We are each called upon throughout our lives to minister to friends and relatives who are in their last earthly days. We all suffer together in the human condition of universal mortality. Through this common suffering we have earned the right to serve those who are passing from here to there.
Those of us who believe in the eternal salvation promised by God in response to our belief in a resurrected Jesus are uniquely qualified to minister to the dying. We have a message of hope that is given to us by God through the words He reveals in Scripture. I like to call God’s message to the dying ‘Life after Life.’
Let me lift up to you a few of God’s revealed promises regarding ‘Life after Life’ from Scripture with selected commentary from noted theologians regarding that Scripture. It is my fervent prayer that you will be equipped by the Word and made wise in its explanation in order that your ministry to the dying might be of Kingdom value both to them and to you.
Genesis 2:7: then the Lord formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
- The soul had its origin in the breath of heaven. Matthew Henry
- The imparting of a soul to man (by God)…allows us…the capacity for spiritual relationship. Moody Bible Institute
- God made man…a unified person with body and soul living and acting together. Wayne Grudem
- Adam became a living being when God joined his body (dust) and spirit (breath) together. Randy Alcorn
- God breathed life – physical, mental, and spiritual – into the one created to bear his (God’s) image. ESV Commentary
Ecclesiastes 12:1-7: Remember also your creator in the days of your youth…because man is going to his eternal home…and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
- The two results of death are seen here; ‘dust’ (material) returns to its place of origin; while ‘spirit’ (immaterial) returns to God who gave it to man at his creation. Warren Baker
- Human beings are strange creatures, a ray of heaven united to a clod of earth. At death these are separated, and each goes to the place from which it came…The soul does not die with the body, it is redeemed from the power of the grave, surviving without the body. Matthew Henry
- We teach that physical death involves no loss of our immaterial consciousness, that there is a separation of soul and body, that the soul of the redeemed passes immediately into the presence of Christ. John MacArthur
- Only after death entered the world as a result of human sin do we read about separation whereby a person returns to the dust of the ground and the spirit returns to God – a separation (of body and spirit) eventually remedied by the resurrection of the body on the last day. NIV Commentary
Luke 23:39-43: One of the criminals who were hanged (on a cross) railed at him (Jesus), saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he (Jesus) said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
- The happiness of heaven is described to us – it is paradise, a garden of pleasure, the paradise of God. It is being with Christ there. That is the happiness of heaven. It is immediate upon death: “This day you will be with me’ – tonight, before tomorrow. Matthew Henry
- Christ in his death experienced the same things believers in this present age experience when we die: His dead body remained on earth and was buried (as ours will be), but his spirit passed immediately into the presence of God in heaven (just as ours will). Wayne Grudem
- The believer’s passage to heaven is a direct route. As soon as we are dead, we will be with the Lord. The moment we take our last breath on earth we take our first (breath) in heaven. We are absent from the body and immediately present with the Lord. Then in God’s time we receive our glorified bodies at the Second Coming of Christ. Billy Graham
- The Septuagint uses the same Greek word to refer to ‘the garden of Eden’. Jesus’ words may therefore hint at a restoration of the intimate, personal fellowship with God that existed in Eden before the fall. ESV Commentary
John 14:1-3: (In the words of Jesus to his disciples): Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
- Heaven is a house, not a tent or a tabernacle…All true believers will be welcome to the happiness of their home…There are mansions there, distinct dwelling places, a room for each. Our individuality will not be lost there. The dwelling places are durable, too. The house itself is lasting; we will possess it not for a term of years, but forever. Matthew Henry
- The fact that we will have resurrection bodies like Christ’s resurrection body indicates that heaven will be a place, for in such physical bodies (made perfect, never to become weak or die again), we will inhabit a specific place at a specific time, just as Jesus does in his resurrection body. Wayne Grudem
- The phrase ‘my Father’s house’ clearly refers to heaven, as Jesus is going there (after his death, resurrection and ascension) to prepare a place for us. God has a home where there are many rooms and to which ‘God’s household’ now on earth (Ephesians 2:19) will be transferred. NIV Commentary
1st Corinthians 15:35-49: But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?…There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another…So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable…It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written…Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
- At the resurrection we will have bodies made fit to be perpetual associates of spirits made perfect…We must have the natural bodies from the First Adam before we can have the spiritual bodies from the Second Adam. Matthew Henry
- He (Paul) is saying that, through the first Adam, we received our natural bodies, but, through the last Adam, we will receive our spiritual bodies in resurrection…We will bear the image of His (Jesus) body fit for heaven as we have borne the image of Adam’s on earth. John MacArthur
- The resurrection of the body is an essential doctrine in Scripture. It refers to God’s raising a human body from the dead and reuniting it with the person’s soul and spirit, from which at death it was separated…Our bodily resurrection is guaranteed by the fact of Christ’s resurrection. In general terms, the believer’s resurrected body will be like the Lord’s own resurrected body. NIV Commentary
1st Thessalonians 4:13,14: But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
- It is far from true that all grief for the death of friends is unlawful; we may weep for our own loss, even though it may be their gain. But we must not be excessive in our sorrow. Matthew Henry
- Those believers who are asleep in Jesus are not lost and gone forever, but they are ‘with the Lord’ (see 2nd Corinthians 5:8). It is clear that Paul thought of the state of believers who had died as both ‘asleep’ (this pertains to their bodies) and as conscious (in the presence of Jesus). Moody Bible Institute
- This phrase refers to believers who have died and whose souls are in heaven; it does not mean that the dead are unconscious in a sort of soul-sleep (see Philippians 1:21). NIV Commentary
Revelation 21:3-5: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”