Chapter 10 - From Crossing The Bar to Where Are The Dead?
In Chicago, as one approaches a certain cemetery, there are to be seen two gigantic columns which have been so sculptured that at the top they are jagged and very irregular. This suggests death in this way. But it is not the Christian concept of death at all. It does not represent the Christian concept of death, When George Washington, in 1799 said, "Doctor, I am dying but I am not afraid to die," he was telling his statement, his affirmation of faith.
The meaning can be portrayed somewhat by some young fellows who went out berrying. First, they said, they would go out and pick berries and then, on the way home, they would let the train run over them. What they meant was, they would go to a bank beside the train track and there they would wait for the train to come • The shadow of the train toward the evening time of day, would be upon them. They were "run over" by the train, they thought. Surely there were the shadows of the train running over them. Cooth as it is, I think it is the best illustration of death. The flick, the passing through the tunnel, we say good-bye to our loved ones here and with our handkerchiefs we weep, we cry our tears saying good-bye.
We must never forget that on the other shore there are angels in heaven who are waving and beckoning them on. What is our loss is their gain.
We have been pictured as a ship leaving this port for the. entry into the heavenly portals of God. There are many ideas to soften death, for example: Whitman, years ago, said, "It's cool in holding death," another said, "The fine serenity of death," while Shakespeare said, "A necessary end." But nothing compares to the scripture as it speaks of death as the great ascent, "Oh, death, where is your sting?"
Now I'd like you to picture yourself at the last funeral you attended. Or if it has been a long time, perhaps we could re-construct it. You could picture yourself in the sanctuary or funeral chapel and before you is the casket of your loved one or friend who has passed away. This, I would say, would be the second most important event that could occur in that one's life. The second most important spiritual event that occurs to an individual is death! It is the trumpet's call, it's a time to rejoice, but because we are human people, because we are so bent toward our emotions, we are filled with tears and remorse. This is normal and it is natural. But basically, when someone dies, it's time to rejoice because they have answered the victory trumpet and now, as a Christian, they are with God.
I say this is the second most important spiritual event. The first most important spiritual event is becoming saved, following through with baptism, which Jesus ordained.
The second most important event is death, It's a day in which the individual truly begins to live. And so at this funeral you would see before you the tabernacle, the house, if you please, in which the person lived. He is not there, he is with God. What you see before you, if it is an open casket funeral, would be simply a tabernacle, a house made of dust, clay, soil, (because that's all. we are) into which a spirit has been breathed, mainly God's spirit because we are God's life.
So the faith that our friend represented is the faith that they had, the faith that they lived as Christians. The faith that was taken out, not in case of emergency, but the faith that sustained him through emergencies. But if, through our crying and through our tears we could hear the voice of God saying, "For me to die is gain," or "A house not built with earthly hands," or again, "Come unto me and I'll give you rest," then we can truly understand the meaning of death--the idea of crossing the bar.
Our text comes from John 11:28. "The Master has come and calls you." The Master is come and calls you. We know the context in which this was spoken. It was the occasion of the death of Lazarus, a very close friend of Jesus.
Jesus told Nary and Martha that he would live again, and he spoke some very important words to him. But the words of Mary, who said, "The Master has come and called for you," is our basis for this chapter.
To say that "the Master has called" gives indication that there is something to go to. There is somewhere to go. Which is to say death is not the end, it is only the beginning. It is the beginning of a gateway to a completely new life with Him. I suggest two things to you: I. The End of the Road and II. Behind the End of the Road.
I. The End of the Road
Psalms 39:4 records, "Lord, make me to know my end." The end comes to every physical life. As the scripture written earlier said, "It is upon men once to die." This we cannot escape.
When we come to the end of the way we look back. We may look at the future as though through tinted glasses, tinted with our own limitations, as they are. At the end we look back and we ask, "Has our living been successful, has the world been better, have we been a contribution?" Not how much we got, but how much did we give to others. This is a backward glance. At the end of the road have a forward glance. This could be termed, "beyond the end.
