Is Death a ‘Dead End’? [v83]

JANUARY 2006

IS DEATH A “DEAD END”?
Arielle’s best friend, Amanda lost her step-dad, Doug Kirk, a few weeks ago as he passed away—a ‘traumatic’ experience for everyone close to him. Because of his “good-hearted nature” and “fun” personality, his absence will affect many of them tremendously for the coming years—and, for some, their entire lifetime.

Now, trying to say this as compassionately as I can, was this a ‘bad’ thing for Doug? Sure, he will no longer be able to experience the wonderful feeling of his family’s ‘human’ love for him; to help others as he did; experience the laughter to his jokes; ride his ‘4-wheelers’; or build another car.

I mean, is he now, as some people say, “in a better place”…a place that some call Heaven?

Though Heaven isn’t something we think about regularly, it does come to mind especially when life-destroying events like earthquakes, Tsunami’s, terrorist attacks occur—but especially when we attend funerals.

The word heaven conveys quite a few meanings. Sometimes it is used as jargon for ‘top-of-the-line’ things like “heavenly music” or “heavenly desert.” It has been used to ‘hype’ merchandise or a vacation location by saying it is “made in heaven” or “it’s like being in heaven.” It has also been used when one is ‘exasperated’ at a minor annoyance and might blurt out, “Oh, heavens!” Or, ‘drenched’ in wonder of a star-studded night, you might murmur lines from the Bible, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Historically, though, it has been primarily used as a religious term denoting a ‘place’ where people go after they die.

I, as you might have guessed, would like to delve into the latter thought—that alluring celestial ‘destination.’

Have you ever wondered that if Heaven really exists? What it’s really going to be like? What will we do? What will we ‘look’ like? And won’t it get ‘boring’ after a while?

If you’ve always thought of Heaven as a ‘realm’ of disembodied spirits, clouds, and eternal harp strumming, you’re in for a wonderful surprise based on what the Bible presents. It is portrayed as a bright, vibrant, and physical “New Earth,” free from sin, suffering, and death—and brimming with the ‘light’ of Christ’s presence, wondrous natural beauty, and the richness of human culture as Father God intended it.

When Jesus told His disciples, “In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you” [John 14:2], he deliberately chose common, physical terms (house, rooms, and place) to describe where He was going and what He was preparing for us. He wanted to give His disciples (and us) something tangible to look forward to—an actual place where they (and we) would go to be with Him.

This place will be ‘suited’ for human beings—somewhere we were originally ‘designed’ specifically for—a place like Earth!

The Bible tells us that God has never given up on His original ‘plan’ for human beings to dwell on Earth. In fact, the ‘climax’ of history will be the ‘creation’ of new heavens and a New Earth, a resurrected universe inhabited by resurrected people living with the resurrected Jesus.

Perhaps this ‘newsletter’ has reached you at a time where you are burdened, discouraged, depressed, or even traumatized (like the Kirk family has been). Perhaps you dreams—your marriage, career, or ambitions—have ‘crumbled’. Perhaps you have become cynical or have lost all hope. I believe a Biblical understanding of the truth about Heaven can change all that!

Jonathan Edwards, the great Puritan preacher, often spoke of Heaven. He said, “It becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven…to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end and true happiness?”

In his early twenties, Edwards composed a set of life resolutions. One read, “Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can.”

Some may think it odd and inappropriate that Edwards was so committed to pursuing happiness for himself in Heaven. But French scientist and mathematician Blaise Pascal said it well: “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end.” And if we all seek happiness, why not do as Edwards did and seek it where it can actually be found—in the person of Jesus and the place called Heaven?

But there is one little ‘problem’.  The Bible’s clear teaching is that there is a ‘default’ destination for all of us—and it’s not Heaven!

For every American who believes he or she is going to Hell, there are 120 who believe they’re going to Heaven. This optimism stands in stark contrast to Christ’s words in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

What would keep us out of Heaven is universal: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23]. Sin separates us from a relationship with God [Isaiah 59:2]. God is so holy that he cannot allow sin into His presence: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong” [Habakkuk 1:13]. Because we are sinners, we are not entitled to enter God’s presence. We cannot enter Heaven as we are.

So, unless our sin ‘problem’ is resolved, the only place we will go is our true ‘default’ destination…HELL.

