September 15, 2022 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Ted N.C. Wilson, President, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Hello, Friends. Without question, one of the most painful, devastating losses we can ever experience on this earth is the loss of a loved one. The sickening, irreplaceable loss of that special person is something that sinks deep into the heart, and while grief may lessen over time, the memory of that loved one stays with us for the rest of our lives.
As believers in Christ, however, we have the amazing hope of seeing our dear ones again. Jesus says in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”
This precious promise assures us death does not have to be the end. For those who love Jesus, there is hope of eternal life.
But when does eternity begin? Some think when a person dies, they have an eternal “soul” that floats up to heaven if they were good or goes down to somewhere else if they were bad. But what does the Bible tell us?
In 1 Timothy 6:16 we are told clearly God “alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light . . .” He is uncreated, self-existent, and has no beginning and no end.
In contrast to God, humans are mortal, created beings. Nowhere in the Scriptures are we described as being immortal, or that we have an “immortal soul” or spirit.
At Creation, “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7), or as some translations put it, a “living soul.” To be a “living soul,” one must have the breath of life, plus a body. Without both, the “soul” or “being” does not exist.
When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them free will—the power of choice. They could obey or disobey, and their continued existence depended upon their choices. God carefully explained that if they ate of “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” they would “surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
But Satan contradicted God’s warning, asserting to Eve, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). But after they sinned, Adam and Eve discovered “the wages of sin” is, indeed, death (Rom. 6:23). God told them they would “return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19).
Our 26th Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Belief explains it this way:
“The wages of sin is death. But God, who alone is immortal, will grant eternal life to His redeemed.
“Until that day death is an unconscious state for all people. When Christ, who is our life, appears, the resurrected righteous and the living righteous will be glorified and caught up to meet their Lord.
“The second resurrection, the resurrection of the unrighteous, will take place a thousand years later.”
If you would like to read more about this fundamental belief, I encourage you to visit the URL shown below [INSERT: www.adventist.org/death-and-resurrection].
The Bible describes death as an unconscious state, a deep sleep from which a person awaits the resurrection. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote, “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing” (Eccl. 9:5). And the Psalmist pointedly states, “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor any who go down into silence” (Ps. 115:17).
Jesus also spoke of death as a sleep. In describing the condition of Jairus’ daughter, who was dead, Christ said she was sleeping (Matt. 9:24; Mark 5:39). In referring to His friend, Lazarus, Jesus said to His disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up” (John 11:11). Here Christ is referring both to Lazarus’ death, and his soon-to-be resurrection.
The prophet Daniel also speaks of death as a sleep, and the resurrection and judgment to follow. Referring to the end time, he wrote, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2).
When the Bible speaks of death as a sleep, it implies an awakening from that sleep, a resurrection. It is Christ’ death and resurrection that makes it possible for us to be raised. As Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 15:13, 14—”. . . if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”
But praise God, he continues. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man,” that is, Jesus, “also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (vss. 20-22).
Ellen White gives an incredible description of the first resurrection at the Second Coming. She writes: “Amid the reeling of the earth, the flashing of lightning, and the roaring of thunder, the voice of the Son of God calls forth the sleeping saints. He looks upon the graves of the righteous, then raising His hands to heaven He cries, ‘Awake, awake, awake, ye that sleep in the dust, and arise!’ Throughout the length and breadth of the earth, the dead shall hear that voice, and they that hear shall live” (Heaven, p. 35).
Yes, friends. Because He lives, we may live also. But, as we read in Daniel 12:2, some will be raised to “shame and everlasting contempt.” This refers to the “second resurrection,” when those who have rejected Christ as their Savior will be resurrected for their final judgment and destruction. We will explore this further in our next video on the Millennium and the End of Sin.
Friends, I hope to be among the living to see Jesus come, and I’m sure you do, too. But even if we should die, we can rest assured that if we go to sleep in Jesus, He will raise us up on that day. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-18).
Let’s pray together just now. Father in Heaven, thank you for the great assurance that Jesus is coming, that He is the power over death. That He will bring people back to life who have died in him. Oh, Lord, please keep each one of us in the precious hollow of your hand as we walk each day towards that soon coming of Jesus Christ and Lord. Hopefully, through Your Grace, we will be alive when Jesus comes. But if not, help us to rest assured that as we look to Christ in all things, that He will save us and that He will resurrect us in the final day to see his soon coming. Thank you for hearing us in this prayer. In Jesus name, we ask it. Amen.