Charles Stanley - Right Thinking About Death And Resurrection
The night before Jesus died He said one of the most comforting things He could possibly have said to those disciples. Here's what He said in this fourteenth chapter of John, "Do not let your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me". And then He said to them, "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you". Then He said, "If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again to receive you to Myself, that where I am, there ye may be also". Which was His way of comforting them for the simple reason He was about to go to the cross the next day.
And it reminds me of what Paul thought about death and the things that would transpire, listen to what he said in this fifth chapter of Second Corinthians. He said, now, "We walk by faith, not by sight". We're, he said, therefore, "Be of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord". When Paul talked about death, it was always an encouraging thing. It was not some gloomy, this is the end, it's all over kind of attitude, but a sense of great confidence. And the reason is because he knew the truth that the Lord had taught him about what happens following death.
And so when you look at all these passages and you look at his viewpoint, what we have to ask is what is a Christian's viewpoint? Now when it comes to the resurrection, we can all rejoice and praise the Lord and one of these days going to get a new body. We're going to look better; we're going to feel better; we're going to be better. It's all going to be wonderful. Well now, that's fine if you start right there, but if you go back a step, then you have to face death. It's a whole different story. It isn't all joyous and happy and so forth. But until you come to the place of understanding what the Bible teaches about death and about our relationship to Christ and the very basic understanding of our confidence and assurance, death is a whole different story.
So I want us to see what the scripture teaches here. And think about what Paul thought about. When he thought about it, he says it's going to be like I'm just, I'm released from my moorings on this earth, absent from the body, present with the Lord. He was always confident about what happened on the other side. So I would simply ask you, would that be true of you this morning? And the first question I want to answer, I want to answer a number of questions. The first question I want to answer is: What happens when people die? It's all going to happen to us, so what happens when people die? Well, when you're a believer, it's very evident. Now what I want to do is I want to answer two or three questions here that there's a lot of confusion floating around in the world today, and in the church today.
And I want to answer this question, that is we ask a question, What happens when people die? The souls of believers go immediately into the presence of God. Death is just a temporary separation of the body, the soul, the spirit. If you don't believe that when you die and your heart stops beating that you go in the presence of God, then where do you go? There are some folks who say purgatory, we're coming to that. Some people who'd say, Well, you just disintegrate. You just annihilate. That's, that's the end of you. And so people have all kind of ideas about where you go but the scriptures is clear when I look at the scripture of exactly where a person goes. And, if Paul, for example, thought, watch this carefully, if he thought that when he died he was going to do anything but go in the presence of the Lord, he would never have said, Absent from the body, floating around in space in the casket for two thousand years. No, he said, Absent from the body, present with the Lord.
Now let me ask you a question. Can you say that this morning? Can you say that if I died today, according to the scripture, not my opinion, according to the scripture, if I died today I would be absent from this body and present with the Lord? That is exactly what Paul said. So anything other than that is not scriptural. So can you say that? Can you say with certainty? And if you said, yes I can, then I would ask you this question. On what basis could you say today, If I died on my way home from church, or if I had a heart attack in the church; if I died today, on what basis could you say, I can rejoice in the Lord because absent from the body, I'll be present with Him. What would be your basis for saying that? The cross. Not works, the only way you and I can be sure is that we have trusted Jesus Christ sacrificial, substitutionary, atoning death at Calvary to pay our sin debt in full, all of our sin, so that the moment He calls us, we are heaven bound, not on the basis of anything else.
And think about this. Think about the people whose relationship with God is not right, and who think, Well, one of these days I want to get this straight. Then they see this terrible accident. One of the first things that pops in their mind is, I wouldn't be ready. So I ask you again this morning, Would you be ready? And what's the basis of your readiness? If it is anything other than you have trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, based on His atoning sacrificial, substitutionary all-sufficient death at Calvary, then you don't have a right basis. So, when somebody says, Well, what happens when you die? We go to the presence of God. Now, if that be true, what about these people, for example, who talk about soul sleep? And I had a big long two-hour conversation with someone just a couple of weeks or so ago, who just wanted to dress me down.
Listen, when you die, you sleep in the grave till Jesus comes. Well, I knew exactly where they got that from. They had taken that for example from First Thessalonians, the fourth chapter. And Paul uses the term sleep, but he doesn't use it to teach that cause he doesn't believe that. Listen, He said, Absent from the body, present with the Lord. Not absent from the body, present in the tomb. And Paul didn't make any contradictions in what he said. So it's very clear what Paul is saying in this fourth chapter of First Thessalonians. He said, "I do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you will not grieve as do those who have no rest". When he uses the term sleep here, he's not talking about sleeping in the grave. He's talking about when a person who is a Christian, when a person who is a believer dies, what happens? It's like going to sleep. We awaken in the presence of God. If he didn't believe that, he could not have said, Absent from the body, present with the Lord.
