Funerals are sad experiences. It's heartbreaking to pay your final respects to someone you knew and loved. What's happened to them?
Perhaps you've had to say farewell to a mother or father, laid to rest a brother, sister or perhaps say goodbye to the best friend you ever had. Have you wondered: Where have they gone? Why do I doubt?
You may feel unexpected emotions: shock and disbelief—making it difficult to accept what's happened.
You desperately want to know the truth. Supposing they're safe looking down from heaven is just not enough. You're skeptical; not completely satisfied with mere speculation. And you think, what about me?
You need to know what God has said. Is there a sure word from Him that will help you?
Stay tuned to Beyond Today as we help you answer the question: "Will I Go to Heaven?"
[Announcer] Join our host, Steve Myers and his guests, as they help you understand your future on Beyond Today !
[Steve] Sometimes you have a need to believe, especially at those times in life that force you to think about your mortality. We all know in the end no one beats death. But, it's one thing to know it in the back of your mind, and another one to come face to face with it.
When you face the loss of a loved one, you can't help but wonder: Is this life all there is? What happens at death? Are they in heaven? Will I go to heaven? Or is there a heaven? So it's not hard to understand why we humans have always been hopeful and dream that there's much more after this short life.
When you're looking in the face of death, the idea of heaven can seem comforting. It can seem beautiful—but does that make it true? Is it just wishful thinking or can you know the facts? Is it just a matter of faith?
Thinking about what happens at death can be overwhelming. It's unsettling. It appears uncertain. Death in the best circumstances is not easy to discuss. Most of us would rather not talk about death and dying. It's an uncomfortable topic, so you may avoid it whenever possible. In fact, you may find it difficult to listen to this, but I encourage you to take notice, because you'll find that there is hope when you turn to the truth of the Word of God.
Now here's what may be surprising: What the Bible says is probably quite different from what you may think you know or what you believe about dying and going to heaven.
Mankind has always sought ways to beat the inevitable. At one time the focus was magic waters that could restore health. Most of us remember the history lesson: Five hundred years ago, the search by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon. He's known for pursuing the fountain of youth—hoping it would be found in Florida. The whole story though seems a bit of a fable, a tad of myth, and just enough real events to produce a legend. Nobody wants to get old and die, we want to live! So the quest for the fountain of youth has been going on for centuries.
Now could there be a connection between the fountain of youth and common ideas about going to heaven? How about in your Christian quest? Is it possible that a bit of fable, a tad of myth and just a trace of reality has gotten mixed together to produce something that's not really found in the pages of your Bible? When it comes to life after death, can you be sure of heaven?
Recently, Jennifer wrote us about her concerns. She said: "How can I be sure I'm going to heaven when I die? My mother died not long ago, and I couldn't help but think about life after death. I've always tried to be a good person, but if someone were to ask me if I knew for sure that she was in heaven or if I am going to heaven, I'd have to say no, I'm not sure."
So how can you be sure of what you believe? The majority of Americans and Britons still believe in life after death. According to Gallup, 81 percent of Americans and 55 percent of Britons say they believe in going to heaven.
We want to believe that our loved ones who have died are okay and that we'll be okay. So surveys show that most people are confident, or at least they have a feeling that life doesn't end at the grave. Now, is that true?
How would you answer this question: Where do your ideas about heaven come from? Now of course most of us would say, from the Bible, of course. Yet some have an image of floating on clouds. Some believe they'll be given wings like angels. Others believe that they'll gaze into the face of God for eternity. Yet did you know that none of these are what the Bible actually says is in store for us. None of these are ideas that God has given us in the pages of His Word. Now, you may have learned these things growing up or were taught that these are biblical ideas. But today I'd like to challenge your concept of death and your belief in going to heaven.
Now here's the challenge and I hope you take me up on it: Don't just believe what someone else has said, or what a Sunday school teacher may have taught you, or what a church or religion says, or for that matter—what I say! Why not? If it's not based on the truth, what good is it? So don't believe me, believe your Bible! You must believe what God says in the pages of His Word. That's the challenge today. Are you willing to look at what Scripture actually teaches? That's where our understanding of life and death must come from—the Word of God.
Here's what Jesus said. He said, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
So I challenge you to leave any preconceived ideas behind and let's examine the truth. Let's find the freedom of the truth that Jesus talked about. Up next, we'll look at what the Bible really says about what happens to Christians after they die.
Because few things could be more important than what happens when life ends. Most Christians believe the Bible teaches they'll go to heaven. But you might be surprised at what the Bible really says.
