“ON EAGLES’ WINGS MINISTRIES”
“What happened the moment Jesus died?” part 1. November 2010.
“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the city, and appeared unto many.” Matthew 27:50-53.
Many of us have learned over many years of studying and teaching the Bible that quite often we tend to miss vital truths that, seemingly, are hidden between verses or just under the top layer of the pronounced text. We delve headlong into what is at our finger tips and clear to the eyes, constructing sermons, lessons for the Young People’s Auxiliary, materials for the “new convert’s class” and something inspirational for “Ladies Day.”
This study will focus on the concept of death from Christ’s own perspective, his manner of ministry where death poked its face through the front door and snatched a single soul. It is usually normal and even appropriate for a young healthy minister to stand behind the podium and herald with a blaring trumpet in Zion, how God intends for us to live, and how Jesus came and gave us life, and he gave it more abundantly.
I am this day seventy five years and five months old, and perhaps I should not be expected to be writing about life and against death. For nine years and ten months I drove a shuttle bus transporting government employees from one city to another. I was never late during that time, but on May 17th this year, I was called in the Boss’ office and terminated on the recommendation of the insurance company that underwrites the fleet of buses. They determined that at the age of seventy five, if I am a party in a law suit, the case will list against them based on my age. So for the past three months I depend on the State’s unemployment benefits which amount to 54% of what I used to earn, plus 17% goes for Federal and State taxes. My only difficulty is in having to decide which bill gets paid and which ones are pushed to the back of the line.
In my seventy five years of living, apart from having a serious bout of pneumonia that left me unconscious for three days at 13 years of age, as an adult I have had two hernias removed, spent two different nights in the hospital for observation of what turned out to be acid reflux. The job I just mentioned that I just lost, had me working ten hours a day, equal fifty hours a week, which means that I had to be up at 5.00 a.m. and got back home about 5.45 p.m. for nine years and ten months. Before that I had to be up at the same hour (5.00 a.m.) for twelve years driving school buses for the county. All of the above serves as testimony to God’s keeping power, his healing power, and even the power to keep us well.
All things considered, it would appear as if I am not the ideal minister to share the truths contained in this lesson. But in my years of walking with Jesus and looking into his word, I have come to understand that God does what he has determined within himself for his good pleasure, and this will be done “with me” or “without me.” Let me be quite clear and above board with you, my dear reader and friend! As we speak of life, it does not matter how many continue to die; the message is still true. It does not matter how many do not believe in prophecy and even oppose it vehemently, the gift is still true and it still works by the Holy Spirit. Those who are familiar with the teachings of the late Thelma Cheney, know that she was very strong in the “life message.” She ministered in my mother’s church in Jamaica for a week, returned to the States intending to return to Jamaica later on. In the mean time she had an accident and water had gathered around her heart, unknown to her doctor and she died. News of her death shook the foundation of many people’s faith in the life message, and many were confused including members of my own congregation in Norfolk, Virginia. While driving along I-64 between Norfolk and Richmond, and pondering very heavily on the matter of Sister Cheney’s death, and the effect it is having on so many people, a thought came to my heart very strongly and it was like reading from a book; “When a hill has been taken, and when a fort has been conquered, usually, it is never the first advancing soldiers that experience victory. They simply paved the way to victory for those coming behind.” No matter how many do pave the way, victory lies ahead in the truth of the message itself. The arrest and trial of Jesus, his death and resurrection have been told over and over again every Good Friday and Easter Sunday morning that we know it by heart these days. The question is this; “Could we have missed any vital part of the story simply by reading too fast or simply by reading right over it and not seeing it?” Here is a second question; “How does the abundance of stories in your bible come to life?” What I find to be the correct formula is for us to slow down—all the way down to a crawl when we read and take every word into account, because no word was put in the book simply to fill in “left over space.”
In secular life in the advertizing business, one can usually get free or discounted advertisement when there is certain amount of space left over that cannot be wasted. In this scenario the company will offer these left over spaces for free or at a greatly reduced rate. That was not the way the bible was written and complied. Why was everything written? “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” John 20:31. Thank you Jesus! This is my case in a nutshell! The general consensus among Christians for Christ’s death is based on these three scriptures: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste of death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9. “And we have seen, and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” 1 John 4:14. “In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:6-10.
After reading and understanding these scriptures we can walk back to the death scene at the bottom of Calvary’s Hill, and be witnesses of the events that occurred that fateful day. Let us imagine that from our vantage point, we can see Calvary and we can also see cemeteries some distance away. We are able to watch as Jesus gave up the ghost, and simultaneously see activities down among the headstones in the cemeteries. In fact, we are able to see what is about to happen under the earth where bodies of saints have been sleeping in death for many years. As if many fireworks are going off in many cities in the same time zone at the stroke of the clock at 9.00 p.m. to celebrate the 4th of July. Jesus cried and gave up the ghost, and at that very moment, dead saints came to life as if in perfect coordination.
But how could this be? What factors are woven into this magical moment that even the dead knew about? Think about it for a moment! Isn’t this miraculous to say the least? Something momentous happened here that burrowed its way down to the inner vaults of the ground, and it came with such potent force that like a dead battery being charged from a jumper cable, motions and actions came together and the sparks of life came shooting up from the sleeping embers. There is only one answer one can accept that is well within the context of the scriptures we shared a moment ago.
