James Merritt - This is Knot the End
What I want to do as we wind up this series is answer a, give a biblical answer to a question that I am asked quite a bit frankly. And by the way, I'm really asked this a lot as people are in the process of dying. "So what does happen after I die? What's it like? What can I anticipate? Can I even know"? Well, the good news is one of the best, and I believe one of the most comprehensive answers is found in a book in the New Testament. I want you to turn to it if you have a copy of God's word or an iPad or a smartphone. It's a book called 2 Corinthians. As you can guess, it's right after 1 Corinthians. It's not hard to find.
If you go to the New Testament, go to Matthew; it's Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, and then 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians. This is a letter that a man by the name of Paul wrote to a church in Corinth. And evidently, they were asking that very same question. "Hey, what happens after we die? We believe in Jesus. We're Christians. We're a follower of Christ. But we really would like to know. So what happens after you die"? And I want to share with you today why I believe what Paul tells us and what Paul wrote does best fit the reality of both life and death, because the very first thing he tells us is something that we already know anyway. Okay? First thing Paul says is this, we are going to die physically. We all know that. We're going to die physically. Here's the way he puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:1. He says, "For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens".
Now, what Paul is talking about in the first half of this verse is our body. The word there for home, our earthly home, that word means house. And what I find to be very interesting is Paul describes your body and my body as a house. he said, "If you want to look at your body the correct way, think of your body as a house". Now, here's what Paul's trying to tell us. He said, "Look, when you're born, you move into the house. When you die, you move out of the house". It is a house. See, in a real sense, people don't get sick. Bodies get sick. People don't grow old. Bodies grow old. You say, "Where do you get that idea"? Well, Paul himself kind of alluded to this in the chapter before this, chapter four verse 16. Here's what Paul said. Paul said, "We don't lose heart; though our outer self," that is, the body, the house, "though our outer self is wasting away," we'll come back to that in a moment, "our inner self," that's who we really are, "our inner self is being renewed day by day".
Paul said, and I've met people like this, Paul said, "It is very possible to be growing older on the outside but growing younger on the inside". We've got people in our church, and I really do love them, we've got people, they're what we consider physically and physiologically and chronologically... they're old. But mentally and in their attitude and spirit and heart, they're young. That's why they're here. That's why they're in this church. They want to be a part of a church that's trying to reach the next generation. They want to be a part of a church that their grandchildren want to attend. They're old on the outside, but they are young on the inside. Paul said, "That's possible". You can actually be growing younger on the outside, inside, while you're growing older on the outside. And that's why he refers to our outer nature, he said out outer self is wasting away. You know what that word wasting away literally means? It's so apropos for what we're talking about. It means to decay.
And if you think about it, that's exactly what houses do over time. I don't care how nice your house is, give it enough time, your house decays. Houses grow old. Things begin to fall apart. The paint begins to peel off. The plumbing has to be replaced. Truth of the matter is, you can repaint your house, this house, you can refinish your house, you can refurbish your house, you can strengthen the hinges, you can replace the doors, but the house that you live in right now is decaying even as we speak. Your house is starting to decay. Now, that raises a question. So why did God build decay into our house? Why would God bother putting us into a body that is dying from the moment that it's born? There's a very simple answer to that question... because this house was never meant to be your permanent home. This house is not the house that God built for you, where He wants you to live forever. This body was never meant to be your final house. Let me put it to you this way. God never wants us to be totally at home in this home, because this home is not our home.
Alright. Let me say that again. God never wants us to be totally at home in this home because this home is not our home. Your body has an expiration date. Your spirit has a moving date. One day, it's going to happen to all of us. We don't know when, don't know where, don't know how, but one day, your body is going to expire. Your soul is going to be evicted. You're going to move out. We are going to die. Now, have I told you anything that you don't already know? But Paul's letting us know, "Look, I get it. I understand. I know how life works. Life's going to end. The body is going to die". Now Paul says, "Okay, now, let's get into next. Let's get into after".
Here's the second thing he tells us. Yeah, we're going to die physically, but he says we're going to exist supernaturally. Now, the big question is, real simple, when I close my eyes for the last time, at that exact instant, what happens? Paul says, "Simple answer. Two things happen. One thing happens immediately, and another thing happens ultimately". Now, what I'm going to do is I'm going to do what Paul did. I'm going to take them in reverse order. Let me tell you what ultimately is going to happen. I'm talking to you, let me just say this now. I'm only talking to those of you who are followers of Christ. I'm talking to those of you who have trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you're not in that category, I'll talk about you at the end of the message. Right now, I'm just dealing with what we'll call God's family. When you die, Paul says there's something that's going to ultimately happen to you, and here's what it is. Verse one. He says once we leave or body, eventually, ultimately we have a building from God, a house... there's that term again... not made with hands. It is eternal in the heavens.
