the car wouldn’t start: inoperative, inactive; not working, not responsive; out of operation.
- There was a dead silence after the announcement; total, complete, utter, absolute, thorough, entire.
- The opposite of dead is alive, living, animate; breathing, existing, working, responsive, operative, in motion, productive, useful.
In the religious realm however, death is thought of as only a facade where only the body dies—the soul is thought to be deathless: immortal, eternal, perpetual, everlasting, not subject to death.
But if we are to be in step with God and His program by understanding and accepting His plan we need to take a good look at this reality of life which we call death. Is there a Biblical definition for death? Before we do that however, let’s examine its reality:
- Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' servant , saying, 2 "Moses My servant is dead; Joshua 1:1-2 (NASB)
Death, according to God, is a reality. Joshua, if he was to go about fulfilling God’s plan for the nation and people of Israel, needed to understand and accept that actuality. Sometimes it takes us a while to come to grips with the death of a loved one. Life cannot move on until we are able to accept the certainty that our loved one is dead and will not be a part of our life as they once were. They will not sit down and have a meal with us as they once did. That easy chair that had their invisible name on it will not be their resting place again.
By far the best definition of death I have ever come across in the Bible is found in Isaiah 38:1: and in 2 Kings 20:1. Notice in the verses following this passage that King Hezekiah did not welcome the idea of death. He pleaded with God and wept. This does not sound like a person who was looking forward to dying and going to be with God in heaven. It sounds like a man who recognized the blackness, the darkness and the emptiness of death. Like someone who did not want to die. He evidently knew what happens to a person when they die.
- In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, "Thus says the LORD, 'Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.' Isaiah 38:1 (NASB)
Simply put: TO DIE IS NOT TO LIVE. A person who is dead is devoid of life, having no life, deceased, expired, perished, lifeless, no longer living, inactive, not working, not responsive, out of operation. TO DIE IS NOT TO LIVE.
Let’s understand the process that brings us to a state of not being alive. It is difficult for us to comprehend because it is something we would have to experience to understand fully. If we were able to experience death and then to experience life again we then could tell what our experience was like. Jesus actually was able to do that. Having come back to life again Jesus said to John:
What did he say about death? He assured John and you and me that “he had been dead”. "I was dead," he said. Was he involved in some preaching project during that time between when he was alive—and when he was alive for evermore? No, he said, "I was dead"? If he had been on some crusade, then he wasn’t dead and that presents a real problem. If Jesus did not die, but only appeared to be dead; who died for our sins?
- "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Rev 1:17-18 (NASB)
- Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, "I have no delight in them"; 2 before the sun and the light, the moon and the stars are darkened, and clouds return after the rain; 3 in the day that the watchmen of the house tremble, and mighty men stoop, the grinding ones stand idle because they are few, and those who look through windows grow dim; 4 and the doors on the street are shut as the sound of the grinding mill is low, and one will arise at the sound of the bird, and all the daughters of song will sing softly. 5 Furthermore, men are afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags himself along, and the caperberry is ineffective. For man goes to his eternal home while mourners go about in the street. 6 Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed; 7 then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. 8 "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "all is vanity!" Eccl. 12:1-8 (NASB)
Notice the factors that lead up to the end:
- Lethargy: years draw near when you will say, "I have no delight in them"
- Depression: clouds return after the rain
- Physical deterioration: watchmen of the house tremble, and mighty men stoop
- Teeth come out: the grinding ones stand idle because they are few
- Deterioration of vision: those who look through windows grow dim
- Hearing loss: the doors on the street are shut as the sound of the grinding mill is low
- Fear of height: afraid of a high place
- Afraid to travel: afraid of terrors on the road
- White hair: the almond tree blossoms
- Medicine is ineffective: the caperberry is ineffective
- The grasshopper drags himself along
- Do you get the picture drawn by Solomon?
