It's probably the last thing on your mind you'd like to think about the inevitable. But today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll reminds us that embracing our destiny can and should accelerate and ignite our passion for God. He titled his message, Visiting the Real Twilight Zone. The crisp voice of Rod Serling is familiar to most of us.
Those well enunciated words. That amazing ability with such a fine script to carry us from the world of the seen to the unseen. Out of the realm of the now into the realm of tomorrow.
Another dimension called the Twilight Zone. Oh, I've had more fun with that this week than you'll ever believe. I stuck in my pocket and I was in a department store looking for ties and I turned it on. A dear guy next to me thought I'd moved into the realm of tomorrow. He looked at me and said, is that you?
And I said, it's not me. Doesn't it make you want to just curl up with your teddy bear in the fetal position and kind of suck your life away in some corner? There's something amazing about those haunting four notes. There's something so familiar and yet so strange. So strange.
Strange and perhaps a little bit fearful because that zone has a way of pushing at us and telling us in a number of different ways that this could happen. This may not be seen, but it may be real. Thanatologist Edwin Schneiderman found that the first time he taught a course on death at Harvard, 200 undergraduates from Harvard and Ratcliffe showed up in a classroom that could seat only 20. Since then, colleges everywhere have been offering courses on death and dying. There seems to be a renewed interest in the out of body experiences and the afterlife visions that even the medical profession is having to sit up and take notice.
J. Kirby Anderson, an associate with Probe Ministries and a lecturer on college campuses, has said in his book Life, Death and Beyond, students are signing up in order to try to register for my course later in the year. There's a growing interest in the real Twilight Zone. That part of us that wants to run yet finds ourselves strangely drawn back to reality.
That part of us that will allow a 30 minutes or an hour's entertainment on the television tube to hold us. And yet when we shut it off, we want to run from it. But we cannot run because it is real. We are going to die. I am going to die. Sounds ghoulish, but I want you to say that with me.
Here we go. I am going to die. You know, for some people, that's the first time in years they've let those words pass their lips. Who hasn't chuckled about the comment regarding the inevitability of taxes and death you can't get away from?
I like the way one wag put it. Maybe death and taxes are inevitable, but death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets. Good comment. Arnold Toynbee, the philosopher and historian, has said, Man alone has foreknowledge of his coming death. And possessing this foreknowledge, he has a chance, if he chooses to take it, of pondering over the strangeness of his destiny. He has at least a possibility of coping with it.
Since he is endowed with the capacity to think about it, to face it, and to deal with it in some way that is worthy of human dignity. For the next few minutes, I want you to do those things that Toynbee suggests. I want you to think about it in advance. I want you to face it. I want you to stop denying it.
I want you to deal with it. You are going to die. And just because you will no longer be seen on earth is no reason to believe that you will stop existing.
On the contrary, that which is invisible may be just as real as that which is seen and heard. You see, that's the part that haunts us. Sometimes death is sudden. Sometimes it is long and drawn out. Sometimes it's beautiful and sweet and comforting. Other times it is wrenching and hideous and bloody and ugly. Sometimes it comes early. We call that premature. Sometime in our doubting moments, we call it unfair. On other occasions, death comes, it seems, too late. And some dear soul endures until the 90s and beyond the 100 mark in pain and sadness and loss of memory and even loss of mind. But it comes.
It's coming. There's no getting around it. Without turning to these verses, listen to them from various versions of the scriptures.
Just sit and listen. Genesis 3. You will have to work hard and sweat to make the soil produce anything until you go back to the soil from which you were formed. You were made from soil and you will become soil again. Psalm 89. Who can live and never die? How can man keep himself from the grave? Psalm 90. Seventy years are given us and some may even live to 80. But even the best of these years are often emptiness and pain.
Soon they disappear and we are gone. Ecclesiastes 3. There is a right time for everything, a time to be born, a time to die. Ezekiel 18. The person who sins will die. Romans 5. Sin came into the world through one man and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race. 1 Corinthians 15. All people die because of their union with Adam. Hebrews 9.
Everyone must die once. And after that be judged by God. James 4.
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are like a puff of smoke, visible for a little while and then dissolving into thin air. Revelation 20. I saw a great white throne and the one who sat upon it from whose face earth and sky fled away and they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, great and small, standing before God. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is interwoven with reminders that we must die.
Euripides the poet is right. Death is the debt we all must pay. In fact, if it helps, you have an appointment with death. You just haven't kept it yet. You have an appointment.
Peter Marshall loved to tell the story that emerged as a legend out of Baghdad. Seems as though there was a servant who came to his master hurriedly one morning. Trembling and in great agitation, he said, down in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd. And when I turned around, I saw it was death who jostled me. She looked at me, frowned, and made a threatening gesture. Master, please lend me your horse, for I must hasten away to avoid her.