That's why you need this free, detailed study guide: Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? Our free Bible study aid will help you separate fact from fiction and get down to the real truth found in the Bible.
You can read and download Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? online at BeyondToday.tv . Or request your free copy by calling: 1-888-886-8632. That's 1-888-886-8632.
This free study guide with help you delve into topics such as: What did Jesus teach happens to a person when he dies? Is heaven really God's reward for the righteous? Or does God have something far different in mind?
So go to BeyondToday.tv to download or read: Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? Or request your free copy by calling us toll free: 1-888-886-8632. It will help you to sort out what's fact, fable and the reality of the truth.
Facing death can be like putting on a pair of spiritual glasses. It suddenly gets you focused on what's really important and clears the blurriness of this distracting, self-consumed life around us. When you're confronted by death head on, it's unavoidable; it's inescapable. So in that moment, standing by that casket suspended over an abyss in the ground, we are faced with how temporary, how fleeting, how brief is life.
What a reminder. Death is not optional. Our obsession with diet and exercise—even though it's important, even though it's necessary—sometimes it can be an attempt to deny the inevitable. But you know in the end, those attempts are futile. The Bible reminds us that it is appointed unto man once to die (Hebrews 9:27). Now you may miss many appointments in life but that's one appointment you will not miss.
So what happens next? Most Americans rate their odds pretty good. Do you know what percentage of Americans rated their chances of making it into heaven good or excellent? A Gallup Poll found 77 percent of Americans think their chances are good or excellent of making it into heaven. In fact, 43 percent believe that their pets—their cats, their dogs, their rats or snakes—are headed into the hereafter right with them (2010 Book by Lisa Miller, Newsweek's religion correspondent).
But let's not talk about the odds. Let's look at what you can truly count on. What you can count on without a doubt. What did Jesus Christ teach about life after death? Let's see if it agrees with what you've been taught.
Notice what He said in John 3:13. Christ Himself said, "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven."
Now that may be startling to you—but Christ was clear and plain. How does what Jesus taught compare to what you've thought was true? Now if you looked in the New International Version, it quotes Jesus as saying: "No one has ever gone into heaven." The Message says: "No one has ever gone up into the presence of God." God's Word Translation says: "No one has gone to heaven." The only exception is Jesus Christ Himself.
Now does Jesus' teaching directly fit into traditional Christianity? No it doesn't! As surprising as it may be, that's exactly what He said—no one; not Moses, not Noah, not Daniel, not even King David! Acts 2:29 says, "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day."
So the testimony of Jesus and His disciples showed that they did not teach that life beyond the grave was in heaven. Jesus never promised Christians heaven after they died.
So faithful people who have gone before, those spiritual giants, He said that none have ascended to heaven. So no wonder Hebrews 11 speaks of those great men and those great women of the Old Testament and tells us: "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not [yet] receive the promise" (Hebrews 11:39).
So why didn't they yet receive the promise of eternal life? And if they aren't in heaven, where are they? Let's hold onto that thought for just a second and step back for just a moment.
Think of that concept of heaven. Now supposedly heaven is where you and your best friends, your relatives go after you die. Many believe that their departed family members are looking down on them from paradise. Now have you ever wondered what would that paradise really be like? That's the idea that many churches teach. Would it really be a place of perfect happiness? Would it really be a place of ideal joy and bliss? Imagine if it were true, how could it really be heavenly? Imagine if you were in heaven, looking down and seeing this world.
Now what would you see? You'd see a world of pain. You'd see a world of war and grief. Imagine watching your loved ones—seeing their short-comings, seeing their blunders, watching them go through terrible trials, seeing their sinful acts, witnessing a world of evil! That wouldn't be paradise. That would be torture and misery. It wouldn't be some dreamy paradise but in actuality, your worst nightmare.
So it's plain to see that this is not what the Bible teaches. Since the dead don't go to heaven what then happens to them? Well let's go to the source. Let's see what Jesus Himself taught.
When Jesus' friend Lazarus died, there's an interesting example in the Bible of how Christ Himself reacted. It's over in John 11:11. Here Jesus Himself said, "'Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.' Then His disciples said, 'Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.' However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead.'"
Now that tells us something important. How does Jesus Himself describe death? Well He doesn't immediately say they went to heaven or hell, but He simply compares it to sleep. So let's think of that comparison for a moment. When someone is in a deep sleep, they have no awareness of the passing of time or any knowledge of events that are occurring while they're asleep. It's like they're unconscious. They're oblivious to circumstances. So throughout the Bible, we see that it describes the dead as figuratively in a state of sleep. They're unaware. They're waiting in the grave.
