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“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev 21:4)
Resurrection HopeWhen I was a little boy, death was a very scary topic for me. I remember the day in our kitchen, standing by the hand pump for water at the sink, my Mom told me that “Great Grandpa died.” I really didn’t know exactly what it meant; but from My Mother’s tears, I could see that it was something final, and something very sad.
At the funeral, everyone had to file past the coffin and kiss him on the forehead. I was so horrified, and shell-shocked by the cold nasty feel of his lifeless face on my lips, and it left me with some distressing questions. My Mom told me that “Great Grandpa is in heaven now, and he is no longer suffering,” but as a young boy even, that wasn’t adding up too well for me at all. I had been taught from my earliest days in Sunday School that heaven is a happy place, and in heaven there would be “no more tears.” What puzzled me the most about this was that I was also told that “Grandpa was watching me from heaven,” or something to that effect.
I had many wonderful memories of sitting on Great Grandpa’s knee and hearing stories about “the war” and all the things he used to do. I remember how I really loved him, and so enjoyed going over for a visit. It really stressed me out to think that, “well, OK. He is up there in heaven, and watching me, and seeing me sit in this loft of the barn crying my eyes out because he was gone…” I thought to myself “well if heaven is supposed to be a happy place, where there are no more tears, then how does that work when Great Grandpa sees me down here bawling away and getting very distraught over his death? Would it be “happy” with “no more tears” for him “up there,” if he saw this happening to me?
I know he really cared about me too and felt that if I cried he would too. Or what about when I got my body 50% burned in a house fire, and him “up there” watching me go through all this? He must have cried when he saw all that for it was truly horrific. I couldn’t see how anyone in heaven could be happy and not have tears if they could see all the horrors that their loved ones were going through. This caused me a very severe spiritual conflict, an intense cognitive dissonance; and I got so upset over it that I became “the black sheep” of the family, and began quite a long list of stunts at church and Sunday School. Even people at church then called me “the black sheep!”
Many years later, as an adult, my life was going nowhere, and I was always in and out of trouble. But there came a time when I sat down with someone who had a Bible, and wanted me to learn about Jesus, and during our studies, I learned some things about what happens when we die, that I had never heard before. What I learned, answered all of my questions, and then some. One of the first texts that I was shown read as follows:
Ecc 9:4 For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. Ecc 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Ecc 9:6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
As a young man, I still had all those confusing questions about my Great Grandfather, and about many other loved ones and friends that died. Every time someone else died, those questions and torments just got magnified, and caused an inconsolable grief. But these Bible verses started to unwind that tension in my heart. These texts make it sound like all of my lost loved ones actually could not see what was happening to me “down here,” and so that became a major point of relief for me to realize that death really was similar, (not the same) as sleep. And isn’t that the purpose of the resurrection? “We who are alive and remain” at the time of the second coming would be “caught up TOGETHER in the clouds” with all of our resurrected loved ones to “meet the Lord in the air,” and that IS our HOPE; THAT s our Light In The Clouds!
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thes 4:13-18).
Hope. This emphatic Hebrew word translated “hope” is given as “confidence” in 2 Kings 18:19 and Isa. 36:4. The verb root has the meaning of “trust” (see Psalms. 25:2; Psalms 26:1; Psalms 28:7).
Notice in 1 Thes 4:18 that we are told to “comfort one another with these words…” There is no other scripture text anywhere in the Bible that tells us to do this.
Rather than trying to say that “oh he/she is in heaven now,” and worrying about all of those questions I described above, the resurrection gives us the hope, confidence, and trust that we will see our loved ones again. But think carefully about this now; why would we even need a resurrection, if people already go to heaven when they die?
The text does say that we will meet with the resurrected ones “in the air” and in the clouds, to then be with Jesus, forever. The resurrection doesn’t really make a lot of sense if we just go straight to heaven when we die.
At the time of this writing, I am aware of all the things people try to say about “the spiritual part,” and the “physical body” part of our make up. But that all still leaves us with the question about why we even need a resurrection.
