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October is well under way, and whether you live in the northern or southern hemispheres, there is one thing we all have in common.
More and more in yards and stores the accoutrements of death are compounding.
Or perhaps you live in a Latin culture, and you’re listening to this episode toward the end of October. That means Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is looming closer and closer.
And so we’re seeing tombstones and skeletons, ghosts and graveyards. Fear and death seem to be the two things every movie has in common.
What is a Christian to do?
Do we try to celebrate God despite the focus on death, or . . . do we celebrate God with a focus on death?
Well, given the title of today’s episode, you know where I stand. I want to show you how death is actually a very necessary focus for the Christian, and — like everything else — we should give God the preeminence over that part of our lives as well.
But before we do that, October doesn’t merely focus on death, in American it also focuses a lot on the beginning of conference season. Which, I suppose, for some people is the same thing.
But regardless of how you personally feel about conferences, we at Truth.Love.Parent. and The Celebration of God love them. We love attending them, and we love speaking at them.
If you would be interested in inviting me to speak at your event, please check out AMBrewster.com. And if you’d be interested in having TeamTLP or the Celebration of God Staff put on a conference for you and your people, you too need to visit AMBrewster.com.
I love preaching and teaching about worship, discipleship, marriage, and family. Honestly, I love preaching and teaching everything in God’s Word, and I would love to minister to you and your family, church, or organization.
So, please visit AMBrewster.com to learn more.
And don’t forget that we have free episode notes, transcripts, and holiday resources available for you on our blog at CelebrationOfGod.com.
And now we should turn our attention to death.
One of the reasons many people — Christian and non-Christian alike — steer clear from Halloween is the significant emphasis on death.
But, is shielding ourselves and our kids kids from death truly the Christ-honoring approach?
That’s a good question.
However, I’m going to present this information a little differently today. Instead of trying to convince you of something, I’m going to assume we’re on the same page. And — with that assumption — I want to guide you through the information in a way that would be helpful for you and your disciplees.
In fact, if you want to send this episode to your fellow disciples or invite your friends and family to listen along to this episode, that would be wonderful.
Now, for the rest of the show, we’re going to talk about a subject that can sometimes be scary or — at least — uncomfortable, but I believe there are super important aspects about this discussion because God has a lot to say about the issue.
As I mentioned in the introduction, death is something that people talk about a lot around Halloween. Graveyards, zombies, ghosts, chainsaw murderers; it’s everywhere. But the Bible says a lot more about death than the world does. In fact, there’s so much in the Scriptures on this topic, I won’t even be able to scratch the surface.
It’s also important for us to note that what the Bible has to say about death is far more intense than what you see during Halloween.
So, let’s just sit back and get a sweeping picture from the beginning of the Bible all the way to the end.
The Bible starts with a glorious story about life, and it ends with an absolutely amazing story about life that will last forever and ever with no possibility of death.
This is incredibly exciting!
In fact, the idea is so intoxicating that mankind is constantly looking for a way to extend their lives. Immortality is enticing . . . it’s one of the reasons people like stories about vampires.
But we have to acknowledge that life is so beautiful — in part — because death is so scary.
And that’s what we find in the entire middle of the Bible. There’s death on nearly every page. And though the story ends with glorious eternal life for some, for billions and billions of people death will last for an eternity.
But from where did death come? How has it taken up such a focus in-between the otherwise beautiful bookends of life?
Did you know that God didn’t create death. His initial plan didn’t include it. He gave man a chance to live forever in a perfect relationship with Him. But Adam and Eve wanted to do their own thing. They wanted to make choices that weren’t theirs to make. They — just like us — chose to sin.
And because of their sin, Genesis 3 tells us that God said to Adam, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Romans 3:23 tells us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.”
I believe it’s important for all of us (including children) to know about death because God thinks it’s important for us to know about death. And God wants us to know about death because He wants us to understand what our sin costs us.
When you disobey, when you lie, when you cheat, when you say something unkind about someone in your school or place of business, when you’re lazy, when you refuse to eat your vegetables, when you steal, when you lose your temper with your kids . . . you’re sinning. And even if you only sinned one time in your entire life, that one sin would have been against an infinite God. And because God is infinite, you would owe an infinite debt. And the only way a finite person can pay an infinite debt is to pay it for all eternity.
Our sin purchases us a place in Hell for all eternity. That’s how bad our sin is.