I will ride to Samara and there I will hide and death will not find me. The master consented and gave him his horse and the servant galloped away into the distance. Later, the merchant himself went down to the marketplace and saw death standing in the crowd. He went over to her and asked, why did you frighten my servant this morning? And why did you make that threatening gesture?
That was not a threatening gesture, death replied. It was only a surprise. I was astonished to see him here in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samara.
Yeah. All of us have an appointment with him in Samara. All of us. But what happens? What happens when we keep the appointment? What happens to me when my body is placed in a grave and my dear wife's body is placed in a grave? What happens to your loved one when you say goodbye for the last time? What happens to some individual whose death was destructive and dismembering and perhaps died in fire and even the remains couldn't be found? What happens?
What effect does death have on one's being? Again, we have the Scriptures to thank for assistance here. And I want you to move from the imaginary to the real, though unseen. Out of the creative twilight zone that rested on some script writer, I'd like you to turn to the real twilight zone and see your future.
2 Corinthians chapter 5. You owe it to yourself to turn. You have an appointment with this someday.
You need to see how it's going to turn out. First, let me talk to you who are Christians. I want to talk to you who know that you have eternal life with Jesus Christ forever. I want you to think in terms of categories. I want you to think about that which is seen as your body and that which is unseen, which is your inner person, your inner man, your soul and your spirit. Find those categories as we read this analogy of the house, which has been torn down.
It's a picture of the body when it dies. 2 Corinthians 5. We know that if the earthly tent, which is our house, is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Now for a moment, study verse 1. God promises us that there will be some kind of bodily existence, some kind of eternal house not made with hands that will fit us for eternity. The point of this passage is as long as we are living in this earthly body, he postpones the building of this eternal house.
Verse 2. Indeed, in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven. Just before speaking this hour, I spoke with a friend of mine who told me of his daughter who, though not old in years, is now marked by a disease that you and I would call tragic. I spoke with another friend just before speaking now and I heard her tell of her sister who has been on the mission field for 45 years and she's recently returned to the United States and they have found in her abdomen cancer.
They'll find out tomorrow if it's the end or not. Our body's grown. You discover through the frown of your physician that the x-ray doesn't look good. You find that the prognosis is bleak and you're surprised because you didn't expect to be carrying on your body the marks of disease and death, but you do and you are. The body awaits being changed and as long as we are present in this groaning body, we are absent from our Lord. That's the point of verse 6. Verse 8. Look at chapter 5, verse 6. Therefore, being always of good courage and knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. Isn't this interesting?
I just thought of this. He refers to us in the plural pronoun we as being a part of this body, but the we doesn't change when death comes. The part of us that makes us who we are still is very much in existence and as long as we are in this earthly body groaning and hurting and diseased and dying, we are absent from the presence of the Lord.
So in order for there to be a present time with the Lord, we must leave this body. That's what happens at death. When death occurs, the inner part of us is separated from the body. The soul and spirit are removed instantaneously from the physical body which has died. The part of us that pumps blood and breathes, the part of us that has muscle and bone and tendons and organs, that part of us dies. But instantaneously, the inner part of us, the personality, the people we really are, the real though invisible part of us is taken to the presence of the Lord.
Look at how he puts it. Verse 8, We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Now this is good news. This is a wonderful message. You and I who know the Lord Jesus carry about within ourselves a soul and a spirit, and our spirit has responded to the Lord Jesus, and we have invited him into our lives, and he has taken up residence there. He has given us a new nature. He has become a part of our inner being, and though the outer being hurts and groans and is dying, the inner being is maturing and growing up and awaiting its home with the Lord.
In fact, look up in chapter 4 verse 16. He says, We do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, it's another reference to the body, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day for momentary light affliction, which is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. While we look not at the things which are seen, and we are so tempted to do that, so preoccupied with the scene, we are to look rather at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, may I add, dying and groaning and hurting and full of pain, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
What am I saying? I'm saying at the time death occurs, there is a separation. Death always means separation. There is a separation of the soul and spirit from the body, the body where they're cremated or embalmed and placed in a casket or a crypt, wherever we may place the body, even if it is placed.
It is left on this earth, and the soul and spirit are taken immediately directly to be with the Lord. Job, that venerable old saint, said, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon this earth, and though after my skin worms destroy this body, in my flesh will I see God. In fact, he goes on to say, my eyes will see him.
We will be in face-to-face touch with each other. What did Job have in mind? Well, he had in mind the next phase of this process, the resurrection of the decaying body. Go back a page and look at chapter 4, verse 14. Same book, chapter 4, verse 14. Look at the promise.
Then I'll talk about the procedure. Knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. Now Paul looks at the future. He says there's going to come a time when we will all be raised. We looked at this last time. The Lord Jesus will descend from heaven with a shout.