King Solomon confirmed that fact that death is like a deep unconscious sleep. Here's what he said: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (Ecclesiastes 9:10). And back in verse 5 of Ecclesiastes 9 he says, "For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing."
So it becomes clear that the Bible consistently teaches that good people don't go to heaven or anything like heaven at death; instead they sleep in the grave. All of the dead —good and the not so good alike—wait in the grave.
Now that's quite a change in perspective! We don't have to be overwhelmed and consumed by grief because we're told that even in death there is hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope." So instead of the chilling thought of our loved ones having ceased to be, we're told that we can be comforted. We can be encouraged by thinking of them as being asleep in Christ.
Since the dead are waiting in the grave like a sleep. What are they waiting for? Up next we'll discuss what is the hope of the dead.
But first let me tell you about our new and expanded Good News magazine. The Good News is packed full of information that gives insight, not only into what the Bible teaches about heaven but also interesting articles on prophecy and Christian living—with biblical understanding.
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Our topic today will certainly generate questions. Questions such as: What about the thief on the cross? Or what about Lazarus and the rich man? Or what about Paul's desire to depart and be with Christ? For insight into these and many other important topics, go to BeyondToday.tv . In fact, send us your questions and don't miss our video blog: BT Daily .
I'm joined now by fellow host, Darris McNeely and we've been discussing this whole idea of heaven, going to heaven, will I go to heaven, and what does the Bible really teach? Now, just a moment ago we left people in the grave with hope. And what exactly is that hope? And we're going to get to that in just a moment. But I think it's important that we talk about this concept of the comparison that Jesus Christ Himself made—this comparison of death and sleep. And why does the Bible refer to it as that?
[Darris] Well it's a very hope-filled as well as an interesting expression that is used to describe death—sleep. You know Steve, sleep is one of the most basic things that we do as human beings. Every day we go to sleep and we wake up. And in giving this as a description of death—death being like a sleep—God is telling us that it is something from which we will awaken and when we awaken there's going to be a complete change. There's going to be a refreshing in one sense.
[Steve] And be rejuvenated.
[Darris] Rejuvenation, if you will, through the resurrection and the changes that take place there. But, it gives us hope because every night when we go to sleep, we rest and then we awaken the next day. And by doing so, God is giving us the hope that death is not an end. That there is something more and the something more is in the truth of the resurrection—not as you have been talking about here today of going to heaven and that idea—but a resurrection to a completely different life with God on this earth than people can imagine.
[Steve] In fact that example that we were talking about, and that you just mentioned about Lazarus and where he died and Jesus went and woke him up. He was awakened. That is always an interesting story that reminds me of this whole concept of heaven. Because most often times, the people would think well Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. He was one of the disciples. He certainly would have been considered a Christian, I suppose and if he died...
[Darris] Certainly a follower of Christ...
[Steve] Yeah a follower of Christ, He would have went to heaven after he died. So it's interesting...
[Darris] Why bring him back?
[Steve] Yeah that's the question. Why would Christ go and wake him up? Or if he had been in heaven, in paradise, bringing Lazarus back to earth again to live life would almost be like a punishment, wouldn't it?
[Darris] You know, let's face it. So many people who want to believe in the idea of going to heaven. When you look at this story certainly of Lazarus, when you look at other occasions, not only in the Gospels but in the epistles and the writings of Paul, Lazarus is one perfect example for Jesus to have elaborated at that point on a paradise—on a heaven, an existence with God—at that point and to make it clear, and crystal clear in the Scriptures, but He didn't. And the reason He didn't is because that's not what the Scriptures teach. That's not what God's purpose is; for people to go to heaven for their reward. Death is like a sleep...
[Steve] And no wonder...
[Darris] From which we'll be awakened in a resurrection.
[Steve] And no wonder he said that in John 13:13 where no man, no one has ascended to heaven, you know. And so when we consider that, it reminds us then okay if you die, and you're waiting in the grave, you know, what exactly are we waiting for?
[Darris] That is the great revelation of Scripture. It is that hope that we have of a resurrection but a resurrection to a life of meaning and purpose and with Christ on this earth, ruling for a period of time, but helping to solve the problems that have been so unsolvable during this life.
[Steve] I think people forget that that's not just found in that one place in Scripture. That it's throughout Scripture. Wasn't it Job that mentions something about that way back in the Old Testament?
