The Hope Of The Believer
By Douglas R. Laird
The hope of the believer is a concept that is often misunderstood. For many, hope implies something that is earnestly desired, but remains to be seen if it is going to be received. We express that kind of hope in making such statements as: "I hope the weather will be good," or "I hope things will be better soon."
However, when the response to an inquiry or self examination (2 Corinthians 13:5) as to a believerís confidence in the security of their salvation, is an "I hope so," then such a person reveals that they have not received the truth that would have otherwise set them free (John 8:32) from such satanic fear (Hebrews 2:14-15), religious bondage (Matthew 15:9), and doubts based on human reasoning (1 Corinthians 2:14).
The hope of the believer is not based on what he or she desires to take place, but on what the Bible has assured will in fact take place. This is the kind of hope that a believer is to experience in the spiritual life.
In this article, we will take a look at the facts upon which our hope in life after death is to be based.
When it is said that the dearly departed are committed to the grave in the hope of resurrection, it does not mean to imply that resurrection is something that may or may not happen, or that resurrection is only applicable to believers. The Bible is clear that there is life after death for everyone (Acts 24:15). The Bible is equally clear as to the location [believers: Philippians 1:23, unbelievers: Revelations 20:13] of all persons who physically die prior to the resurrection of the believers and unbelievers.
Life after death is not a question of "if," but of "where" and "how" one will spend all of eternity. The soul NEVER dies, nor does it sleep (Matthew 22:32). The only periods of sleep or unconsciousness that we will ever experience is during our time here on Earth. Once we enter the eternal state, we will never again sleep or lose consciousness of our environment, be it in Heaven or Hell!
Every soul that was ever created will live on forever in one environment or another. Physical death is not the end of existence for anyone; it only results in a change of location and environment that takes place at the moment of physical death.
One thing we can be certain of is that when it comes to our own funeral, we wonít be there!
The soul of the dearly (or in some cases not so dearly) departed is NOT in the casket or urn being lowered into the ground, or discharged into the sea. There are many bodies, but not one person is in any cemetery anywhere Ė only their bodily remains.
What to do with oneís remains is a matter of personal preference, but it has nothing to do with our spiritual destiny or the power of God to raise us up again in resurrected form at the Rapture of the Church.
Funerals are for those who are left behind, as the ceremony, among other things, gives "closure" and, perhaps, an opportunity to consider their own inevitable destiny.
As meaningful as a funeral may be to those left behind, no one in Heaven, Hades (Luke 16:24-31), or on Earth, can do anything to alter the destiny of anyone once they have departed from the body at the moment of physical death. You cannot earn your way or be prayed into Heaven, or out of Hell.
At the moment of physical death, the soul (the real person) leaves the body. If that person was "born again" (John 3:3) in the course of their lifetime, then that person is with Christ (Philippians 1:23) in the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2), awaiting the receiving of their resurrected body at the Rapture of the Church (1Thessalonians 4:17) and the judgment (rewarding) of the believers (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
[Some believers, as I do, interpret the Bible to teach that all departed believers have an interim body in Heaven from the time of oneís physical death until the Day of the Rapture. Others believe that the body that one has during that period of time is strictly spiritual in nature. Moses had some type of body when he appeared and spoke with our Lord in the presence of Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. Since this incident occurred prior to the resurrection of our Lord, who was to be the first to arise in a resurrected body, we can conclude that the body Moses had at the time of this incident was not his former body in a resurrected form. The natural body of Moses (Deuteronomy 34:6) was buried and underwent decay many years prior. When our Lord raised Lazarus and Jairusí daughter from the dead, they returned to life in the same human body and in the same natural form as when they died.
Regardless of what heavenly form all believers dwell in at the present time, they are never the less in a conscious environment in the presence of our Lord in the Third Heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2) awaiting the Rapture of the Church. Those who are alive on the Earth at the time of the Rapture will also be taken up and receive transformed resurrected bodies at that time as well (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
If, in the course of their lifetime, a person never believes the Gospel Message, then at the moment of physical death, such a person leaves the body and enters Hades, a place of torment (Mark 9:48), where they will await the final judgment of God. This judgment will result in the unbeliever being tossed into what the Bible calls the "lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15) for all of eternity.
This "lake of fire" is not a place of extermination, but a place of continuous torment, separated from God for all eternity, without any hope of release.
The Gospel Message is one of hope for believers and warning to unbelievers. Just as believers can be assured of their salvation and deliverance from the wrath of God, unbelievers can be equally assured of the Biblically revealed destiny awaiting all who do not believe.
It is amazing how many Christians would never, for example, allow someone to sit down in a chair that they know to be defective, for fear of physical injury. However, these same Christians often feel so uneasy about sharing the Gospel with that same individual for the salvation of their soul.
The hope of the Christian is not just to be obtained for oneself, but to be shared with others as well.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (R) Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All Rights reserved.
Douglas R. Laird is a non-denominational Christian, married with three adult children, and resides in Cumberland, R.I. (USA). He attends Grace Bible Church in Somerset Mass and has been writing spiritual articles since the 1980ís. You can write to Douglas through the Letters page of this magazine.
A Voice to the Church ... Meet Douglas Laird
Interview by Deborah Porter
FWM: Doug, it is a delight to have this opportunity to interview you, as I have such a respect and admiration for your faithfulness to God and His Word. Before we talk about your writing, it would be wonderful if you could tell us a little about yourself and your family.
DOUGLAS: I am a non-denominational Christian who acknowledges the Bible, and only the Bible, as the means for spiritual edification under the post-salvation ministry of God the Holy Spirit. I was raised in a Christian home and cannot remember a time when God and the things of God were not a central part of my life. However, it was not until my early teens that I came to understand the significance of having a personal relationship with Him.
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