Death Questions

Q: Can you help me understand. Are our loved ones in Heaven, or waiting in some way for our Lord to return? I question this all the time.

A: I believe that the Word of God is true, so instead of giving you my feelings, thoughts, or opinions — I can share with you what I’ve found in the Word of God in my recent questions on this very same topic.

I don’t know all of the answers, but we can search together.

First. What is death?

Ecclesiastes 12:7 ESV
And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Hebrews 9:27 ESV
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

Psalm 146:4 ESV
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.

NOTE: I’ve found it helps to go and read the context surrounding the verses in that section of 20 or so verses in my Bible to better understand what is being said “in context” too.

Second. What does it say about those who have died?

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. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:13‭-‬18 ESV

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Daniel 12:2 ESV

After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died,
John 11:11‭-‬14 ESV

Third. What does it say about physical death’s purpose with regards to believers?

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 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, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:42‭-‬55 ESV

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
John 11:21‭-‬27 ESV

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
John 5:25‭-‬29 ESV

Fourth. What does it say about death with regards to those who do not have saving faith in Christ Jesus?

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 10:28 ESV

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 3:3 ESV

since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
2 Thessalonians 1:6‭-‬9 ESV

and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”
Luke 16:23‭-‬31 ESV

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
John 3:17‭-‬20 ESV

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Revelation 21:8 ESV

Fifth. What do I do if I believe these things are true?

But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah
Psalms 49:15 ESV

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 ESV

“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 and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:1‭-‬6 ESV

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:1‭-‬10 ESV

How did I get the verses?

At this Bible research site, you can type in any topic in the search bar, and it will give you verses to reference and study:

Those were some of the big questions that I had. And I had to empty my head of any preconceived notions about these things, and even put aside what “good intentioned people” might have told me — to really listen to what the Word of God has to say about such things, and be willing to not just listen to what it says, but to hear what God says through His Word.

I still have lots more questions, but I figure that’s probably more than enough for tonight.

I don’t need your help…

I saw this video recently of a deer caught in a rope swing out in the woods. As a few men approach with the camera, you can see that the buck’s antlers are caught in the rope, and as he runs back and forth, reacting in fear, his whole body swings up into the air, his feet leaving solid ground to soar into the air, only for him to come crashing back to the ground and run the other direction. Like some frantic, doomed pendulum that could annoy moment prove to be a hangman’s noose, he kept running from his would be helpers.

I shared this video on Facebook, and my discerning mother immediately replied:

“Kind of like some people, insisting they don’t need any help, insisting they can do it all on their own…..” – Jean Edge Ballinger

Yep. Nailed it. Word received loud and clear.

And she didn’t say that as some passive aggressive attack aimed at me in a snide comment on my post. She looked at this living parable set before her eyes and saw something in the video, that reminded her of something in herself (and in our family of hard headed folks) that struck a chord.

The good news is that even though that buck tried hard to fight against these men — struggling out of fear, confusion, and lack of understanding of what was there to kill him and what was there to help him — the fear of the buck was not enough to overcome the persistence of the men to rescue him, to save him, to set him free. The buck probably thought they were there to capture him, to trap him, to use him for their own purposes. He probably thought that their kind words during his moment of vulnerability were just a trap so the mei’m could get their hands on him, so he resisted them, and with each wild swing up into the air, and with each crash back to the ground, it was him that was putting himself in greater danger.

I love my mother’s insight into this video. She didn’t just see some sweet men helping a deer and experience a heartfelt moment. She didn’t look at the situation, trying to find things to complain about and criticize that she thought should have been done better. She didn’t brag and tru to one up with a story about a circumstance she read in that put her in a similar proposition as these men. No, she saw herself as the helpless deer that found herself in need and fighting against the help right beside her.

That’s powerful.

We are like this many times, Christian. Refusing to share our struggles with others who could help us, who could encourage us, who could live u.s and pray for us — because out of fear and lack of trust, we expect that they are there to hurt us in our time of vulnerability and need — or even worse, we might think that we are fine and don’t need any help at all.

