HOW TO CONFRONT AND FACE DEATH
II Corinthians 5:1 & 8
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…We are confident, I say, and willing to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
Editor: The background for this article is based on a sermon that the F.D. editor preached at the Calvary Baptist Church, Grayling, MI, one day after the funeral of Dave Niederer, the church’s treasurer, who died suddenly of a massive heart attack at age 56.
Introduction: There are four universal experiences which all human beings face: sin (Rom. 3:23), sickness (James 5:13-16), sorrow (Ps. 90:10) and death (Ecc. 3:2). Apart from the Second Coming of Christ, all individuals have faced or will confront all these four realities.
THE FOUR KINDS OF DEATH IN THE SCRIPTURES
In the inspired Scriptures, there are four kinds of death: (1) spiritual death, (2) physical death, (3) temporal death and (4) eternal death. The important fact to note here is that there is a common denominating factor in all these four species of death. Regardless of the kind of death to which you are referring, the word “death” in the Scriptures always means separation.
In (a) spiritual death, there is the separation of the human spirit from God’s Spirit due to sin; In (b) physical death, there is the separation of the human spirit from the human body. In (c) temporal death there is the spiritual separation of the believer from sin. In (d) eternal death, there is final separation of the unsaved from God in the lake of fire—eternal hell.
The false teaching of the humanists that physical death ends all existence is simply not true; it is mental garbage. Heb. 9:27 plainly declares: “And as It is appointed unto men, once to die, but after this the judgment.” The lies peddled by the Jehovah Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventist cults are NOT true. The JW’s errantly proclaim that at death the soul sleeps until the final resurrection when the soul/spirit is revived and the formerly dead receive a second chance to obtain eternal chance after death. The Biblical text in Heb. 9:27 clearly refutes this unscriptural error.
The SDA cult falsely teaches that at death, the souls of both the righteous and unrighteous, go into an unconscious “sleep” mode until the final resurrection when the spirit/soul is revived and the final judgment concerning faith plus works takes place. Individuals who lacked ample works are annihilated, while those who possessed sufficient faith and works receive eternal life. This false doctrine is refuted by Christ in Luke 16:19-31, where in Hell, the unbelieving rich man is in an eternal state of conscious punishment and torment.
Mark 9:43-48 and Rev. 20:11 plainly disprove both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventist’s falsehoods.
In Gen. 2:15-17, God clearly instructed Adam and Eve that they could partake of every tree in the garden, except the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” and that if-when they ate of that tree, they would instantly die: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”
When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, they instantly died; that is, they became separated in their spirits from God and the entire future human race was plunged into sin. Writing about formerly unconverted sinners—since converted by God’s grace—the Apostle Paul stated in Eph. 2:1 “And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
There are two Biblical words that express this spiritual separation: the words estrangement and alienate/alienated. In Ps. 58:3, the Psalmist declares that “The wicked are estranged [from God] from the womb, they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.” In Col. 1:20-21, Paul declares that “And you that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.” In II Cor. 5:16 Paul explains that this reconciliation which removes both estrangement and alienation comes solely through the person and work of Jesus Christ: “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ…”
Physical death is the separation of man’s spirit from man’s body, the separation of the visible from the invisible, the separation of the temporal from the eternal; the separation of that which we see from that which we do not see In human beings. It is interesting to note God’s words in Gen. 2:17 about death: God emphatically declared that in the day that Adam and Eve potentially ate of the forbidden tree they would die: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest of it, thou shalt surely die.”
This writer has read that the phrase, “thou shalt surely die,” literally means, “dying, thou shalt die” or thou shalt “die dead,” that is they would doubly die. Adam and Eve not only died instantly spiritually that day, but they began to physically die. When they disobeyed God, the seeds of death were instantly transplanted into their human bodies!
Perhaps the most prominent phrase in the genealogical record of humanity from Adam to Noah in Genesis chapter five is the phrase referring to physical death “and he died.” In Ez. 18:4, the Scripture frankly declares “The soul that sinneth, it shall surely die.” Paul records this fact about all humanity in Rom. 5:12 when he states: “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned.”
THE VAST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE DEATHS OF THE SAVED VERSUS THE UNSAVED
In II Cor. 5:8, Paul declared that for believing saints, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” In Acts 7:59, when Stephen was stoned to death and martyred for his faith in Christ, part of his last parting words were “Lord Jesus receive my spirit.”
What a contrast that was to the rich man in hell in Luke 16:22 where the Scripture states: “And in hell, he lift up his eyes, being torment,” and he also cries and pathetically says, “I am tormented in this flame.” The rich man’s cry is similar to Somerset Maughn, the noted 20th century writer who pitifully stated that “death is a hellish experience.”
