Jack Graham - What Lies Beyond
Take your Bibles and open them, please, to the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, There is: "a time to be born, and there is a time to die". Birth brings us into time to earth; death brings us into timelessness, eternity. There is a time to enter life and there is a time to exit life. And God, who is sovereign, is in control of both our birth, certainly our lives, and yes, our death and our future. We're realistic about the fact that life is short and death is sure. But we do have questions, don't we? Every person has questions about what's next, about what's after life. A lot of myths and misconceptions, miscommunications regarding life after death. It's a combination of what people may have told us, what somebody said, what yo' mama said about life after death, things that you have read.
There's a lot of confusion and people have some strange and even bizarre ideas about death. All the religions, of course, have ideas about the afterlife that are projective. Asia and Eastern religions, many of them speak of life after life after life after life after life-reincarnation, that we die and then come back until we finally get it. Some believe that after death there's an intermediary state; that the soul either sleeps, which the Bible never teaches. The Bible tells us that 2 Corinthians 5:8 "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord". Jesus said to the thief on the cross, "This day", the believing thief, He said Luke 23:43, "This day you will be with Me in Paradise". There's no sleeping of the soul until the Last Days as a few of the cults teach. There's no purgatory, no state in-between where somebody prays us out or prays us in, be that as it may.
That shows up in the book of Maccabees which is the Apocrypha and is not the Holy Scripture. And, of course, some have experienced near-death experiences, out of body experiences, they are very similar. There are popular books written regarding these experiences where people, their stories are very similar. People "flat-line" for some reason-a car accident, a surgery of some kind, there's a flat-line, and then the individual comes back after death so-called and reports that he or she saw their body and people attending them and their family crying, then ultimately to a mysterious light but a warm and drawing light, and passing through that light brought peace, and then finding themselves back in their bodies. These stories are very similar. the fact is, we need to be cautious regarding these kinds of stories. I'm not here to deny them or to suggest that they do not happen. I am here to suggest that I believe in life after death, but not because of someone's experience but because the Bible tells me there's a life after death.
So we have a more sure word, rather than an extreme and even esoteric experiences after death or flat-lining... we don't know. But what we do know is the Bible tells us there is life after death. We know the Bible tells us that death is a certainty. Last time I checked one out of one persons die. That is a one hundred percent death-rate. There are no Mulligans, no do-overs in life. Hebrews 9:27, "For it is appointed unto man once to die", the Bible says, "and then the Judgment". The fact is, we all will die: young and old, rich and poor, known and unknown. Rock stars die; movie stars die; well-known personalities, presidents, kings, peasants, we all die. We all have a terminal illness called morality. And somewhere in life we come face to face with our own morality. Perhaps you're there today.
It is true that three people die every second. Say with me "one thousand and one". Three people just died. One hundred and eighty people die every minute. That means, think about it, in the last four or five minutes since I've been speaking and you've been listening to this message, over a thousand people who were alive have stepped into eternity. One by one by one we go. Over ten thousand every hour. That means that in the hour or so that we're in this worship service ten thousand souls plus will stand before God. Two hundred and fifty thousand people die every day; a quarter of a million people die daily. There's a sense of finality and certainty about that for sure. There are many things that we may not know about the life to come, but what we know is that it's coming! That we are dying! I don't know about you, but I feel a little bit of that these days... every day just in the frailty of getting older. You know, what doesn't hurt, doesn't work sometimes.
Paul said, 2 Corinthians 4:16, "The outward man perishes day by day". This earthly tent is getting older. Did you know the wise man of the book of Ecclesiastes talked about that? In fact, turn in your Bibles to Ecclesiastes in your Old Testament, chapter 12. Ecclesiastes, chapter 12. This book is the wise sayings of King Solomon and it's good advice for everyone, and especially for you young men and women who are listening to me right now; because it starts out in verse 1: "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them'; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain in the days when the keepers of the house tremble...'" You know what the "keepers of the house" are? Right here, I mean right here. I'm keeping my house right here. But then the keepers of the house, you know, start trembling in older age and you know those fists are quite as strong, these guns aren't quite as powerful as they used to be. "The keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent".
You know what the strong men are? Right here. What's the first thing that goes for an athlete? The legs! What's the first thing to go for an old person? The legs! That's why, you know, you find yourself when you get out of a chair, guys, you know this, what I'm talking about. You get out of a chair and you find yourself making that same sound your dad made. When he got out of a chair! Right? Or even getting in now can be an issue. And then he says "the strong men are bent and the grinders cease because they are few". You know what the grinders are, right? Your teeth! My grandfather used to take his teeth out every night, put them in a glass by his bedside because they were few. They were none in his case!