Let me illustrate: Some years ago I was in the country of Haiti on a preaching mission. We were scheduled two, three and sometimes four speaking engagements for several weeks. One afternoon I was invited to go on a "pleasure ride" in an old model jeep. My interpreter and I got in and the driver headed down the road. Soon a right turn was taken which led down a seldom used road. This was evident by the close growing brush at place down the way. The "road", end I use the term very loosely, soon gave way to just two ruts in the road in which the wheels of the jeep made their way.
We came to the end - or at least so I thought. Through the interpreter, the driver indicated to us by a gesture, to get out. This we did. "Come on, follow me" came the words. I followed. Our walk, which lasted only for fifteen feet or so, soon came to a complete end. We could travel no further. There was a wall of underbrush. "Watch." The the driver took a cane which he had been carrying, and hacked away some of the underbrush as he said, "Look." I looked and beheld one of the prettiest sights of my life. Before me lay a valley laden with fruit beyond description and flowers with the sound of birds. It was truly a breathtaking experience to lay eyes on such a paradise.
My point: had I remained in the old jeep, I would never have seen this sight "at the end of the road." What I am trying to write is this; it is not death to pass from the old to the new. It would be death to stay with the old and refuse to go to the new. So, may we in this light, hack away the underbrush of lack of understanding and the growth of limited sight and believe that at the end there is more - in fact more than in the past.
Again, it is not death to pass from the old to the new. It would be death to stay with the old and refuse to go to the new.
At the end of the road there is a victory trumpet that sounds for us because there is a highway for souls to travel upon. But behind the end of the road: I call your attention to First Thessalonians 4:13 when Paul says, "I wouldn't have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep that they sorrow not even as others which have no hope."
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so those also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are living and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall scend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then, we which are living and remain shall be caught up together with Him in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. He said I would not want you to be ignorant brethren concerning them which already died, those have come to the end of the road.
For Paul says that they, literally, have pushed aside the shrubbery and doubts and the — undergrowth of the lack of understanding and they have now been ushered into a new relationship with God. The experience of death is just like a tunnel, it is going in one end of the tunnel and out the other. It only lasts for a brief span of time. When one end of the tunnel and out the other. It only lasts for a brief span of time. When one enters the tunnel, when one dies and comes to the end of the road, I believe that they are then placed behind the end of the road and I feel that the scripture very strongly points out the fact that there is no soul sleeping. When relatives have passed away, be it in years gone by, like a grandfather or a grandmother, or more recently, if they were Christians, when they reached the end and went behind the end of the road they did not go to sleep. I " believe that when a person dies they just go to sleep, as some people would believe, maybe many believe this, and it is all right, but for me it does not satisfy the foundation of God's love and His word to say that people will sleep when they die.
When they die, instantly they go into the presence of God, They are ushered into the presence of God. It is thought that death is bad, not death itself, for death is gentle. The scr1ptue says in Paul, writing about those who just "fell asleep", "For me to die is gain, so I " believe in soul sleeping, z believe there is an intermediate state.
I answer one question, where are the dead flow? The dead are in an intermediate state, In the Old Testament we read about "Sheol" and it is translated "Hades"; Sheol is the Hebrew word which is also translated "Hell." You have to follow me very closely here. it coincides or corresponds with the New Testament word translated "Hades." i think it is better to retain the Old Testament word "Sheol" which literally means "a pit" or "a grave" in translation. In other words, Sheol, which is Hades is the place, is the intermediate state, is the abode of the dead for both the good and the bad.
When one dies, I believe, they go to Sheol - they go to Hades - which is the abode of the dead. In this abode of the dead there is a divide, there is a great gulf. One side of the "great gulf" 's the abode of the blessed, one side is the abode of the lost. Those in the side of the lost are in what we can label Gehenna. Then those on the other side, paradise, upon judge day, will go to heaven, those in Gehenna will be ushered into Hell. I am saying that when one dies they go to an intermediate state. I feel the scripture teaches this. However, it is a state of consciousness; it is not a state of sleeping.
