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Wednesday, April 26, 2017
NOTE: The following is the first of a series on devotions on death, dying, and falling asleep in Christ. It is prepared in answer to the requests of some of our readers.
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 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. (Gen 2:16-17)
Death is a separation from God. There is no life apart from that granted by God. He breathed the breath of life into the nostrils of Adam and he became a living soul (Hebrew, NEPHESH). (Genesis 2:7) But Adam did not remain a living soul – he brought sin and death upon himself and all mankind through his disobedience to his Maker. Just as man does today, Adam ate from the wrong Tree of the Serpent instead of the right Tree of Life which is Christ. The very nature of Adam’s body began to lose the nature of eternal being as he partook of the wrong fruit, in fact, instantaneously! Adam did not drop dead physically at that moment, but he did drop dead spiritually.
There are, in biblical theology, differing views on the nature of death and the disposition of the soul following that final curtain. I have studied them in detail and am not entirely satisfied that any one of them is entirely correct. God does not provide an answer for every mystery revealed in Holy Writ. Even the understanding of certain prophesies is reserved to the time of their fulfillment. By so doing, this reveals to us, on hindsight, the absolute foreknowledge and Providence of God. We see in fulfilled prophecy the immutable sovereignty of God in bringing all things to pass. The concept of final death is alien to the destiny of the saints of God. Death is merely a doorway to eternal life and bliss with our Lord. To the damned, death is altogether different. Death to the incorrigible sinner is the last curse and penalty of the law. There are, for the unsaved, two deaths – the second death applies only to those who have rejected Christ. (Rev. 2:11) But even the first death is figurative in the sense that it is only the shadow of death and not death in reality. (Psalm 23) Remember, there are only two destinations – Heaven or Hell. We shall all spend eternity in one or the other.
Above and beyond every other consideration, we must know that physical death comes to one and all alike, but that physical death is the death to which all men are heirs. The nature of the death of a child of God is completely different from the physical death of a lost person. We can see that difference abundantly illustrated by the account given by Christ of the beggar, Lazarus, and the Rich Man. (Luke 16:19-31). The beggar was escorted by angels to the bosom of Abraham, but the Rich Man was buried and woke up in Hell. This brings us to the topic of the intermediate state resulting from death. Where are the dead in Christ between physical death and the resurrection, or what is the so-called intermediate state?
Our Lord Jesus referred to the death of those to whom He had granted grace and salvation as a ‘SLEEP.’ That spiritual sleep of Lazarus of Bethany and of other saints is shrouded in mystery to our understanding. Had the Lord desired for us to know the mystery in detail, He would have told us. But there are some aspects of the death of a saint that is revealed in Scripture. I do not believe the Scriptures point to a ‘soul sleep.’
Physical death is NOT spiritual death:
There is, in reality, no such event as spiritual death to the Child of God. We are all born dead in trespasses and sins. (Eph 2:1 & 2:13) That is an original and ongoing spiritual death, true; but it is not an event to which a person who has been called and chosen of God is subject. It is the condition of fallen man prior to the new birth described by our Lord to Nicodemus (John 3).
God is very aware and considering of the death of His people:
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalms 116:15)
Those who are in Christ NEVER die a spiritual death:
They never die in reality. Consider the account of Lazarus of Bethany. Though Lazarus was physically dead, our Lord referred to that death as a sleep. Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. (John 11:11) Furthermore, Jesus rebuked Martha when she mourned her brothers passing with the following exchange: 23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? (John 11:23-26) The cold and moldering corpse of Lazarus lies in a stone-cold tomb, yet Jesus says Lazarus, and all who liveth and believeth in me shall NEVER DIE! Why did Jesus use the term liveth? I believe He is stipulating that our calling and reception must be made prior to the last breath we take in this life. No saving decisions are made in the grave.
We find death being referred to as sleep in many other sections of the Bible – both Old and New Testament. God’s words are certain and immutable, so we must receive and believe them as such. So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David. (1 Kings 2:10) And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead. (1 Kings 11:43) And the days which Jeroboam reigned were two and twenty years: and he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned in his stead. (1 Kings 14:20) And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people. (Gen 49:33) For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: 37 But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. (Acts 13:36-37)
With reference to the Lord’s Supper, Paul says: 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. (1 Cor 11:27-30) This seems to mean, at least in my conception, those who are the known and chosen of Christ may sin beyond the bounds of a good reputation and witness, in which case, God will call them home.
In further proof of my third point, I raise two separate occasions of the righteous dead being very much ALIVE. The first is the event of Moses’ death on Mt. Pisgah. 1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, 2 And all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea, 3 And the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar. 4 And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither. 5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. 6 And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. 7 And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. 8 And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended. (Deut 34:1-8) God buried Moses’ body in a lonely grave in Moab, but not Moses. We see Moses once more in Scripture alive and well with the Lord atop the Mount of Transfiguration. 1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. (Matt 17:1-3)
If Moses was still in that lonely grave in Moab, how, pray tell, did he appear with Christ on that Mount?
What of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? In His reprimanding of the Sadducees, our Lord said: 32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. (Matt 22:32)
It is to be greatly desired we who are in Christ know and believe we shall never truly die except that superficial death called sleep by our LORD.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
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4 Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. 5 And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. 6 And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt. (Exodus 16:4-6)
Like most very old hymns, this hymn is based squarely on the Holy Word of God. It reveals a most profound mystery in both the real, present and Hidden Manna of the Lord. Lyrics are by George Atkins in 1819, and music is Holy Manna by William Moore in 1825. There are two major concepts of our faith revealed herein – the spirit of worship, and the nature of God’s Word in the Holy Manna. 6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. (Psalm 95:6) In some hymnals, the hymn is titled, Brethren, we have met to Worship.
Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.
Brethren, see poor sinners round you slumbering on the brink of woe;
Death is coming, hell is moving, can you bear to let them go?
See our fathers and our mothers, and our children sinking down;
Brethren, pray and holy manna will be showered all around.
Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses’ sister aided him;
Will you help the trembling mourners who are struggling hard with sin?
Tell them all about the Savior, tell them that He will be found;
Sisters, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.
Is there here a trembling jailer, seeking grace, and filled with tears?
Is there here a weeping Mary, pouring forth a flood of tears?
Brethren, join your cries to help them; sisters, let your prayers abound;
Pray, Oh pray that holy manna may be scattered all around.
Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other, too;
Let us love and pray for sinners, till our God makes all things new.
Then He’ll call us home to Heaven, at His table we’ll sit down;
Christ will gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.
Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God; Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word? All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down; Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around. What is the purpose of worship? Is it to entertain through the media of modern and sensuous music? Is it to portray the charisma of men and women? Is it to demonstrate and boast of some contrived gift of the Holy Ghost of which Heaven is not the author? Or is worship intended to praise the Lord our God – to lift up His Word and His glory to the exclusion of any such glory to man? Preaching, too, is not tales of the last football game, or some event on the local golf course. It is not telling the latest jokes. It must be centered on the Word of God for any other word preached belongs to man. The efficacious preaching of God’s Word has forever been to allow His Word to be the outline and substance (expositional preaching) of any sermon. Any preaching that is not under the power of the Holy Ghost is vain. If we pray aright, and the preaching is true and pure, Holy Manna will descend from Heaven. Anything that comes down from God is Holy! The true Manna of the Christian is Jesus Christ.
Brethren, see poor sinners round you slumbering on the brink of woe; Death is coming, hell is moving, can you bear to let them go? See our fathers and our mothers, and our children sinking down; Brethren, pray and holy manna will be showered all around. Observing a burning house filled with trapped souls would move most of us to take action to save them; yet a much more intense danger awaits those who are not aware of their sinful state and the means of grace made available to them in Christ. When I was young, my mother asked me if I sometimes hated someone. Why, yes, I did hate certain bad fellows at school, I responded. She told me to imagine those people helpless and dying a tortuous death. Would I then feel hate toward them? No, the hate vanishes when the enormity of the destiny that awaits such unrepentant people is realized. Even on the cross, our Lord pled with the Father, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Do you ever wonder why our Lord did not forgive them outright Himself? I believe it was because of the offense, not to Himself, but to the Father in the wanton murder of His only Begotten Son. It would be the Father’s role to forgive such brutal sin. Have you ever prayed for the man in the pulpit during his sermon? I hope so for it calls down the artillery from Heaven by doing so. Why do we stand idly by while scores and millions are standing with one foot in the world and the other in Hell?
Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses’ sister aided him; Will you help the trembling mourners who are struggling hard with sin? Tell them all about the Savior, tell them that He will be found; Sisters, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around. The responsibility to witness to the world is not divided by gender. Deborah, a prophet and judge in Israel, led the Armies of Israel, along with Barak, to defeat the Canaanites. She was mightily used of the Lord. Deborah, in Hebrew by the way, means BEE. The woman of God is as busy as a BEE and like Deborah. The prayers of a faithful and aged old man, and of a tiny little girl, are likewise heard in the corridors of Heaven. It is faith that sustains the prayer without distinction of persons.
Is there here a trembling jailer, seeking grace, and filled with tears? Is there here a weeping Mary, pouring forth a flood of tears? Brethren, join your cries to help them; sisters, let your prayers abound; Pray, Oh pray that holy manna may be scattered all around. The lost sinner does not know how to gather Holy Manna. He must be taught from the elementary Word to the fulness of it. The jailer may become his own prisoner without the interceding Grace of God. He needs to know. The Word itself is Christ. He is our Bread of Life that came down from Heaven. He is our Emmanuel. Even good Christian people may be mourning over loses that are phantoms of the imagination and not real. If Mary Magdalene knew that the Gardener was Christ, she would never have wept tears of mourning. She needed to be told! We not only pray for the lost in this world, but also for those of faith.
Our prayers establish the environment of action which God is pleased to look upon. The Manna descends, and we are blessed in ways we may not even have imagined. The Manna that is Hidden is the sweetest because that is the Manna of Faith. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. (Rev 2:17) Why a NEW NAME that nobody knows but the receiver? Because it will be untarnished and no bad report or sinful reputation can be accounted it. No one will be able to point to you with that name and say, Remember that terrible sin that old John Doe did when a young man? That old name is gone and replaced by a pure name. The white stone represented a verdict of innocent. Not truly innocent, but justified by the blood of Christ. The close and personal fellowship a Christian has with the Lord and His Word is the Hidden Manna.
Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other, too; Let us love and pray for sinners, till our God makes all things new. Then He’ll call us home to Heaven, at His table we’ll sit down; Christ will gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around. There is no other way to love the Lord except ‘supremely.’ If our all is not centered on Him, nothing else matters for all things come of Him. Christ gave us a new commandment. If we keep it, we will be true Christians: 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35) Not a silly love, but a sacrificial love. If we say we love God and hate a brother or sister, we are lying. The urge that motivates us to go on foreign soil to witness of Christ is that we already love those who may be called but do not know of it yet. God will, indeed, make all things new, and we shall sit in the Banqueting House of our Lord with more Manna than the Universe can comprehend.
Pass the Manna, please!