by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Job 14:1-15
I. Death is first mentioned in Genesis 2:17 as a consequence for partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil
A. In the punishment of Adam, death is mentioned - Genesis 3:19
B. Yet, Adam lived 930 years before dying - Genesis 5:5
C. God said they would die in the day that they eat of the fruit. Obviously, God had a different meaning in mind than physical death.
II. Death is a separation
A. In the day Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, they were thrown out of the garden - Genesis 3:23-24
1. Their sin had separated them from God
B. Luke 15:24 - His son was dead, but now alive
1. His son was separated, but has now returned.
C. Ephesians 2:5 - Our sins cause us to be dead, but God has made a way for us to return to life.
D. Revelation 20:11-15 - The second death is a permanent separation from God. One where there is no return to life.
III. Physical death is the separation of the body from the spirit and soul - James 2:26
A. Since we cannot see the spirit, we have difficulty in determining exactly when a person dies.
1. Clinical death - a person has stopped breathing and their heart stops pumping
2. Biological death - the body tissues begin to decay
3. Legal death - when there is no response to resuscitation efforts.
B. You cannot see a spirit, but you know its effects - John 3:8
1. We know that somehow the spirit sustains the body, but we don’t know how or when that substance ends until the effects stop.
IV. Attitudes toward death
A. Most people are loathe to change. Change is scary.
1. We like things to stay somewhat constant and predictable.
2. We get nervous when we don’t know what to expect or what is expected of us
a. A new job, moving to a new location — any major change brings on fears of the unknown.
3. Death is the ultimate uncertainty. We don’t know what the other side is like. Everything we take for granted in this physical world will not apply in the spiritual. It is a scary thought!
B. A prime focus of religion is an explanation of what happens after death
1. The Egyptians
a. Believed the physical affected the spiritual.
b. The body was preserved so that the spirit would go on living.
c. Things were buried with the dead so they would have there use.
a. Predominately a religion of India
b. Described as a “vague, amorphous, many-sided, and all things to all men.”
(1) It welcomes the worship of a large number of diverse dieties
(2) It accepts “truths” from many different and often contradictory sources.
(3) A devout Hindu believes there is room in Hinduism for Jesus, Mohammad, Zoroaster, and Moses.
c. Two fundamental beliefs
(1) There is a rigid hierarchical ranking of society into castes.
(a) There are 2,000 castes in India, organized into 5 general groups
(b) Brahmans (priests) are at the top followed by warriors, commoners, serfs, and the untouchables.
(2) Reincarnation of the soul after death
(a) A person’s status in his reincarnated life is determined by how he lived in a previous life.
(b) A morally upright untouchable may be rewarded by returning to life as a serf in the next life.
(c) Animals and gender differences are also included in this system.
i) An upright woman may be rewarded by returning as a man
ii) An evil individual could be demoted to a lower caste, or even return as a bug.
(d) The top of the earthly cycle of lives is being reincarnated as a cow, hence the sacredness of cows in India.
d. The goal of the Hindu, through all of these deaths and rebirths, promotions and demotions, is to reach a state of release from the cycle of earthly life and become a part of the cosmic consciousness.
a. Like Hinduism, includes a broad mix of beliefs and ideas borrowed from numerous sources. It is difficult to list a set of beliefs and say this is what a Buddhist believes.
b. Started by Buddha in sixth century B.C.
(1) Claimed that he was the source of truth, which he found through his own efforts and qualified him to teach others.
c. The central idea is to obtain Nirvana.
(1) However, Buddha would not define what Nirvana was, only how to live one’s life so as to attain it.
(2) An over-simplification might be to say that Nirvana to a Buddhist is like salvation to a Christian.
(a) There is an idea that it can be obtained while living here on earth.
(b) After death, Nirvana brings greater blessings to those entering the spiritual realm.
(3) Buddhist believe this material world is an illusion and the spirit world is all that is real.
(4) One obtains Nirvana when he finally succeeds in making that belief consume his thinking and causes him to abandon material thoughts and possessions until he united with the spirit world.
d. Buddhist’s idea of a soul is different from Christians or even Hindus
(1) They believe in reincarnation, but the soul that returns is not literally the same being that died, but a new inheritor of the results of the previous life’s actions.
e. Buddhist believe in a multiple levels of heavens, hells, and in-between life (including animals like Hindus).
a. Believe in impersonal, abstract powers associated with natural forces and objects.
b. These mini-gods are thought to be the souls of the deceased. The spirits of the dead are thought to be able to influence the events among the living. Dead ancestors are venerated so as to gain favor upon life’s activities.
c. A person of distinction might attain the status of one of the nature gods, becoming a god of a place or activity he had been associated with during life.
d. There is no belief in punishment after death.
e. Confucianism and Taoism generally centered men’s thoughts on achieving harmony with nature and fellow men, and gaining prosperity in this present life.
f. Most Chinese accept the basic “this life only” outlook and do not concern themselves with life after death.
a. Started by Mohammed ibn Abdullah of Mecca about A.D. 610.
b. Much of his religion was borrowed from Judaism and Christianity. The major focus of his teaching was his concept of judgment day.
c. Islam believes in a resurrection of the dead and the living to appear at a great judgment.
(1) The Muslim judgment scene is walking a tightrope over the flames of Hell. The unrighteous fall off, while the righteous reach Paradise on the other side.
d. Paradise is suppose to consist of delicious foods, abundant cool water, shade, and beautiful women for the enjoyment of men.
e. Hell is suppose to consist of torture, rotten food, hot water to drink, and foul odors.
C. Death is not an annihilation or extinction.
1. Some read Matthew 10:28 and think that destroy means ceasing to exist
a. Romans 14:15 - the same word, but does not mean annihilation.
b. In Romans 14:21 - destroy is equated with causing to stumble.
c. Luke 16:19-31 - Abraham, the rich man, and Lazarus all die, but continue to exist.
(1) They discuss, feel their environment, and remember their past life.
D. Death is not a punishment on individuals
1. God said the wages of sin is death - Romans 6:23
a. But this refers to spiritual death, not physical
2. Jesus showed this false line of reasoning - Luke 13:1-5
3. God did use death as a consequence on occasion, but it was rare and never used as often as people sinned.
4. Sinful living can hasten death - Proverbs 1:17-19
5. When people die at an early age from disease, accident, or calamity; it is not evidence that God singled them out for punishment.
V. It is proper to weep for the dead
1. Abraham wept for Sarah - Genesis 23:1-2
2. The disciples wept for Dorcas - Acts 9:36-39
3. Jesus, Mary, and some of the Jews wept for Lazarus - John 11:31-36
B. Grief is not a sign of a lack of faith, but to say “I will miss you.”
C. For Christians, grief is not permanent. We know our separation is temporary - I Thessalonians 4:13-18
D. If you are not a Christian, how will people grieve for you? As one who is lost to them forever because you would not obey the Savior’s call? Or, as a fellow traveler who has reached our destination in advance?