Did Jesus Really Die? Is Death An Enemy?

“HE IS RISEN!!!” Here’s the record of when those indescribably glorious, and theretofore unheard of, words were first spoken:

Matthew 28:5-7a
But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7a And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead

That angel is someone I can’t wait to meet! What on earth (or not) did he do to become the first being who got the privilege to proclaim the greatest truth God could speak to man: DEATH, THE MORTAL ENEMY THAT HAS RAVAGED HUMANITY SINCE THE FIRST ADAM CHOSE TO DISOBEY GOD, HAS BEEN CONQUERED BY THE LAST ADAM, WHO OBEYED GOD ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE CROSS.

For a much more thorough exposition of this critical, “life-and-death” issue, see Segments #25 & 26 of One Day With The Creatorand our bookIs There Death After Life?By the way, it was Bob Strouss from Wilmington DE who submitted that book title at a weekend conference more than 25 years ago when we asked the folks for suggestions, and we immediately thought it was inspired. Do you realize that likely fewer than 1% of Christians believe that there is death after life? Why? Because they have been taught Satan’s original lie that, “You shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4).

Nothing ruins your life like death. Why? Because in any language on earth, “death” means “the end of life.” But most all Christians have had drummed into their heads something akin to the following perversion of God’s truth: “Christians are spirit beings who possess a soul and live in a body.” And of course that “soul” (or maybe it’s the “spirit,” we’re not sure which) is immortal, so that at the glorious moment when its “fleshly prison” is mowed down by a cement truck, it gleefully wings its way into the presence of God, Jesus, and all the others who have previously choked on a chicken bone, been electrocuted by a hair dryer, or been bored to death by one too many presidential debates. The minister I am about to reference in this letter actually said that, “death is very creative” in the many ways that it occurs. Does anyone else feel queasy in the presence of a HUMONGOUS OXYMORON?     

It was the Senior Pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, which has for nearly 100 years been a bastion and a paragon of so-called “evangelical” doctrine, who made me extremely moody the other day when he so egregiously mangled the wonderful Word of God that I sat in the parking lot at LA Fitness listening for 20 minutes before going in to work out. What I’d heard in the first five minutes of his sermon was so twisted that I couldn’t believe it could get worse, but it did, and I had to write down some of the mind-numbing words this dear man spoke. I will elaborate on this because it represents what 99% of our dear brethren believe, and it amplifies how vital it is for those of us who know the truth to share it boldly.

The gentleman chose as his text Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Ignoring the context set by both the preceding and subsequent verses, and failing to mention the plethora of other clear verses screaming that DEATH IS AN ENEMY, DEATH IS COSTLY IN THE SIGHT OF GOD, THE DEAD ARE NOT IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD, THE DEAD CAN DO NOTHING, etc., etc., etc., he muddled through the worst teaching I can ever remember about this vital topic.

Here are some of his “fingernails-on-a-blackboard” statements:
“God sovereignly (and creatively) determines when and how you die.” Is that or is that not murder?
“It doesn’t matter how many people pray—and twist God’s arm, He will take you to heaven when He chooses.”
“But I would want people to pray for me if I were dying.” WHY?
“About his own death, Jesus said, ‘Not my will, but yours be done.’ So who would want to change the will of God by not accepting his loved one’s death?”
“But we should sorrow about the death of a loved one.” WHY?
“Death is the chariot God sends to take us to heaven.” With a drunk driver?
“Death is gain; don’t take people’s gain away from them.”
“Death is interesting.”
“(Being with) Jesus is worth more than your children (being with you).”
Quoting a famous Christian leader: “When an unbeliever gets cancer, God also allows a Christian to get cancer so people can see the difference in the way they handle it.”
Commenting on an account of a husband being washed overboard by a wave, “The wave that hit the ship was under God’s control.”
“Consoling” a wife whose husband had been murdered: “Jesus died at just the right time, and so did your husband.”

The only other verse I heard him read was Hebrews 2:14, which expresses the classic truth that THE DEVIL HOLDS THE POWER OF DEATH, but to which he then added this Calvinistic qualifier, “within the limits prescribed by God.” And to top it off he said that we will all die eventually, failing to mention the tremendous truth that millions of Christians will never die, because they will live until the Lord appears (1 Cor. 15:51).

As we explain Philippians 1:21 in its context (verses 12-26) in ITDAL, Paul is saying that if he were to die for the Lord, the gain would be more of “the furtherance of the Gospel” (vs. 12) that his sufferings had generated. But (in conjunction with everything else he wrote about death) he says that he would choose rather to depart and be with Christ (at his coming for the Church, not at death), which is better than either living or dying. Short of that event, however, he said that staying alive was better for those whom he served. Sad to say, he apparently was martyred not long afterward.

John 8:31-32
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

The obvious converse to that trenchant truth is that if one believes error, it puts him in bondage to a degree proportionate to the importance of the particular biblical truth in view. Imagine trying to deal with the horrific loss of a spouse or a child if all you know to believe is what the aforementioned preacher said. That is why TRUTH MATTERS in regard to the quality of one’s Christian life.

As we survey the Christian landscape today, we strongly believe that TLTF has a vital mission to the Body of Christ, and to the world. I am being neither arrogant nor elitist nor exclusive by simply saying that I personally know of nowhere else on the planet where people can find the degree of the accuracy of God’s Word they can find in our ministry. And honestly, I’m very sorry I don’t. If you do, let me know. Furthermore, I can’t believe there aren’t at least a million people across the world who would go wild if they got to hear the Word we share, and it never ceases to frustrate me that we aren’t reaching more of them. But we will continue to do what we can, and pray that the Lord will lead us to those who want His Truth.

Jesus Christ was a total fanatic about the written Word of God, no doubt because he knew he would have to stake his future existence upon its accuracy and its veracity. Jesus realized the gruesome reality of death, knew that Satan (not God) was its author, and that rather than ushering him into the presence of God, it would instead terminate his precious life. He “sweat blood,” as it were, as he approached the critical moment when he would lay down his life and forever after BE NO MORE unless his Father kept His promise to raise him out from among the dead. This month the Christian world celebrates the magnificent truth that God did exactly that.

Our Lord Jesus died for you and me so that we could now live for him. As we celebrate his RESURRECTION this month, let us determine to stand boldly upon the Truth that he loved and proclaimed.

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