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by Herbert W. Armstrong

Do you have an IMMOR­TAL SOUL? Do the dead know what the living are doing? Does suicide “end it all”? Will you meet departed loved ones again? Did departed ones “pass away” to heaven or hell?

WHY THIS MYSTERY about life after death? WHY so many beliefs of so many different reli­gions? How can we KNOW? Can we believe God? Adam and Eve didn’t. Few believed Christ—that is, few believed what He SAID! Could we believe God—if He told us?

I said to my wife more than fifty years ago, “I know the Bible says, ‘Thou shalt keep Sunday.’ ” “How do you know?” she asked. “Did you read it?”

“No, but I know it’s there, because all these Christian churches get their religion from the Bible, and they all keep Sunday.”

“Why don’t you look it up and show it to me?” she challenged.

But I couldn’t find it.

I chanced to read in Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is DEATH . . .” “Now wait a minute!” I exclaimed, surprised. “In Sunday school they taught me the wages we earn for sinning is IMMORTAL LIFE, not death—eternal life in hell fire.” Then I read the remainder of the verse “. . . but the GIFT of God is eternal life. . . .”

“That’s a shocker!” I expressed, further surprised. “I thought I already had eternal life. I’m an IMMORTAL SOUL.”

I had left church and Sunday school when I was eighteen. But I had been brought up in an established and respectable Christian denomination. I became intrigued. I had heard the preacher say, “The Bible says, when we all get to HEAVEN. . . .” I chanced to read where Jesus said, “No man hath ascended up to heaven.” And after reading a few more plain biblical statements, I began to believe that even the churches TODAY do not believe what Jesus SAID!

Yes, more than fifty years ago my mind was swept clean of all previous teaching, suppositions and ideas about things relating to God. I had then proved the infallible inspiration of the Bible in its original writing.

I was right to believe what God says in His Word.

What does the Bible say about life after death? Did anyone ever die and then actually experience a life after death—and who could PROVE IT and explain to us what that life was like?

The answer is YES. Jesus Christ Himself died and was DEAD. But He rose from the dead and was seen by MANY—including His disciples, who had been with Him for three and a half years before He died, and forty days after His resurrection. And they went about loudly proclaiming that they were eyewitnesses of His LIFE AFTER DEATH.

In I Cor. 15:22-23, you will read: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive [after death]. But every man in his own order. . . .”

The fifteenth chapter of I Corinthians is the “resur­rection chapter” of the Bible. Its subject is the resurrection to LIFE, after death! But there is, in God’s Master Plan an order—or succession—of resurrections.

Continue: “Christ the firstfruits”—this occurred more than 1900 years ago—“afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end . . .” (verses 23-24).

Later in this booklet a great deal will be said about the resurrection of those “that are Christ’s”—Spirit-begotten Christians. But what of the others?

The same ALL who die in Adam, it says, “in Christ shall . . . they be made alive”—by a resurrection from the dead. Verse 23 says, “. . . they that are Christ’s [shall be resurrected] at his [second] coming”—now imminent—in our present generation. “Then cometh the end” (verse 24)—but the details of the resurrection of others—the overwhelming majority of all who ever lived—are recorded elsewhere.

In Rev. 20 we find described two more resurrections.

First, verse 4, the saints who are Christ’s are to live and reign on the earth with Christ for one thousand years. Satan will be put away (verses 1-2) but the rest of those who have died will not live again until after that thousand years (verse 5). Then, beginning verse 11:

“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God” (the second resurrection); “and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged . . . according to their works.”

This will be by far the GREATEST resurrection, in numbers resurrected. It will include the BILLIONS who have lived CUT OFF from God—who were not then judged.

The Bible is essentially the Book concerning the nation Israel. The resurrection of all of them, not previously called to spiritual salvation, is recorded in Ezekiel 37.

The prophet Ezekiel was taken in a vision and set down in a valley filled with very dry bones. In verse 11 it is recorded that God told him that these bones were the whole house of Israel. They—these dead skeletons—were pictured saying, “Our bones are dried and our hope is lost.”