Eccl 9:4 says it well. “A living dog.” The dog is depicted in the Bible as the most despised of all animals (Exodus 22:31; 1 Sam l7:43; Prov 26:11; 2 Peter 2:22), and is still so regarded today in Eastern countries. The dog is a symbol of the viciously wicked (Psalms 22:16; Psalms 59:2,6,14; Isa 56:10,11; Rev 22:14,15).
In other words, as long as a person is alive, there is always hope in Christ for them, even if they are a really dirty “dog.” Hope in Christ is what we survive on, and when we die, the next thing we will know is the resurrection, and seeing Jesus, TOGETHER with our loved ones, IN THE CLOUDS. (1 Thes 4:13-18). This is THE Light in the clouds for me!
As a Christian, what do you see in your clouds? The answer should be Jesus, but to many, the struggle is real, worrying about our lost loved ones seeing everything from heaven that happens to us down here. How could they possibly be happy if they have to see all that?
Eccl 9:5. “The living know.” They are able to plan and make preparations for death, which they know they must meet. It doesn’t say anywhere that we have anymore knowledge about whats going on in the world, until the resurrection. As Eccl 9:5 says: “the dead KNOW NOT ANYTHING.” (see also Psalms 88:10–12; Psalms 115:17).
Eccl 9:5. “A reward.” Not a reference to eternal rewards, whether of death for the wicked (Rev. 20:11–15) or of immortality for the righteous (see Rev. 21:1–4; cf. Matt. 16:27; 1 Cor. 15:51–54). Solomon is here speaking of enjoying the fruits of labor in this life. The “next life” after the resurrection is where there will be “no more tears.”
Eccl 9:5. “The memory of them” That is, the memory of them in the minds of the living, not their own mental faculty of memory. This is clear from the meaning of the word zeker, “remembrance,” “memorial,” and from its usage in the OT. Without exception it refers to “remembrance” about persons or events, never to the faculty of memory (Job 18:17; Psalms 31:12; Psalms 112:6). The “memory of them” is “lost.”
Eccl 9:6. “Also their love.” Love, hatred, and envy are generally the strong, ruling emotions during life; but in death they function no more.
Is now perished. In Hebrew this verb is in the singular number, by which attention is called to each passion individually. “A portion.” When a person is alive they have a part to play, and may enjoy the reward of their labors. But death terminates our role in this life. Job expresses the same truth (Job 14:10–14), as does the psalmist (Psalms 30:9), and the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 38:10).
When Saul inquired for Samuel, the Lord did not cause Samuel to appear to Saul. He saw nothing. Satan was not allowed to disturb the rest of Samuel in the grave, and bring him up in reality to the witch of Endor. God does not give Satan power to resurrect the dead. But Satan’s angels assume the form of dead friends, and speak and act like them, that through professed dead friends he can the better carry on his work of deception. Satan knew Samuel well, and he knew how to represent him before the witch of Endor, and to utter correctly the fate of Saul and his sons.
Last week, I talked about why it is important to understand this essential truth about what happens when we die; and how Bible prophecy expands on this idea quite a bit. We are told that in the “time of the end” that Satan himself will appear as an angel of light, and that this is how he will attempt to deceive “even the elect,” into thinking that Christ has come – indeed, the devil will use this “angel of light” appearance, to impersonate Christ, and there will be no way to discern truth from error by our 5 senses. It will be so close to the real thing; there will be no way to know, unless we know what God’s Word actually says about this:
I will continue doing what I am doing now, because I want to stop those people from having a reason to boast. They would like to say that the work they boast about is the same as ours. They are false apostles, lying workers. They only pretend to be apostles of Christ. That does not surprise us, because even Satan changes himself to look like an angel of light. So it does not surprise us if Satan’s servants make themselves look like servants who work for what is right. But in the end those people will get the punishment they deserve. (2 Cor 11:12-15, ERV)
Our five senses, our intuition, will not be able to tell the difference. Think about it. IF we did go to heaven as soon as we die; how would we decide what is an evil deceptive spirit, when they present to us as one of our lost loved ones? When Jesus returns the second time; the Bible says His feet won’t even touch the ground, for we who are alive will be taken up IN THE CLOUDS to meet with our loved ones and our Lord IN THE AIR! (see 1 Thes 4:13-18)
Satan will come in a very plausible manner to such as he can deceive, and will insinuate himself into their favor, and lead them almost imperceptibly from God. He wins them under his control, cautiously at first, until their perceptions become blunted. Then he will make bolder suggestions, until he can lead them to commit almost any degree of crime. When he has led them fully into his snare, he is then willing that they should see where they are, and he exults in their confusion, as in the case of Saul. He had suffered Satan to lead him a willing captive, and now Satan spreads before Saul a correct description of his fate. By giving Saul a correct statement of his end, through the woman of Endor, Satan opens a way for Israel to be instructed by his satanic cunning, that they may, in their rebellion against God, learn of him, and by thus doing, sever the last link which would hold them to God.