We see in James 5 that we are supposed to do both suffer and sing TOGETHER — not in isolation:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
James 5:13‭-‬20 ESV

And as we go out to share this Word of God with a lost and dying world, we mustn’t listen to fear that tells us that the trapped and dying addict or drug dealer or criminal might kill us, the fear that wants to keep us from bringing this Good News of Jesus Christ to them. Just like the men in this video, we must be calm, loving, patient and persistent — not rough with the animal, not demeaning, not angry with it for damaging our children’s swing, but eager to see it live and not die.

We must not get angry and impatient with the lost for the foolish things they are doing out of fear and confusion to seek vengeance on them because their foolish flailing about could have killed us.

Sometimes we can be zealous and lose sight of this and go out seeking to “drive out the evil amongst us”, thinking that we are doing “the work of God” just because we have worked up some idea in our own minds and gathered people around “a just cause”. Sometimes we can find ourselves going into battle under our own battle cry — not because God truly prompted us in that moment and time to say, “Go fight for me and take the land and I will give you victory.”

This is how Saul justified in his mind killing Christians, how the temple priests and guards justified in their minds arresting and torturing Jesus, and this is how Peter justified cutting off ther guard’s ear — but each time, Jesus showed the way of a humble, suffering servant who is president and gentle and brings healing.

Some of us have at times said to ourselves foolishly “God has done it before, He will do it again.” Some of us may have even prayed and inquired of the Lord, but because of our own selfish desires, and the answer we received of “who should go first into battle” wasn’t a humble attitude of following God’s spirit wherever He goes or stays — but a prideful telling God what we are going to do while “giving God the side action of choosing the order it will be done in”.

We see the result of such things in Joshua 20:18-25 when the children of Israel “inquired of the Lord” twice and saw defeat twice.

The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, “Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin?” And the Lord said, “Judah shall go up first.” Then the people of Israel rose in the morning and encamped against Gibeah. And the men of Israel went out to fight against Benjamin, and the men of Israel drew up the battle line against them at Gibeah. The people of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and destroyed on that day 22,000 men of the Israelites. But the people, the men of Israel, took courage, and again formed the battle line in the same place where they had formed it on the first day. And the people of Israel went up and wept before the Lord until the evening. And they inquired of the Lord , “Shall we again draw near to fight against our brothers, the people of Benjamin?” And the Lord said, “Go up against them.” So the people of Israel came near against the people of Benjamin the second day. And Benjamin went against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed 18,000 men of the people of Israel. All these were men who drew the sword. Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord .
Judges 20:18‭-‬26 ESV

God’s will has been proven to be and time again to resist the proud — so when we are prideful people with our minds already made up to do it our own way, we may find, even when we “inquire of God”, that it is God’s will that we be defeated and humbled so that we can be set free.

The Good News for the children of Israel in Joshua 20, and for us today, is that God has preordained the victory for us who are children of God, He has won it all on Calvary, and just need to humble ourselves, understand that we deserve the correction and discipline for our sinful, prideful, self-seeking ways, but that victory with God is only a surrender away. It wasn’t the outward acts of fasting and prayer that the Israelites participated in that mattered — some might have been acting that way already beforehand — but the genuine worship, awe, reverence and reliance upon GOD ALONE TO BRING VICTORY, this is the story of Joshua 20, of the cross, of us as that helpless dear caught in a rope swing.

Lord, help us to humbly see our utter need and be willing to accept it from you, in whatever form it comes in this season, and through whatever vessels you use to bring it to us. Teach us to rest in you, too go where you go, to stay where you stay, to surrender wholly to your leadership, your lordship, your discipline and your blessing. Amen.

Beautiful Webs

My wife told me about “a weird dream” that she had last night. She explained that we were “in our bedroom but it wasn’t ours, it was somewhere else” and she said there was “this huge spider web hanging from the ceiling fan, with a huge spider on it” but that I wouldn’t let her kill it “because the web was so beautiful”.

As a recurring temptation, I deal with lust. I deal with situations and circumstances that seemingly are an open invitation to step into “bedrooms that aren’t mine” — sometimes they are very real invitations where a woman is flirting with the idea of some kind of romantic interaction, and sometimes it is just a fantastic temptation that may just be in my mind and nowhere else.

