Beyond the Grave
By Brian Pepper
I suppose one of the hardest things that
any minister has to perform in the course of his ministry is to
take the news of a death to a mother or father. Death is a
cruel thing. Death is a sad thing. There was a time when I
feared death. I think that we often fear a thing because
not know very much about it. The
people in the world today really know very little
about death. They have never taken the time to see what the Bible
really says about it.
What the Bible says about death
Jesus said: "I am the resurrection, and the life: he
that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."
When Jesus was on this earth he had much
to say about his father's house. He kept pointing to the
mansions on high. He urged his followers to look beyond the
grave. He held out the promise of better things to come.
Eventually he laid down his own life and after three days rose
from the dead. It is on this fact that Paul builds his strongest
argument to bring hope to bereaved men and women. Listen to this
1 Corinthians 15:16:
"For if the dead rise not, then is not
In other words, if there is no
resurrection, then Christ is not risen. And he continues,
17,18: "If Christ be not raised…they also which
are fallen asleep in Christ are perished."
You see, the one depends upon the other.
The resurrection of your loved ones is as certain as the
resurrection of Christ. Your hopes and my hopes depend entirely
on the resurrection of Christ.
has no answer to death
With the great advance in science that
is evident in the world today, we have seen one after another of
the enemies of man conquered and eventually wiped out.
Smallpox, malaria, tuberculosis and polio have all succumbed to
the advance of science. Cancer and heart disease is beginning to
yield to the persistent study. But death still remains. This
space age generation still stands as helpless before the power
of death as any other. St Paul says in
"The last enemy
that shall be destroyed is death."
Christ can destroy death
And only Christ can destroy it. I
want you to be very clear on that. It is only a risen Christ
that can break the chains of the grave. In
Rev 1:18, the
"I am he that
liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore,
Amen: and have the keys of hell and of death."
Yes, he was the one who broke the bands
of death by his mighty power.
It was Isaiah who said, in
"Thy dead men shall live, together with my
dead body shall they arise…And the earth shall cast out the
Thy dead men shall live. Isn't that
wonderful news? The earth shall cast out the dead.
What happens when a man dies?
But the question is, how will it all
come about? And what happens to a man between death and
In the world today we find that there
are various opinions, sincere opinions, as to the condition of a
man in death. There are some who believe that if a righteous man
dies, he goes immediately to heaven. And that if a wicked man
dies, he goes at once to hell fire. Others say that this
is not entirely true; that when a man dies, he stops over at a
place called purgatory for cleansing. There are many who insist
that he goes to a spirit world where he is able to send messages
to his loved ones. There are still others who are convinced that
when a man dies, it is the end of him forever. And there are
those who believe that when a man dies, he quietly sleeps until
the resurrection day.
Now you can readily see that all of
these opinions cannot possibly be correct, for they are all
contradictory. And there is one thing that is very certain: no
man who lives this side of the grave can know what lies in and
beyond the grave. But God knows, and in the Scriptures he
has placed enough information to satisfy any man who really
wants to know the truth of this matter. You see, we are not left
to our own faulty opinions. Let me take you to what I believe is
the plainest text in all the Scriptures about what happens to a
man when he dies. It is found in
"Then shall the
dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return
unto God who gave it."
Here we have a description of what
happens to a man when he dies. And the question naturally
arises, what is this spirit that returns to God?
the spirit that returns to God?
Now in many Bibles, down the centre of
the page, you will find a what we speak of as the margin. In
this margin, the men who prepared the Bible for printing have
indicated other texts that they feel refer to the same subject.
They have also given us some alternate readings of the original
text. For instance, we read in
James 2:26 that:
"The body without
the spirit is dead."
In the margin we find that an alternate
translation for spirit is 'breath'. So you can see that it can
read this way:
"The body without the breath is dead."
You see, it is the spirit or the breath,
which keeps the body alive. Now I would like you to notice
"All the while my
breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils."
Again we find in the margin that
'spirit' might be translated 'breath'. We find that the two
words are used interchangeably in the Scriptures.
"The spirit of God is in
It is quite clear that the spirit that a
man receives from God and that goes back to God when he dies, is
what God put in his nostrils. So we ask this question,
what did God put into a man's nostrils? Reading
"And the LORD God
formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul."
about man's soul?
God breathed into man's nostrils at
creation the breath of life. And the death, that breath or
spirit of life simply returns to God who gave it. You see it is
the breath of life that gives life to a man.
"And the LORD God formed
man from the dust of the ground."
Let us just for a moment picture the
scene as man is ready to come from the hands of his Creator.
There he is! Complete in every part. There is a brain in his
head ready to think, but it isn't thinking yet. There is blood
in his veins ready to flow. There is a heart in his breast
ready to beat, but it hasn't started yet. He is ready to
live. He is ready to move, but it hasn't started to move
But listen to this:
into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living
Nowhere are we told in the Scriptures
that God gave man a living soul. Man became a living soul as the
result of God placing the breath into his nostrils. Then when a
man dies, according to
"The dust returns
to the earth as it was, and the spirit of life, or the breath of
life, returns to God who gave it."
What happens to the soul at death?
That is clear enough, is it not?
Now this question may help us to understand: if the union of the
dust of the ground and the breath of life makes a man a living
soul, then what happens to that living soul at death?
Anyone can see that it simply ceases to be a living soul until
the life-giver reunites the body and the breath of life on the
morning of the resurrection.