FIVE SIMPLE FACTS CONCERNING PHYSICAL DEATH
1. Death is an enemy of man and God. It was not in God’s original plan and purpose for humanity. As Rom. 5:12 states above, death is an intruder into the universe.
2. Death is no respecter of persons. Apart from the Second Coming of Christ, it cannot be avoided. Heb. 9:27 says, “It is appointed unto men once to die…” If you will check the daily obituary columns in daily newspapers, you will quickly discover that death strikes both young and old, highly educated and poorly educated, rich and poor, Anglo-Saxon whites and Afro-American blacks, etc.
This evangelist clearly remembers visiting, with the local pastor where he was conducting meetings, an unsaved woman. When he asked her the question, “If you died tonight, do you have the assurance that you would go to heaven?” The woman’s emphatic answer was simply, “I’m not planning to die tonight". We always think that it will be someone else that death strikes, but someday it will be us!
3. Death is not the end of existence for the unconverted, but the beginning of eternity. For the unconverted, it is the beginning of a horrid eternity in hell from which there is no escape—Mark 9:43-48, but for the believing saint, it is the realization of the hope to which he has been aspiring since the day he/she was converted. The believer is finally home—II Cor. 5:1.
This preacher vividly recalls an elderly believer who was a member of a church he pastored 50 years ago. This dear saint of God had a serious operation which caused her to spend several weeks in the hospital. When her attending visited her one day, she confidently exclaimed to him, “Well, Doc, I’m ready to go home today.” Her physician was somewhat astounded and frankly confided that she was not even close to a recovery that would enable her to return home. She simply replied to him: “Well, Doc, you don’t know what home I’m talking about!”
4. For believing saints, physical death has been defeated and lost its sting and someday, it will be completely banished from God’s universe. At the Cross and Resurrection, physical death received a crushing blow that insured its ultimate defeat. For genuine Christians, death holds no terrors. In I Cor. 15:55-57, the Apostle Paul dogmatically stated: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin: and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
There are three Biblical words that describe the Christians’ death:
(a) Dissolve: This word is used in our key text in II Cor. 5:1 where the Apostle Paul triumphantly declares: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” The Greek word there “kataluo” comes from a combination of two parts: “kata” which means “to loose or break down” and “luo” which means “down.”
What is death? It is a breaking down of the body’s functions and processes. However, the Apostle Paul does not describe this “breaking down” or “dissolving” as a negative act, but as an action of triumph! Paul describes the Christian’s eternal home as a “building,” an eternal “house” constructed by God “in the heavens.” For the believing saint, death is simply the convenient excuse to go home!
It reminds this preacher of the little girl whose home was just beyond a cemetery. When the school day concluded, dark was already setting in, and in order to get home as soon as possible, the little girl used a shortcut through the cemetery. One of her friends said, “Aren’t you afraid to go through that cemetery with all those ghosts, goblins and spooks inside that place?” The little girl confidently replied: “No, you see, my home is just beyond the cemetery!”
(b) Decease: This word is used several times in the N.T. In Luke 9:31, Moses and Elijah used the word at Christ’s Transfiguration, where the Scripture states: “Who appeared with him in glory, and spake of his decease that he should accomplish at Jerusalem.” For Christ, His death on the Cross, was NOT a human accident, it was a divine accomplishment! Christ’s work on the cross, in the shedding of His sinless blood in His death, was not a human travesty, it was a divine triumph!
This word decease is used again, this time by the Apostle Peter in II Peter 1:15 when he discusses his impending death: Peter states: “Moreover, I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decease to have these things in remembrance.” In this instance, the basic Greek root word is “Exodus.” Yes, that’s right, the same name for the Bible book, “Exodus.”
“Exodus” comes from  a combination of a Greek preposition “ex” from which we get our English word, “exit”  and the Greek word “hodous” which means way/course/road (Jesus in John 14:6: “I am the way [“hodous…”]). An exit sign is simply a marker that points the way out of a room or a building. The word “decease” thus clearly means “the way out.”
The Apostle Peter was simply saying that for him, his impending death was just the “way out” of this earthly life to heaven’s shores! The famed Christian song that says “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through,” is not composed of trite words, but is a bedrock of divine assurance!
(c) Depart: In Acts 20:29, the Apostle Paul stated: “For I know this, that after my departing [death] shall grievous wolves enter in, not sparing the flock.” This verse contains both a Scriptural assurance by Paul as well as a strong warning. The assurance is in the word “departing,” a reference to Paul’s future death. The Greek word used there comes from a root word which actually means “to arrive in season, at just the right time.” Paul knew that when he “departed” from this life, he would arrive in heaven, exactly on time, not one minute late!