Now, what Paul is talking about is what the Bible refers to as our resurrected body. When Jesus came back from the dead, He had a brand new resurrected body. Paul says we're going to have exactly the same thing. So he says, "Okay, now get this down in your mind right now. Your body is an earthly house. The body you're going to have will be an eternal home". The body you have right now is mortal. The body you're going to have is immortal. The body you have right now is vulnerable. The body you're going to have is invincible. This body can get sick and die. That body will be forever healthy and live. This body, the body that we're going to have, is not going to be manmade. It's going to be God-made. It's not going to be a natural body. It's going to be a supernatural body. And by the way, that's why he goes on to say this in verse two. He said, "For in this tent," that is, the body we're in right now, "we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling".
Now, here's what he was saying. And you'll find this to be true. There will come a day that, as your body begins to decay and it begins to break down and it begins to wear down and you begin to have aches and you begin to have pains and you've got to make more visits to the doctor and you've got increasing healthcare expenses and all those other things, you'll begin to say, "I wish I was 25 again; I wish I was young again; I wish I had that youthfulness in my body again". Paul said, "You're right. We long to put on...." Because what you don't even realize you're doing is that's just kind of a foretaste of what you're really looking for because again, remember, this body, the new body we're talking about is not made on earth. It's made in heaven. Our new body will not be subject to physical laws. It will be subject to heavenly laws, which means it will no longer be bound in what I call the chains of mortality.
In other words, we're going to have a body that sin cannot corrupt and death cannot kill. I mean, think about a body, a real body now, but think about a body where there will never be another need for a checkup because it's always healthy. No need for exercise. It'll always be strong. No need for medicine. It'll always be well. No need for sleep because it will always be rested. Now, I realized, I thought about this when I was working on this message. I thought, "Now, if you start going there, you're going to open up a Pandora's Box of questions people are going to be asking right now". And I know what some of you are saying. You're saying, "Hey, can I ask a question? So what's my new body going to look like"? Or, "What's my new body going to feel like? What color will my new body be? What texture will it have? Will we all look like we do now"?
Okay, well, I can answer all those questions in three words. I don't know. I don't know, because the Bible doesn't tell us. So I really don't know what the answer to those questions are. Here's the only thing I do know. When God gives us our brand new body, we will be totally satisfied with it. We'll say, "I cannot believe this is the body I have for all of eternity". In other words, we'll never even think about plastic surgery. Think about it. There won't be any need for photo shopping, no need for touchups, no need for makeup, no need for Botox. I mean, this new body, Paul says, tailor made, custom fitted, crafted by God, absolutely perfect. So Paul says ultimately what's going to happen when we die, ultimately, at the right time, we're going to get a brand new body. We're going to exist supernaturally.
Now, I haven't answered the big question. You're saying, "Okay, I just want to know one thing. The second I'm gone, what happens"? Paul says, "Okay, here's the answer. We're going to live eternally". We're going to die physically. We're going to exist supernaturally. But we're going to live eternally. So now, we're going to answer the question, okay. That's what you came to hear. What happens the moment we die? What can we expect? Now, Paul leaves no doubt. He tells us, he says, "Okay, you want to know immediately what's going to happen? I mean, absolutely right then? Here's what's going to happen". Verse six. So we're always of good courage. In other words, let me just stop, he says, "I don't ever fear dying and you shouldn't fear dying either". Death is not anything you have to fear.
People say, "Well, I'm not afraid of death. I'm afraid of the unknown". Well, there is a certain part that's unknown; there's a certain part that's not, and this is what he's going to tell us. "We know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith not by sight". Yes, we are of good courage and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Another translation says, "We'll be away from the body. We'll be absent from the body and we will be present with the Lord". So question. When a follower of Jesus dies, does he enter into what people call soul sleep? Not according to Paul. Does he go into kind of a purgatory state, kind of a holding tank? No, he doesn't do that either. He says, "No, the moment that you die as a follower of Christ, you are immediately and instantaneously transported into the presence of Jesus".
