Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Let me just start straight up, exactly how I see it. ​In some sense I don’t think the colonial project really ended in Nigeria. We just shifted the tyranny and extractive ethos to a local elite.

What difference is it to a Teacher in Takum, A Farmer in Otukpo or a Fisherman in Ekim,  if his faraway oppressor is in Abuja or in London, or indeed, in Jalingo, Makurdi or Uyo his state capital?

When people talk about a country growing from poor to rich, that gets lost in the jargon of income per capita and other metrics.

In fact, what that looks like is a fisherman in Ekim in 1923 has grand kids who have vastly better incomes, education, health, opportunity. It means that a fisherman’s grandchild has the opportunity to compete to be a bank manager or even CEO today. That’s progress. 

It’s about people, en masse, moving from a life where they have low productivity to vastly higher productivity. But what I think has happened since 1923 is that children of fishermen mostly became fishermen themselves, with no change in productivity. Or they moved to cities to work in other low productivity jobs. Comparing his grandfather’s life to his, it hasn’t changed much (or has grown worse).

This is the challenge. How does a society develop to ensure that each successive generation lives better and has a better shot: progress.

So many problems just vanish when people are well fed, life is not bitterly difficult, the kids are looked after, etc. People keep looking to the various governments. We expect that an omnipotent Federal Government has the resources to fix all problems: It can’t. 
Looking at the 2017 budget across Africa, it is clear that the Federal Government of Nigeria is broke. We plan to spend roughly $120/Nigerian. The Kenyan Government is spending $560/Kenyan. South Africa: $2180/SAn. That is a big difference. 

But that doesn’t tell the full tale really, because as the saying goes: ‘Every Nigerian is a Local Government’. We are paying for that budget. We are paying in hardship, in the high cost of living, the lack of opportunity, one of the lowest life expectancy rates on earth and so on.
Of course, in the middle of all this, we supposedly have one of the biggest economies in Africa. I always find that one hilarious. If we had the productivity of the average South African worker, our economy would be two or three times its current size (our labour pool is 3 times larger than theirs). Also, SA’s government is spending about 33% of GDP. We, with our unsigned budget, are spending 7%. Again, pointer that Government isn’t that big.

The Government has to start working to empower Nigerians. It cannot be this colonialist mafia that just extracts from the population. They sit in Abuja with the best roads in the country, but a man in Nnewi or Aba cannot ship his produce through Calabar or Port Harcourt. Buhari is ‘recuperating’ in London claiming to be taking made in Nigeria drugs, while doctors are being tassed in LUTH over salaries that they are actually owed. This is colonialism!

I think it is so bad that we do not EXPECT things to get better in the next 25 years, so we optimise towards the proximate next best. 

Always interesting to read about America after the war (and California in the 70s). Phrase ‘alive with possibility’ always seems to come up. What phrases come up in your everyday experience? Of course we hear ‘there is money in this country,’ but it rings hollow for most people. What tends to ring true are things like: ‘This country is finished’; referring to other countries ‘these are serious countries’ and so on. You face a self-fulfilling prophecy situation — you think the country is finished, so you behave like a person living in a finished country. You don’t inflate the contract by 20% and fix the road well, you under-engineer the road and inflate the contract by 200%. 10 people do well, 1,000,000 suffer. The same road is re-tendered in a different budget cycle and the sham is repeated. 

2019 is coming. There will be an incredible amount of energy poured into it from that 7 trillion naira budget (and other budgets to come). To what end? The person is inheriting a mess. (And the funniest part is that we are going to hear the same vacuous, platitudinous slogans!). Actor, Andy Roid in Game of Thrones described it as “focusing on the politics of the Red Keep while White Walkers, Dothraki Hordes and Dragons are coming for you”. We aren’t talking about our real problems. 

The country is broke; y’all are marrying and having babies far too much; the government is choking off progress. We need to think about how govt can become more accountable, become less colonialist, to actually work for the people. Maybe that is confederalism or true federalism, I don’t know. I’ll leave thoughts on how to change the status quo for another time. I drop my pen here. We all need to start thinking right and start acting.

Read >Ezra 8 – 9

For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek Him; but His power and His wrath is against all them that forsake Him – (Ezra 8:22).

The feelings that this man of God had were in some ways understandable and in other ways not. It is easy to see why he could have been ashamed or embarrassed. The proclamation had been made that the hand of protection of God was on all those that sought Him. It was said that God would strike down all the enemies of His people. It would seem that trust was being put in man instead of God by asking for military assistance. If this was the case, there was definitely an error to trust anything over God. 

For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe (I Tim. 4:10).