But the prophet was told to say to these dry skeletons, “Thus saith the [Eternal] God, Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.”

In the vision, before God explained to the prophet the identity of the great valley of skeletons, the prophet was told to say to the dry bones, “Thus saith the [Eternal] God . . . Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live” (verses 5-6). Now back to verse 13: “And ye shall know that I am the [Eternal], when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves. And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the [Eternal] have spoken it, and performed it, saith the [Eternal].”

This prophecy is of a resurrection to mortal flesh-and-blood life—not a resurrection, like that of the saints at Christ’s Second Coming, to immortal Spirit-composed self-existent life.

God had never offered Old Testament Israel His Spirit, or spiritual salvation. Only material and national promises—and even that for obedience which they refused to give.

But now, in this Great White Throne resurrection, along with all other peoples who had been CUT OFF from God, these Israelites (including those who were uncalled even after Christ came), would be resurrected to mortal, breathing, flesh-and-blood life. They all, hopefully, are then to come to really KNOW that the Eternal is Lord, and He shall, upon their eventual conversion, put His Holy Spirit within them. They, too—along with all of every nation, who had not been specially called prior to the Millennium, shall live again physically in this resurrection.

And after a period of growth and overcoming, then shall come their spiritual salvation—with no Satan around to deceive them!

Now back to Revelation 20. Verses 13 to 15 indicate that there will then be a last, final resurrection of the incorrigible who have rejected the eternal salvation offered them. They, with any such living at the end of the Millennium, will then die the second death—utter extinction—in the lake of fire, described by Peter as the face of the earth becoming a molten mass.

Malachi adds: “For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the [Eternal] of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, and ye shall go forth . . . and ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the [Eternal] of hosts” (Mal. 4:1-3). “. . . and they shall be as though they had not been” (Obad. 16).

But, what in the meantime—what between the second of one’s death and the resurrection? The Bible teaching, contrary to much religious and church teaching—that is the WORD OF GOD teaching—is that the dead ARE DEAD—utterly unconscious. Notice the inspired wisdom of Solomon: “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything . . .”—the RSV translates it, “the dead KNOW NOTH­ING” (Eccl. 9:5).

Recently a Worldwide Church of God minister told me of experiences he has had with three successive would-be suicides. Each time he said to them, “Well, go right ahead—but first you’d better learn what happens at the moment you die. So far as your consciousness goes, the next fraction of a second you will wake up in the resurrection—and if you commit this self-murder, you’ll still be facing all your problems, and the guilt of this SELF-MURDER crime in addition. Why not solve the problems NOW, before you commit this murder?” Not one of the three went on through with his intended suicide!

So, there’s nothing to gain by “ending it all,” thinking that is the easy way out. Death only brings instant awakening in the resurrection. You will know absolutely NOTHING from the second you die, till the second you awake in the resurrection. These men, the minister explained, had suppos­ed that suicide would END IT ALL—and they’d be out of their troubles, but when they learned they would still have their troubles plus a MURDER charge against them in THAT JUDGMENT, it no longer seemed that suicide was the “quick way out of it all.”

No, death is not a friend, but an ENEMY! Christ came to DESTROY DEATH—to make a happy, peaceful, abundant life possible for all—for each in his own due time. He came that we might have LIFE, “and have it more abun­dantly.”

There most certainly is life after death—and Christ made possible a transcendent human potential so great it seems incredible. He came to DIE in our stead—to pay the penalty we have incurred for us, and to GIVE US LIFE!

Christ Himself taught that there is LIFE AFTER DEATH.

He taught the Pharisee, Nicodemus, but Nicodemus didn’t believe Him! Jesus said to him, “. . . I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not” (John 3:12).

Why didn’t the Pharisee, Nicodemus, understand when Jesus said to him: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”?

Why do people not understand those words today? How many know, today, that Jesus’ gospel was a sensational, never-before-proclaimed NEWS ANNOUNCEMENT?

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