Thursday, June 9, 2016

Life, Death, & Growing Old (part two): Thoughts on Life and Death

* The following is part of a teaching series for a Sunday school class. 
 Part One

Life, Death & Growing Old

Thoughts on life and death

1.     The Shortness of life and the need for wisdom: Job 7.16; 8.9; 14.1-5; Psalm 39.4-6; 90.12; 103.14-16; Isaiah 40.6-8; James 4.14

So teach us to number our days,
that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90.12

a.     It is good to contemplate the shortness of life

b.     We will be before the presence of God to be judged—1 Peter 1.17

c.      Consider your 5-year, 10-year, and 10,000-year plans!

2.     Death

a.     Genesis 2.17

b.     Romans 6.23—“for the wages of sin is death”

c.      1 Corinthians 15.26—“last enemy”

d.     Three aspects of death

                                               i.     Bodily death: Genesis 2.17; 3.19

                                              ii.     Spiritual death: Ephesians 2.1-2

                                            iii.     Eschatological death (“second death”): Revelation 20.11-15

e.     Jesus experienced death: Matthew 27.50; Luke 23.46

“Through all of this it is important to note that Jesus did not go through life approaching death as a Stoic seeking to remain indifferent in the face of suffering.  On the contrary, Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, as he pleaded with his Father to spare him from death if there was any other way, displays that for Jesus death was neither natural nor peaceful (see also Heb. 5:7).”[1]

f.      Jesus wept for a friend who had died (John 11.35)

                                               i.     There is a place for grief at funerals—even for believers.

                                              ii.     We should grieve as Christians—not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4.13)

3.     Death as unnatural and “natural”

a.     Unnatural—a result of the “fall”

                                               i.     “last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15.26)

                                              ii.     An intrusion into God’s good creation

                                            iii.     “When Christians consider the multitude of ethical issues revolving around death, therefore, they must never view humanity as naturally mortal.”[2]

b.     “Natural”: within the confines of a fallen world there is a divinely imposed order

                                               i.     “The way of all the earth”—metaphor for death: Joshua 23.14; 1 Kings 2.1

                                              ii.     Upper limit of age around 120 (Genesis 6.3)

·      Jehoiada lived to “a ripe old age”—130 years old (2 Chronicles 24.15)

                                            iii.     Usually old age is seen to be 70 or 80 years (Psalm 90.10)

                                            iv.     “Today, after so many generations and the advance of medical technology, these biblical statements about the boundaries of human life are still remarkably accurate.  Seventy to eighty years remain for us an ordinary span of life, and the upper limit in cases of extremely long life is about 120 years.  Thus there is an ordinary length for human life, and this fact makes ‘life expectancy’ a reasonable idea.  We instinctively understand that a person who fails to reach seventy or eighty years has died, by ordinary human standards, prematurely.  We instinctively judge that a child’s death at age nine is a tragedy in a way that an elderly person’s death at age ninety-nine is not.  Death is our enemy—this is a profound theological truth that Christians must affirm.  But death is also ordinary and natural at certain stages of life and not others, when viewed in terms of the divinely established boundaries of this fallen yet preserved world.”[3]

4.     Dying satisfied and “full of days”—having a long and good life; doesn’t mean the absence of pain in the midst of life

a.     Abraham: Genesis 25.7-8

b.     David: 1 Chronicles 29.28

c.      Job: Job 42.16-17

5.     Dying in Christ

“Because of Christ’s resurrection and our justification, death no longer confronts us as a sign of our condemnation.  Now we face death not as helpless victims but as hopeful pilgrims waiting for our Lord to bring death to its final end, when we can with Paul, ‘”Death is swallowed up in victory.” O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ (1 Cor. 15:54-55).”[4]

a.     Philippians 1.21-24

b.     1 Thessalonians 4.13-18

c.      2 Corinthians 5.1-10

6.     Intermediate State: “What happens to the believer at death?”

a.     “Traditionally, the intermediate state refers to the state of individuals between the time they die until they are reunited with their own resurrected bodies.  In this state the person enjoys conscious fellowship with God while waiting for a reunion with a new, resurrected body.”[5]

b.     The Bible does not teach “soul sleep”