Now, here's what I want you to understand. This is where people get confused. After we die, you don't immediately get your new body. You don't immediately move into your new body. Now, there's a time you're going to move out of this house, but you won't yet move into your new house. You know why? 'Cause here's what God is so good and God is so fair and God is so just. He says, "Look, everybody gets their house at the same time". Everybody's going to move in at the same time. Okay? So there's going to be a time when this life is over, this world's come to an end, Christ is going to come, and everybody gets to move into their new house. But in that interim period, our spirits go to be in the presence of God. We go to be with the Lord. By the way, that shouldn't surprise you because if you've really read the Bible and really kind of thought things through, you'll know, for example, that is exactly what happened with Jesus.
You remember when Jesus was hanging on the cross? He's about to die. He's about to breathe His last. His last words were, "Father," He says, "into Your hands I commit My...." What's that word? Spirit. "Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit". He didn't commit His body. Why didn't He? 'Cause His body was on the cross. He couldn't commit His body. His body's about to be buried. But He says, "I commit My Spirit to You". How about the thief on the cross? You remember what He said to the thief on the cross? He said, "True, thou say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise". Well, He couldn't have been talking about His body 'cause His body was being buried that day. He died that day. So when He said you, your spirit, your soul, who you really are, "that spirit that's been living in that house is going to be with Me".
See, this is the way it works. I had a professor at Southern Seminary. His name was Clyde Francisco. He was my Old Testament, one of the Old Testament professors; great, great guy. Funny. He was one of the funniest guys that I've ever, ever come across. Just had a way of making the Old Testament funny and just really interesting. He was a great professor. Well, years after I left the seminary, somebody called me and said, "Hey, did you hear about Dr. Francisco". I said, "No". They said, "He died". And I said, "Are you kidding"? They said, "No". They said, "My mother was there when he died". I said, "What do you mean, your mother was there"?
Dr. Francisco was in a church and he was preaching on a Sunday night. And while he was preaching, he got, right in the middle of his sermon, he literally said this, he said, "You know, it would be wonderful, it would be wonderful if right now I went into the presence of Jesus," and he dropped dead on the platform. Dropped dead right there preaching. I mean, dropped dead. I said, "Wow". I said, "What a way to go". Really. Not yet. But let me tell you, what Paul said was if I were to all of a sudden drop dead on this platform, you can rest assured I would be with Jesus before my body hit the floor. He said, "You will immediately be absent from the body. You will be at home with the Lord". You know, I tell people this all the time. Can I just be honest with some of you in this room, some of you listening, some of you'll be watching this on television?
I don't know how people get through the death of somebody they care about if they don't know Jesus. I really don't know how you do that. When my mom died back in April, everybody knows how close I was to my mother. I can still weep at the drop of a hat about my mom. I think about her every morning at 8:30, 'cause I called her every morning at 8:30. I thought about her this morning at 8:30. I think about her every day. I remember when I went to the funeral home. Boy, I was kind of dreading, you know, you take that first trip and you've got to go and you look at the casket and you say... So I go to the funeral home and, you know, we were all there. And I remember looking at the casket; I remember the first thing that came to my mind was, "She's not there. She's not there. She's with the Lord. She is absent from the body".
When we took her to the gravesite to bury her next to my dad, I said, "You know what? I'm not burying her. I'm burying her body. I'm not burying her". And when I looked into that casket, I knew I wasn't looking at her. She was with Jesus. That's the way it works. There was a man who died and his name was Mr. Peas. And on his tombstone, they wrote these words. They said, "Beneath these clouds and beneath these trees lies the body of Solomon Peas. But this ain't Peas, it's just the pod. Peas shelled out and went to God". And I'm telling you, that's the way it is. That's exactly what happens. It's like a pastor I heard about one time preaching a man's funeral. He said, "That's just the shell. The nut has departed". And that really is true. I mean, when you die, you immediately go into the presence of the Lord. And that's why, if you're a follower of Christ, you should never ever fear death because now listen to what we read in verse five. Listen to this. "He," that is God, "who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the spirit as a guarantee".
Now, listen to what Paul said. Paul said, "From the time you came out of your mother's womb and took your first breath and gave your life to Jesus Christ, God began preparing a place for you, and God began preparing you for that place". God has made us what we are right now so that He can remake us into what we ought to be. And by the way, that word prepared is so big. Let me tell you why. If you don't hear anything else I say, listen to this. Listen. You're not prepared to live until you're prepared to die. And you are not prepared to die until you're prepared to receive what God has prepared for you. You're not prepared to live until you're prepared to die, and you're not prepared to die until you're prepared to receive what God has prepared for you.
