PART 1 THE UNCERTAINTY OF DEATH
PART 1 THE UNCERTAINTY OF DEATH
For all of us death is certain, but unpredictable. When I was a young boy, I lived up the street from one of my older cousins, who was about 18 at the time. For some reason, my dad and him got along well and became very good friends. It seemed like they hung around with each other quite a bit.
Word got back to me that my cousin had stomach cancer. As a young boy, I was unaware as to how serious this was but hoped for his full recovery. It seemed within a short time of 6 months he passed away. I became aware of this because on a particular night I heard a loud noise in the apartment where we were living. I didn’t know what this was all about and didn’t want to know. I put the covers over my head and went to sleep. The next morning I asked my mother if she heard a loud noise during the night. She said it was dad. After my cousin died, he apparently went to a local bar and got drunk.
How could this have happened to someone whose life was just starting out?
My family was brought up Catholic. This faith’s belief on what happens after death was pretty clear. If you committed venial (small) sins during your lifetime, then following death you would go to a place called Purgatory to receive punishment for those sins that weren’t confessed. Once the determined punishment was satisfied you would be allowed to go to heaven. If, however, a mortal sin was committed such as murder, rape, incest, perjury, adultery, etc. then the person would go to a place called hell unless the sin was confessed to a priest.
You might be wondering, why am I writing about this topic now? Long since have my younger years gone by. I am currently retired from teaching high school math after 30 years. I live on an island that has a bustling summer tourist population. I am very fortunate to have obtained a taxi license of which only 32 exist. Last summer, I had a couple in my cab, who noticed a postcard of one of my books taped to my console. She recognized that it was of the spiritual genre and proceeded to express to me her adamant hatred of God.
I was taken aback by her angry tone and response. I asked her why she was so upset with God. She said that she lost one of her children and blamed God because He didn’t intervene and save her life. I expressed to her my condolences but didn’t know what else to say. I thought at the time I wish I had wrote a book on the subject of death so that I could have given her a biblical perspective on this subject that might have caused her to have more of an understanding
on it and what God’s role is concerning it. So, here I am undertaking this study.
This subject will be presented from a biblical perspective. I will use scriptures taken from the King James Bible. Don’t worry if you are or are not attending any church. This is not an issue. If you have lost a loved one and are blaming God for not intervening and changing the outcome, then I encourage you to read this book.
Hopefully, what both of us will learn from this investigation is the following:
- At physical death does life as we know it end?
- Has God personally intervened and prevented some from dying?
- Has God personally intervened and brought about death upon certain ones?
- For those whom God has brought upon death, should He be thought of as being evil?
- Why does God allow some to die, and yet intervene and prevent others from dying?
- Is there something that we could do that might cause God to intervene and prevent someone from dying?
An Unexpected Murder
Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him
Suggested Reading: Genesis 4:1-16; Genesis 3:21
Many of us have heard about the story of Eve being deceived by the devil in the garden of Eden and partaking of the fruit that God had commanded her not to partake of which was followed by her husband Adam a short time thereafter also partaking of this forbidden fruit. Because of their transgression they were not allowed to remain in this place of perfect environment.
We don’t really know exactly where they went after they were escorted out of this place, but what we do know is they had children. Their first child was a male whom they called Cain. I’m sure this was an exciting time as this was the first record of child bearing. This was followed by a second child another male named Abel.
Genesis 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
It appears there probably was some instruction given to both sons by their father of the need to offer God an animal sacrifice at an appointed time. The precedent for this sacrificial ritual seems to have occurred when Adam and Eve were clothed with the skins of animals which required the shedding of blood just before they were required to leave Eden.
Genesis 4:3-4a And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof…
What we don’t seem to know was when this offering by each of the two brothers took place or how often it was to take place. For some reason, Cain chose to offer something that he either knew would not be acceptable to God or maybe he had forgotten about the instructions given to him previously by his father. On the other hand, Abel offered a sacrifice that he knew would be acceptable to God.
Genesis 4:4b-5…And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
It’s very interesting to notice what happened after each of these offerings was made. God conveyed verbally to each of them as to whether what was offered was acceptable or not. It was made clear to Cain that his type of offering was unacceptable. After hearing this, you think he would have responded by saying to God, thanks for letting me know, I was wrong in this endeavor. Is it ok for me to have a redo and offer what’s right? Here he was talking with the Creator of the universe and yet he was upset with Him as to the rejection of his offering. Scripture tells us that he was “very wroth” meaning he was burning with anger. Was he only mad at God or also with his brother Abel? According to what happens next, we can conclude he was mad at both of them.
Genesis 4:8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
Cain talked to his brother Abel and subsequently they both went into the field. This word “field” refers to the countryside in contrast to the place where people live and farm1. Whatever was said it brought both of them to a place away from where their parents were located. This says to me that Cain’s decision to kill his brother was pre-meditated and out of sight. So, here is my thought on this. I’m sure God knew that Cain at this time was set to kill his brother in the field. With that said, here is my question.
Why didn’t God intervene and stop this from happening?
Adam and Eve, if you believe the story about them, committed a transgression in the garden. But I’m sure that prior to this they must have had some communication and communion with God. When they found out about their younger sons murder I wonder what thoughts were going through their mind. Could they have questioned God in a similar manner? God why didn’t you let us know about this ahead of time so we could have talked to Cain and worked this out.
What do you think was God’s response toward Cain?
What Cain did appears to have been pre-meditated murder. And not only so but he never repented of his action. God spoke to him and conveyed what the punishment would be for his egregious sin. If he attempted to till the land for crop cultivation nothing would grow. He would be cast forth from the geographical area and be separated from ever seeing his parents again. A mark would be placed on him so that as the population of the world grew it would be evident to everyone as to what he had done. There would also be a warning to others that if anyone decided to take his life they would receive retribution seven-fold.