- By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return." Genesis 3:19 (NASB)
- Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul. 2 While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being. 3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. 4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Psalms 146:1-4(KJV)
| All this happens; then the spirit returns to God who gave it. What does that mean? What is that spirit? Is it a spook; an apparition; a ghost? Again let’s look at the process which is explained in the Bible; remembering what has been said:
- His breath goes forth (That’s what God breathed into Adam’s nose)
- He returns to the earth
- His thoughts perish (So when we are dead we are not thinking)
- I will praise the Lord while I’m living (So, when he are dead we are not living)
- I will praise the Lord while I have being (Being signifies existing)
- He returns to the ground (Just like God told Adam)
The process of death is the reverse of life. Just as God created man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nose the breath of life; even so, the process reverses; the spirit or the ability to breathe, live and think returns to God who gave it and the dust returns to the earth as it was. Job described the process this way:
- Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. Gen. 2:7 (NASB)
- "Man, who is born of woman, Is short -lived and full of turmoil. 2 "Like a flower he comes forth and withers. He also flees like a shadow and does not remain. Job 14:1-2(NASB)
- "For there is hope for a tree, When it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And its shoots will not fail. 8 "Though its roots grow old in the ground And its stump dies in the dry soil, 9 At the scent of water it will flourish And put forth sprigs like a plant. 10"But man dies and lies prostrate. Man expires, and where is he? 11 "As water evaporates from the sea, And a river becomes parched and dried up, 12 So man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens are no longer, He will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep. Job 14:7-12(NASB)
WHERE IS HE
Two other scriptures come to mind which help explain this process in even more detail. Job asked “when a man expires (breathes his last) where is he?” He lies down and does not rise till the appropriate time when he is called; when he is awakened out of the sleep of death. Examine these following passages and ask yourself: how much will I know when I die? While I am dead, what will I be able to do? Am I in step with God in my thinking about death?
- For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. 6 Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, Eccl. 9:5-6(NASB)
We are alive today knowing that ultimately we are going to die but when we die we do not know anything. Love, hate, zeal, activity, planning, knowledge and wisdom for the one who dies will cease. (This word Sheol is translated grave, 31 times in the OT; hell, 31 times in the OT; and pit, 3 times. Young’s Analytical Concordance) These references do not refer to a place where people go who appear to be dead but are more alive than they were when they were alive. (Have you noticed just how ridiculous that sounds?)
- Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going. Eccl. 9:10(NASB)
Job’s comment in (Job 14:12) holds the secret to understanding death, for it is in that thought that we find hope. (So man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens are no longer, He will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep.) He will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep. It is only in understanding death as sleep that we can find hope. Paul wrote of those who "have fallen asleep". Here he equates those who have fallen asleep with the dead in Christ.
- For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity . 20 All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. Eccl. 3:19-20 (NASB)
There is no need to be uninformed or ignorant as the KJV puts it about people who have fallen asleep or who are dead. Paul wasn’t talking about someone who is taking a nap. Those who are asleep can be awakened. Death is like sleep. From sleep we can be awakened. Like Lazarus, Jesus will call and we will answer. He will call as he called Lazarus…Lazarus come forth. As a result of that call Lazarus came forth to life.
- But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout , with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. I Thess. 4:13-18 (NASB)
- "You will call, and I will answer You; You will long for the work of Your hands. Job 14:15 (NASB)
JESUS AND LAZARUS
Of course the hope aspect can be seen in this instance. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. A thought we would do well to seize upon. You will remember Paul’s admonition to “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;” 1 Thess 5:21 (NASB) To fail to do so is to be out of step with God and his plan.
- After that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep." 12 The disciples then said to Him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover ." 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep.14 So Jesus then said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead… 17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days… Martha then said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 "Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." 23 Jesus said* to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha said* to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:11-26 (NASB)
- Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled… 38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, "Remove the stone." Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days." 40 Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 "I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me." 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." John 11:32-44 (NASB)
WHAT MARTHA KNEW
Martha knew the secret to death. Future life for those who have died requires a resurrection. "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus wanted Martha to understand that he is the resurrection and the life. When Paul gave information to keep us from being uninformed about those who sleep in death, he made it plain that the future for those who have fallen asleep, for the dead in Christ; can only come through resurrection. “The dead in Christ shall rise first.” I Thess. 4:16. Those who are in Christ but will not be alive at the coming of the Lord will be dead and in need of a resurrection to live. Those who are alive in Christ when he comes again will never die. Do you believe this?
To miss out on the information God has given relative to death is to be out of step with God and to fail to be on the same page with him. God has a program, a time-table and a wonderful plan. Why not join God to become a positive part of his plan by accepting his program for the future of the dead in Christ. They will rise first. Like Martha, do you also “know that your brother, you father, your mother, your child, your wife will rise again in the resurrection at the last day”? Those who are dead in Christ, even though they have died, will live again when Jesus comes and those who are living when Jesus comes will never die.