15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Several years ago I was in line at the check out and a Reader's Digest caught my eye. The title? What is death? I bought it and went home and read the article. They came to no conclusion, but presented a lot of confusion. The foundation of their confusion was obvious. They didn't know what life was. How can you figure out death if you don't understand the origin of life? Their confusion went something like this. They saw the body as a machine and life as the byproduct of a well functioning machine. If a critical part breaks life ends. The puzzling part for the author was that many times people live when science says they should have died. Sometimes science declared death and they 'came back to life'. Other times people just die and there seems to be no cause.
The Bible presents a very different picture. The body is machine like but life is a separate matter. Life comes from God. God created Adam's body and then breathed life into it. Death occurs when life leaves the body. Think about it. If life was the result of a body in good repair, we should be able to fix any body and get the person running again, just like putting a new battery in a 'dead' car. It's not that simple. Life is not the byproduct of a functional body.
So life comes from. What then is death? Many people even in Christianity will tell you death doesn't really exist. They will tell you that when we "die" we really just go live somewhere else. The good go live in heaven and the evil go live in hell. The problem is that according to the Bible this is not true. First of all the Bible says only God is immortal which means everything and everyone else can die. The cause of dying and death is sin and since Adam and Eve sinned death was brought to our planet and is now an ever present reality. If we never really die but just go somewhere else than we are immortal too which makes the Bible wrong and if the Bible is wrong there is no heaven or hell and death is the dark end.
Another reason why we can't go to hell when we die is because hell doesn't even exist yet. Revelation 20 makes that clear.
But the biggest reason why we can't go to heaven or hell when we die is because we are dead and death is the last enemy Jesus Will conquer. Read what Paul wrote. Jesus was the firstfruits from the dead. The first one to conquer death and leave it in the rearview mirror. Where is the great King David? Not in heaven. He is in the grave. Read Acts 2. Read everything the Bible has to say about death and resurrection and it becomes quickly obvious that we won't live again until Jesus returns to conquer sin and death for good. No more sickness, no more pain, no more death, no more tears. Read about it in 1 Thessalonians 4 and Revelation 20, 21 or just stick around for the rest of this chapter.
So where are the dead now? They are sleeping. The Bible says they know nothing. Their thoughts have perished. They have nothing more to do with anything that is done on this earth. When Lazarus died Jesus said "He is sleeping and I'm going to go wake him up." My mom died 6 years and 3 months ago. Her suffering ended. She is not waiting, or watching, or worried about anything. She is just sleeping. The next thing she will experience is the glorious scene in 1 Thessalonians 4 when Jesus calls her and millions and probably billions of others from their slumber. That is when death ends. That's when heaven starts. All of it made possible because Jesus loves us too much to leave us helpless and hopeless in this place.
Today marks one year since an incredible woman who gave her life to making Jesus known went to sleep. Here is what she had to say when her husband asked her if she was angry at God because cancer was stealing her life away:
From Mike Tucker
"One year ago today, April 10, 2016, Gayle Tucker passed away...
When I asked her if she was angry with God she looked incredulous. “Why no! I’ve had 60 years of immaculate health when some people never get a day. I’ve had 40 years of a marvelous marriage and exciting ministry when most people never know anything like that…” Then she spoke of her children, grandchildren, siblings and family. Then she concluded, “Should I be angry that all of that lasted only 60 years and not 80? That would seem to be very ungrateful to me. So no, I’m not angry with God. I’m grateful.”
Gayle has been sorely missed this past year. Many will feel her absence for years to come. I will miss her for the rest of my days. Hers was a truly remarkable life – a life that touched millions – a life that will continue to have reverberations for eternity.
Sleep well my darling. The morning is coming soon!"
Death is awful only for those it leaves behind. It is but a sleep. The only question is will we awaken to a sweet familiar Voice. Will it be a happy reunion? Will we finally see the face of the One we talked to all our lives? That's how He wants it to be. That's why He came. That's why He suffered. That's why He died.
"Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising it's shame..."
Every book and movie in some way mimics the truth. We are trapped. We need to be rescued. We have a Hero. The story ends well. :)