I used to love these types of fantasies, not even as “guilty secrets”, but as opportunities that I would intentionally seek out to make a reality of infidelity, and that I would also use as reoccurring fantasies to stimulate my mind and body. Even though I knew on some level that it was wrong, it just “felt so right” that I didn’t care about right and wrong, and I found ways to justify this behavior. Let’s call it what it is, justifying sinful behavior.

And this justification of sinful behavior didn’t just affect me, but it clearly impacted others through my actions. It affected marriages, it caused unnatural ties between me and ladies who should have only had those ties with their rightful husband. It even drew me into relationships where sex was the centrally unifying component, which were doomed to fail.

And even my thoughts, my fantasy life, impacted others — even when I wasn’t acting upon them with outward actions — because my heart wasn’t right towards God and towards those I should have been loving and serving. I was only interested in my own enjoyment and pleasure. I would even lie to myself saying that I enjoyed pleasing “them”, but even that was a source of fulfillment for myself as I could be “proud” of my ability to woo, to captivate, to enthrall, to excite, to fulfill, through things these ladies should only be sharing with their husbands. So opportunities for real love and service and ministry were missed, and opportunities for growth and character and integrity were missed. So even my sinful “thought life” had a “real cost” even when I wasn’t “acting” upon my temptations — because I wasn’t resisting, I wasn’t letting them be killed, instead I was getting comfortable and familiar with these beautiful demons that I didn’t mind letting hang around.

As I think about recent temptations, I wonder if I have not confessed them to my wife often enough to join with her in prayer and see these things killed? I say that I wonder, but even that is a lie — I know that I haven’t been eager enough to see them killed and their beautiful webs removed from my mind.

Spiders craft beautiful webs, but the purpose is to trap, to ensnare, to kill. There is another that sets traps to ensnare and to kill.

I look to you for help, O Sovereign Lord . You are my refuge; don’t let them kill me. Keep me from the traps they have set for me, from the snares of those who do wrong. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, but let me escape.
Psalms 141:8‭-‬10 NLT

My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen carefully to my wise counsel. Then you will show discernment, and your lips will express what you’ve learned. For the lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil. But in the end she is as bitter as poison, as dangerous as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. For she cares nothing about the path to life. She staggers down a crooked trail and doesn’t realize it. So now, my sons, listen to me. Never stray from what I am about to say: Stay away from her! Don’t go near the door of her house! If you do, you will lose your honor and will lose to merciless people all you have achieved. Strangers will consume your wealth, and someone else will enjoy the fruit of your labor. In the end you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body. You will say, “How I hated discipline! If only I had not ignored all the warnings! Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers? Why didn’t I pay attention to my instructors? I have come to the brink of utter ruin, and now I must face public disgrace.” Drink water from your own well— share your love only with your wife. Why spill the water of your springs in the streets, having sex with just anyone? You should reserve it for yourselves. Never share it with strangers. Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love. Why be captivated, my son, by an immoral woman, or fondle the breasts of a promiscuous woman? For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes. An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness.
Proverbs 5:1‭-‬23 NLT

I’ve spent too much of my life being foolishly led away into captivity to my desires. I want the spider killed.

“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye —causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even your stronger hand —causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
Matthew 5:27‭-‬30 NLT

I’ve committed way too much adultery in my life and in my heart, and I’m ready to be free from that captivity. I’ve seen the cost of laying down with Bathsheba like David did, and it is only curses and death and cost in the end. I don’t wish that all you other women were cursed to be ugly, and I don’t want my wife to have to fret about her looks or age or weight to make her an enticement to another man. No, I love my wife dearly, and she is beautifully and wonderfully made perfectly for me, but I have too often been distracted by beautiful webs.

I’m done. I’m finished. I will not trade my beautiful doe for an ugly spider with a beautiful web. Lord help me. Friends, pray for me. Love rise up in me for my wife, and disgust rise up in me towards lust, that demon spawn of satan that tempts and seeks to devour. Set my feet upon solid ground and lead me not into temptation, oh Lord, because I am weak and prone to wander, but you are a good shepherd who will not let me be devoured. Amen.