John Bradshaw - You Can Live Forever
It's good to be with you today. We have an opportunity together to open the Bible and explore God's Word and hear from God through His Holy Spirit. So let's pray together that the Lord will speak to our hearts today.
Our Father in heaven, we thank You for the opportunity to consult Your Word, be guided by Your Spirit. We pray that You would speak to us. We pray that we'd understand Your Word a little better, and that we'd know You a little more. That as we need our hearts to be renewed, they would be renewed, that You'd bless our understanding, guide our thinking. So be with us now, we pray, and we thank You, in Jesus' name. Amen.
As I speak right now, the oldest person in the world is said to be a 115-year-old Japanese woman. Her name is Kane Tanaka, and she took the title of the world's oldest person from a lady named Chiyo Miyako, also from Japan. Now, the oldest person whose age has been verified ever, that's ever in modern times; we're not going back to Methuselah here, is a French woman named Jeanne Calment. Born in 1875, she died in 1997 at the age of 122 years, 164 days. Madame Calment met Vincent van Gogh when she was a child. Now, there's something else interesting about her. In 1965, when she was 90, she signed a contract to sell her apartment to a lawyer. It would work like this: The lawyer would pay her 2,500 francs a month for the rest of her life, and whenever she died, he'd get the house. He ended up paying her more than twice what the house was worth.
In fact, Mrs. Calment outlived the lawyer. He died; she kept on living, which meant that his family had to keep on paying out on that deal for another two years. It is said that her comment on the situation was, "In life one sometimes makes bad deals". She evidently had a sense of humor, and maybe a mean streak. Well, a man in Brazil might take that record now, as he claims to be 118 years old. There's a woman in Russia who says that she's 129. Now, whether she is or not, who knows. But there's one thing all of these people, all of these long-living people, have in common. It's a trait we all share, and it's not an enormously comforting thought. The fact is, if Jesus doesn't return first, we're all going to die. And I don't say that flippantly.
The Apostle Paul described death as an enemy, and it is. While I know that this is a tender subject for a lot of people, it's also a subject that offers an enormous amount of hope. If only you know where to find that hope. People have tried to figure out death for millennia. In ancient Greece, alchemists tried to create something called a philosopher's stone that would enable people to live forever. You will not be surprised to know that the Greeks were not successful. Today, average life expectancy is longest in Japan, where women can expect to live to almost 87 on average and men to 80 1/2. In Switzerland, which is second, women can anticipate living to almost 85 1/2. Men can expect to make it to close to 81 1/2. If you live in Venezuela, the average for men and women combined is 70. In Papua New Guinea, it's 60. In Sierra Leone, it's just over 49. But no matter who you are, where you are, death is a visitor that one day will stop by to see you. The question we want to ask ourselves is, what then? What happens after a person dies? And what will happen after that?
Now, first, let's consider how death got here in the first place. God created a perfect world. But before long, Cain killed Abel. It was just seven chapters into the Bible that the once-perfect earth was destroyed by a flood. Now, how did all that happen? And why? The Bible starts by saying, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". In Genesis 1, verse 26, God said, "Let us make man in our [own] image," and He created them... us, I really want to say, male and female. There was to be no sin, no suffering, no sadness, no death. God gave our original grandparents some specific instructions. Genesis 2, verses 16 and 17 says, "And the Lord commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.'"
God created human beings to live forever. Death wasn't part of the original plan. But when sin entered the world, it brought death along with it. Here's what happened. We look in the Bible, and I hope you will, too, in Genesis chapter 3, and we start in verse 1. The Bible says, "Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, 'Yea, hath God said, "Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden"?'" That was Satan, speaking through a medium, in this case, a serpent, and he challenged the woman. Perhaps he caught her off guard. No doubt she had been warned. But how would you feel if a snake spoke to you? Well, Eve made many mistakes, and one of them was speaking back.