On the other hand, things can always be looked at in a different way. It is true that God often works in supernatural ways. We see that clearly in select parts of the Word of God. There were healings, resurrections from the dead and many other miracles done, especially during the time that Christ lived in human form. Many seek after God for this very type of work in their life.

Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world (John 6:14).

However, God will work, often, in other ways. God will use natural means to meet the needs within our lives. When we need comfort, He may send it through a dear friend. When we need healing, He may send it in the form of a doctor. And when we need protection, God may send an army of humans or an army of angels or whatever he chooses. The choice must be left up to the Lord.

The Lord could very well do exactly as this verse said using either a human army or an angelic one. God can use either to crush the enemies of Him and His people.

Read 1 Chronicles 27

Highlights:

Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God the gold for things to be made of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and the brass for things of brass, the iron for things of iron, and wood for things of wood; onyx stones, and stones to be set, glistering stones, and of divers colours, and all manner of precious stones, and marble stones in abundance (I Chr. 29:2).

David had a desire in his heart to build a Temple for the Lord. Because he was a man of war, he was not allowed to do this. His son, Solomon, was to one day take his place as king. When that happened, Solomon would be allowed to build this Temple for God.

Though David would not be allowed to build the Temple of God, this did not mean he could not help prepare the way. He knew Solomon was young and he would have many responsibilities as king. Therefore, David would ensure that everything Solomon would need would be at his disposal.

It would be easy to argue that David had just as important a role in the construction of the Temple as Solomon did. David had no concern about what part he might be credited with. He simply wanted to make sure that the Temple was built. It was the passion of his heart to see it done. So, he did all he could to prepare for it.

Just as with David and the Temple, the things we want to do for God may not always be the things He calls us to do. For instance, you might have an individual that wants to preach or teach or sing for the Lord. However, God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? (I Cor. 12:28-29).

God may have completely different plans for that person. If they continue doing something God has not called them to do, this in the end will not be good for the person or the Kingdom of God.

Read 1 Chronicles 17

Highlights:

Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that which is good in His sight (I Chr. 19:13).

Joab and his brother, Abishai, were two of David’s best soldiers. They had both served in great battles with David against powerful enemies. Joab in particular had been a close aide and advisor to David.

Two great armies were coming against Israel. Syria and the children of Ammon had surrounded them on every side. The two brothers divided the fighting men of Israel in two divisions. Joab and his army would face the Syrians on one side. While, Abishai and his army would face the children of Ammon.

The words spoken by Joab to his brother contain a great lesson for us as believers today. He told Abishai that if the children of Ammon are defeating him that he would come to his aid. Likewise, if the Syrians were overtaking Joab, Abishai would help his brother.

Joab then offers words of encouragement to his brother. In this verse, he challenges Abishai to be brave and to show his valor. He tells him to allow the Lord to work His will. 

And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God  (Rom. 8:27).

by John UpChurch

All around the prophet Jeremiah, the whole world seemed to be falling apart. His home, his nation, his people—everything continued to slip away. But right in the midst of this dark time, God gave a promise that still fills us with hope today:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Perhaps you have come face to face with the sorrow that Jeremiah felt. Perhaps you, too, know what it’s like to see everything fall apart all around you. You know the pain, the uncertainty.

But do you know the promise?

God gave this pledge to the people of Israel who lived in exile, but it’s no less true to any of us who follow Jesus. He does have a plan and purpose for us that—while not always easy—is assuredly for our good and His glory (Romans 8).

So, how can we know this plan He has for us? And how can we walk confidently in it?

Listen Up

Before God gave this famous promise, He warned the people of Israel not to listen to false voices (Jeremiah 29:8–9). The same is true for you. All around, you’ll hear advice from a number of sources about what your purpose is, why you’re here on earth, and how to overcome challenges. In fact, all these voices can be deafening.

But knowing the plans God has for you means listening to the One who has them. You need to make time in your daily life to stop and read God’s Word and speak to Him. That’s the only way you can navigate the cacophony of opinions that come barreling at you. When you know your Creator and His voice, you can hear Him above the noise.

The more you grow accustomed to His Word, the more confident you’ll feel in His guidance through the Holy Spirit.

Action step: Make margin in your life for prayer and Bible study. You need to hear God’s voice above the roar of the world.

Keep Your Head Up

God spoke this passage to the people of Israel who had been dragged away in exile far from their homes. They faced some very tough times, but He didn’t want the former loss to be their focus. Instead, He wanted them to focus on the future hope.

The same is true for you. When you face challenges, you’ll want to quit or change directions. But if you’ve been spending time listening to God, challenges don’t necessarily mean that you need to throw in the towel. In fact, it could very well be the challenges themselves that prepare you for God’s purpose in your life.