So, think about this also. The Apostle Paul would never have said, Here I am pulled in two directions. He says to the Philippians, he said, Number one, I really and truly want to stay here and preach the gospel to you. On the other hand, I want to depart and be with Jesus. Now if he thought they were going to put him in a tomb somewhere for, whether it's a hundred years or a thousand years, he would never have said that. He said, I want to die and be with Jesus or I want to stay here and preach the gospel. He said, I'm torn between those two. And so he would never have felt that-a-way if he believed that anything was going to be happening to him except that he'd be in the presence of God. And so, when it comes to soul sleep, there's nothing in the Bible that teaches soul sleep. And you can look at all the verses you want to talk about, it's not there. And so, that's not true. Then what about purgatory?
And I'm amazed at the people who believe that. And I believe there are many Roman Catholics who are saved. I don't question that because you talk to them; they've trusted Jesus as their Savior; they understand what it means to be saved. Now, think about what you're saying. Think about this clearly. If there is a purgatory, if you could make one statement about how it absolutely could not be true. If for example, there is a purgatory, here's what that says. It is absolutely a denial of this truth, That the death of Jesus Christ paid our sin debt in full. So if you died and went to purgatory to suffer for your sins, here's what they'll tell you. Well, there are some sins that you committed that you didn't pay for in life and so you've got to go suffer till you get those paid for.
There is nothing at, whatsoever, no finality about that. It is totally untrue. Otherwise, what it says is Jesus' death on the cross was partial payment, I've got to take care of the rest of it. It is absolutely a denial of the truth of the atoning death of Jesus Christ for the sin of all mankind. So, then what about the people who die without Christ? They're lost. Now let me say a couple of things here. The Bible says, It's appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment. Now, this is the hardest part. The most difficult part is to realize that somebody has gone to hell, torment. And they'll be in torment until the ultimate resurrection in the twentieth chapter of Revelation, when all the bodies of unbelievers come out of the grave and united with the spirit, the soul, and then judged for all eternity for their works. Because you see, when a person dies without Christ they go to torment. But the final judgment is not at that moment, because the judgment is going to be perfectly accurate as to the way we've lived our lives and what that judgment incurs.
That's why you can't say to somebody, Well, I know they weren't a Christian. And oh, I've had to deal with this many times as a pastor and every pastor does. Well now, I'll say, Well, tell me about your husband's, about his relationship to God. Well, he was a good man. You can't be good enough to escape torment if you've rejected Jesus Christ. That's a hard thing to have to tell somebody, but it's the truth. And you cannot afford to mislead somebody into thinking that because they did this and because they did that, for example. Or they will say, Oh, I'm not sure about all that but I know he's going to be all right. Well, I don't have the heart to go any further than that. But the truth is they're not going to be all right. It's appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment. In other words, when we breathe our last breath, we either are going to go to the presence of God or torment. And no kind of reasoning and sermons and theology and doctrine and false belief and all the things that go on, none of that's going to work.
The scripture says, If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord; believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead. You understand what that's about. Thou shalt be saved. Listen, God, the Father placed all the sin of your sin, my sin, the sins of the whole world all the way back to Adam, He placed the guilt and the penalty of all the sin of all mankind on the only person who could bear it. And that is the sinless Jesus Christ who was the Lamb of God. All those, all those sheep and bulls and goats and so forth that were sacrificed, all that He says is a foreshadowing of what? Of the day Jesus Christ died on the cross. The Bible says the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom so now man has access to the Father. So, therefore, all of that's happened over all these years, our access to God is through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Now, God put all the sin of all mankind on the one person who'd never sinned. Therefore, when we come to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior we are accepting God's gift of His Son as the only final, real, adequate and substitutionary, vicarious, sufficient sacrifice for your sins and mine. He put all that sin on Jesus. Listen, this is what makes rejecting Jesus Christ so horrendous. He's the only person who can get you to heaven. He says, I am the way, the truth, and the life; and no one comes to the Father but by me. He wasn't boasting; He was stating the truth, stating the fact. So, when you reject Jesus, you reject the Father's gift to die for your sins. And when you reject Jesus no one else could pay for your sin.
Now watch this, who else can pay your sin-debt? Let me tell you why no one else could. Because everybody else has sinned. We all have our sin. So, Jesus, the only perfect, sinless Son of God paid your sin-debt in full. Period. When you receive Him as your personal Savior you are made eternally secure based on His death at the cross as payment for your sin. Alright. If you ignore that, who bears your sin? You have to bear it. You say, what about my good works? I'm glad you asked. Because your good works are absolutely useless when it comes to your having acceptability before God. That's why He sent Him. You say, well, what about this resurrection, then? What's this all about? Well, the Bible says there's going to come a day when God's going to call the end of it all and He is going to bring it all to light. And there'll come a time when the Lord Jesus Christ is coming in the air, and these resurrected bodies of ours will be caught up together with Him in the clouds in the air.