We pick it up in verse 2. "And the woman said unto the serpent, 'We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, "Ye shall not eat it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die".' And the serpent said to the woman, 'You shall not surely die.'" Well, that was a lie. Death came as a result of sin, which Isaiah said, in Isaiah 59 and verse 2, separates a person from God. Death came. But what then? Hindus believe that a person may live or die many times, being, being reincarnated again and again before finally reaching eternal life. So is that what lies before us? Australian aboriginals believe that when a person dies, that person's spirit goes into the spirit world and then acts as a spiritual guide and helps the living through life.
Now, you know as well as I do that if you ask people about death, you're going to get a wide range of responses: purgatory, nothing at all, heaven or hell, reincarnation. And it is not a subject that we can afford to take lightly. You know, Satan is a master deceiver, and the Bible makes clear that before Jesus returns, there will be enormous deceptions regarding death. The Bible tells us that at Creation God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground, and then He breathed into Adam's nostrils what the Bible calls "the breath of life". And as Genesis 2, verse 7 says, "Man became a living soul". Which is interesting, because as a child, I was told that I had a soul that would go on living after I died, an eternal soul. But that's simply not something that you find in the Bible. According to the Bible, at Creation, human beings were made as living souls. Body and breath, a living soul.
So why in the world would the Bible say something like, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ"? You find that in 1 Thessalonians 5, verse 23. Paul is expressing a thought that we can all agree with. His prayer is simply that God would sanctify us mentally, or emotionally, and spiritually and physically. In that verse, Paul isn't giving a study on the nature of human beings. He's stating a clear and very positive thing. God wants us to be completely His. So if you go to the Bible and search, if you haven't done so, I don't mind if you do, you'll discover there is not a single verse in the Bible that suggests human beings have a soul that survives bodily death. Oh, I know you hear it all the time. Go to a funeral. And if you go to the right funeral, or maybe it's the wrong funeral, you'll hear it all day long. But Romans 2 and verse 7 says that we seek for immortality, which we wouldn't do if we had an immortal soul.
Ezekiel wrote that "the soul [that] sins shall die". He wrote that in Ezekiel chapter 18, and it seems it was so important to him he wrote it twice. Ezekiel was clear. He did not say the soul that sins is going to live forever. He said it will die. So, I think it's important that we look at a case study. Quite the case study. We find it in the Word of God. Jesus had a good friend whose name was Lazarus. And Lazarus enters the biblical conversation, John chapter 11, and we'll start in verse 1. "Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha". So we'll look at verse 3. Verse 2 just tells us about Mary having anointed Jesus with oil. Verse 3 says, "Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, 'Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.'" Verse 4 says, "When Jesus heard that, He said, 'This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through [this].'"
Now, what did Jesus have in mind? Jesus had in mind something truly remarkable. Drop down to verse 11, where you read the Bible saying, "These things He said, and after that He said to them, 'Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.' Then His disciples said, 'Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.' However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead. And I'm glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.'"
Now, Jesus made it clear. In His mind, death was a sleep. Jesus didn't teach that death was a time when people go to heaven or to hell or to purgatory or some other place, but a time when people went to sleep. Think about this from a practical perspective, would you? When someone is alive and thinking, they have knowledge. When they die, what? We think they have greater knowledge? Somebody is unconscious, doesn't know anything, they die, and suddenly they know everything? You know, the idea of going straight to an afterlife after death came to us through mythology, not through theology. It isn't something that you find in the Bible. The Bible says things such as, this king "died and slept with his fathers"; that king "died and slept with his fathers". David said in the Psalms, "I shall be satisfied when I awake with Your likeness".
The Bible speaks again and again of death as being a sleep. Now, something powerful was going to happen here. Through this, Jesus' disciples would believe, according to Jesus. This was a teaching opportunity for the disciples and evidently for us as well. Verse 17, the Word of God says, "So when Jesus came, He found that he", that's Lazarus, "had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother". Lazarus was as dead as dead could be. He'd been in the tomb for four days. People had gathered to comfort the grieving family. Jesus had joined a group of grieving people, and as He entered into that scene, verse 21 says that "Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.'"