Now we have great dentists today, great medical care who save our teeth and better water, and all the rest, but the fact is, look, I know you got a lot of porcelain teeth out there, and gold in your teeth and other stuff holding it together, right? Because it's a natural process! "The grinders cease because they are few, and then those who look through the windows are diminished". Your eyes! You're wearing glasses or contacts because you don't see as well as you used to see. I don't know about you, but you know, when I started losing my vision it wasn't that gradual it didn't seem. I could read the phone book one day and the next day I couldn't read it! Just like that! And you need glasses or help, or surgery, that helps, they say. Then verse 4: "and the doors on the street are shut (that's your hearing), and when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird".
Now this is one of life's cruel jokes. when you're older and maybe you can sleep-in a little bit, you're up before the birds wondering what to do! "And all the daughters of the song are brought low". You know, you don't sing. You know, you sorta warble now when you try to sing. And they're afraid of heights! "They are afraid of what is high, and terrors are in the way". You ever try to get grandma on a tall mountain and look over the edge? You probably won't! We're afraid of heights and other things along the way. Why? "Because man is going to his eternal home, and mourners go about the streets". We are nearing home; I'm still surprised by the brevity of life: I am! It's like somebody hits the fast-forward button on your DVR! Yesterday we were driving home from our grandson's baseball game and Deb said, "Now this week we're going to meet with", and named the person's name, and I said, "Who is this"? "Our estate planner". I said, "What? Our estate planner? Do you know something I don't know"? Well, point made, right? Somebody should have told us this when we first started, if they didn't. The fact that Scripture says in the book of Amos 4:12, "Prepare to meet your God".
Jesus spoke of the second death. He said, "It would have been better if you had not been born the first time than to experience the second death". What is the second death? We are to talk about that next week on the message regarding hell and the afterlife of judgment. We'll talk about the second death. But the Bible also talks about spiritual death and it is spiritual death in reality that produces physical death and second death. When God created man, placed man and woman in the Garden of Eden, they lived in a perfect paradise. But then came sin: man rebelled against God and as a result God said "You will surely die". And spiritual death set in. And an infectious mortal disease attacked the human race. And therefore, in Adam we all die, we all die in Adam. That means that we are separated from God, that we had no spiritual life.
Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin is death". We live in a very tortured world; a troubled world, and why? Because it is a sinful world and sin produces sickness and sickness produces suffering and suffering produces death. That means that millions and millions and millions of people are living life without God and without hope! And that should break our heart as followers of Christ! It should move us and motivate us and burden us to give the message of hope for the world. I mentioned the famous dying, Steve Jobs, with his biographer at the end of his life he talked about death. Here's what the founder of Apple, the Thomas Edison of our generation, said: "Sometimes I believe in God; sometimes I don't. I think it's fifty-fifty, maybe. But ever since I've had cancer I've been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more. Maybe it's 'cause I want to believe in an afterlife, that when you die it doesn't all just disappear. The wisdom you've accumulated, somehow it lives on". And then he paused for a second, speaking with his biographer and said, "Yeah, but sometimes I think it's just like an on-off switch. Click, and you're gone".
It is said that idea is the reason that Mr. Jobs refused to put on-off switches on his Apple devices. We should fear death, called a terror, called the last enemy in the Bible. It is an instinctive fear for all of us. But how sad it makes me to think that a man could live his life and not be sure, because the Bible says 1 John 5:13, "These things are written that you may know that you have eternal life". The Bible says Psalms 49;15, "God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He will receive me". Jesus alluded to this when He said Luke 23:46, "Father, into Thy hand I commend My Spirit"! He led the way, John 14:6, "the Way, the Truth and the Life"!
Death is a certainty, life is a frailty and eternity is a reality! You will be alive beyond this life! Life is test; the final exam is coming later! How have you chosen to live and to give your life? If you're not a believer, the future is horrendous! If you are a believer, so live your life to make it matter because we live with eternity as the habit of our heart. It changes our perspective when we come to believe that there is life after death in knowing Jesus Christ. It also changes our perspective in what we do with our lives when we realize that life is a gift, that we should enjoy it every day.