When officials tossed the apostle Paul in prison, he didn’t take that as a sign that he should pack it up and return home. He used the opportunity to sing praises and witness to the jailer and his family (Acts 16).

If your children seem like they’re running farther and farther from Christ, if your marriage isn’t getting any better, if no job has opened up, don’t let those circumstances drag you down. Look for opportunities to shine the light of Christ even more. Ask God to keep molding you through the trials.

Keep believing that God is up to something, even if you can’t see it yet. After all, God’s purpose for our lives often leads us through the valley to refine us.

Action step: If you’re in the heart of a bad situation, take a moment to pray about and look for opportunities that God may have for you. Take stock of how God is using this tough time to change you.

Look up—to the Cross

God gave an amazing promise to the Israelites of Jeremiah’s day:

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

Not long afterward, God would fulfill all the promises He’d made to them. You see, from Genesis 3:15 to the exile into Babylon (and their later return), God had been telling them of a Savior, a promised One, a Messiah. And God wanted His people to remember that He would fulfill His Word to them.

In our case, all of God’s plans and promises for our lives begin with the cross. Our purpose on this earth starts at Calvary with the death of Jesus and proceeds to the tomb with His resurrection. As a Christian, we’re here to share that good news in all that we do. That’s at the heart of what God intends for us, and His purpose will never take you away from being ambassadors of His grace (2 Corinthians 5:20).

So, any plan God has for you will start and end with Jesus. You’ll have the opportunity to share the good news about Him in whatever situation God intends for you.

Action step: Take inventory of your goals and aspirations. Is Jesus at the center of them? If not or you’re not sure, ask God to help you keep the cross in sight.

Highlights:

But Aaron and his sons offered upon the altar of the burnt offering, and on the altar of incense, and were appointed for all the work of the place most holy, and to make an atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded (I Chr. 6:49).

The Word of God tells us that each tribe and the families in that tribe had responsibilities to the nation of Israel. The majority of the tribes had to send their fighting age men to go to war. This was a great necessity since they were entering the land of promise where there were many enemies that would have to be fought.

The Tribe of Levi, however, had a very special responsibility. It was left to them to take care of the Tabernacle and all that pertained to it. In a spiritual sense, this was their battlefield.

Aaron and his sons were part of the Tribe of Levi. Aaron was selected for an even more important task than his Levite brethren. It was up to him and his descendants to take care of the altar, the offerings and the most holy place. They were the hand selected priests of God. They had been called to an office that few could understand. There were various responsibilities with this priesthood.

And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the Law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham (Heb. 7:5).

This priesthood was passed down through generations of Levites. Many were honorable men who did as God commanded. They continued to offer up sacrifices as a way of atonement for the people of Israel. This Mosaic Covenant continued until there was a sacrifice that could bring an end to this process. Christ brought the process to an end.

Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil (Matt. 5:17).

What Happens to Us When We Die?

by Ray Pritchard

We live in a time when there is great fascination about life after death.

  • A few years ago Raymond Moody wrote a best-seller called Life after Life that detailed the near-death experiences of men and women who “died” and then came back to tell stories of weightlessness, bright lights, and reunions with loved ones.
  • Hundreds of so-called “channelers” claim to be able to contact the spirits of the dead.
  • The New Age movement has popularized such Eastern concepts as the transmigration of souls, reincarnation (thanks especially to Shirley MacLaine), spiritualism, and communication with the dead.
  • Video games featuring witches and sorcerers have captured the fascination of millions of school-age children.
  • Today, via the Internet, anyone with a computer and modem can connect with online psychics, spirit guides, and experts in reincarnation. Using a search engine, I discovered that there are more than 40,000 Internet sites about witchcraft, 37,000 about sorcery, 20,000 about reincarnation, 10,000 about psy­chics, 14,000 about clairvoyance, and 6,000 about necromancy. Nearly all these sites are free and easy to access.

Why this fascination with the world beyond the grave? Is it not because death is so final? Whatever one thinks about the reports of “near-death” visions, death when it finally comes is irreversible. When you finally cross the line, there is no coming back from the other side. Death wins the battle every time. After the doctors have tried the latest wonder drug, after the best minds have pooled their wisdom, after the philosophers have done their best to explain that death is only a natural part of life, we come face to face with the ugly reality that someday we will all die. And that death–whether planned or accidental, whether comfortable or painful–will be the end of life as we have known it.