Might I suggest that you dare not ‘wait and see’ when it comes to what’s on the other ‘side’ of death. We shouldn’t just cross our fingers and hope that our names are written in the “Book of Life” [Revelation 21:27]. We CAN KNOW—we should know—before we die. And because we may die at any time, we need to know now—not next month or next year. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” [James 4:14].

Let me encourage you to make this of paramount importance—to make sure you are going to Heaven, not Hell. The voice that whispers, “There’s no hurry; stop read this newsletter; you can always think about it later,” is not God’s voice. He says, “Now is the day of salvation” [2 Corinthians 6:2], and “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” [Joshua 24:15].

Please understanding that Biblically Heaven is the destination for those who repent of their sinful nature and live by faith in Christ. Let me try to illustrate this concept with a story about “seeing the shore.”

In 1952, young Florence Chadwick stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island, determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She’d already been the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. The weather was foggy and chilly; she could hardly see the boats accompanying her. Still, she swam for fifteen hours. When she begged to be taken out of the water along the way, her mother, in a boat alongside, told her she was close and that she could make it. Finally, physically and emotionally exhausted, she stopped swimming and was pulled out. It wasn’t until she was on the boat that she discovered the shore was less than half a mile away. At a news conference the next day she said, “All I could see was the fog…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”

Consider her words: “I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.” For ‘believers’, that “shore” is Jesus and being with Him in the place that He promised to prepare for us, to live with Him forever. The “shore” we should look for is that of the New Earth. If we can see through the ‘fog’ and picture our eternal home in our mind’s eye, it will comfort and energize us (at least it does me).

If you’re weary and don’t know how you can keep going, I hope I have given you some vision, encouragement, and hope. No matter what life ‘throws’ at you, or what ‘loss’ you must endure, just keep looking for the “shore”—you are GUARANTEED to make it!

None of us knows how long we will have on this Earth–and life can be taken from us suddenly, as it was for Doug Kirk. Death doesn’t have to be a “DEAD END”—it can merely be a ‘GATEWAY’ to eternal life beyond the grave. The most important decision you will ever make is the decision you make about eternity.

The Bible says that Christ died on the cross and shed His blood for our salvation—and God raised Him from the dead to demonstrate, beyond doubt, that there is HOPE BEYOND THE GRAVE. As one of the best-attested facts of history, Josephus, a Jewish historian, stated that Jesus did rise from the dead and was seen physically by many people in the weeks after His resurrection. God, in His great mercy, will give you the wonderful free gift of a new birth into “an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade”—if you just sincerely ask Him for it.

Do you have this hope of Heaven today? If you were to die tonight, do you know—BEYOND A DOUBT–that you would go to Heaven to be with God forever? A place of perfect peace and beauty, the fullness of great joy, and where there “shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain.”

None of us need to fear death. You can have this certainty if you confess your sins to God and trust Christ alone for your salvation and eternal security. Nothing offers more courage, security, optimism, and confidence that this life is not our destination.

Arielle tells me that Doug was a “believer”—one who had a ‘professed’ faith in Jesus. This means, according to the Bible, that he went ‘instantly’ into Heaven after he died, and was in the presence of Jesus in a “twinkling of an eye.”

Life on earth is typically 70-90 years, and is ‘inconsequential’ when measured by the ‘yardstick’ of eternity. That’s why Jesus emphasized that our choices on earth should be made in the light of their eternal consequences. Jesus IS A BIG DEAL because He ‘promises’ the possibility that there will be more than this life as we know it!

In addition to that, while we’re here on earth, as believers, He will send the Holy Spirit to take up ‘residence’ in us, to help us through this character-building ‘outpost’ before we get to Heaven.

If you have not yet done so, let me encourage you to confess your transgressions before a Holy God, ask Jesus into your ‘heart’, and allow the Holy Spirit to start a good work in you—today!

(If you would like to further investigate heaven, visit the following link: http://www.4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q9_d1_1of10.html ).

Click on the links below to hear/view songs that address the topic of Heaven, in the ‘here and now’, and in the future:

AUDIO ONLY:

AUDIO/VIDEO (Quicktime movie—will take a little longer to download):
http://www.spiritedesign.com/misc/WhereStreetsHaveNoName(U2).mov
[Requires QuickTime 7-Download here: http://www.apple.com/quicktime  ]

[Excerpts from: Arthur O. Roberts; Randy Alcorn]

Blessings…Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v83) for JANUARY 2006
If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

Thanks to:
– Richard Bachman
– Heather Rusher

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WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM DEATH?
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him [Hebrews 9:27-28].

