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When Death Comes Knocking

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When Death Comes Knocking

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Have you ever wondered what happens to us when we die?  I know that can be a gruesome thought but I guarantee we have all wondered about it.  What do we have to help us understand?  Is our life here on earth as short and difficult as it seems all there is or can we be assured that there is life after death.

I want to show you today from the pages of God’s word that He not only created us and put us on this earth to have a relationship with us but that His plan does not end at our death.  Death is only the gateway to God’s true design for man. 

Let me take you on journey one man took at his death.  Pastor Don Piper had attended a conference a couple of hours outside of Houston, Texas and was heading back home.  The weather had gotten bad when he left and he braced himself for a cold rainy drive back home.  Don’s path took him over the Lake Livingston Bridge, an extremely narrow old rusty bridge with a massive, rusty steel superstructure.  As Don was about to clear the end of the bridge, he was hit head-on by an eighteen-wheeler. The truck sandwiched his small car between the bridge railing and actually caused all of the eighteen-wheelers tires to right over the top of his car smashing it.

Pastor Don was pronounced dead by EMTs and covered with a tarp where he stayed while the officials were moving traffic and waiting for a coroner. 

Don said that he was aware of a brilliant light enveloping him and then he realized that he was standing in heaven.  He became aware of a large group of people standing in front of a brilliant, ornate gate.  The crowd rushed toward him and he was able to recognize people that had died during his lifetime.  The first person he saw was his grandfather who embraced him.  The crowd surrounded him some hugging him others kissing him or shaking his hand.  Don said that he had never felt more loved in all his life on earth.

One person in the greeting committee was Mike Wood, a childhood friend who first invited him to church and was instrumental in Don becoming a Christian.  Mike had been a devoted young Christian.  He was popular and athletic and had received a full scholarship to Louisiana State University.  Mike had been tragically killed in an automobile accident when he was 19.  Now in heaven as Mike slipped his arm around Don’s shoulder, Don noticed the radiance of Mike’s smile. 

Everything Don experienced was like a first-class buffet for the senses.  Heaven’s light and texture defied earthly eyes or explanation.

Don says that he wasn’t conscious of anything he has left behind and felt no regrets about leaving family or possessions.  It was if God had removed anything negative or worrisome form his consciousness. 

As Don began to move toward the beautiful gate, he was aware of the increasing brilliance of light coming from inside the gated area.  Then Don began to notice the most beautiful and pleasant sound he had ever heard.  He said that he didn’t just hear music but it seemed that the music was playing through his body.  Every sound blended, and each voice or instrument enhanced the others.  The celestial tunes surpassed any he had ever heard on earth.

He was finally home, where he belonged.  All worries, anxieties, and concerns vanished.  Don said he had no needs, and felt perfect.

Just as Don approached the magnificent gate, suddenly he was back in his body and felt excruciating pain.  A pastor friend had driven upon the scene and felt called to pray for his friend.  As he prayed God miraculously brought Don back from heaven.  This occurred some 90 minutes after he was declared dead and covered with a tarpaulin.

We have been given a glimpse of what might await us just after death.  Modern medicine has given physicians the ability to bring someone back to life after they have been declared clinically dead but do stories like pastor Don Piper and others represent the truth of what happens to us when we die. 

I think we must consider the evidence God’s word offers on this difficult subject. 

In Genesis 15:8 we get one of the first ideas of what happens after death “Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.”

When King David ‘s son that he had with Bathsheba died he said “But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

In Psalm 116:15 we read that “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” If the death of a believer is precious it must be because they can now spend eternity with God.

In the New Testament we read the words of Jesus in Luke 16:22 saying that after the death of the begger  Lazarus he was escourted by angels into the comforted by Abraham in Paradise.

Jesus also told the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43 that he would be with Him this very day in Paradise which implies an immediate entrance into eternity.

As Stephen the first Christian martyr was being stoned to death, he cried for Jesus to receive his spirit.

The apostle Paul relayed the following as he contemplated his own death. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. “

We also read in 2 Peter 1:10-11 “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

As we consider our text we find Paul offers several aspects of our future hope in Jesus Christ.

This “building of God” is not the believer’s heavenly home, promised in John 14:1–6. It is his glorified body. Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:1–3) and here he used a tent as a picture of our present earthly bodies. A tent is a weak, temporary structure, without much beauty; but the glorified body we shall receive will be eternal, beautiful, and never show signs of weakness or decay (see Phil. 3:20–21). Paul saw the human body as an earthen vessel (2 Cor. 4:7) and a temporary tent; but he knew that believers would one day receive a wonderful glorified body, suited to the glorious environment of heaven.

