We celebrated at the Buckhannon Seventh-day Adventist Church on Saturday, because we love the Heckerts so much. Gerald (Jerry) and Alma Heckert have been married 60 years and deserve recognition for that. Their family and their church family are better off and happier because of them. They are loved and loving, happy to help in whatever the situation, and accept us as we are. We hope you will have many more years of Happy Anniversary celebrations.
I enjoyed another evening at the Senior Center here in Buckhannon with the wonderful Singing Seniors and their guests for the evening, The Country Ramblers. Their band is great and especially liked it when they were asking where its members were from. Their banjo player was from Ohio and he said something like, “Yes, I am from Ohio, but I got here as quickly as I could.” He is a great talent on that banjo. All of them were good. Their singer is from Upshur County, the others from Eden. (The online map shows Eden is southeast of Buckhannon. Perhaps that is Webster County.)
Our church is going to have a Revival soon on two consecutive weekends, (starting Friday evening, October 11 at 7 p.m., then Saturday and Sunday evenings, and the same evenings the following weekend.) I hope some of you will plan to come and find out for yourselves what Adventists do for a revival and what kind of people go to the Seventh-day Adventist church. I truly hope to see you there.
Along that line of thinking, this is Number 26 of the 28 Fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There are only two left after this one. If you have been following these, and reading them, I am surprised some of you haven’t questioned me about some of them. It is my experience that many Christians do not know what their chosen church’s fundamental beliefs are. We have 28 now, but it used to be less. As our pastors and leaders study and preach, they have come up with separate beliefs that had not been written before. God is like that. He has many, many, deep thoughts and ideas expressed in His Word that have never been fathomed and may yet become a Fundamental Belief. If it happens and is brought before the World Council of Adventist churches, scholars, administrators, etc., there may very well be 29 or 30, or more Fundamental beliefs before Jesus returns.
Today’s 26th Belief is DEATH AND RESURRECTION
The biblical teaching about the resurrection and the condition of human beings in death is full of comfort and hope. When we are hurting, we don’t need to give ourselves up to inconsolable grief “like the rest of men, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The reason for our hope is Christ, who said, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).
Seventh-day Adventists differ from the majority of Christians in their understanding about what happens during the time between death and the resurrection. We believe in the unity of the person and in the impossibility of a conscious existence apart from the body. There is no biblical basis whatsoever in support of the teaching that at the resurrection there will be a reunion of the body and a soul that was separated from the body at death. The Hebrew and Greek words that are translated “soul” in our English Bibles basically mean the person himself, not a part of the person that is conscious, immortal, and capable of living apart from the body.
DEATH IS LIKE SLEEP
Consciousness ceases at death (Psalm 146:4). The body disintegrates and becomes dust (Ecclesiastes 3:20). The dead do not continue a conscious existence in either heaven or hell. Speaking metaphorically, they “sleep” (John 11:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). At the resurrection they will be called forth from their tombs, when, having had no concept of time, their wait will seem like it was but a moment.
This is another demonstration of the love and mercy of God. Had their “souls” been taken to heaven at the moment of their death, how could they have enjoyed completely the happiness of heaven while seeing the pain and suffering of their loved ones still on the earth?
While the Bible says nothing about a conscious soul or of a spirit that can survive the death of the body, it has a lot to say about life after death. It affirms that death comes to everyone, both the righteous and the wicked, but it describes a future that is totally different for each group (John 5:28, 29). After resting in the dust until the resurrection, the dead will live again to receive the results of the choices they made during their life. Those who have accepted Christ’s offer of life eternal (John 3:16) will receive immortality. Those who have rejected this offer will leave God with no choice but to abandon them to eternal separation from Him. They cannot continue receiving life from God, and there is no other source from which they can receive it. Because of His love for His redeemed sons and daughters, God cannot permit selfishness and sin to exist in a perfect universe.
At the second coming of Christ, the saints of all ages will receive their inheritance all at the same time (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17). On resurrection morning, each one of God’s children will be a new creation. They will be given a new body, yet each one will recognize friends and will be recognized by them. Those who walk heaven’s streets will be the same persons who lived on earth. It’s comforting to know that God will preserve each person’s character and personality, and at the resurrection He will restore each person’s unique personal characteristics.
Adventists consider death to be an enemy, but we are not in fear of it. We can confront it confidently, committing ourselves to our loving Father and to Jesus, our older Brother, whose victory over the grave can also be ours through our faith in Him.
A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
An Adventist who discovered that he was the victim of an incurable disease illustrated this kind of confidence when he wrote to a close family member: “Last Tuesday the original diagnosis was confirmed. As you can well imagine, it was difficult for me to accept, but I know that everything will turn out OK. God can still work miracles. That night, my wife and I had a long talk, and together we faced everything about this situation realistically for the first time. Sometimes I think that God tests the fervor of our prayers by holding back the answers so that we can examine our faith. It doesn’t matter what happens. Time is very short for anything having to do with this earth. It occurred to us to compare our situation to a father who tells his little son that it’s time to go to bed. The child may object and say that he wants to stay up a little longer, but the father says, ‘Son, tomorrow will be a better day, a day when you can do whatever you would like.’
“If that is what God is telling me, why should I question His wisdom?”
For further study: Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6; John 5:24; Romans 6:23; 8:35-39; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Timothy 6:15, 16; Revelation 20:1-10; John 5:24.