Suppose we have here a pile of boards and a pile of nails. That
is all we have, just a pile of boards and a pile of nails. Now
we take these boards and we nail them together according to a
plan. We no longer have a pile of boards and a pile of nails; we
have a box. Where did the box come from? "Oh," you say,
"it came from the union of the pile of boards and the pile of
nails." And you are right.
Now let us suppose that we no longer
want a box, so we pull out the nails and put them in one place,
and lay the boards in another place. Now where did the box go
to? You say, "it didn’t go anywhere; it simply ceased to
be a box." And you are right again. Just so, in the
beginning God formed man of two things, the dust of the ground
and the breath of life. And as a result of uniting these two,
man became a living, loving, acting soul. When he dies, the two
separate. The dust returns to the ground. The breath, returns to
God who gave it. That living, moving soul is changed to a dead
soul. And remains that way until the resurrection when the body
and the breath of life are united again.
Resurrection of the dead
What does that mean to you? What
does that mean to me? It means that when a Christian dies,
he can know that in the resurrection morning, not only will his
life be restored, but he will also be given immortal life. 1
Corinthians 15:51-54 says:
"Behold I shew
you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be
changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last
trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised
incorruptible and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must
put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So
when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this
mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to
pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in
What wonderful news! But I ask you. You
believe what I have just read regarding the resurrection. You
believe that when Jesus comes He will call the dead to life. Of
course you do: that is if you are a Christian. The resurrection
has been the hope of all Christians through the centuries. Yes,
everyone looks forward to the resurrection.
resurrection if the dead are in heaven?
Now I ask you. Why would we need a
resurrection if we have already entered heaven at death. Yes,
why would Jesus come to get His loved ones, if as it is
popularly believed, they are already with him? We read in the
Bible that men and women are judged in the last days. I ask you
this, why would a judgment be needed if the dead are already in
their place of rewards? Cant you see it? There is something
wrong here. These ideas have crept into the Church and today
many of them are accepted because most folk never bother to
check up for themselves. No, according to the Scriptures, death
does not mean that we go to heaven. Death does not mean that we
are going to hell-fire.
Death does not mean to go to purgatory.
Death does not mean to go to the spirit world. Death does not
mean to go anywhere. Death simply means a cessation of life, a
sleep, until the resurrection morning. Jesus called death a
sleep. When Lazarus had died, He said simply, in
Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep."
The Christian hope of a resurrection
Now I ask you, is there anything more
relaxing, more wonderful, than dreamless, peaceful sleep at
night? All toil, all heartaches, are all forgotten. There is no
sense of passing time. And so, the Christian who dies may close
his eyes in sleep for a hundred years, yet to him it will seem
the very next moment when he opens his eyes to see Jesus. Just
think of it! One moment the eyes are closed in the sleep of
death. The next, conscious of that great resurrection call. Now
doesn't that take away the sting of death? Yes, God's way is the
best after all. We do not enter heaven one by one. We will all
go together, at Christ's return, escorted by the Saviour Himself
into the city of God.
1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 says:
"For the Lord
himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice
of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and 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 shall we ever be with the Lord."
The God of Life will speak on that
resurrection morning. Loved ones who have passed from us, their
bodies racked by disease and pain, will come forth in the
likeness of their Lord, in new and wonderful bodies, perfect in
form and glowing health. When Jesus comes through the blazing
heavens, he will call out with a voice of thunder:
"Awake, ye that
sleep in the dust of the earth. Arise to everlasting life!"
And that voice will be heard the world
around. Families will be united; children snatched away by death
will be placed again in their mother's arms. What a great
reunion day it will be! Think of what it will mean to the
crippled, to the blind, to those weakened by disease, to minds
confused by fear. God says in
"The eyes of the
blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be
unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap…and the tongue of the
But think what it will mean to the able
bodied and the strong, to those who love life and want to live.
Death may seem welcome to the body racked by disease and pain,
but to the strong and the youthful, death can mean only
disappointed hopes, disillusionment. Here is the answer to
resurrection day is not far away
That day is not far distant. It is the
day to which Job looked forward when he said:
"Yet in my flesh
shall I see God."
It is the day of which David said:
"I shall be
satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."
It was the same day mentioned by the
dying thief when he prayed, in
"Lord, remember me when thou comest into
I wonder if we realise the faith it took
for the dying thief to pray that prayer. For it seemed very
unlikely that the One who called himself the Son of God would
ever have a kingdom in that dark hour. And I wonder if we can
comprehend the faith it took for the Son of God to answer as he
did. I want you to notice the vital significance of that word
when even my disciples have forsaken me.
when my own people have crucified me.
when it looks that I shall never have a kingdom.
when it looks as though I could never save anybody.
"I say unto you
today, you will be with me in paradise."
Resurrection our only hope
Friend, never let a comma, misplaced by
sincere men, ever confuse you. The thief, no doubt, did not die
that day. He did not expect Jesus to die that day. He knew that
death by crucifixion was a long, slow process, often taking
several days. You will recall the surprise of Pilate, late that
afternoon, when he learned that Jesus was already dead.
And death for the Son of God was to be like that which comes to
everyman- a quiet restful sleep. He was to be resurrected, not
from three days in paradise but from three days in the tomb. For
did he not say to Mary on that Sunday morning, found in
20:17: "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended
to my father."
No, the dying thief looked far past that
dark hour when he said:
me when thou comest into thy kingdom."
Friends, the resurrection is our only
hope. And one day soon we will be reunited with the departed
loved ones. May God help us to be ready is my earnest prayer.