1.  We Can Know What Our Death Brings

How do we know? Because we trust the Word of God. No Christian has to consult a fortune-teller, a Ouija board, a spiritist, or a deck of cards to find out what the future holds or what lies on the other side of death. God has told us all that we need to know in the pages of His Word. Paul’s “we know” connects with his “knowing” in 2 Corinthians 4:14, and this relates to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We know that He is alive; therefore, we know that death cannot claim us. “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19).

If our tent is “taken down” (“dissolved”), we need not fear. The body is only the house we live in. When a believer dies, the body goes to the grave, but the spirit goes to be with Christ (Phil. 1:20–25). When Jesus Christ returns for His own, He will raise the dead bodies in glory, and body and spirit shall be joined together for a glorious eternity in heaven.

2.  We Can Eagerly Await God’s Provision

 Paul was not expressing a morbid desire for death. In fact, his statement is just the opposite: he was eager for Jesus Christ to return so that he would be “clothed” with the glorified body.

The glorified body is called “a building of God, a house not made with hands” in 2 Corinthians 5:1, and “our house which is from heaven” in 2 Corinthians 5:2. This is in contrast to our mortal bodies which came from the dust of the earth. “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”  It is important to note that Paul was not groaning because he was in a human body, but because he longed to see Jesus Christ and receive a glorified body. He was groaning for glory!

This explains why death holds no terrors for the Christian. Paul called his death a “departure” (2 Tim. 4:6). One meaning of this Greek word is “to take down one’s tent and move on.” But how can we be sure that we shall one day have new bodies like the glorified body of our Saviour? We can be sure because the Spirit lives within us. Paul mentioned the sealing and the earnest of the Spirit in 2 Corinthians 1:22.  The Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer’s body is the “down payment” that guarantees the future inheritance, including a glorified body.

3.  We Can Have Confidence

 Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ can be found in one of two places: either in heaven or on earth.   None of them is in the grave, in hell, or in any “intermediate place” between earth and heaven. Believers on earth are “at home in the body,” while believers who have died are “absent from the body.” Believers on earth are “absent from the Lord,” while believers in heaven are “present with the Lord.”

Because he had this kind of confidence, Paul was not afraid of suffering and trials, or even of dangers. This is not to suggest that he tempted the Lord by taking unnecessary risks, but it does mean that he was willing to “lose his life” for the sake of Christ and the ministry of the Gospel. He walked by faith and not by sight. He looked at the eternal unseen, not the temporal seen. Heaven was not simply a destination for Paul: it was a motivation. Like the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, he looked for the heavenly city and governed his life by eternal values.

As we review this section of 2 Corinthians, we can see how Paul had courage for the conflict and would not lose heart. He had a glorious ministry that transformed lives. He had a valuable treasure in the earthen vessel of his body, and he wanted to share that treasure with a bankrupt world. He had a confident faith that conquered fear, and he had a future hope that was both a destination and a motivation.

 “A few hours before entering the “Homeland,” Dwight L. Moody caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him. Awakening from a sleep, he said, “Earth recedes, Heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet! There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go.” His son who was standing by his bedside said, “No, no, father, you are dreaming.”

““No,” said Mr. Moody, “I am not dreaming: I have been within the gates: I have seen the children’s faces.” A short time elapsed and then, following what seemed to the family to be the death struggle he spoke again: “This is my triumph; this my coronation day! It is glorious!””

An Indiana cemetery has a tombstone over a hundred years old that bears this epitaph:

Pause, Stranger, when you pass me by, As you are now, so once was I.

As I am now, so you will be, So prepare for death and follow me.

An unknown passerby had read those words and scratched this reply below them:

To follow you I’m not content, Until I know which way you went.

The passerby was right, the important thing about death is what follows.

Where are you going?

Conclusion

I would ask this morning are you as sure as Paul concerning what will happen to you when you die?

I have show you that God’s word makes it very clear that if you have given your live to Jesus Christ, accepted the sacrifice he offered for you sins, you can have the confidence of the apostle Paul that when you die you will immediately go to the arms of a loving God.  You will spend eternity in heaven.

There however are two avenues we may take when we die.  One is the one I have described made possible by God through the sacrifice of His only Son Jesus. 

Hebrews 9:27 “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”

We will all stand before Almighty God to be judged.  The righteous will be judged according to their deeds and received rewards for their service for God.  The unbelievers will stand before God at the great white throne judgment.

 Rev. 20:11 “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.  If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The decision on where we will spend eternity is completely ours alone to make.  If you are not 100% sure that you are saved and what will happen to you when death comes knocking, please come today and ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior.

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