Now, I want you to notice something. Jesus did not say, "Your brother is in heaven". He did not say, "Your brother, so sorry, is in hell". He said instead, "Your brother Lazarus will rise". He did not say, "Martha, be encouraged because your brother is in the presence of God". He didn't say, "We can be happy, brothers and sisters, today, because Lazarus is in the presence of God, and he is praising God with all of his relatives and his grandparents and great-grandparents". This was not the message Jesus gave. Jesus said, "Your brother will rise again". And now we look in verse 24: "Martha said to Him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.'" Which is fascinating. Martha seems to understand. She didn't say, "I know he's in heaven with Grandma and Grandpa". She said, "I know that he's asleep, and I know that one day he will wake up".
Now, we move in to the real point of this. Verse 25: "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live.'" Verse 26: "'And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?' She said to Him, 'Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.'" Here's the point, friend. The Bible assumes you will understand what it is saying about death. It's too clear for us to confuse. But here's what the Bible does not assume, but does encourage. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He's the great difference-maker. Is Jesus the resurrection and the life for you?
In fact, if we assume that the dead go straight to heaven when they die, what we're saying... have you thought about this? What we're saying is that we don't need Jesus to be the resurrection and the life. What would be the point of a resurrection if the dead go straight to wherever it is they're going when they die? Let's pause and think about this. Here's what I've been told, and if you have this discussion with anybody, this is all you can be told, too. The dead immediately go to heaven, where they wait until the resurrection, when they come down from heaven, all the way down to some grimy graveyard somewhere, and at that time they inhabit their new body, and they live on in their new body. I could accept that if the Bible said it. It sounds like science fiction, and I don't mean to be speaking in a derogatory sense, because it is science fiction.
The Bible doesn't speak about death that way. The Bible says the dead sleep. And then, and then what? The dead sleep, and then what? What did Jesus say? "I am the resurrection and the life". If someone has fallen asleep in death, in faith in Jesus, that person is raised on the day that Jesus returns. Death will have been, as it were, a momentary sleep. The eyes that closed in death will open to see Jesus. No awareness of time passing. It's not a place where people dream a lot of dreams. No one's going to come out the grave saying, "Oh, man, I've been in there a while. I'm feeling kind of stiff". None of that. Eyes that close in death, the very next moment, that person is alive again.
Now, who are we talking about here? We're talking about our loved ones, your loved ones. Your parents, grandparents. Your spouse, perhaps. Your children. Jesus is coming back, and the dead in Christ will rise. Look at what Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica. We're gonna read this, 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, starting in verse 15. The Bible says, "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep". Now, now, now, let's pause there for a second. I don't want to run on to verse 16 yet. We "will by no means," those who are alive when Jesus comes back, "precede those who are asleep". We won't go on before those who are asleep. What that means is this.
Evidently the Thessalonians believed that if you weren't alive when Jesus came back, you didn't go to heaven. And Paul is untangling that mess. He's saying, "No, no. When Jesus comes back, those who happen to be alive at that time, will not go on to heaven without those who've passed away". That's not what's going to happen. And you notice how Paul described them, we "will by no means precede those who are asleep". He's very clear in his description. Verse 16: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words".
Wow! "Comfort one another". You know what Paul is saying? We'll get to see our loved ones again. Why? Because Jesus is the resurrection and the life. What a great Savior! If you've ever been to a funeral, you know there is nothing anyone can do to bring back the deceased. Nothing. No one. No doctor, no magician, no scientist. You know, it's just so interesting, isn't it? They practice this thing called, um...cryogenics; that's what it is. The baseball player Ted Williams, his family evidently paid a sum of money so that Ted Williams' body would be frozen in the hope that when science catches up and figures out a way to give people life again, they can just thaw out his body and frankly, I haven't the faintest idea exactly how this is going to work, but the hope is that you freeze; you die; they put you in a deep freeze and, later on, bring you back.