Three Great Questions

In answering questions about life after death, we are left with only two sources to consult. Either we turn to human experience or we turn to the Word of God. If we turn to human experience, we find many guesses, many ideas, many theories–but no sure answers. That’s because, in the nature of the case, no human has a sure answer. The only people who have the answer are dead! That leaves us with the Word of God. In God’s Word we find ample, abundant answers. God who knows the future knows what happens when we die, and he hasn’t left us to wonder about it. The Bible is filled with information on this subject, so much in fact that we can offer only a brief survey in this chapter.

If you want the answer in one sentence here it is: What happens after you die depends on what happens before you die. Consider what the Bible says in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (NKJV). This is an appointment no one will miss. As someone has noted, the statistics on death are appalling. One hundred out of one hundred people will eventually die. We are all terminally ill with a disease called death; we just don’t know when the end will come.

One Hundred Sixteen Others the Same Day

As I pondered this, my mind was drawn to the death of a former elder and beloved friend of many people in our congregation. He died just short of his forty-third birthday. On the day of his funeral I found his obituary in the Chicago Tribune [newspaper]. I counted one hundred sixteen other death notices that same day.

Death is no respecter of persons. Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Bill and George who were both avid baseball players. One day they wondered if people played baseball in heaven. They agreed that whoever died first would find out the answer and try to come back to communicate with the survivor. Eventually Bill died. Several weeks later George was awakened with a vision of his friend Bill. He was delighted to see him and asked, “Do they play baseball in heaven?” Bill said, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is, they play baseball all the time in heaven. The bad news is, you’re scheduled to pitch next week.”

And we all laugh when we read about the friendly undertaker who signed all his correspondence, “Eventually yours.” He’s right, of course. Death is coming–eventually for all of us, sooner than we think for some of us.

Questions and Answers about Death

Before we go further, let’s stop and think about some important questions that people often ask about death and dying.

Is There a “Second Chance” after Death?

This is the popular view of many people who hope that those who did not accept Christ in this life will somehow have a second chance after death–either in the afterlife or perhaps through reincarnation. The answer is quite simple: There is no biblical support whatsoever for the notion of a “second chance.” Hebrews 9:27 declares that we die once and after that comes the judgment of God. Let no one be mistaken on this point. The only opportunity you will ever have to get right with God is the opportunity God affords you right now. If you dream of coming to God after you die, you are nursing a vain hope.

What about “Near-Death Experiences”?

Such experiences are very popular today. I’ve already mentioned the pioneering work of Raymond Moody. Other books in recent years have purported to tell of people who “died,” went to “heaven,” and then were given a “second chance” to return to the earth. Some of those books have been extremely popular, and a few have been embraced by Christians. However, a close inspection shows that most of those books embrace unbiblical heresy, either the notion that we are saved by doing good works or the idea that everyone is going to heaven in the end.

In thinking about this question, we need biblical balance. On one hand it’s undeniably true that some Bible characters did see the Lord before they died. Stephen saw Jesus just before he died in Acts 7. Paul was evidently given a vision of heaven–perhaps during his stoning at Lystra in Acts 14. He alludes to the event in 2 Corinthians 12. However, it’s important to say that such revelations did not happen often even in Bible times. Not every believer had or will have a revelation of heaven. Could such a thing happen today? Yes, but we shouldn’t expect it or base our hope of heaven upon a last-second experience.

Let’s also remember that Satan is the great deceiver. He can create scenes that seem to be scenes of heaven but are actually creations born in hell. Some near-death experiences are demonic in nature. You should never base your hope of heaven–or the hope of seeing a loved one in heaven–on a supposed vision or revelation. The only reliable ground given to us is the eternal, unchanging Word of God.

What Happens to Children Who Die?

This is obviously a very tender subject to many people. Parents want to know: Will I see my child again? The place to begin in answering this question is with the observation that the Bible doesn’t specifically address this question. However, we do know two things are true. First, children are not born innocent, but sinful. If children who die do go to heaven–and I believe they do–it is not because they are morally innocent in the sight of God. All of us are born with an inclination to sin that leads us away from God. Ephesians 2:1 says that we are spiritually dead by nature. That applies as much to young children as it does to adults. Second, we know that God’s grace is always greater than human sin. Romans 5:20 reminds us that where sin abounded, grace superabounded. God’s grace always goes far beyond sin’s disgrace.

I believe that God’s grace credits children with the merits of Jesus’ blood and righteousness so that children who die before they are old enough to believe are covered by His blood, and their entrance into heaven is made sure and certain. Thus they are saved by grace exactly as we are.

Can We Contact the Dead after They Are Gone?