Saul knew that in this last act, of consulting the witch of Endor, he cut the last shred which held him to God. He knew that if he had not before wilfully separated himself from God, this act sealed that separation, and made it final. He had made an agreement with death, and a covenant with hell. The cup of his iniquity was full.
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun. Eccl 9:5-6.
The theory of the immortality of the soul IS one of those false doctrines that Rome, borrowing from paganism, incorporated into the religion of Christendom. Martin Luther classed it with the “monstrous fables that form part of the Roman dunghill of decretals.” Martin Luther was a little crude, but he did have the right idea on this point. Commenting on the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes, that the dead know not anything, the Reformer says: ” . . . Solomon judgeth that the dead are asleep, and feel nothing at all. For the dead lie there, accounting neither days nor years, but when they are awakened, they shall seem to have slept scarce one minute.”
The martyr Tyndale, referring to the state of the dead, declared: “I confess openly, that I am not persuaded that they be already in the full glory that Christ is in, or the elect angels of God are in. Neither is it any article of my faith; for if it were so, I see not but then the preaching of the resurrection of the flesh were a thing in vain.”
According to the popular belief, the redeemed in heaven are acquainted with all that takes place on the earth, and especially with the lives of the family and friends whom they have left behind. But how could it be a source of happiness to the “dead” to know the troubles of the living, . . . to see them enduring all the sorrows, disappointments, and anguish of life? . . . And how utterly revolting is the belief that as soon as the breath leaves the body, the soul of the impenitent is consigned to the flames of hell! To what depths of anguish must those be plunged who see their friends passing to the grave unprepared, to enter upon an eternity of woe and sin!
Christ’s own death and resurrection represents death as a sleep to His believing children. OUR life is hid with Christ in God, and until the last trump shall sound those who die will sleep in Him. 1 Thes 4:16 tells us that “…the dead in Christ will rise FIRST…” How can that possibly happen if they are already “in heaven?” God’s people are to have the same resurrection experience as Christ.
Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light – As in 2 Cor 11:3 the apostle had the history of the temptation and fall of man particularly in view, it is very likely that here he refers to the same thing. In what ever form Satan appeared to our first mother, his pretensions and professions gave him the appearance of a good angel; and by pretending that Eve should get a great increase of light, that is, wisdom and understanding, he deceived her, and led her to transgress. It is generally said that Satan has three forms under which he tempts people:
1. The subtle serpent.
2. The roaring lion.
3. The angel of light.
He often, as the angel of light, persuades men to do things under the name of religion, which are subversive of it. Hence all the persecutions, fires to burn witches, and said fires of a certain Church, under pretense of keeping heresy out of the Church; and hence all the horrors and infernalities of the inquisition. In the form of heathen persecution, like a lion he has ravaged the heritage of the Lord. And by means of our senses and passions, as the subtle serpent, he is frequently deceiving us, so that often the workings of corrupt nature are mistaken for the operations of the Spirit of God.- Adam Clark Bible Commentary for 2 Cor 11:14