No one likes to talk or think about his death or the death of his loved ones. However, there are certain facts we can learn from death.

We will all die. Life is short, so we should make the most of each day. Celebrate life daily. Live now-don’t wait. Walk with God the Creator and Sustainer of life.

I like what Leo Buscaglia says about death and life: “Death teaches us, if we want to hear, that the time is now. The time is now to pick up a telephone and call the person that you love. Death teaches us the joy of the moment. It teaches us we don’t have forever. It teaches us that nothing is permanent. It teaches us to let go, there’s nothing you can hang on to. And it tells us to give up expectations and let tomorrow tell its own story, because nobody knows if they’ll get home tonight. To me that’s a tremendous challenge. Death says “live now.””   [Jim Burns]

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TREATISE ON THE GODS
A brilliant and volitile journalist for the New York Times, and a devout atheist, H.L. Mencken said this in 1930: “This historicity of Jesus is no longer questioned seriously by anyone, whether Chrisitian or unbeliever…It seems to be certain that many persons saw him after his supposed death on the cross, his resurrection. Upon that theory, the most civilized section of the human race has erected a structure of ideas and practices so vast in scope and so powerful in effect that the whole range of history shows nothing parallel.   [H.L. Mencken]

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‘DEFINITION’ OF DEATH
Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?

Prof: Yes.

Student: And is there such a thing as cold?

Prof: Yes.

Student: No sir. There isn’t.
(The lecture theatre becomes very quiet with this turn of events).

Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it. (There is pin-drop silence in the lecture theatre.)

Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?

Prof: Yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?

Student: You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light…But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?

Prof: So what is the point you are making, young man?

Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.

Prof: Flawed? Can you explain how?

Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one.

To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life; just the absence of it.
[Received from Richard Bachman]

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“HOT LINE” TO HEAVEN
There was a man in Topeka, Kansas who decided to write a book about churches around the country. He started by flying to San Francisco and working east from there.

He went to a very large church and began taking pictures, etc. He spotted a golden telephone on a wall and was intrigued with a sign which read “$10,000.00 a minute.” Seeking out the pastor, he asked about the phone and the sign. The pastor answered that this golden phone was, in fact, a direct line to Heaven, and if he paid the price he could talk directly to God. He thanked the pastor and continued on his way.

As he continued to visit churches in Seattle, Denver, Boise, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, and on around the United States, he found more phones with the same sign, and got the same answer from each pastor.

Finally, he arrived in West Virginia. Upon entering a church, lo and behold, he saw the usual golden telephone. But THIS time the sign read: “Calls: 35 cents.” Fascinated, he asked to talk to the pastor.

“Reverend, I have been in cities all across the country and in each church I found this golden telephone, and I have been told it is a direct line to Heaven and that I could talk to God, but in the other churches the cost was $10,000.00 a minute. Your sign reads 35 cents a call. Why?”

The pastor, smiled and replied, “Son, you’re in the West Virginia now. It’s a local call.”
[Received from Heather Rusher]

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HEAVEN: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
Every person who has ever lived has wondered about that place beyond mortality — Shakespeare called it “the undiscovered country.” People have longed to uncover the secrets that shroud death and the afterlife…asking questions such as:

– What actually happens at the moment of death?
– Will we know our loved ones in heaven?
– What will we do in eternity?
– What happens to babies and toddlers when they die?
– Will we interact with the angels in heaven?

Because God wrote the Bible for the sole purpose of helping men and women prepare for eternity, there’s no better place to go for trustworthy answers. So, we invite you to explore the wonder of heaven and the afterlife. Anticipate what is to come on the other side of eternity. [Ron Rhodes-Published by Harvest House Publishers].

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DEEP THOUGHT(s)
– Your life either sheds light or casts a shadow.  [Dennis Fisher-Our Daily Bread]

– You must accept God’s Son today if you want to live in Heaven’s ‘sunshine’ tomorrow
[Dave Branon-Our Daily Bread]

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I hope you enjoyed some of these insights. Share them with your friends and colleagues, so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from—and more to share with! Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” especially if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“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”
[Revelation 21:3-4].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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