by Gwen Shaw
THERE IS NO DEATH
There is no such thing as death for the true Christian, because “death” means the cessation of life, and for the Christian there never will be a time when he will cease to exist. Life continues after the spirit makes the transition from its temporal, carnal body, with its infirmities, weaknesses and aging, into its never-aging, heavenly body, which will be free from pain, sorrow, worries or fear.
“Death,” if one wishes to call it by that name, is our “friend,” and God’s servant who cuts the silver cord that holds us prisoners to this world. A better name for this servant of God would be “Angelic Guide to Heaven’s Portals.” When we understand the Glory and the joy that awaits us in Heaven, we long for his call. And we welcome him with gladness.
No one, having journeyed with him into God’s Presence, has ever regretted the journey. All have sought and desired to stay in their new home, which Jesus has prepared for us, and to continue to live in their new, celestially-created bodies. Those who have had to return to earth have usually pled to stay in Heaven and await the Resurrection Morn, when they will receive their earth-bodies, now re-created and glorified; thereby triumphing forever over the pangs of the moment when their spirits were separated from their bodies.
If there is one thing that is more terrible than death it is the inability to die when suffering is extreme, and there is no hope of it lessening. Revelation 9:6 says that during the Great Tribulation man will suffer terribly from the plagues that will come upon the world and wish he could die, but will not be able to even kill himself, nor commit suicide, “And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them” (Revelation 9:6).
JESUS DESCRIBED, AND VIEWED WHAT WE CALL DEATH AS NOTHING MORE THAN SLEEP
Jesus tried to explain this “no death” truth when He was on earth. He said to Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. (John 11:25-26).
Earlier, when Jesus had received the message from Mary and Martha that their brother, Lazarus, was very sick, He said to His disciples, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4). He stayed two days longer. During that time Lazarus “died.”
When Jesus knew that Lazarus had passed from this life He said to His disciples, “Let us go into Judea again” (John 11:7). He wanted to go because He loved Martha and Mary and their brother. He knew they needed Him. When His disciples tried to hinder him from going to Judea because of His many enemies who lived there, He told them that there still was a little bit of “daylight time” left in which He could still do some miracles. He wanted to return because it was kairos time. So to explain the urgency of the time He said, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11).
What a wonderful way to describe “raising the dead!” To Jesus what we call “death” was nothing more than “sleeping.” And the miracle of resurrection was the waking up from sleep. But because his disciples did not understand Him, He had to talk their language, “Lazarus is dead…Let us go to him” (John 11: 14b-15). Who has ever heard of “visiting the dead”? Wouldn’t people think we were strange if, after hearing a friend had died, we would say, “I am going to visit him”?
To Jesus the “death” of the righteous is not “death,” because death has been conquered through Christ. Jesus is the Ruler over death. He could see the spirit of Lazarus rejoicing in Heaven. He knew that when He would arrive in Bethany, He would have to raise Lazarus up from the grave and He wanted to give him a few more days “vacation time” in Heaven!
JAIRUS’ DAUGHTER WAS ONLY “SLEEPING”
When Jesus arrived at the home of Jairus, where their daughter was laid out in death, and He saw the mourners were standing around weeping, He said to them, “Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth” (Luke 8:52b). They laughed at him scornfully, but their mockery did not stop Him from “awakening” the lassie; it only prevented them from seeing the miracle, for He put them out of the house. He took her limp hand, called to her, “Maid, arise! Her spirit came again, and she arose straightway” (Luke 8: 54b-55a).
It was a big transition for her, from the “Home of the blessed” back to the home of her parents; but the joy she brought them when she was restored to life made her happy that she had returned.
HEAVEN IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE JESUS HAS PREPARED FOR OUR ETERNAL HAPPINESS
When Jesus was with His disciples in the Upper Room on that last night of His earthly journey, He told them a little about Heaven. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).
Not only has He created a beautiful, Eternal Home for us, He has created mansions that are beyond all our imagination in splendour. He waits to welcome us at the Gates of Pearl, usher us through the streets of Gold, introduce us to the saints of yesterday, and present us to His Father, and ours. He can hardly wait until we come to Him, as the Word of God says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).
All of Heaven is waiting to give you a “Welcome Home” party. The death of the saints is a joy to God. It is like the day when I returned from China. My parents waited for me with great anticipation.
How must He feel when He sees us so full of fear of dying? When we, who know a little about the beauty and peace of our Eternal abode, try so hard to avoid it, and seem so in love with this world, preferring our earthly companions to Him, is He not grieved? Could it be that we have no longing for Him because we have spent so little time in His Presence, and we prefer our earthly friendships and relationships more than His? Have we lost our “first love” for Him? — if we ever had it!
OR SHOULD WE WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN SO BADLY THAT WE SEEK AN UNTIMELY DEATH?
Seeing then, that Life after life is so desirable, should we not seek to escape from our present bodily existence?
No, a thousand times no! Our present bodily existence called “life” is but a short duration of “time” out of Eternity which has been allotted to us to live here on earth to give us the privilege of fulfilling the purposes and plans of God for this planet. If we could only realize what great honours and rewards we will have through all eternity for every good and kind deed that we have done, and every victory we have won, we would be so grateful to God for the opportunity of living on this earth!
It was with joy that the angels accompanied our spirits from Heaven, as our spirits entered the beginning of our earthly existence when the spark of “God-life” came into our as yet unformed bodies in the moment of our conception. This took place the instant when our father’s living sperm fused with our mother’s living ovum — thereby creating a new form of life by the mingling together of two different DNA’s, thus making an altogether new creation that would be created in the image of both its mother and father, which is the image of God.