This is why in Genesis 5 we read about the genealogy from Adam through Noah. And after each name God writes, “and he died.” In that one passage alone, God repeats Himself 10 times — “and he died.”
In addition, millions of people died in the flood. Billions more have died in the centuries following the flood.
But there’s one death in particular that stands out amongst them all.
Because God loves us so much, and because He doesn’t wish "that any should perish” (II Peter 3:9), God sent His Son Jesus to die for us.
Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. I can’t explain how amazing that is right now, but I wish I could.
Anyway, Jesus died a terrible, horrendous death on the cross to pay the infinite debt you owe. And — what’s ever more amazing — is that He rose from the dead three days later, conquering death, and showing through His own resurrection His ability to save people from death.
Anyone and everyone who trusts that Jesus is Who He says He is and believes that He died on the cross to save them from their sins, and that He rose from the dead and ascended to the Father can be saved. They can become a follower of Christ.
Now, I need to point out that God didn’t promise that once someone becomes a Christians he or she would never die. In fact, Hebrews 9:27 reads, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
The first death, the death that will separate our eternal spirits from our temporal bodies is guaranteed for most Christians. Sure, some may not see death because they get raptured right before the Tribulation, but the vast majority of Christ’s followers will die a physical death.
However, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross saves us from a spiritual death for all eternity in Hell. You see, in Hell, people don’t cease to exist. Everyone’s spirit is eternal.
The people who reject God and die in their sin will be given new bodies as well. Unlike our current bodies, their new bodies will be able to pay what they own God. They will be ale to be separated from God — being burned — for all eternity without their bodies being destroyed.
This is the only way that sinful man can pay their debt to a perfect and holy God.
Of course, God would rather that no man go to Hell. He’d rather they accepted the free gift of Jesus Christ. But He won’t force them, and many will choose to live separated from God in this life . . . and the penalty for that is separation from Him for all eternity.
This is the first reason that all of us need to be aware of death. If we’re sheltered from the realities of death, we’re sheltered from the significance of our sin. If we’re sheltered from death, we’re sheltered from the debt we owe. If we’re sheltered from death, we’re sheltered from an appropriate understanding of the immense nature of Christ’s sacrifice.
But there’s a second reason we need to understand death.
We need to understand that we are not God.
Children in particular generally have little to no concept of death. It’s not until they see a dead bird or squirrel or lose a pet that they start to really grasp the significance of death. It’s a thief. It’s steals everything from an animal or person.
Since many children are sheltered from the lethal nature of life on this planet, they start living in a delusional mindset that they are immune from death. It’s not a concern for them.
This is a problem for many reasons. First, no one is immune to death. Thousands of children die all over the world die every day. Sickness, crime, abortion, and accidents are the main perpetrators.
But because of their delusion children are often very foolhardy. They do dangerous things because they’re not really concerned they’re going to die.
This is just one reason my wife and I gave our children the opportunity to sit by the deathbed of their great grandmother. It was a sobering reality. They saw the frail nature of life. They watched how easily it slips away. They heard the stories of this woman’s life, and though she looked so old, it was clear that her life wasn’t all that long.
She had done many wonderful things, and yet it all came and went so quickly.
None of us should not be sheltered from death lest we not understand the eternal significance of sin and salvation.
But there’s another reason we should be sheltered from death. We shouldn’t avoid thoughts of death lest we misunderstand that life is short.
James 4:14 says, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
II Corinthians 6:2 says, “Now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
I’ve counseled many people who were betting that they could live a long life however they wanted, and when they came to the end they would turn to Christ.
But in Luke 12:20-21, Jesus spoke of young man who was very rich. And this man had his whole life planned out, “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.’”
I don’t mind that I and my children and my fellow disciples of Christ are surrounded by pretend death all October because it’s a sobering reality. Dr. Bob Jones the third has been known to say quite frequently, “The most sobering reality in the world today is that people are dying and going to hell today.”
We need to live in that reality. We need to know how to avoid that fate. And it’s good for all of us to be reminded of those two things.
Now, there’s so much more that could be said, but I only have time to address one objection I frequently encounter.
When it comes to children there are people who say they are "too young and innocent.” They suggest that exposing them to death would only scare them.
My friends, that is privileged, western thinking. Most of the world is surrounded by death and carnage on a daily basis. Think of the people living in the Middle East.