In Phil. 1:23 and II Tim. 4:6, the KJB uses the word depart again: “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better…” and “…I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.”
In those verses, the word has both a nautical as well as a military background usage. The first picture is that of a vessel that has been stationed somewhere for a period of time; then it pulls up its anchor, looses its moorings and sets sail for another port. The vessel of Paul’s earthly life longed to pull up its earthly anchor and head for its heavenly destination.
The second portrayal is that of an army, a group of armed forces that has been temporarily stationed at a specific location, then receives orders to break camp and move on elsewhere. As a loyal soldier of the Cross, the Apostle Paul had been stationed on this earth for a few decades, and he was now ready to move on to his final destination—heaven. Little wonder then, that Paul would state in Phil. 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
For the believer, those three words describing physical death are not negative, they are positive. In physical death, God’s saints simply are released from their formerly earthly confinements and arrive at their final home, in heaven! However, for the unconverted, physical death is the negative warrant that the next great appointment is the Great White Throne judgment—Heb. 9:27.
Temporal death is the separation from sin and the evil ungodly world which believers should daily experience while living on this earth. The Apostles Paul and Peter both delineate this kind of death: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein.” “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:1 & 11). “Who his ownself bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins, might live unto righteousness by whose stripes we are healed.” (I Peter 2:24).
The longer Christians live down on this earth the more “dead” to sin and this ungodly world they should be! This temporal death should include both internal heart attitudes (Prov. 4:23) as well as external actions (Rom. 13:14). These two important Biblical entities are intrinsically intertwined and should never be separated. The Biblical injunction for this non-conformity [death] to the ungodly world was pronounced by the Apostle Paul in Rom. 12:2 when he exhorted believers not to be “conformed to this world,” and positively entreated them to be “transformed by the renewing” of their minds.
God’s saints should be totally dead to the ungodly world’s sensual trends in unisex apparel clothing (I Tim. 2:9), unisex hair styles (I Cor. 11:14-15), as well totally separated from the sexual themes frequently implied or openly expressed in the words of rock music (Ps. 40:3) and the sensual worldly beat/rhythm of the Contemporary Christian Music [CCM] religious rock sounds (I John 2:15-17).
Born-again Christians should be TOTALLY dead to ungodly pagan body piercings and tattoos, (Lev. 19:28, Deut. 14:1) low cut “peek-a boo” blouses, and tight fitting apparel and low cut jeans that accentuate the body. Modesty (I Tim. 2:9) and moderation (Phil. 4:5) should always be the Christian’s standards when it comes to both apparel and actions.
Eternal death is the final separation of the unconverted/unsaved from God in the lake of fire. The basis for this awful judgment is that the names of those consigned to this awful doom are NOT written in the Lamb’s “book of life.”
Chas. Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah Witnesses Cult was totally in error when he stated that “Those who are resurrected will be given an opportunity to gain eternal life under favorable conditions (cp. Heb. 9:27) and that “the penalty of the second chance for life is the second death, which is annihilation (cp. Matt. 25:41 & 46, Rev. 20:15.)
Like Jacob, in Gen. 27:2, we “know not the day of our death,” Apart from the Rapture of the living saints in the air (I Thess. 4:13-18), there is a divinely appointed time (Ecc. 3:2), when everyone hearing these words or reading them will confront death.
John Harper was an English preacher who had visited the USA, where he preached several times at the Moody Church when they were without a pastor. The members liked his messages so well, that they asked him to be the permanent pastor. Harper had returned to England to finalize his affairs there and was on his way back to America on the initial voyage of the world’s largest ship, the Titanic, with over 2200 passengers & employees.
When the iceberg hit that vessel and the ship began to capsize, only the women and children (with a few exceptions) were permitted on the 12 lifeboats. Over 1500 men and a few women perished in the choppy icy waters of the Atlantic. As the ship capsized, Harper swam around those cold waters, imploring the sinking passengers to repent and trust Christ as their Saviour before it was too late.
When Harper realized that he could not survive any longer, he raised his hands as he went down and was heard to say, “I’m going down, I’m going down.” But just before his raised hands sank beneath the cold waters, he was heard to say, “No, I’m not going down, I’m going up!” And for the believer, death is NOT going down, it is going up!
Dave Niederer did not know that at the age of 56, when he seemingly was in the prime of health, death would suddenly knock at his door. Praise the Lord, he had long ago prepared himself (Heb. 2:3) for this ultimate reality and faithfully labored for His Saviour so that he could enter the presence of His Lord with confidence and joy.
“…Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors and their works do follow them—Rev. 14:13.” ARE YOU PREPARED FOR DEATH? IF NOT, MAKE THAT PREPARATION NOW! DON’T DELAY!
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