On the sixth day of Creation, “God said, Let us make man in Our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:26-27).
Oh, the wonderful mystery of the fact that we are created in the image and the likeness of God! It is beyond all our scope of imagination, beyond all our understanding, beyond all our comprehension! As the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33).
WHY REINCARNATION IS SO WRONG THAT IT CAN BE CALLED BLASPHEMY
Man is the most unique and precious of all forms of life, because he is created in the image of God, and is the only one of its kind. While it is true that animals, birds, fish, and other forms of life are also marvelous and precious, none can compare with man who is created in God’s likeness. He has more than oxygen in his lungs, he has the spark of “God-life” which is very unique and of great excellence, and lives forever. We are not only made in the image of God, we also possess the life of God in our spirits. Man is the highest of God’s order of created beings.
There can be no comparison between the life of man and another of God’s creation, such as beast or vegetation — as wonderful, and as necessary as some of them are. Therefore the teaching of reincarnation, i.e. the return of the soul to earth in the form of a beast or plant, or some other creature, which some religions and philosophies teach, is not only erroneous, but blasphemous because it degrades God, bringing Him down to the level of a serpent, an insect, or even a plant. Those who believe and teach such error in these enlightened times are likened unto the men of Paul’s day whom he described in Romans 1:23, “And [they] changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”
“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22).
I have lived for many years in nations where reincarnation of the dead is taught and believed; and I have seen the bondage, fear and hopelessness which this endless chain of rebirths brings. In some parts of the world rats are allowed to live and multiply even though they destroy the crops and spread plagues, because they might be someone’s recently deceased loved one, and a link in the chain of re-births. Paganism is without hope. Only in Christianity do we find the truth which shines through the darkness of vain man-made philosophies with the light that is lit by the Author of Light and Life. Therefore, in paganism there is no life, only darkness, ignorance, fear, hopelessness, emptiness and death.
JESUS CAME TO EARTH TO BANISH THE BONDAGE OF THE FEAR OF DEATH
I have seen the terrible fear of death in nations where the light of the Gospel has never penetrated the belief and teachings of man-made religions. Not only do they fear the moment of death, they fear the person who has died. This leads to ancestral worship, because they are afraid that if the person who has died is displeased with members of the household he or she will come back to haunt them.
This fear brings people into terrible bondage. But when they hear the Gospel and accept Jesus as their Saviour, they are marvelously set free from the fear of death which has brought them into bondage all their lives.
When those dear souls accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, they always wanted to clean their homes of all demonic influence and control. Many times we have been called to their houses, where we tore down the altars to the demons and spirits of the dead ancestors, and commanded the demon spirits that ruled the household to leave the home. Often demons were seen leaving the house through open windows. We took their altars down, carried them out into the yard, and burned them. Then we claimed the protection of the Blood of Jesus over the members of the household. We sang two or three of the blessed Gospel Hymns, read the Word of God, and placed a Holy Bible, or New Testament, in the home. After asking the Lord to send His angels to protect the members of the household, we left them in peace. What a difference the Gospel light makes!
The writer of Hebrews says, “And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:13-15).
Thank God for His Son Jesus, who came to this lost world, and once more spoke the command, “LET THERE BE LIGHT!” With the Apostle John we can truthful bear witness, “…And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
It is this light of the TRUTH concerning the death of the righteous that has set the followers of Christ free from the sting of death, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church of Corinth, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
WHY SHOULD WE VISIT THE GRAVES OF OUR LOVED ONES?
It is a good thing to visit the graves of our loved ones. While it is true that they are not there — they are with the Lord — still it is a token for good. It shows the enemy that we are claiming the restoration of our loved ones on the Resurrection Morning. It is a “laying claim to the promise of God” as it concerns the resurrection of the dead in Christ. When we bring flowers and beautify their graves, it is not an indication of ancestral worship, but a mark of respect, honour and love to and for the one who was precious to us in this life. We are not to pray to them, nor to seek guidance from them. We simply come to reflect, and thank God for happy times we have had together in the past, and the joys that await us at our reunion. If it is the grave of our parents that we visit, we might pray that we never live in such a way that will bring dishonour to their name. And if we have sinned, it is a good place to make peace with God.
When I lived in Hong Kong I used to visit Happy Valley Cemetery where many of yesterday’s old missionaries rest, awaiting the Resurrection Morning. One of the graves I remember was that of Robert Semple (the husband of Aimee Semple McPherson) who died as a young missionary shortly after they arrived in the land of their calling. Another grave was that of my friend, Betsy Park, an Assembly of God missionary. That beautiful, quiet, cool, garden, that was shaded by the many lovely trees was like an oasis in the midst of all the hustle, bustle and noise of a busy, troubled city.
It was at Betsy’s funeral that I sang that beautiful Hymn:
On Zion’s Hill
There waits for me a glad tomorrow,
Where gates of pearl swing open wide;
And when I’ve passed this vale of sorrow,
I’ll camp upon the other side.
Someday beyond the reach of mortal ken,
Someday, God only knows just where and when
The wheels of mortal life will all stand still
And I will go to dwell on Zion’s Hill.
Someday I’ll hear the angels singing
Beyond the shadows of the tomb
And all the bells of heaven ringing
While saints are singing “Home Sweet Home”
Someday my labours will be ended
And all my wand’rings will be o’er
And all earth’s broken ties be mended,
And I shall sigh and weep no more.
Someday the dark clouds will be rifted
And all night of gloom be past
And all life’s burdens will be lifted
The day of rest shall dawn at last.
-James A. Crutchfield