Yes, death is scary. Yes, it cleanses children of their “innocence.” But, if by innocence we mean delusion of the single most important realities of life — then I am happy to remove that delusion from children.
If you don’t know who Lloyd Legalist is, he and Church Curmudgeon are Twitter users who have a keen, satirical, sometimes ridiculous way of dealing with heavy issues in the church from a comedic perspective.
Well, on this specific topic, Lloyd recently posted, “Explaining to a child that we’re mortal and that death is inescapable is probably, for me, the hardest part of being a party clown.”
And that right there either made you laugh or sent shivers down your spine.
We all understand there are wrong ways to have certain conversations. So, understand that I’m not suggesting that it’s appropriate for our kids to watch gruesome horror movies just so they can be introduced to death.
However, I do have a TLP episode about the value or horror movies. I’ll link that in the description if you’re interested.
But I am saying that none of us — children included — should be sheltered from the realities of death. And I do believe we should be introduced to it early and reminded of it often.
We should attend funerals. We should comfort ones close to death. It’s okay for us to be reminded by a plastic yard toy that death is a reality for all men. Death has been promised by God, but we need not fear it because of God’s other promises.
You see, the rest of the world is petrified of death because they have no idea what it really is. All they know is it takes all they know. And that’s scary enough.
But we know that death is a necessary evil that can usher the born again Christian into the arms of his Savior!
We also know it’s something so dangerous to the unsaved that we should want to warn as many people as we can so they will not have to experience the second death.
We should not seek to steal the majority of the Bible from ourselves and our fellow disciples. Don’t take away the foundational pieces of man’s plight and the eternal consequences of sin.
Don’t allow yourself to live in the delusion of immortality in your present form.
We all have a very short time to live on this planet. We all have super important things we need to do before we die. We don’t have the luxury of living this life for ourselves. There’s work to be done, and that work deals with rescuing people from the jaws of death.
So, that’s the philosophical part. Now I want to discuss a few practical points for how we can use death to celebrate God.
But let’s review a passage I mentioned earlier. Hebrews 9:27 and 28, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
Death is only a transitory step in the immortal lifespan of humanity. We’re born, we live, we die, and then we either actively live forever or actively die forever.
This is why God says that after death comes judgment.
Therefore, 1. We need to celebrate God’s gift of an afterlife.
The incredibly vast majority of films and books avoid discussing the afterlife. But by ignoring the afterlife, we can come to tacitly accept that it’s either not a thing or it’s not a thing worth worrying about or it’s not a thing we can even know. So many become practical agnostics or atheists when it comes to the afterlife.
May it never be for those who call themselves Christians!
We need not merely understand the reality of the human life-cycle, we need to praise God for it.
Do you look forward to your own, personal afterlife? Are you thanking God now that He didn’t design your life to end in oblivion?
God is to be worshipped and praised and adored for not only not giving Christians the consequences they deserve, but also furnishing an eternal life we definitely don’t deserve.
But . . .
2. We need to celebrate God’s plan for the afterlife to start with judgement.
Halloween is a mixed bag with this one. On one side, Halloween does the same thing our movies do — it doesn’t deal with the afterlife at all. Tombstones and serial killers are everywhere, and that’s it.
On the other side, when it does deal with the afterlife, it sorely misrepresents it. Either everything is this comically hellacious depiction or it injects ideas like ghosts into the situation.
But God talks a lot about the afterlife, and He says it starts with judgement.
This is not to say that the judgment is a scary thing that denotes merely punishment. This word can refer simply to a non-biased decision. Judgement can result in negative consequences or positive consequences. The point is, there is something after death, and it starts with this judgement.
The Scriptures reveal that the unbeliever will face The Great White Throne Judgment. Revelation 20:11-15 reads, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
That will be an eternally horrific moment for anyone to experience.
If we don’t want our friends and families to stand in that judgment, we must prepare them for the afterlife. But even if your friends and family are born again, that doesn’t mean the afterlife is free of judgement.
II Corinthians 5:10 reads, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
Romans 14:10-12 says, “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
I Corinthians 3:10-15 then explains how the Judgement Seat of Christ is going to work: “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
We will be judged for the lives we lived, and it will happen in the Judgment.
God should be celebrated for this eternally wise plan. If our life choices will not have consequences, the vast majority of humans would do whatever they wanted. In fact, it’s probably very safe to say that you and I would be among that number.
But God gloriously created a reality where for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Our choices have a ripple effect not just in the here and now, but into the afterlife also.