See, right now, right up here, this is the place, this is the body where eternity is decided. This is the place where decisions are made. This is the place where character is formed. This is the place where destiny is decided. But this place is temporary. God says, "Listen, get this in your mind. I did not make you for this earth. I did not make you for this place. I made you for heaven. I didn't make you for this body. I made you for My body, the body that I want to give you. And this is not the end. It was never meant to be". And I'll tell you, this is one of my favorite passages in the Bible, 'cause every time I read this, I think to myself, "Boy, I'm so grateful I don't have to consult a fortune teller or an Ouija board or an astrologer or a deck of cards to find out what lies on the other side of death". God's already told me all I need to know. God's already told me all that I need to hear and all I need to have to know. I don't have to be afraid when death comes to my door.
So I want you to listen to the end of this last statement. We're going to wrap this up. Listen. Paul said, "We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord". If you're out there today and even if you're a believer in Jesus and you're still sitting there and you're saying, "You know, Pastor, I get it and I hear it, but you know, I'm still afraid of dying. I just fear it. I know it's that unknown, but I just fear it". And there will come a time when you're going to say, just like he said, "You know, it's been a good run. I've had a great life. I love my family, love my friends. But Lord, if it's all the same to You, I'd just rather be absent from the body and I'm ready to go home to be with You".
That's the way God works it. That's the way God operates. When it comes, when that time is there, you'll know it, because you know, people ask me this all the time, "Where is heaven". And I'll tell you what I tell them. And it shocks 'em. They'll say, "Is heaven...." You know, think about it, when we talk about heaven, we just naturally look up, right? Talk about hell, we just naturally look down? Okay? So people say, "So is heaven really up and is hell really down and all this"? Let me tell you, I can tell you exactly where heaven is. Heaven is wherever Jesus is. Wherever He is, that's where heaven is, 'cause everywhere Jesus steps His foot, that becomes heaven. See, it's not the streets of gold that make heaven, heaven. It's not the pearly gates that make heaven, heaven. It's not the angels' wings that make heaven, heaven. It's not all the people that have gone before us that makes heaven, heaven. It is Jesus that makes heaven, heaven. And Paul said, "When you are absent from the body and you're present with the Lord, you will be in heaven".
So let me just close with this. Listen. Close with this. The story I'm going to tell you, let me tell you what's amazing. The first cousin of this family I'm going to tell you about was in our church, here this morning at 9:15. I didn't even know it. They had no clue I was going to tell this story. It's really incredible how small this world is. In my former church, I pastored a couple, Henry and Elaine. Henry and Elaine were just, they're one of those kind of behind the scenes couples; very quiet, very soft-spoken, very sweet, just very kind, very faithful; kind of one of those couples that are always there when the doors open. You know the kind of couple I'm talking about? Loved their church, loved me, but just not real out front, not real vocal. Well, Henry... short little guy... Henry got cancer, and it was bad, and it was terminal.
So in his last days, he kind of went into this like semi-comatose state. He really, you know, he was not conscious. As a matter of fact, the nurses told Elaine, you know, "We don't know whether he can hear you or not. We don't really know, you know, whether he's listening or not. Doesn't hurt to talk. We just want you to know we just really don't know whether he can hear anything or not". So for a few days, they had no communication whatsoever. And so Elaine, as you would, you know, she just said, "Lord, if it would, you know, if You'd be so good and if it'd be Your will, could I just talk to Henry just one more time before he dies"?
Well, just before he died, Henry rallies. Elaine was sitting there by his chair and she, I think, may have been watching TV or something. And all of a sudden, Henry opens his eyes; hadn't done it in days. Henry opens his eyes and he looked at her and she looked at him and she said, "Henry". Hadn't said anything in days and he looked at her and he said, "Elaine, I've been talking to Jesus". And Elaine said she leaned up real close 'cause he couldn't talk very loud. He was very weak. And she leaned up real close and she said, "Well, Henry, what did Jesus say to you"? And Henry, last words, Henry said, "Elaine, He said, 'Henry, I've come to take you home.'" That's what happens to every child of God at that moment of death. Listen. Whether it's a heart attack, a stray bullet, an automobile accident, a stroke... doesn't matter. At that moment, you'll hear that voice and you'll know who it is. It'll be unmistakably clear. "Hey, it's Jesus. I have come to take you home".