[Darris] In Job 14 he said, all the days of my life I will await until my change comes; until my change (Job 14:14-15). Job understood of a resurrection, which is described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, as a change from mortal to immortality—from flesh to spirit. That is what that change is all about but it is also for a great purpose of helping to correct the evils, the injustice and the problems of this physical life as a result of sin and to create an entirely different world. That's what the dead wait for; that's what they will do when they are awakened from that sleep through the resurrection.
[Steve] Yeah I was just thinking about the apostle Paul and what he taught. There's a whole section in the book of 1 Corinthians 15, sometimes it's called the resurrection chapter because it focuses so much on this very idea, where Paul says behold I tell you a mystery, and this is something that a lot of people just don't grasp. They don't understand. And he says we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. So, as the time of the return, that there will be a change. And people will awaken out of the graves to that resurrection.
[Darris] It describes a resurrection to a completely different life and an opportunity to again as I said, help correct the problems that were a part of this life. You know Steve we did a program on the Middle East family feud. And we talked about the solution there. Part of the solution is in this program that you're doing, of that we're talking about here, because the Bible clearly shows that God through His plan has prepared people who when that Kingdom comes, and that time of that resurrection will have that—the reign of power—turned over to them. That Kingdom that Christ brings is not going to be left to other people, it will be left to those who have been prepared through a lifetime of overcoming today to reign and to rule with Christ during that period of time and to begin to solve the problems like the Middle East; the problems there, other difficulties and challenges that have been unsolved by human governments. People who are a part of this awakening will have been prepared for that. That's what they're waiting for.
[Steve] Yeah it seems like some don't realize that this is even a prophetic thing.
[Darris] It is.
[Steve] That is was prophesied about. We find that in the book of Daniel where he prophesied about that very fact, didn't he?
[Darris] He did in Daniel 12:1. He said that they sleep until the time of a judgment and a resurrection to judgment to condemnation and also to life. The same phrase that Jesus used in John 5 is speaking of a resurrection as well, to life as well as to judgment. The resurrection is to a time of judgment. It's not all bad in that sense because judgment also involves a reward for one's works in this life as part of that. But that is something people don't always like to focus on and understand in regard to God and His purpose and work with this and that is that there will be a judgment coming.
[Steve] And I think that brings up an important point because as you think about this, as people are sleeping in death, you know why does that matter to me? You know, if I think of it that way or think of it some other way, what's the significance for my life so I'll be awakened? Is that important to me and why should it be important to, especially to our viewers?
[Darris] It's important because it's God's plan. It's God's purpose. The Bible speaks clearly to a resurrection and understanding how one can fit within that resurrection is very, very critical to having an understanding of what this life is about today and certainly a correct hope for the future.
[Steve] It tells us how we need to live, doesn't it? This belief, our understanding of the plan, should make a difference in who we are and how we live our life.
Well I hope you will remember our free offers. Remember get your copy of our booklet, Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? And when you call, we'll also send you a free subscription to The Good News magazine. So call us toll free: 1-888-886-8632. That's 1-888-886-8632. Or, you can read The Good News online at BeyondToday.tv .
Course when you're looking to the truth of the Word of God, you can have hope. You see death, like sleep, is not permanent. There will be an awakening.
This beautiful picture of the future is not a figment of your imagination, but it comes directly from the Bible—the Word of God.
When you look to the one true source, the source of all things, there is incredibly good news. The time will come when the dead in Christ will be resurrected from sleep to immortal life at Jesus Christ's return to earth.
So be faithful. Look forward to His return!
I'll be right back with a final comment right after this.
[Narrator] Christ came to earth with a central message of the Kingdom of God. What is the Kingdom of God? Most have never heard or understood what Jesus actually taught on this subject. The United Church of God is hosting free seminars held simultaneously around the world.
[Steve] That Kingdom is coming to earth—that was the message of Jesus Christ. It's not a Kingdom that's off up there in heaven but it's a Kingdom that Christ is going to establish right here on this earth.
[Narrator] Go to KOGSeminars.org for details to find one near you. Kingdom of God Bible Seminars—giving the message of hope for tomorrow, beginning today.
[Steve] Sign up to attend our informative Bible seminars today. Thanks for joining us. Don't forget our free offers and be sure to tell your family and friends about us. Tune in again next week for another edition of Beyond Today and join us in praying, "Thy Kingdom come." For Beyond Today, I'm Steve Myers. Thanks for watching.