                                               i.     Soul sleep: “This doctrine teaches that when believers die they go into a state of unconscious existence, and the next thing that they are conscious of will be when Christ returns and raises them to eternal life.”[6]

                                              ii.     The Bible does use the metaphor of “sleep” to describe the state of death: Matthew 9.24; 27.52; John 11.11; Acts 7.60; 13.36; 1 Corinthians 15.6, 18, 20, 51; 1 Thessalonians 4.13; 5.10)

“But when Scripture represents death as ‘sleep’ it is simply a metaphorical expression used to indicate that death is only temporary for Christians, just as sleep is temporary.”[7]

c.      Passages that teach or imply an intermediate state

                                               i.     Luke 16.19-31—rich man and Lazarus

1.     Parable?

a.     Some figurative language used

b.     But a specific name (Lazarus) is used—unique to parables

2.     Hades (v. 23): abode of the dead

3.     Bodies are mentioned; no other way to be visualized

4.     Not the resurrected state

a.     Brothers are still living—v. 28

b.     Final judgment has not yet occurred—v. 30

5.     “Regardless of one’s approach to the story the reader must face the question, ‘If Jesus did not want people to think they would remain conscious after death, why would He choose to tell a story that hinges on that notion?’”[8]

                                              ii.     Luke 23.43—“I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

                                            iii.     2 Corinthians 5.1-10

1.     Three states

a.     “Earthly tent” (v. 1) = current body subject to decay (4.16)

b.     “Building”/”house from God” (vv. 1-2) = resurrected body

c.      “Naked”/”unclothed” (vv. 3-4) = intermediate state

2.     Paul’s desires

a.     Verses 1-4: Paul wants to clothed with the resurrection body and not in a state of being without the body

b.     Verses 6-8: Paul prefers to be absent from the body (“naked”) and to be home with the Lord (intermediate state)

c.      “This view therefore suggests three states: (i) this life, (ii) the disembodied state of the dead and (iii) the consummation of resurrection/transformation at the Parousia.  Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 views the prospect of the third state as far more desirable than the second; but in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 the second state is superior to the first as it involves ‘being with the Lord’.”[9]

                                            iv.     Philippians 1.23—“the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better”

d.     The great Christian hope is the resurrection of the body—not the intermediate state (Philippians 3.10-11, 20-21; Romans 8.20-25; 1 Corinthians 15.20-26, 50-54)

                                               i.     Intermediate state is real but we are not given much information on it.

                                              ii.     When the believer dies they go to be with the Lord and experience a conscious relationship with him while they await the resurrection of the dead.

     [1] David VanDrunen, Bioethics and the Christian Life: A Guide to Making Difficult Decisions (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2009), 57.
     [2] David VanDrunen, Bioethics and the Christian Life: A Guide to Making Difficult Decisions (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2009), 54.
     [3] David VanDrunen, Bioethics and the Christian Life: A Guide to Making Difficult Decisions (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2009), 225-226.
     [4] David VanDrunen, Bioethics and the Christian Life: A Guide to Making Difficult Decisions (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2009), 61.
     [5] Gary Habermas and J. P. Moreland as quoted in Larry J. Waters, “The Believer’s Intermediate State After Death” Bibliotheca Sacra 169 (2012), 285. 
     [6] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994), 819.  Grudem is not endorsing this idea; just defining it.
     [7] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 819.
     [8] Waters, “The Believer’s Intermediate State After Death,” 294.  Waters notes that he is quoting personal correspondence from Randy Alcorn.
     [9] Ian K. Smith, “Does 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 Refer to an Intermediate State?” Reformed Theological Review 55 (1996), 14.