By Philip A. Owens
(Introductory Note. Phillip Owens does the work of an evangelist with the Holland’s Gin Church of Christ on Upper Elkton Rd. in Limestone County, near the County Seat at Athens. After being disturbed by Edward Fudge’s corrupt influence a few years ago, the congregation has benefitted from the steadying influence of Alvin Holt for some time. Phillip is now carrying on the work in a fine way. At 24 years of age, he is among the many fine young preachers who have a good grasp on fundamental principles of the gospel. Midfield is his “home” congregation, where his parents and grandmother still attend. His dad has served long and faithfully as a deacon. Phillip expresses himself clearly -there is no uncertain sound when he preaches Christ and Him crucified. I am happy to commend him to our readers, and to encourage him to develop his talents in using the pen as well as the pulpit as a medium of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ. Ron Halbrook, 541 Midfield St., Midfield, AL 35228)
Is the grave man’s dreadful end, after which he has no existence and should therefore “grab all the gusto” because d6you only go around once in life?” Or is there life after death? The sad but yet true sentiment of many is the former. But we can and ought to rejoice that the God of Heaven has promised a life with blessings beyond comprehension for the faithful. While life everlasting is promised few, only because few will accept Jehovah’s salvation on His conditions, an existence is also promised for the unfaithful and disobedient. This life will continue forever (the same as for the righteous), but in the most horrid, dreadful, and torturous conditions imaginable. Yes, “If a man die,” he shall live again. But what of this afterlife?
Job asked our question and answered it within the same verse. “If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my warfare would I wait, Till my release (change – KJV) should come” (Job 14:14). The release or change that Job stated would come after death intimates the general resurrection of all men, about which Paul expressly wrote in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians. Christ also answered the question in language we can’t help but understand when He said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.” (Jn. 5:28,29).
If we were not promised anything after this life, in many ways we would be in no better conditions nor have any greater hope than the beasts of the field. Indeed, “If the dead are not raised . . . we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:16,19). With Paul, we could truthfully say, “If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32). It seems though, that many do not believe the foregoing, but rather have the rich man’s attitude: “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry,” concerned about physical life, but indifferent concerning their destiny after death. But to more fully comprehend Biblical teaching relative to afterlife, we need to know something about physical life itself.
What Is Life?
Man is a composite being. When God Almighty breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, he became a living soul or being. Physical life animated his physical body. This was done miraculously at the beginning. Through the natural laws of procreation which God set in force, man and woman produce offspring which have physical life. But man was distinguished from the lower creation in that God “created man in his own image” (Gen. 1:27). The image in which God created man was that God gave man an eternal spirit which would abide forever. “God is a Spirit,” and since “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom on God,” God gives all men a spirit or soul – something which does not consist of flesh and blood – so we may enter Heaven (Jn. 4:24; 1 Cor. 15:50). But James says “as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). Therefore, if physical death is the separation of body and spirit, life is the joining and intertwining of body and spirit.
What Is Death?
But the body returns to dust, and in some tragic cases, no remains are found after death. Is the physical body then revived or “changed” when man shall “live again”? No, for some would have nothing to change. So the end for our physical bodies is the grave. But since death is simply the separation of body and spirit, what happens to the spirit? It returns “unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7) in a place God designed for man’s spirit until the day of judgment. This place for disembodied spirits is called Hades, vividly pictured and designated by Christ in Luke 16 as a place of conscious bliss or torment. Therefore, death is not a ceasing to exist, but a separation of one’s spirit from his body. The body returns to the natural elements which compose it, ceasing to live; the spirit continues to exist and forever will! (Matt. 25:41,46; Acts 24:15; Rom. 2:7; Gal. 6:8).
An interesting observation is here in order concerning death being only a separation. In Revelation 21:8, John said, “But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.” All must die physically; it is an appointment everyone must meet, except the Lord return first (Heb. 9:27). But the “second death” does not refer to a body and spirit separation – it has already occurred. This separation is from God and the blessings he bestows upon the faithful. Hear Paul’s inspired commentary: “At the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thess. 1:7-9). Therefore, we all die once, but sadly, many will die the second death. It is this death we are to dread; both if we are unprepared.
Where Will We Live?
Job said his “change” would come, as all of ours will. That change will be when God raises our spirits from Hades and clothes them with an immortal body, destined for one of two places – Heaven or Hell. It is interesting to note that as Paul discusses this very subject, illustrating the resurrected body as a grain sown and springing forth into a different body, he later said, “I tell you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:5 1). The “change should come” which Job anticipated is therefore the same “change” about which Paul so definitively wrote, and precedes our sentencing.
When we are sentenced by “the righteous judge,” there will be no higher court to which we may appeal. God’s sentencing is irrevocable, and our destinies unalterable. Following sentencing, the righteous will “inherit the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world.” It is described as a place where neither hunger, thirst, tears, nor anything unclean can enter, and where saints are “before the throne of God; and they serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them” (Rev. 7:15). Such glory, rest, peace, and the majesty of God is unfathomable.
While on the other hand, God’s sentencing will deliver the disobedient and unfaithful into outer darkness, where excruciating pain causes weeping and gnashing of teeth. This everlasting abode for many is described as a lake of fire that burns with fire and brimstone, and into which the wicked are cast, helplessly bound “hand and foot” (Rev. 21:8; Matt. 22:13).
Yes, “If a man die” he shall live again. Where we live now is immaterial. After death though, where will mean everything. Are you prepared to die? We all shall live again; by God’s grace and our faith and obedience it will be in Heaven. Without our humble submission to His will, eternal punishment is our lot. Accept His grace offered by obedience to His terms for salvation. Believe that Christ is God’s Son (Jn. 8:24), repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), confess Christ (Acts 8:37), be buried in baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3,4), and live faithfully until the end. It is God’s desire and man’s only hope to live eternally with God.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 10, pp. 308-309
May 17, 1984