There is no one who can bring Ted Williams back from the dead, other than Jesus, because on the day He returns, He will say, "Come forth," once again, just like He said to Lazarus, "Lazarus, come forth". Grandma, come forth. Brother or sister, come forth. Parents and children, come forth. In fact, let's go back to, uh, John chapter 11 and see how the story of Lazarus resolves. John chapter 11. I kind of gave you the answer already, didn't I? But I want to go back and read that with you. In John chapter 11, Jesus has said, "I am the resurrection and the life". And we drop down now to verse 38, where it says, "Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, 'Take away the stone.'"
Martha protested, there's going to be a stench. "He's been dead for four days". But Jesus said, "'Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?' [So] they took away the stone". And what did Jesus do next? It's recorded in verse 41. He prayed, "Father, I thank You that You've heard me. I know that You always hear me... because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent me.'" And this is when Jesus "cried with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come forth!'" What happened then? "And he who had died came bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, 'Loose him, and let him go.' Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him".
What a great day it's going to be when Jesus says "come forth" again. Grandma, come forth. Brother, sister, come forth. Neighbor, friend, come forth. Spouse you loved for so long, come forth! Jesus will say, "Children, come forth"! What makes the difference? Well, it isn't a what; it's a who. Jesus makes the difference. Is He making the difference for you? How's your faith today? I'm not asking you how your faith in you is, but how's your faith in Him? Are you trusting in Him? There's no one else to trust in. Are you believing in Him? Jesus offers everlasting life. Jesus offers hope beyond the grave. Of course He offers blessing in this life and then blessings in the world to come. Are you believing in Him?
It's Jesus who is the resurrection and the life. Without Jesus, the grave is a cold, dark place, devoid of hope. With Jesus, the grave is a temporary dwelling, one that will open up. It'll open up on the day that He returns. It will give up its occupant. The dead in Christ shall rise. In 2018 the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking died in Cambridge, England. As well as being a, a famed scientist, Stephen Hawking was also a well-known atheist. He's quoted as saying that a belief in the afterlife is, and I quote now, "A fairy story for people afraid of the dark". He said, "There's probably no heaven and no afterlife either". He said very plainly, "I'm an atheist". It seems strange, strange to me, at least, that such a bright man would turn his back on the simplest, on the best, on the most logical decision a person could ever make.
Now, if you're happy with what you get out of this world, and you don't want anything more, then I guess you're okay. If you're happy with three score and ten, maybe a little more, and that's that, maybe you're okay. Maybe you don't want to look forward. Maybe you want to get out of here and stay out of here. But I hope not. I hope today that your heart responds to the love of God. I hope today you can see Jesus on the cross and say, "God loves me. God wants me to be with Him in eternity". I hope and I pray that you say there's a world coming, "a land that is fairer than day," a place where the flowers never fade, where the inhabitants shall not say, "I am sick," a place where there's no sin, no injustice, no pain, a place that's open to you because Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Is He the resurrection and the life for you?
Let's pause. He can be. He wants to be. He should be. You know, in John chapter...5, Jesus was speaking to people one day, and He said, "Here's the problem. The problem is that you will not come to me that you might have life". How about that? Jesus does not say, "The problem is your alcohol". He does not say, "The problem is your immorality". He does not say, "The problem is that mind of yours that you don't seem to be able to keep straight". He doesn't say, "Your problem is your sin," because, after all, He died for our sin. We know that we're sinful. We have all sinned, according to the Bible, "and come short of the glory of God".
So there's that. What do you do about that? Eternity stretches before you, and Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life". One day He's going to bring dead people back to life. He's going to raise people from the dead, graves will open up all over this world, and people crowned with everlasting life will come forth. But before that happens, there needs to be another death and resurrection. In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, in verse 31, the Apostle Paul said, "I die daily". And we take that to mean that Paul experienced... a spiritual death on a daily basis. That person that the, the Bible describes as the old man of sin, Paul says that person dies, and God raises him up to walk in newness of life. He consecrates himself to God every day, that's what Paul is saying, and God gives him new life.
