The Death of a Friend

Death is a great sadness in this world, but not the greatest. We lost a dear friend, like many others in life, but we will see her again. 

It was a beautiful morning at the state campgrounds at Lake Anna, near Richmond Virginia. Several families from our church, and one family that had recently moved away to pursue new job opportunities, had come together for a Labor Day getaway. We were busily preparing breakfast, assembling fishing tackle, and drinking coffee by the crackling fire. As the only physician in the group I was in unfortunate demand. One girl from a different party had had a bike accident, a man splashed some chemlight fluid in his eyes, and a little boy hurt his arm. After my quasi-clinic Mary, a dear friend and breast cancer survivor, asked me about some back pain she had been having. I tried some spinal manipulation with little result. Chagrined by the lack of improvement but without the opportunity to investigate further, we moved on. Our group had prayed for these problems, and Mary had a medical appointment a few days later.

Continue reading “The Death of a Friend”

Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Epidemics, and other Misfortunes

Misfortunes and even disasters are part of life. Are they natural phenomena, are they judgments from God, or are they both?  

Hurricane Sandy has just swept through the east coast of the US, killing at least 100, leaving six million without power and causing at least $3 billion dollars in damages. In March 2011, an earthquake (magnitude 9.3), tsunami and radiation accident in Japan killed 15,870 and caused $235 billion in damages. In January 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Leogane in Haiti, killing at least 316,000. Disease epidemics relentlessly cycle through populations. Such catastrophes occur constantly somewhere in the world, and terrible suffering and loss is an inevitable result.

Continue reading “Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Epidemics, and other Misfortunes”

Be Thou My Vision – Fixing Our Sight on God

God is not the giver of blessings; He is the blessing. God is not the enabler of accomplishments; knowing Him is the accomplishment. God is the center of our provision and the center of our ambition. And yet why is that so easy to say and so hard to do?

One of my favorite hymns is the Irish “Be thou my vision”, its words are attributed to Dallan Forgaill in the 6th century and its tune an Irish folk song, “Slane”.   The theme is that God alone should be the vision and goal of every Christian, just as He was for Paul in Philippians 3:7-14.

What does it mean to have God for our vision in our purpose for life?

The modern mantra of finding ones’ purpose for life seems to be “follow your inner star”, “find your dream” or “do your own thing.”  The idea is that within each person is something that will guide him or her to meaning and fulfillment in life if only he or she follows it.  Books, music, and movies parrot this idea relentlessly, and many people simply accept it as truth.  Under certain assumptions this could be logical:

Continue reading “Be Thou My Vision – Fixing Our Sight on God”

On the Physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ

No one on earth or even in mythology defeated Death, except Jesus. Life finally conquered death. Can you feel it?

Jesus physically rose from the dead. This statement, if true, is the most radical statement in human history. If there is one thing that seems certain about the human condition, even more so than taxes, it is death. This event separates Christianity from all other religions, and makes Christ unique among religious leaders. Islam does not make that claim for Mohammed, nor Judaism for Moses nor Buddhism for Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha. Yet the Bible makes that claim for Jesus Christ. Not only does it make the claim but stakes the truth or falsehood of Christianity, the religion founded by Jesus Christ, on that event (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4). If Jesus physically rose from the dead, Christianity is true. If not, it is false. The most widespread religion in the world is thus founded on the most preposterous claim in the world.

Continue reading “On the Physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ”

On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ

Jesus died, there is no doubt, what happened next, is what the Gospel is about. 

Christianity is unique among the religions of the world for many reasons, but one of the most important is that it can be disproven. The fundamental event of Christianity is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4). There is no claim in the Koran that Mohammed physically rose from the dead after his death; neither is there a similar claim for Moses, the Buddha, or any founder of a major religion in the world today. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, if they actually happened, separate Christianity from all other religions, and make Christ unique among religious leaders.

Anyone who wants to refute Christianity and make the Church wither and die simply has to prove that Jesus Christ did not die, at least not in the way that the Bible records, and did not physically rise again. In the two millennia since Jesus’ life, many skeptics have tried to disprove the Bible on this issue. None have succeeded thus far, but there are many theories about how Jesus did not really die as the Bible suggests.

Continue reading “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ”

What Happens When a Person Dies?

A Christian perspective on what happens to a person’s spirit when they die. 

Our family enjoyed Christmas vacation 2011 in Cordova Alaska with my mother in law, Susan.  She serves in the Cordova Community Baptist Church, the place where her late husband Richard pastored for 25 years and her son John pastored for 10 years.  She is deeply loved and respected and provides Bible knowledge and compassion to the Christians there.  Many people recently have asked her “what happens when a person dies?” and she posed the question to me.  Operating from the Christian context and under the assumption of the reliability of the Bible as the word of God, I will address it.