The answer is no. Any attempt to dabble in spirit contact is strictly forbidden in the Bible. It is sometimes called necromancy or sorcery or dealing with familiar spirits. Remember, demons can masquerade as the dead. They can even mimic the voices of our loved ones and give information that only the dead person would have known (for more on this subject, see Leviticus 19:26-28Leviticus 19:31Deuteronomy 18:9-14Galatians 5:20). In case this isn’t clear, let me make it plain. Do not attempt to contact the dead through any means at all–séances, parlor games, crystal balls, psychic readers, channelers, or mediums. You are involving yourself in that which God forbids. Leave the dead alone.

What Do You Say to Someone Who Has Lost a Loved One?

Over the years I have discovered that it really doesn’t matter what you say in terms of the precise words. Those who are grieving will not remember the words you say, but they will never forget that you cared enough to be there when they needed you. If you go with God’s love in your heart, he will give you any words you need to say. That means we don’t need to answer questions only God can answer. If we don’t know the spiritual state of the deceased, we shouldn’t speculate, either to offer false hope or lay a heavier burden on those who are left behind. God is both just and merciful, and in every case He will do what is right.

What Happens at the Moment of Death . . .

Now we come to the central question: What happens at the very moment of death? I have already given the general answer: What happens when you die depends on what happens before you die. The Bible classifies the whole human race into two broad categories–the saved and the lost. The saved are those who have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The lost are those who haven’t. What happens to the saved is radically different from what happens to the lost.

. . . For the Saved

The Bible is abundantly clear on this point. When the saved die, they go directly into the presence of the Lord. At this point we remember the words of Jesus to the thief on the cross, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43, emphasis added). This appears to be a straightforward promise that at the moment of death the repentant thief would pass from his life of crime and his agonizing death into the realm called “paradise.” This would seem to contradict the teaching called “soul-sleep,” which implies that at death a believer “sleeps” in a kind of suspended animation until the day of the resurrection. How could the thief be that very day in paradise if his soul went to sleep when he died? At the moment of death the believer passes immediately into the personal presence of Jesus Christ. This is our hope and comfort as we stand at the graveside of a loved one.

Paul said he had a desire “to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23, emphasis added). He also said, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body (that is, separated from the body by death) and at home with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 5:8, emphasis added). These are the words of a man who believed that heaven would begin at the moment of his death. Was Paul looking forward to an unconscious slumber after his death? No! He was looking forward to the personal presence of Jesus Christ.

But that’s not the whole story. The soul goes to be with the Lord in heaven, and the body is buried until the day of resurrection when Jesus returns to the earth. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 says, “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” Here you have both sides of the truth. Christians who die are said to be “with Jesus” (that’s the soul in the conscious presence of the Lord) and “have fallen asleep in him” (that’s the body which “sleeps” in the grave). Listen to Paul’s description of that great reunion of body and soul: “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” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, emphasis added). Here is a clear promise of future bodily resurrection for the believer.

1 Corinthians 15:51-55 adds the crucial fact that our bodies will be “raised imperishable”–that is, with a body that is perfect in every way, free from the vestiges of death and decay In this life our bodies wear out, like a clock continually running down, but when we are raised, it will be with bodies that can never decay, never wear out, never suffer injury, never grow old, never get sick, and thank God, never die.

Many Christians have a wrong view of death. We think we’re going from the land of living to the land of dying. But the opposite is true. If you know Jesus, you are going from the land of dying to the land of the living. Here are some of the images the Bible uses for the death of a Christian: going to sleep and waking up in heaven . . . moving from a tent to a mansion . . . walking from the darkness into a well-lit room . . . coming home to see your family and friends . . . being set free from prison . . . taking a long journey to a new land . . . riding a chariot to the New Jerusalem . . . moving into a brand-new home . . . opening a gate to a brand-new world.

Christians have always faced death with confidence. The very word cemetery comes from a Greek word meaning “sleeping-place,” which refers to their confidence in the promise of the resurrection. Many pagans cremated their dead because they saw no further use for the human body. But Christians buried their dead as a statement of faith in the coming resurrection of the body. I have been asked more than once how God can raise the dead if the body has been burned or lost or vaporized in some terrible explosion. I don’t think that’s a difficult question at all. If you can raise the dead, you can raise the dead. Resurrection is God’s problem, not ours. We don’t need to know the how of the resurrection as long as we know the who.

As he lay dying, D. L. Moody proclaimed, “Earth recedes, heaven opens before me.” Catherine Booth, wife of the founder of the Salvation Army, cried out, “The waters are rising, but I am not sinking.” And George MacDonald, the English novelist, said, “I came from God, and I’m going back to God, and I won’t have any gaps of death in the middle of my life.” John Wesley summed up the faith of the early Methodists with four simple words: “Our people die well.”