Enjoy your wife, enjoy your husband, enjoy your children, and your grandchildren, your friends, your church, enjoy your job, enjoy your life! Not somebody else's life. Enjoy the life that God has given you! Squeeze all 24-7 out of every week, every day! This is the only life you have, live it up! Live it out! Live it for Jesus, if you claim to follow Him because one day when we stand before Him, not in the judgment of the unsaved, but in the judgment of the saved, the Judgment Seat of Christ, there will be an evaluation, and examination of why we did what we did, how we lived our life, what we did with the opportunities! Luke 12:48, "To whom much is given, much is required". There will be rewards given and rewards taken away based upon that Judgment Seat of Christ. Unfortunately many Christians will have nothing to bring to Christ except a wasted life.
Don't waste your life: it's the only one you have. And it changes therefore, your perspective because heaven is not only a destination, but it is a motivation for living! Three dates you ought to know are the most significant dates in your life: one is the day you were born, most of you know your birth date, I trust. The second date is the day you are born again, because you are spiritually dead, you are made alive in Christ! Spiritual life! "He who has the Son has life: He who does not have the Son, Jesus, does not have life"! Have you been born again? Jesus said John 3:7, "Do not be amazed when I say to you, you must be born again"! Have you been born again? And the third most important day in your life is the day you understand why you were born and why you were born again. That's when you get it! That's when life is filled with meaning and purpose-passion!
And the purpose of a person's life is to know God, to make Him known; it is to glorify God and enjoy Him everyday and in eternity forever! This is life in Christ: serving and giving and enjoying and witnessing and investing and loving and making it matter. Because we know that finally as believers death is defeated. Death is an enemy but it is the last enemy that we face. 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, "Death is swallowed up in victory! O Death, where is your sting? O Grave, where is your victory"? 1 Corinthians, chapter 15. No more death, no more hell, no more sorrow; for all of this is passed away. How? Why? Because our mighty Savior and God, the Lord Jesus Christ, defeated death, destroyed death at His cross! Like David who destroyed the giant Goliath with the giant's own sword and cut off his head!
So did the Son of David destroy death by death's own sword and rose again on the third day, that all who believe, He said in John chapter 11:25-26, "I am the resurrection and the life! He who believes in Me, though he be dead, yet shall he live! Do you believe this"? You see, so many think of death as a mystery but in Christ, death is no longer a mystery; it is a miracle of the resurrection when all of the limitations and liabilities of life and frustrations and failures and sins and foibles are put in the past and we live with Him forever, perfected! The prophet Isaiah said that He will swallow up death forever. No wonder David would say Psalm 23:4, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of shadow of death, I will fear no evil when You are with me".
Death is a shadow and where there's a shadow, guess what? The sun is shining somewhere! Death has no substance; it's just a shadow! Because the Great Shepherd Jesus, He walked through that valley ahead of us and for us, and gave Himself that we might have eternal life! So we live with a different perspective. We can say with the Apostle Paul, "To live is Christ and to die is gain". That's an indefeatable position. It's as though the Apostle Paul was saying, "Threaten me with death! Go ahead! Make my day"! "To live is Christ"! As long as I live, he said, I will live for Jesus because He is my life! And when I die, I'll tear down this earthly tent and march home in victory, head held high, breaking the tape. We're not afraid of the finish line.
The same apostle would say later Philippians 3:13-14, "Could I run this race not looking over my shoulder? Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are before, I press to the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ". With our eyes firmly fixed upon the finish line, we run! We don't fear the finish line! We're going home! Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. He's standing at the shore of eternity. Keep going! Don't let the fog and the discouragement and the disappointments hold you back. You keep doing what God has called you to do. And if you're an older adult, don't you dare quit on life! "Well, there's not much I"... There's something you can do for Jesus! You can pray! You can serve! You can give your life! Don't give up just because you're close to the shore. Wherever you are in this journey of life, keep going; keep your eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ!
Do not allow even death itself to keep you from getting home to Him! Here's the deal: When you choose Christ as Your Savior, you forever settle the destiny of your soul with Him. We're going to be talking about heaven and hell the next three weeks in our INVISIBLE series, but for now just let it be said that today is the day of salvation. Choose Christ today. Eternity is too long for you to be wrong. And this day is too short to put it off anymore. If you don't know that you know that you know that you know that you have eternal life with Christ, that you are saved, that you have been born again, that you have an eternal life, that your future is secure with Him.
If you don't know this, you can settle it today that these things are written that you may know that you have eternal life and that believing, that you may have life in His name. The question is how can you know? Because of what Christ has done. Not because of what you've done or can do; not your good works, not your good deeds, not trying harder, not paddling harder, not swimming harder, that's not what gets us to the shore. But trusting in the One who blazed the trail before us, who broke through the powers of sin and death and hell that we might have eternal life with Him.