The evidence of what happens after death is sparse in the Old Testament and more complete in the New Testament.  The first question is what is the nature of man?  Biologically it is clear that the body deteriorates after death and its elements are taken up to be used by other living organisms.  If humans are merely physical it is hard to deny the fact that after death we simply cease to exist.  There is no other option.  Some may argue that we are reincarnated, but reincarnation presupposes that there is something in us besides the matter and energy that forms our bodies.  If we are nothing more than the carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and other elements that are our building blocks, there is nothing to reincarnate.

If humans are a combination of physical and spiritual (material and immaterial) elements then while the body recycles to be used by another, the spiritual part either dies with the body or remains somewhere.

The Nature of Man – a hybrid of Material and Immaterial

Passage Notes
Genesis 2:7 God formed man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him and he became a living soul (נפש nephesh – life, person, mind, living being).  This “breath of God” suggests that man has a non-material element
Job 32:8 There is a spirit (רוח ruwach – breath, wind, spirit) in man
Matthew 10:28 Do not fear him who can only kill the body but fear Him who can cast the soul into hell
Luke 1:46-47 In Mary’s Magnificat, she mentioned her soul (ψυχή psychē) and spirit (πνεῦμα pneuma)
Romans 8:16 The Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit
1 Thessalonians 5:23 Spirit (πνεῦμα pneuma), soul (ψυχή psychē) and body (σῶμα sōma) be preserved blameless
Hebrews 4:12 Word of God separates body and soul

The Old Testament passages suggest that the Hebrews seemed to have a vague concept of man having material and immaterial parts but saw man as essentially inseparable, with the body residing in Sheol (the grave) after death until it finally deteriorated into nothing.  Until late in the OT there is little concept of a bodily resurrection.  The fate of the immaterial part of man is not clear in the OT.  The New Testament Scriptures clearly describe the material and immaterial aspects of the man. Even the words of Jesus Himself teach that man has a body and a soul.

What Happens After Death

Passage Notes
Job 19:25-26 After my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh (בשר basar) I will see God
Psalm 16:9-11 God will not let His Holy One rot in the grave
Psalm 49:13-15 God will redeem His people from the realm of the dead
Isaiah 26:19 Your people have died but they will live again
Ezekiel 37:1-14 God took Ezekiel to the valley of dry bones and made the men live again.  This directly referred to the restoration of Israel but also implied the resurrection of the body.
Daniel 12:2 Many people who have already died will live again
Hosea 6:1-2 The people will be raised after two days.  This was also a prophecy of Christ.
Matthew 25:31-46 At the final judgment both the sheep and the goats will stand before God.
Mark 9:2-9 The Transfiguration
Luke 16:19-31 A rich man and a poor man (Lazarus) both die.  The rich man went to hell (ᾅδης hadēs) and saw Lazarus in heaven.
Luke 23:32-43 Jesus told the thief on the cross “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
John 20, 21
1 Corinthians 15:12-58 One of the longest Bible passages on resurrection
2 Corinthians 5:8 To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord
Philippians 1:23 I desire to depart and be with Christ
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 The resurrection of the dead in rapture
Hebrews 9:27 It is appointed for a man once to die and then comes judgment

Both the Old and New Testament teach that the dead will be raised again, both the righteous and the unrighteous, but the NT teaching is much clearer.  The clearest proof that our bodies will be raised again is that Jesus’ body was raised again.  Therefore we may conclude that man is composed of both material and immaterial parts (body and spirit/soul).  He may have body, spirit and soul (three parts) but that question is not the focus of this work.  After the body dies it will eventually be reconstituted and raised again to eternal life, either with the Lord (which is Paradise) or without Him.  According to the Scriptures, reincarnation is not an option.

But what of the immaterial part of man?  Based on the Scriptures above we can be confident that the immaterial part of man is not destroyed with the body; it is immortal.  After physical death the immaterial part of each follower of Jesus goes immediately to be with the Lord and await the reunification with its body at the resurrection.  The immaterial part of those who do not know the Lord will be separated from the Lord and await the reunification with its body at the resurrection.  When the material and immaterial parts are reunited, each man will stand complete (body and spirit) before God to undergo judgment.  Those who accepted the Lord in this life will get their wish.  They will go into eternity with God. Those who rejected the Lord in this life will also get their wish.  They will go into eternity without Him.

One other note.  There seems to be a rumor circulating that people will be unrecognizable in heaven; therefore family members and spouses will not even know each other.  This is not biblical.  Peter recognized Moses and Elijah at the mount of the Transfiguration, the rich man recognized Lazarus and the disciples recognized Jesus after His resurrection.