In this state, the disposition of the soul is fixed. I should say, entering this state, if you are not a Christian and you come to the end of the road, then you immediately go into the abode of the lost section of Hades which is Gehenna; if you are saved you will go to paradise when you die. The disposition of the soul is fixed and upon death it can not be altered. There is not a second chance after someone dies. If they are saved before they die they are saved afterwards and if they are lost before they die, they are lost afterwards.
This intermediate state is tentative in that it is only a little state of the blessed state of heaven or the awesome state of Hell. It is a state of consciousness and yet in completeness it is a state of joy and it is a state of misery for the wicked.
In Luke 16:26, we read "Beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed so that they who would come from hence to you cannot, neither can they pass to us that would come from hence." This, of course, is the story of the rich man in Lazarus. This brings us to:
II. Behind The End of the Road
In answering a question that has been asked me: Is the soul sleeping until the resurrection? If not, is there a consciousness? These people, who died, were conscious of what was appearing on earth and they were conscious of their own state. At death the soul of a Christian goes into the presence of God. Not heaven, per se, but a little heaven. As I see it, there is no limbo or any such similar terms of meaning, there is no soul sleeping at all.
In Ecclesiastes we read in 3:1,2, "There is a time to die." We have got to die, and yet there are people who say to us we " want you to talk about death, they request us, they even advise us, not to talk about it. Let's keep it far from us but the sound of the siren and the appearance of the hearse every day makes us conscious of it; we must come to terms with it.
People do die and for all we know one of us may die before the book is over. We have no assurance of life. Look at the rate of death in this world. 136,986 people die each day. To bring it down to smaller numbers, 57 people will have died within the hour of reading. To bring it down to comprehension, 95 people die every 60 seconds, or still further, two people will die every second. Tick tock - two seconds - four people just died. Death is upon us! It is appointed to every man to die. It is ordained that he must die. The important thing is to be ready when our time comes when as we read, "the Master comes and calls for you." If He calls for you right now, will you be ready to go? We must know this. The fact cannot be ignored. The time is coming for us sometime.
Now, if you will picture yourself back at this funeral home with the casket before you, there is nothing we can do - nothing we can do for this one. To begin with, he is not even here, it is only a tabernacle, his earthly apartment in which he lived. There is nothing we can do for him, but there is everything we can do for ourselves. Second Kings, 20 records for us in verse one, the Lord of the Prophet of Israel came to him and said unto him, "Thus saith the Lord, set your house in order for you shall die and not live." If this were a funeral I would say to the people, "Are your homes in order? I there any re arranging you have to do right now, for a Christian life?" Trusting in God is the only act of preparation for a holy death. Are you ready? Is everything in order? 'When the trumpet calls for you, it may be sooner than you think. We must be prepared. We must not let anything come between us and God.
One day, while driving down the highway, I noticed an old, dilapidated mine. Long gone are the days when people were taking ore out of it. I was reminded in Alaska, several years ago, that an expedition reached a very isolated part of the country and they came across an old mining shack. They opened the door and found the skeletons of two people who had met their death. Beside them gold ore was everywhere. They were certainly wealthy people after death. There was a diary kept as to the particulars about the mine and the people began reading it. They found that these two miners had become so engrossed in gaining what they were after that they wanted to stay an extra day. They forgot they had to get ready to leave because of the weather. They opened up a completely new vein and this prompted them to stay a bit longer. The temperature was dropping. They knew the winter was setting in but they were so obsessed in getting the ore that they would not leave,....and finally they could not leave. They had become snowbound.
We must not let things so occupy our attentions that provisions for the greater winter of death soon falls upon us and we neglect that which is so important in reaching a decision -- for the end of the road. Come, the Master calls for you."
When I come to the river at the end of the day and the last winds of sorrow have blown, there will be somebody waiting to show me the way, I won't have to cross Jordan alone. Often times I'm forsaken, weary and sad, when it seems my friends have all gone away. There is one, though, that cheers me and makes my heart glad, I won't have to cross Jordan alone. Jesus died for my sins to atone. When the darkness is seen, He'll be waiting for me, I won't have to cross Jordan alone. The words were, "Come, the Master calls for you."
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