It will be a year in a couple of months that my dad passed away. Since his passing, I have been to a few more funerals of friends and church members. Why talk about death on a Christian apologetics site? Well, because we all know someone that has passed; it will happen to all of us; and the Bible has plenty to say about it.
Just a quick synopsis of what the Bible says about death. First of all death came into the world because of sin. Paul tells us, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom 5:12). “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgement” (Hebrew 9:27). “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25) “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-21). John tells us, “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). These scriptures are very important to the foundation of our Christian faith, and these should be comforting at the time of our loss. My purpose here is to comfort someone’s heart.
In comparison to the Christian view, Islam teaches that at the end of history, God will judge the work of all men. Those whose good deeds outweigh their bad deeds will enter into paradise. The rest will be consigned to hell. Atheists believe that at death the person ceases to exist, and there is no eternal soul that continues on for eternity. Eastern and New Age religions hold to a pantheistic world view where one goes through an endless cycle of reincarnation until the cycle is broken and the person becomes one with the divine. Those who hold to the tribal religions teach that after death the human soul remains on the earth or travels to join the departed spirits of the ancestors in the underworld.
We as Christians know that our believing loved ones go to heaven after they pass on, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8), but we are still left with that empty pain in our hearts from missing them dearly. We miss the love they showed us; their contagious laughter; the wisdom and the advice they gave us; but especially their company. When they leave us we miss them, and from our perspective it seems like an eternity until we will see them again.
Did you ever wonder why “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) after being told that Lazarus had died? He knew and knows the beginning from the end. So what brought Him to tears? I think the love he has for us. In his humanity, something struck a chord in his heart. Perhaps he remembered something special that happened between him and Lazarus. Or he was moved by seeing how Lazarus’ family was feeling. Therefore I see this as a written example of how we can react when someone special leaves us.
The good news is we don’t have to walk this painful journey by ourselves, because when Jesus ascended, he promised to send the Comforter. So what does this mean to us as mourners? It means that we are not alone during these hard times. It means that the Creator of the universe is with us. He tells us that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18). It means we can rest in his peace and comfort that is beyond our understanding.
Lastly, God tells us in his Word to comfort each other as we are comforted by him (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). We do need each other during the loss of a loved one. Knowing that the other person knows what we are feeling brings comfort and takes the edge off our pain. I’ve held my mom’s hands as she wept for my dad. On Christmas morning I was telling my daughter that this was the first year in as long as I could remember that I didn’t get to wrap a gift for my dad. My daughter shared that she remembered how much he loved her buttered yams last year. Before we knew it we are crying over food preparation! Just as real as the pain is, so is the comfort.
So what is the take away to this year of grieving?
- We have the blessed hope to see our loved ones again.
- We are allowed to grieve.
- We are comforted by the Holy Spirit in the midst of our pain.
- We are comforted by one another.
- Our Hope is in the resurrection of Christ.
So with that said, cherish and value people you love while they are still here. Also remember the good memories of the special people that have left and just remember that we will see them very soon.
Blog authored by Rebecca Coca
It’s amazing the things you see on social media these days. Lightening-fast news updates, good info on the latest movie, pictures of fuzzy animals doing whatever fuzzy animals do, laugh-out-loud stories of your neighbor’s kid doing whatever your neighbor’s kid does, a few things you wish could un-see, and more than a few articles or videos that soundscriptural, but aren’t.
Sound familiar? You click on a link hoping to find God-breathed wisdom just to find a few scriptures taken out of context and turned into a bunch of man-made foolishness. Yet it actually does have a slight ring of godliness. Well, sure, it certainly sounds like something Jesus would teach if He were here now. Then again, maybe not. Part of you wonders how this ever made it onto a Bible-believing Christian’s Timeline, another part of you wonders how we’re to ever tell the difference between Truth and counterfeit.
Last week, Jamie led us through the first and best way to spot a counterfeit doctrine: Become intimately acquainted with the Truth. The next way to detect counterfeit doctrines is to get to know them. That’s right, study them, get to know how and where and why they differ from the firm foundation of Truth. Why is this important? Because many counterfeit doctrines can, in fact, look pretty darn close to the Truth sometimes.
For example, study the picture below.