You see, when we look at, at ourselves in the, through the lens of the Bible, we don't see much that's good. We see sin, and we see corruption, and we see failure. So what do we allow God to do? We say, "God, allow me to be reborn. Bring me back to life. Create in me a clean heart. Let that old me die and let a new me walk in what Romans 6 says, 'newness of life.' Let that be my experience". You see, if you are dead in trespasses and sins, well, that's not good. But if you are, then you're in good company because every sinner is in that place. What do you do about it? You can try harder. But trying harder never saved anybody. You can use your willpower and, and sheer bloody-mindedness and determine, "I'm gonna go straight and go God's way now". But you're never gonna be able to do that because, as Isaiah wrote, "Our righteousnesses are as filthy rags".
What does the sinner do, that person who is dead in trespasses and sins? She, he goes to God and says, "God, give me new life. Let Your resurrection power work in me. Take me from sinner to saint through Jesus". The prodigal son came home, and the father said, "This my son was dead, and now he is alive". And you can find new life in Jesus. How is that possible? It's possible because Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and He wants to be that for you. Will you allow Him to do that? "Ah," you say, "John, I don't think I can get over this sin problem in my life". You're right; you can't. But God can do it for you. He can do it in you. He'll do it through you. "Oh, I've tried and I've failed far too often, far too often".
Okay, now you give your life to Jesus, the old you dies, and He creates a new you in the place of the old you. And Jesus now lives His life in you. You know what Paul wrote to the Philippians? "He who has begun a good work in you" is faithful to perform it until the day of Christ. You let God do that work, and He will do that work. He longs to do it. He wants to do it. Eternal life stretches before you, and you can live forever. How? Cryogenics? No. Technology? No. Diet and exercise will get you further, but not that far. How can we live forever? What did we say? John 11 in verse 25, Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life".
In September of 2013, Google created a company dedicated to finding out what it takes to live longer and then to help people to live longer. A Google engineer spoke of a time when computers the size of blood cells, little robotic devices, would go through our bloodstream, and these little devices would be connected to the cloud. So when's that going to happen? Google said it would happen by the year 2030. That's not long. Same Google engineer said, "A lot of our thinking will be non-biological, and it will be backed up so that if part of it gets wiped away, you can recreate it. We'll be able to extend our lives indefinitely". Oh, really? He says that by 2045, humans will be able to live forever. Our brains, he said, will be connected to the internet. Can you imagine?
I don't think I want that. But Google will never crack the code of life. The fact is, cracking the code of life has already been done. We already know how to live longer. The Bible tells us how a person can live forever. What do we read? John 11:25, "I am the resurrection and the life". Yes, we want to live as long as possible, as productively as possible. We should do our best. We should do everything we can to get more out of our lives. But if we want to live forever, we ought to let God do His best. And He will, if you'll give Him your heart. He offers you eternal life. You can live forever, and you can have that eternal life now in Jesus, the resurrection and the life. Do you want that? I know you do. Let's pray together. Please, bow your head with me.
Our Father in heaven, our Father in heaven, we thank You today for Jesus. We are grateful that He is truly the resurrection and the life. We thank You for hope beyond this world, hope beyond our sinful selves. We can't change our hearts. And we know You don't ask us to; instead You ask us to allow You to. So would You take our hearts today? I know right now there is somebody who is saying, "God, make me new. I'm tired of the old life. Lord, give me new hope, a new way forward". Thank You for answering that prayer.
There's someone who's saying, "I've tried and failed and tried and failed. I need a power that's bigger than me". We know who that power is. We know it's Jesus, the resurrection and the life. Friend, take hold of that power today. Invite Jesus in, believe He does, and surrender to Him that His life will be lived in your life.
Lord, we thank You today that there is hope beyond the grave. We thank You for the hope that we have that Jesus is coming back soon. And the dead in Christ will rise. Let that day come soon, we pray. And we thank You for it, in Jesus' name. Amen.