It’s hard to imagine what Adam and Eve were going through. They were removed from a heavenly designed place on earth to a place of corruption. Two beautiful sons were born and now both of them were gone. Could their perspective of the God whom they thought was their friend changed?
This story conveys to us the consequences of committing sin and its ongoing effects in the lives of those affected by it and the perception that could be formulated toward the God whom we thought should have acted in a certain way. As we continue on in looking at more stories relating to this topic, hopefully our understanding about death and God’s involvement concerning it will be more fully developed.
If Thou Had Been Here
At this time, Jesus is going about from town to town evidencing miracles, debating with the religious establishment of the day, and proclaiming himself to be equal with God the Father. He is accompanied by 12 men, to whom He is conveying why He came to earth and who He is along with giving confirmation of his teachings by miraculous events. This next story will give us a glimpse as to who Jesus is, what death is all about, and the reasons why a healing did not take place at the immediate request from family members for their brother who was very sick.
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again
Suggested Reading: John 11:1-45
4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
Jesus is informed that a good friend of his was very sick, whose name was Lazarus. His two sisters Mary and Martha sent unto Him a messenger bringing awareness of his health. Jesus response was quite surprising. He said, this sickness is not unto death (permanent death). In other words, he didn’t say that he wouldn’t die, but that his death wouldn’t be permanent. I don’t think the messenger understood what Jesus was really saying based on the response of Lazarus sisters as we will soon see. We could assume the messenger thought what Jesus said was, don’t worry he won’t die.
Another thing that Jesus said was that the purpose of this sickness was twofold: to glorify (bring honor) to God the Father who wishes to be acknowledged by his Son as he evidences obedience to his will and secondly as such the Son will be honored as to what will soon take place which will be a proof at once of the truth of his mission, of his power and glory as the Messiah; of the great doctrine that the dead will rise2, and the revelation of his true nature.
John 11:21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
While Jesus was on his way to the town of Bethany, Martha, the sister of Lazarus, finding out that he was nearby went forth to meet him. When she met up with him she immediately said, if you had been here my brother had not died. In other words, I know that if you had been here before he died you would have cured his sickness. I think there was another message, a hidden one, that she was also conveying to Him.
John 11:17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
She knew that the messenger who had been sent earlier to tell Jesus of her brother’s sickness had returned and not only reported to her what He said but also how long it would have taken for him to get to where Lazarus was residing. It was apparent to her that Jesus didn’t leave right away because by the time he got there Lazarus had already been dead for four days. I don’t believe this set well with her. Jesus was someone who was a personal friend of the family. How is it that he didn’t come right away?
John 11:15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.
Unbeknownst to Martha, Jesus revealed to his disciples why he didn’t leave right away for the town of Bethany after he heard the news of Lazarus severe sickness. He said that is was to the intent that they might believe. The words “to the intent” means to furnish evidence. What we might deduce as to what he was saying is that if he had gone right away with the result that Lazarus was healed of this sickness this would not have as much impact as to the greater miracle that was about to take place which would help to confirm or establish his disciples in the belief that he is indeed the Messiah.
John 11:22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
There is something else that Martha said to Jesus, which after thinking about it has a different meaning in my mind than when I first reflected on it. Many think that what Martha was saying was, I know that if you ask of God he will raise him from the dead. I don’t think this was what she meant. I think what she was saying to Jesus was, I know that whatever you ask of God he will reply to you in a favorable manner. With this in mind she might also be questioning something like this in her thoughts, so why didn’t you ask him to heal my brother when you heard that he was deathly sick from the messenger whom I had sent to you?
John 11:23-24 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
Jesus response was he will rise again. Her reply indicated she understood that someday the dead would rise again and her brother would be one of such, but she had no idea that Jesus was talking about bringing him back from the dead to life on earth at this moment in time.
John 11:25-26 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
Then an incredible statement would come forth from Jesus telling her how her brother would be brought back. He said that He is the resurrection and the life and that whosoever believes in him though he were dead, yet shall he live. He asked her if she believed what he just said. She said she did, but did she really?
Lazarus believed in him. Jesus was going to show her visibly that what he was saying will not only apply to her brother but to those in the future who have made the same decision to believe in Him. Jesus followed Martha and her younger sister to the grave (tomb), a cave where his body was placed. It appears that He audibly prayed to God the Father, thanking him for providing confirmation as to what was going to take place that seemed to signify another reason for its occurrence, which was to provide evidence that He was sent by God the Father to do His will.
So, Jesus cried Lazarus come forth. And incredibly he walked out of the tomb bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face with a napkin. What a sight this must have been. Something that none of them had ever seen before. As a result of Lazarus death and resurrection, many believed in Jesus and in all likelihood the initial sense by his family that He was negligent (lacked concern) was dispelled.
Sometimes, we are unaware of God’s plan and purposes. We think one thing and then are surprised as to what has taken place is totally contrary to what we initially thought should have happened. If it was God the Father’s plan not to raise Lazarus from the dead and subsequently Jesus didn’t show up in time to heal him from his illness I’m sure He would have been thought of by his two sisters as being inconsiderate. It’s even possible they wouldn’t have wanted to have anything more to do with Him.
The next story we will look at is used by many as an example they say proves God is an evil dictator, who could care less about causing the death of an entire race, let alone one person.
1UBS Old Testament Handbook Series. Copyright © 1978-2004 by United Bible Societies. All rights reserved.)
2Barnes’ Notes.Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 01 March 2018 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
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