This is the procedure. He will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them whom? The dead. We will 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.
Well, I'm so excited I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's the way it works. When death occurs, the soul and spirit go immediately into the presence of the Lord. There is no soul sleep. There is no reincarnation. There is no re-entry. It is appointed unto man once to die.
Once to die. We will go instantly into the presence of the Lord, and there we will await the resurrection of the body whenever that occurs. When it does occur, the soul and spirit will be joined to a glorified body which will no longer groan, no longer age, no longer be marked by the limitations of this earth.
It will be fitted for eternity. And in this, what is called glorified state, we will spend eternity with our God. We will be, 1 Thessalonians 4 tells us, we will always be with our Lord.
Now that is good news. You will have no more tears, no more death, no more sadness, no more crying, no more enemy, no more Satan, no more oppression. The old things are all passed away, and an eternity will dawn in which you will physically and personally enjoy the presence of God forever. I think about that sometime when sorrow seems to sort of crush in on me. I never fail to think of it when I bury a saint. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones. Every saint who goes home to be with the Lord has this wonderful future in front of him or her.
Every burial is a reminder that this is a temporary abode for this body, and this body will be raised and will be changed. That's good news. There is also bad news.
Now if I wrote my script, I wouldn't include this, okay? But I am simply a messenger boy for one who has given me the script, and I am to deliver the message that we are all to hear. Now we must think in another category. We've considered the believer who dies. The body is placed in the grave awaiting the resurrection when it will be joined with its spirit, and that wonderful union will be in a glorified state forever with the Lord. What about the non-believer? Let's look at several passages. Matthew chapter 25. Matthew 25 talks about the destiny of the unbeliever. By the way, did you know the Bible says much more about hell than it does about heaven? Did you know that we know many more things about the eternal abode and even the temporary abode of the lost than we do about the temporary and eternal abode of the saved?
We can develop a rather clear theology of hell, though when we come to the subject of heaven, much of it is left to one's imagination and interpretive, creative thought. But there's no guesswork when it comes to the destiny of the damned. Matthew chapter 25 verse 31. Jesus is speaking. When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne and all the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate them from one another as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Verse 41. Then he will say to those on his left, depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.
That is a most interesting statement, tragic but interesting. You will observe the reference to eternal fire means just what it says. Even the universalist John Robinson had to admit, it is futile to attempt to prove Christ taught no belief in heaven or eternal punishment. Robinson wrote a book called, But That I Can't Believe.
And in it he included that statement. It's futile to attempt to prove Christ taught no belief in hell or eternal punishment. When the unbelieving person dies, again the body as with the believer begins to decay. It is either cremated or it's placed in a grave or perhaps in death it was blown apart.
Whatever, the condition of the body is the same. As with the believer, it begins to deteriorate and decompose. However, the soul and spirit of the unsaved, rather than going into paradise, the place of the presence of God, called in Luke 16 Abraham's bosom, the spirit of the unsaved goes to Gehenna, called Hades in the New Testament or often hell. It is a place of temporary conscious pain. I say temporary because it too awaits final resurrection of the body.
It's natural to want to ignore the realities of hell, but scripture explicitly defines the ramifications of choosing a life without God. You're listening to an important message from Chuck Swindoll coming from the classic series Growing Deep in the Christian Life. Today's study is titled Visiting the Real Twilight Zone and there's much more coming ahead on Insight for Living. To learn more about this ministry, visit us online at insightworld.org.
As your next step in growing deeper in the Christian life, let me tell you about a brand new resource that will challenge your outlook. It's a brief book by Chuck called Life is 10% What Happens to You and 90% How You React. If you're a long-time listener to Insight for Living, that title might sound familiar to you. That's because it's one of the most highly quoted statements that Chuck has ever made. While Chuck popularized the idea, the wisdom is not original to him. It's rooted in scripture and described in his new seven-chapter book.
He's written on topics such as freeing yourself from drama and overcoming envy and another one on how to have a joyful and prosperous life. To purchase a copy, go to insight.org slash store or if you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. Chuck's teaching on your radio station is made possible in part by those who give generously and we're also grateful to our station partners who provide a platform each day. It's a collaborative effort between Insight for Living Ministries, your radio station, and the people in our listening family who faithfully support us. As we step into a new year together, our focus on God's word will not change. In fact, we're declaring this to be another year in which we're fully engaged in Bible study together. As God leads you to give and support this worthy effort, we invite your financial partnership. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888 or you can go online to insight.org. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us when Chuck Swindoll continues to describe what he calls visiting the real twilight zone. That's next time on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Visiting the Real Twilight Zone, was copyrighted in 1985, 1987, 2005, 2011, and 2022 and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2022 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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