Somewhere in this photo, there is one letter that is different from the others…and it’s very difficult to distinguish it from the rest. The difference between a Q and an O (the differing letter in the photo), though small, is one that changes queen to oueen, quack to ouack, and quazi to ouazi. The slight change creates a new word that no longer makes any sense. Even seemingly inconsequential differences between doctrines can lead to big changes in meaning.
One example is the assertion that Muslims and Christians may worship the same God. This idea can cause Christians pause, especially when understanding the similarities in the Islamic views of God. But a detailed investigation into the religion will prove that, though a complex matter, Christians and Muslims do not worship the same triune God of the Bible.
Another vivid example is Penn Jillette’s re-write of the 10 Commandments. The famous comedic magician, author, and atheist chose 10 biblical sounding creeds by which all people should live, including love as one of the highest ideals in life, not putting things or ideas above other human beings, putting aside time to rest, respecting all human life, keeping your promises, not stealing, not lying, and not being envious. Sound familiar? Yet a deeper search reveals that within these slight variations, even by Jillette’s own admission, God’s Truth is removed.
Even closer to home, religious leaders such as Joel Osteen and Rob Bell, among many others, present counterfeit doctrines dressed up in gleaming smiles, promises of riches, and hopes of eternal bliss for the unsaved. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But is it True?
Without thorough training in Truth, and without further delving into the counterfeits to find where they differ from that Truth, we can be deceived into believing an O is really a Q. To be truly prepared to give an answer for the hope within us, and to successfully navigate the often confusing world of counterfeits, we need to understand what other belief systems claim and how those claims differ from Christianity.
Indeed, without truly understanding what others precisely believe, it will be difficult to abide by the principle of presenting our own beliefs and hope with kindness and respect.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10 tells us, “and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” As Jamie wrote last week, immerse yourself in God-breathed Scripture. Get to know the scent and the sound and the feel of God and His Truth. And then examine other beliefs in the light and context of the Real Thing. This is the second step in detecting counterfeit doctrines. “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:5).
In this blog I want to explore a few aspects of dualism that I believe could lend great support to the teaching and truth found in the Bible. Keep in mind that these ideas are early in development and will require much more thought to prove them either true or false.
To begin, we need to define our terms, the first one being dualism.
Dualism states that things are defined by their opposite (and by extension you must have knowledge or experience of both sides of a dualistic thing in order to understand the other side.)
We see this with many examples in our dualistic world. You cannot understand light without understanding what dark is. You cannot understand high without understanding low. You cannot understand love without understanding hate, etc. Now understand that you don’t have to know both aspects in order for one to be real. For example, imagine a hypothetical situation where someone is raised in a way that he never experiences darkness (there is always light). Dualism does not cease to exist, it’s just unknowable to him until he experiences both sides. Our first argument for the Bible from dualism will come from this idea: that while you don’t have to experience both sides (light and dark) for either to be true, you do have to experience both sides in order to understand one side.
Our next observation when dealing with Dualism is the necessity for it to be applied to itself. You cannot say that everything (including ideas or abstract notions) is defined by its opposite, and then exempt that statement from its own implications. If everything is defined by its opposite, why is a world that follows the laws of dualism not included? The opposite of a dualistic world or reality would be a non -dualistic world or reality, one that is not bound by the laws of dualism.
Using these two notions we can support multiple aspects of Biblical teaching:
1. We understand what Dualism is. We understand that our world functions by the rules of dualism, that things can be defined by their opposite. But according to dualism the only way to understand something is by also understanding its opposite. We again will reiterate that dualism itself as a philosophy that must be subjected to its own rules, and if there is a dualistic reality, there must also be a non-dualistic reality. But this is where we are left with the question that if we must know the opposite in order to understand a thing, how do we know that this world is dualistic? The only way to understand dualism would be to understand non-dualism, but how is it possible to understand non-dualism in a dualistic world? The Bible gives us a satisfactory answer to this question. The Bible says that we are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), that there is an aspect of humanity that is like God. Romans 1:18-25 says that everyone actually knows God, but many suppress that truth in unrighteousness. How does this solve the problem? God is by definition non-dualistic. Within the being of God, within his nature, there is only one side of the spectrum – not good and evil, just good. If we are made in his image (and with the knowledge of him) that would explain how we can understand dualism in this world.