In addition, God doesn’t leave us on this earth to live for ourselves. That kind of shallow living is idolatry and will result in separation from Him for all eternity. No, God leaves us here to be Ambassadors for Him. Not only will our actions have eternal consequences for us, our lives will also play a part in the eternal consequences for others.
The Lord has created an impossibly intricate plan whereby each of our choices has eternal value for us and the billions of people making thousands of choices every single day. And their choices are impacting us as well.
And yet God is sovereignly facilitating them all!
Do you ever stop and praise Him for that?
This is why our final point is . . .
3. We need to celebrate God because the point of life after death is exactly the same as life before death.
Jesus Christ died and rose again to bear the sins of the world. And He is coming back, but when He comes back, it will not be to add to the Gospel, it will be fulfill the Gospel by taking His followers home to Heaven and relegating the rebels to Hell.
The funny thing is that most people who have any kind of idea about what Heaven may be won’t be surprised to hear that the afterlife is all about God.
What may surprise them is that their life in the here and now is also supposed to be all about God.
Sure, God isn’t visible at this point, and, sure, there’s sin in the world, but we were created to worship God. We need to do that now just like we need to do it in eternity.
And so by learning about the life after death, you’re learning to live a holy life before death.
Now, real quick before we end, I want to share one more bonus point.
I mentioned earlier that Halloween does’t do a good job communicating the truth about the afterlife.
Here are some ways you can use the lies of Halloween to transition into a Biblical discussion with your disciplees concerning the afterlife.
1. You can ask them if they think ghosts are real.
And then you can put their minds at ease that humans do not become ghosts by taking them to II Corinthians 5:1-10. That passage contains verses we’ve already discussed, but also talks about how to be “absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord.”
And Job 7:9-10 reads, “As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up; 10 he returns no more to his house, nor does his place know him anymore.” Of course, this does open up a discussion concerning demonic activity, but the main point is to teach our disciplees what really happens after death.
2. You can ask your fellow disciples if they think the Devil lives in Hell.
Now some of these questions may sound a little childish to some of us, but I cannot tell you how many professing Christians — many of them older than I — don’t understand the biblical realities of these points.
And this happens because they pay more attention to pop culture than they do the Bible. That’s why God wants us to help them mature in their faith.
You see, most depictions of the Devil give us the impression that he lives in and runs Hell. The world would also would have us think that the fire and discomfort doesn’t bother him. Even amazing works like C.S.Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters” give us that same impression.
But imagining that Satan runs Hell is like imagining that the prisoner being tortured by medieval devices is the one in charge. Jesus Himself told us in Matthew 25:41, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
God created Hell to punish the fallen angels. Though humans who reject Him will be damned to join Satan, it was created by God for the Devil, not by the Devil.
This can also lead your unsaved community in a discussion about the nature of Hell and how God doesn’t want anyone to die and perish for all eternity. He wants to give them eternal life!
3. You can ask your disciplees what they think about immortality?
Many fictional characters are immortal, including vampires. I mentioned that the fictional idea of immortality is so intoxicating to humans because we actually are created to be immortal. Unfortunately, unbelievers and distracted Christians are so stuck on living this life as long as they can because death seems to be the end of life, not merely a transitional stage.
That’s like a child staying in their diapers as long as they can because they’re afraid of what comes next. Imagine a 22 year old still using diapers — that’s exactly what humans are like who aren’t looking forward to the afterlife.
You can use these conversation starters and many more to show your fellow disciples that they are immortal. Sure, their current body will likely one day die, but their spirits will live forever and God will give them a new body so we can celebrate Him for all eternity!
I get that some of you may think the topics of death and hell are distasteful, but God doesn’t. We need to unpack Scriptures for everyone so they can better understand Who God is, who they are, and what that means for their lives.
To not talk about our immortality is to mislead people about God’s amazing plans for their lives. To not talk about death is to lie to people about sin. The wages of sin is death. To not talk about the afterlife is to confuse people as to the point of their existence.
Let’s be Ambassadors for God who help those whom God has inserted into our lives know their Creator better, not worse.
Obviously, you need to share this episode on your favorite social media outlets so more Christians can learn to use death to celebrate God.
And join us next time as we discuss something a little more lighthearted but equally important.
Next time we hope to discuss “Celebrating God with Our Recreation.”
I’ll see you then.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.