Dear Associates, Students and Friends:
Death. The last Enemy.
It is, or will be in the future, a common, shared experience for every human being, except for those very few who will be taken bodily into the air and changed to immortality at the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ,
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, ... the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so [and only then] shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
1 Thessalonians 4:16–18
Everyone else must experience death, just as Jesus Christ experienced death. His suffering and death was for the purpose of wiping away our sins and to be the captain of our salvation through his resurrection (Hebrews 2:9–10). For us death will be an experience we all must endure.
After we die we will not be conscious of, or think about, our shared experience until our various initial resurrections — to immortality (for believers, when Christ returns) or to the flesh for judgment (meaning instruction, correction and reconciliation with God through Christ), to occur at the White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11–13). Only then will we begin to comprehend the true meaning of our shared experience of death. Until that time, everyone who has died is still dead. They have ceased to exist in any way, except in God’s memory. The dead are nonexistent and certainly not conscious in any way.
One can glimpse a feeling for a "shared experience" by looking at past experiences common to large groups of people. Whenever there are great disasters, wars or events that shake our souls to the foundation of our being, it is these events that involve a common, shared experience. Such experiences allow us to relate to other human beings and — for a moment — not feel so alone in the universe because we can freely share our frights, cares and emotions with others.
Everyone who has been present at historically recent events, whether earthquakes (in Alaska, California, Japan, Mexico or other parts of the world), or blackouts (such as in 1967 in the northeast United States), Pearl Harbor (for the United States in 1941), the murder of President Kennedy (in 1963), the death of Princess Diana (in 1997), or the September 11 attacks (in the United States in 2001), hurricanes or wars — all such events are shared experiences that provoke deep thought, camaraderie and among survivors, in a type of community with a universal familiarity and understanding of such events. Death is such an event.
Many everyday shared experiences are common to most people and societies such as our own birth, transition to adulthood, work, marriage, bearing children (for most women), and death of others, all such events in our lives are recognized, celebrated and ritualized in our various cultures, usually within a religious context. (Most often in a non-biblical way.)
Death is not only an experience shared with most all humankind, it is also unique to each person. Each death experience is individual and exceptional. Everyone’s story will be fascinating and special when he or she leaves that experience behind after their eventual resurrection to immortality, and when death is no more.
Keep this in mind as you learn from Dr. Martin’s presentation (back some 23 years ago) of the biblical understanding of what death is, and the proper biblical meaning of death and dying. This month’s advertised article is "To Preach Your Own Funeral." It was gratifying for me to know that I was able to carry out Dr. Martin’s burial service in a way that was consistent with what he expressed decades ago, and later some months before his death.
This article was originally presented by Dr. Martin as an audiotape in 1979 and is simultaneously available as a free audio at the ASK Website. An excellent way to learn is by listening to Dr. Martin’s voice while reading along with the text of his lecture. The audio is located in the "Audio Tapes" section of the ASK Web page in the lower left corner (www.askelm.com).
Also included is a second short article "The Death of Death" written by Dr. Martin in 1979. (No audio accompanies with this article.) It presents the conclusion to the story of death for humankind and the sequel, when death is no more.
Another year-end reminder:If you need or wish to have a year-end receipt of your contributions to ASK, you must request that one be sent to you. We do not automatically send out year-end receipts. We do so only upon request. We are happy to provide this service.
Next month’s article will be "The Secret of Ancient Religion" by Ernest L. Martin. It presents the basis from history for pagan religions and how they transformed themselves to confront the challenges of major historical events and especially the advent of Jesus into the world.
We recently began to put on the ASK Website the entire book The Tithing Dilemma. One chapter each week will be presented for you to read or review. Soon we will be putting up the small book The ABC’s of the Gospel in its entirety on the ASK website for you to read or print from the computer. This little book provides a sort of introduction to The Essentials of New Testament Doctrine. It will familiarize many of you — some for the first time — with some of the basics contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Of course, these books can be purchased in a more convenient book form. As I have written before, most everything will eventually be on the ASK website, including entire books. This is slowly becoming a reality.
Also, Chip Chuprinko’s video about the ASK Website, past, present and future from the July 13 meeting, is now up and running on the ASK Website in the "ASK Videos" section. It can be viewed immediately.
We try to express our appreciation every time you contact us by letter, email or by phone. We do this because we feel deeply thankful about your various contributions to ASK. Know that you have our sincere gratitude for everything you do for ASK through your prayers, your discussions, your enthusiasm, your purchases and your financial contributions so that ASK can continue to put forth material that expands our enjoyment, knowledge and discernment of the Bible, the Word of God. Such is the responsibility and burden we have taken up, and our joy. Even though we may be far from each other in physical distance, each one of you can be close to God via the vehicle of the Holy Bible, without the mediation of man, but through Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).
David W. Sielaff
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