When Benjamin Franklin was twenty-three years old, he wrote the following epitaph. His words catch the essence of the Christian doctrine of bodily resurrection:

The body of Benjamin Franklin
Printer;
Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents torn out,
And stripped of its lettering and gilding,
Lies here, food for worms.
But the work shall not be wholly lost:
For it will, as he believed, appear once more,
In a new and more elegant edition,
Revised and corrected
By the Author.

Once our bodies are raised, we will be with the Lord forever. Wherever he is, there we will be, rejoicing, praising, singing, and celebrating throughout the ages of eternity. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says, “We will be with the Lord forever.” Speaking of his own return, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3, emphasis added).

What is ahead for us when we die?

  • Our soul goes into the conscious presence of the Lord.
  • Our body is buried until the day of resurrection.
  • When Christ returns, we will be raised bodily from the grave.
  • Body and soul reunited, we will be with the Lord forever.

As Tony Evans says, “Have a good time at my funeral, because I’m not going to be there.”

… For the Lost

Now we turn to briefly consider the fate of those who die without Jesus Christ. The lost fear death and with good reason. Job 18:14 calls death “the king of terrors.” Hebrews 2:14 reminds us that the devil holds people in bondage through the fear of death. And 1 Corinthians 15:26 calls death “the last enemy.”

Before saying any more, we should note one similarity between the fate of the saved and the lost. At the moment of death, the body is buried in the grave while the soul enters a new realm. For the believer, the moment of death brings him into the personal presence of Christ. For the unbeliever, death begins an experience of unending conscious punishment.

We can summarize the fate of the lost in four short statements:

1. At the moment of death the soul of the lost is sent to hell where it is in conscious torment. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus told of a rich man who upon his death went to hell and suffered in the flames of torment. It does not matter whether you think this passage is literal or figurative. If you say it is literal, then it must be a terrible punishment. If it is figurative, the figure itself is so awful to consider that the reality must be much worse.

2. That punishment is eternal. Though this is debated in some circles today, Christians have united across the centuries in their belief that the Bible teaches an eternal punishment for those who do not know our Lord. Mark 9:43-48 speaks of the fire that is not quenched and the worm that does not die–a reference to the continuing existence of human personality in hell.

3. The body is raised at the Great White Throne judgment. Revelation 20:11-15 describes the awesome scene as the unsaved dead are raised to stand before God and receive their final sentence of doom.

4. The unsaved are then cast into the lake of fire where they will reside forever, eternally separated from the presence of Almighty God. If this is unbearable to think about, if we shrink from such a thought, then let us by all means do whatever is necessary to make sure that such a fate does not befall us or the ones we love the most.

This is the final destiny of those who do not know Jesus Christ. To make it more personal, it is the final destiny of your friends and neighbors, your loved ones, your parents, your brothers, your sisters, your children, if they die without Jesus Christ. And it is your destiny if you die without Jesus Christ. Let that thought linger in your mind. The reality of hell is more than just a theoretical doctrine. There is a place reserved for you in the lake of fire unless you by a conscious choice put your complete trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Dr. Barnhouse and the Shadow of Death

Only one question remains. How can you personally face your own death with confidence? Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse–beloved Bible teacher of another generation–told the following story. While he was still a young man in the ministry, his first wife died. As he was returning from the funeral with his heartbroken children, their car came to a stoplight just as a massive truck pulled up next to them, blocking the light of the sun. Seeing the immense shadow that had overtaken them, Dr. Barnhouse asked his children if they would rather be run over by the truck or by the shadow of the truck. “By the shadow,” the children instantly replied, knowing that a shadow could not hurt them. “That’s what has happened to your mother,” he told them. “Death cannot hurt her because the Lord Jesus Christ took her to heaven. It is only the shadow of death that took her from us.”

If you know Jesus, you have nothing to fear when death knocks at your door. Death comes to all of us–it will come for you one of these days. Do you know Jesus? If so, then you need not live in fear. Death may be quick or slow, painful or painless, but when the moment comes, you will find yourself ushered into heaven where you will see Jesus face to face.

Some people wonder if they will have enough faith when they die. They worry about losing their faith and wonder if that will cause God to turn them away. When she was a young child in Holland Corrie ten Boom worried about her own death and whether or not she would have enough courage when the moment finally came. Her father–Papa ten Boom–knew of her fears and calmed her heart with these words: “Corrie, when I am going to take you on the train, when do I give you the ticket?” “Just before we get on board.” “That’s right. Dying is like taking a trip to see the Lord Jesus. He will give you whatever you need just when you need it. If you don’t have the courage now, it’s because you don’t need it now. When you need it, the Lord will give it to you, and you won’t be afraid.”