The next Biblical implication would be the existence of a non-dualistic world as a counterpart to our dualistic world. The Biblical model for heaven would fit this non-dualistic description, where there is no more sorrow (although joy exists) there is no more pain (although pleasure is there), etc. In a non-dualistic world things are not defined by their opposite, but by themselves. Granted, that is hard for us to understand in our dualistic world, but our lack of understanding doesn’t prove it wrong. Surely the opposite of things being defined by their opposite would be things defined by themselves, and since we understand things being defined by their opposite, that means we again must have an understanding of things that are defined by themselves (like God, when he swears by himself in the Old Testament).
Some could object and say that a problem biblically will come about with the doctrine of this dualistic world being destroyed and passing away as Revelation talks about, but that isn’t true. Non-dualism (heaven, God, etc.) does not need dualism in order to survive and exist and be known. Only this dualistic world needs God in order to be known and understood. Non-dualism does just fine without dualism. By definition, it’s non-dualistic and therefore does not need its opposite to be defined.
Another area I still need to develop (although all these areas still need further developing) is the apparent dualism of heaven and hell, and how that plays into everything.
There has been no objection raised more often to the Christian teachings and doctrine of God than the issue of suffering and evil. Everyone has wondered why bad things happen, why people must suffer, but very few have the correct understanding of what Scripture says on the topic. This isn’t a question unique to Christianity though, every worldview, every philosophy, every religion must provide an answer to this question, and I think you’ll find the true biblical answer is far different from what others will say.
Now I cannot guarantee you will like the biblical answer to the question, but my goal is not so much to say what you want to hear, but to speak the truth of the Word. The question is typically asked as, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Why is it that good people have to suffer in this world? Why do innocent people starve to death all around the world each day? How could an all-loving God allow such things to happen? Now keep in mind, the question is always asked about innocent, good people, never has anyone (to my knowledge) asked: “Why did God let Hitler have such a rough ending to his life?” No one cares that Hitler suffered and ended up committing suicide. Everyone’s okay with that, because Hitler was a nasty individual who very few people see as being good. But Hitler aside, why do bad things happen to good people? How does the Bible answer that question? The answer goes something like this: bad things do not happen to good people. Pretty simple isn’t it? Here’s what the Bible says:
Romans 3:10: “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one.”
Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
When we look at the Biblical description of mankind, humans, it’s pretty clear that humans are wicked, that we are unrighteous, and that we are not good. THAT is the state of mankind, which means when you ask the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people”, you are assuming something that is contrary to what Scripture has told us. You are assuming people are good, which is biblically wrong. No one is good, we are all sinners and deserve to be judged by God and spend eternity separated from Him in hell, which means we are asking the wrong question.
The question should be “Why do good things happen to bad people?” After all, we are all sinners and deserve nothing good, yet God (despite our circumstance) has allowed us to experience love, beauty, peace, joy, etc. God has given us a free gift of salvation (which we don’t deserve) and a promise of eternity with Him. But the question is, why? The answer is also quite simple: the Bible says that God is love, that He loves us so much He came to die for our sins and provide a way for us to spend eternity with Him. But once again, this isn’t something we deserve, it’s a free gift that he has given us out of His love.
The Bible tells us that everything God made was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). There was no suffering or pain in God’s original plan until man decided to rebel against Him. We decided to sin, we decided to bring evil, suffering, and pain into this world by our actions. The Bible says that ALL have sinned (except Jesus Christ) and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all deserve bad things because of our sin and rebellion toward God. There is only one example of bad things happening to a good person – and He suffered them for you.
The only person who hasn’t sinned, who deserved no suffering (Jesus Christ) is the one who came and suffered on a cross so that we could be saved from the punishment we all deserve. If we repent and put our faith in Christ we also have the promise that suffering will not go on forever, that there will be an end to whatever pain we may find ourselves in. Revelation 21:4: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
But that’s still not the end, God went even further. God not only provides a way out of our suffering, but He uses the bad things that happen for good if we will trust Him! Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” It doesn’t mean everything is going to be good that happens; things happen in this life that hurt and cause us pain because we live in a world full of sin, but God has promised to use those things for good in the end. The question (“Why do bad things happen to good people?”) is raised to question the love of God, but when properly examined in the light of Scripture, it shows just how much God loves us.