Now, let's read a couple of verses here because I think it's very important. When he says to the Thessalonians, for example, he says, "We don't want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep". And remember, we said it doesn't mean that they're sleeping in the grave. That's his, just his terminology of how we go to sleep at night, wake up the next morning. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. Now, watch this, I'll say this again on purpose because this is a big issue with people. If He's going to bring me with Him and my physical body's going to get resurrected, then I thought I was in the grave. Doesn't make any sense at all.
So that there's no soul sleep. You die, you're either presence of God or you're in torment. And the sixteenth chapter of Luke that you know so well, the rich man and Lazarus. Remember what Jesus said when He told that story. And the rich man died and in torment. And you remember what happened. The Scripture says that here's the rich man and he's crying out to God, well, send somebody and just dip their finger in water and come touch my tongue. Why'd Jesus use such a terminology? Said, he was simply to emphasize the fact torment is torment. This isn't some nice condo somewhere. It's torment. And when a person dies without Christ, they go to torment. In the twentieth chapter of Revelation, when the Bible says that when the Great White Throne Judgment comes, what happens? He's going to resurrect the bodies of the dead all over this world. You say, well, what about years and years and years ago?
Let me ask you a question. Do you think it's a problem for God to raise bodies out of the sea and out of the fish and out of the earth when He created all that to begin with? He has no problem with any of that. And He says there will come a White Throne Judgment which every person there will be a lost person, rejected Christ. And, you say, well, now, if I've already died and I'm in torment, what's this judgment about? This judgment is about the degree of punishment that person will experience for all eternity. You say, you mean to tell me that you believe that people are going to suffer for all eternity? That's not even a good question.
Ask this question: What does God say? And He says, once that person goes to hell there is no escaping. That's why He gives the story. You see, there're parents who'd say, well, you know if I live a godly life surely my kids are going to be okay. Not necessarily. And especially if you live an ungodly life, then you have set the pace for them. So, what does the Bible say? When a person dies they either go to torment or they go in the presence of God. When the child of God dies we go in the presence of God. And then when Jesus brings forth the judgment for believers, what happens? Then we are rewarded for our good works. And for all eternity we will enjoy the rewards that God gives us as a result of how we lived out our lives. The unbeliever in judgment receives not a reward, they spend eternity suffering according to the way they lived out their life.
So, there is no escape. You say, well, why all this emphasis on death? Because it is inevitable and every person should be prepared to die. And there's only one way to prepare. And that's not going to church, though the church is important. Not reading the Bible, very important. Praying, very important. The essential thing is that you, by an act of your will, ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins, accept the fact that He went to the cross in your behalf, paid your sin-debt in full, and that you're trusting in Him as your Savior and you're believing that you are forgiven of your sin by accepting Him as your Savior. And when you die you will be in the presence of Almighty God. There is not another, not a single nothing as a substitute for that.
So I'd ask you a question. Are you ready? There's only two answers to that. Yes, I am; no, I'm not. You say, well, I have another mine, mine's maybe. Maybe what? The only thing, the only reason you can say maybe is maybe because maybe I'm wrong. No, the Bible's crystal clear. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God, kingdom of heaven. What about it? Have you ever placed your trust in Jesus Christ as an act of your will at some point in your life where you said, Lord, here's my life? Doesn't mean you've lived a perfect life but it means you've settled your eternal estate while you're here. There is no soul sleep; there's no annihilation; there's no purgatory. There's none of that. We live and we die. We live a life in Christ; we die in Christ, rewarded for the life that we've lived. We die out of Christ, without Christ, and suffer eternally the penalty of the rejection of the Son of God.
Now, watch this, it isn't all those things that you do and didn't do that make you miss heaven. It's the rejection of the Son of God. Jesus, the sacrifice, that's what will cause you the loss of eternal life. And it's my prayer that you'll give serious thought. You say, well, I'm going to think about one of these days. There are probably a lot of people in hell today who said the same thing. And I would ask you to be very honest with yourself. Are you prepared to meet the God who made you and gave you life and gave you opportunity? Are you prepared to meet Him having rejected His Son and done it your way and rebelled against the love of God?
Father, I pray the Holy Spirit will sink these truths deep into every one of our hearts. I pray for those who have been putting it off and making excuses for not dealing with their relationship to You. I pray, Father that You'll make them very miserable that when they lie down to sleep, can't sleep. When they try to concentrate on other issues, they can't until they deal with the most important issue of all, their personal relationship with You through Your Son, Jesus Christ. And I pray this in His name, amen.