In another generation, believers talked about “dying grace.” They meant the special enablement God gives to his children as death draws near. Countless Christians who worried about their last moments on earth have exited this life full of faith because the Lord gave them grace just when they needed it most.

Jesus Has the Keys

Here are the words of Jesus in Revelation 1:18: “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Keys are a sign of authority. If you have the keys to my house, you can open it and go in anytime you want. It is often said that the devil owns the gates of hell–that is, he has the power of death. But that’s okay. The devil has the gates, but Jesus has the keys. We have nothing to fear in the moment of death for when the time comes, Jesus will personally unlock the gate and usher us into his presence.

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25). If you believe in Jesus, you will never die. What an amazing promise. But believers die every day. Yes, but for the believer, death is merely the passing from this life with all its sorrows into life eternal in the presence of our Lord. The question is not: What happens when we die? But rather: What will happen when you die?

Death is not the end of the road, it is only a bend in the road. For the believer, death is the doorway to heaven. For the unbeliever, it is a passageway into unimaginable suffering. These things are true even if we do not fully understand them. They are true even if we don’t believe them.

What happens when you die depends on what happens before you die. Here is my final word to you: Make sure you’re ready to die so that when the time comes, you won’t be surprised by what happens next.

A Truth to Remember:

What happens when you die depends on what happens before you die.

Going Deeper

Taking Action

Take a moment to calculate the number of days you have lived so far. Now take a guess as to how many more days you expect to live. What is the most eternally profitable way you can spend your remaining days?

  • 1. Have you ever had a near-death experience, or do you know anyone who has? Why is it crucial that such experiences always be evaluated by the standard of God’s Word?
  • 2. Why does the Bible contain such strong warnings against trying to contact the spirits of the dead? What happens when those warnings are ignored?
  • 3. Picture the moment of your own death. How do you expect it will happen? Do you fear that moment? Describe what will happen to you the first five minutes after your death.
  • 4. Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? Why is this doctrine essential to the Christian faith? Name at least five Christians now dead who will be raised when Christ returns.
  • 5. Read 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 and Revelation 20:11-15. What does the first passage teach about the resurrection of the saved? What does the second passage teach about the resur­rection of the lost?
  • 6. Do you believe in a place called hell where unbelievers are punished for eternity? Why or why not? Why is this doctrine sometimes denied today?

[Taken from FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About The Christian Life by Keep Believing Ministries. Used by permission.]

Read 2 Kings 14

Highlights:

And the LORD said not that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven: but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash (II Kings 14:27).

The Lord has preserved His chosen people of Israel for thousands of years. The Covenant God made with Abraham has stood true through generation after generation. It will continue to do so through the end of all time as God continues offering redemption to the Jews as well as the gentiles.

Israel has come through many obstacles during the years since God chose Abraham. The nation has been in bondage to Egypt, Babylon, Medo-Persia and Rome. They have fought many wars, separated into two nations, seen droughts and famines and the people have been scattered all over the world.

Through all these trials and tribulations, God has protected His people. In contrast, many ancient world powers are not even thought of today. Though Israel was not united for a time, they were eventually reestablished as a nation.

We praise God that just like the people of Israel, believers in Jesus are now part of the chosen of God. 

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light (I Pet. 2:9). 

God has extended the same love to the gentile that He did to Abraham and His descendants. God through the sacrifice of Jesus has now made a covenant with us to become His children. We are grafted into the vine to become part of God’s family.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me (John 15:4)

Read 2 Kings 6

Highlights:

And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha (II Kings 6:17).

It is not always easy to see what God is doing. As a matter of fact, God intends it to be that way much of the time. In this situation, God was about to move in a great way, but only the prophet knew what God was doing for certain.

Elisha’s servant could only see what was in front of him. The king of Syria had brought a great army to take Elisha. The servant had obvious reasons to be so fearful.

The verse tells us that Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened to the spiritual as well as the physical. There was a great angelic army there to protect the man of God. In the end, there was no need to be fearful. God was in control. 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me (Ps. 23:4).

At times, circumstances in our own lives can seem to become overwhelming. The life of a believer is often filled with trials and tribulations. The enemy presses hard against us and it seems like we may never get rescue from his oppression. 

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8).

The devil may be like a lion, ready to attack the follower of Christ at his first chance. There is an important fact to remember here though. If the Christians will pray against this opposition, they will overcome this ravenous beast. The prayers of the saints will take away this lion’s greatest weapon, fear. There is no need to fear the devil because the Lion of the Tribe of Judah has already defeated the devil. Jesus died for our sins and rose from death to life to ultimately conquer the enemy. 

I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death (Rev. 1:18).

Jared C. Wilson

Brothers and sisters, we ought to recover the roots of real Christianity before those who care are too few to do anything useful about it. Part of that recovery will involve identifying some of the factors that contribute to the problem. Some of these will be difficult to consider, but we ought to consider them anyway. Some of the problems we might explore are these:

1. Pastors are increasingly hired for their management skills or rhetorical ability over and above their biblical wisdom or their meeting of the biblical qualifications for eldership.

Our shepherds are increasingly hired for their dynamic speaking or catalytic leadership rather than their commitment to and exposition of the Scriptures, and for their laboring in the increase in attendance rather than the increase of gospel proclamation.

Now, of course, none of those contrasted qualities are mutually exclusive. Pastors can be both skillful managers and biblically wise; they can be both great speakers and great students of Scripture; and they can both attract crowds and proclaim the gospel. The problem is that, while they are not mutually exclusive, the latter qualities in each contrast have lost priority and consequently have lost favor. We have not prospered theologically or spiritually when we emphasize the professionalization of the pastorate.

2. The equating of “worship” with just one creative portion of the weekly worship service.

The dilution of the understanding of worship is a direct result of the dilution of theology in the church. The applicational, topical approach to Bible understanding has the consequence of making us think (and live) in segmented ways. The music leader takes the stage to say, “We’re gonna start with a time of worship.” Is the whole service not a time of worship? Isn’t the sermon an act of worship?

Isn’t all of life meant to be an act of worship?

One reason we have struggled to develop fully devoted followers of Jesus is that we incorrectly assign our terminology (equating worship with music only) and thereby train our people to think in truncated, reductionistic ways.

3. The prevalent eisegesis in Bible study classes and small groups.

“Eisegesis” basically means “reading into the Bible.” It is the opposite of “exegesis,” the process of examining the text and “drawing out” its true meaning. Many leaders today either don’t have the spiritual gift of teaching or haven’t received adequate training, and the unfortunate result is that most of our Bible studies are rife with phrases like, “What does this text mean to you?” as opposed to, “What does this text mean?” Application supplants interpretation in the work of Bible study, so it has become less important to see what the Bible means and more important to make sure the Bible is meaningful to us.

4. The vast gulf between the work of theology and the life of the church.

We have this notion that theology is something that takes place somewhere “out there” in the seminaries or libraries while we here at home are doing the real work of the Christian faith with our church programs. In many churches, theology is seen as purely academic, the lifeless intellectual work for the nerds in the church or, worse, the Pharisees.

5. Biblical illiteracy.

Our people don’t know their Bible very well, and this is in large part the fault of a generation of wispy preaching and teaching (in the church and in the home). Connected to this factor is the church’s accommodation and assimilation of the culture’s rapid shifting from text-based knowledge to image-based knowledge. I’ll say more about that in the next chapter, but when it comes to the text itself, I suspect that a lot of the superficial faith out there results from teaching that treats the Bible like Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Fortune-cookie preaching will make brittle, hollow, syrupy Christians.

6. A theologically lazy and methodologically consumeristic/sensationalistic approach to the sacraments.

The rise of the “scoreboard” approach to attendance reporting, some of the extreme examples of spontaneous baptism services, the neglect of the Lord’s Supper or the abuse of it through fancifulness with the elements or lack of clear directives in presenting it—these are all the result of evangelicalism’s theological bankruptcy. We don’t think biblically about these matters, because we’re think- ing largely along the lines of “what works?” and consequently we might make a big splash with our productions but not produce much faith.

The source of all of these factors, if they may be reckoned accurate, is a fundamental misuse of the Bible by the leaders entrusted with preaching and teaching it. And the grand result of all of these factors is that as our churches get larger, our message keeps shrinking. We fill our buildings with scores and scores of people, but we’ve reduced the basic message to fit the size of an individualistic faith.


Prodigal Church BookTaken from The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo, by Jared C. Wilson. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

In The Prodigal Church, Jared Wilson challenges church leaders to reconsider their priorities when it comes to how they “do church” and reach people in their communities, arguing that we too often rely on loud music, flashy lights, and skinny jeans to get people in the door.

Writing with the grace and kindness of a trusted friend, Wilson encourages readers to reexamine the Bible’s teaching, not simply return to a traditional model for tradition’s sake. He then sets forth an alternative to both the attractional and the traditional models: an explicitly biblical approach that is gospel focused, grace based, and fruit oriented.