Not only did Jesus taste of death for all men, but he also paid the price for sin. The wages of sin is death, and in his death, Jesus paid the price in full, and God took our account of sin, (some required many pages) and right across the page he stamped in bold letters—PAID IN FULL! The song writer puts it this way: “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.” The truth of Christ’s redemptive power was clearly put on display for all to see, and it permeates earth’s inhabitants even though they were dead and those are still dead. The fact that upon Christ’s death the dead came to life, is solid proof that God’s plan was no fluke! He did not make vain promises to a lost world, simply to pacify their troubled hearts. He made promises that only he could keep, for no member of the human family was worthy and capable to redeem us.
For us to understand the personal views Jesus had about the concepts of life and death, we must read his teachings and follow him into homes or along the highway where death has made an appearance, and observe very carefully how Jesus reacted to that particular situation. According to Paul’s letter to the Roman Church, “death reigned from Adam to Moses” and we know that any reference to Moses in the New Testament refers to the dispensation or administration of the law. We are told in Matthew 11:13; “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” As we re-package this and do a re-run on it we conclude that death reigned from Adam to John the Baptist. This is mirrored and highlighted by Jesus saying, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10.
In the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he said’ “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” Think of how God’s will is done in heaven! Cherubim and Seraphim move in haste to do his will, but alas! along the street of gold, the walls of jasper, the rainbow circled throne, there isn’t a single cemetery because no one dies there. If his will in heaven does not include death, and Jesus was specific when he inferred that this same will should be performed here on earth, are you surprised in Christ’s approach to the issue? Let me jump ahead of myself a bit to introduce this thought. Christians the world over believe in the resurrection that we will experience after we die. This is exactly the mindset that Martha had; “Martha said unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” John 11:24.
Many times in sermons past I have said that Martha had her doctrine correct but it was getting in the way of present realities. Like Martha, the entire Church-world is mired and bogged down under the belief in a last day resurrection. Martha! Martha! The last day resurrection is fine and well designed for the last day! But Martha! You do not have to wait until the last day! Look on me! “I am the resurrection and the life!” Why wait until the last day when you can experience resurrection right here and now? I am always tickled by this exchange although I believe that most Christians have completely missed it. “Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Here is Jesus to Martha! Believest thou this? In other words, do you really believe that I am the resurrection, because if you do, you shall never die. Here is Martha’s response. “She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” But Martha! That was not the question, so in essence, you are ducking the issue. (We will revisit this in a later chapter.)
The question to Martha was did she believe as Jesus just said, that he is indeed the resurrection, because if she did she would never die. But she answered about him being the Son of God which should come into the world. Do you agree that she ducked or evaded the question? To pacify or smooth the rough edges off the issue of Christians dying, ministers, especially when conducting funerals say that Christians do not die, they only sleep. If that is true, the same must be applied to anybody who dies. Let us put two bodies side by side at the funeral home. One is a Christian and the other is “unsaved” by careful observation can you tell me which one is “sleeping” and which one is actually dead? Jesus tried this by saying; “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord if he sleep, he shall be well. That nicely overlaid polish did not work so Jesus came right out and said, “Lazarus is dead.” John 11:11.
Preachers can use this “sleep” idea all they want, like Jesus they will have to say it plainly “the person is dead” and what we call “sleep” or “death” cannot be separated to mean one thing for a Christian and mean something else for the unsaved. Like Martha, Christians everywhere hold on to a good doctrine that there will be a resurrection in the last day, but like Martha they willingly miss the fact that Jesus is the resurrection NOW. Some years ago when I first met Sister Cheney in Brooklyn, New York, as we sat and talked in the lobby of the St. George’s Hotel, she told me that she had gone to a church service where she listened to a dead preacher, preaching a dead message, and when she walked out she felt dead herself. Let us always remember two things about death. God did not introduce it as punishment for sin, and the devil did not introduce it as a part of his master plan to pluck people out of God’s hand. We know that it was by one man that sin was brought into the world resulting in sickness and death. Let us not forget that death is called “the last enemy” by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. How often do you hear preachers, even those on nationwide television say, “we all will die one day?” One by one they all bypass the life message that Christ introduced, choosing rather to support Adam in his disobedient act that brought death upon all of us. Jesus came on the scene to put an end to the cycle of death, setting himself up as “the resurrection” saying, he that liveth and believeth in me shall never die. This does not apply to those who believe in him as their healer, or as their lawyer, or as their sole provider, or even as their Savior. O No! It applies only to those who dare to believe that He is indeed The Resurrection, and to prove this reality and to lend credence to his words, he called Lazarus out from among the dead and told those in attendance “loose him and let him go.” Perhaps I must have missed it, so I need your help! Please tell or send me the scriptures where Jesus was seen attending a funeral and stepping forward to scatter a little dirt on the casket saying, “Earth to earth—ashes to ashes” Then ending by saying, “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” Can you see how far off the mark we’ve been?
The age and administration has passed and the Source of Life has now taken to the stage on a worldview platform. He walked into town and saw death on its cold and calculated march and in his heart Jesus said, “This has to stop!” The Master is in town and observe how death had to take a back seat! (You have to excuse me, but I get worked up when I write or talk about life.) “And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.” Luke 7:11-15. To use a Western metaphor—a new sheriff is in town! Or this one: (Under New Management!)
Jesus was interrupted by a certain ruler who came and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead”
But come and lay your hand upon her, and she shall live. I like how the Phillips translation logged what happened when Jesus arrived at the ruler’s house, where there were paid mourners who were paid to weep and make a lot of noise. “Then when Jesus came to the official’s house and noticed the flute players and the noisy crowd he said, “You must all go outside; the little girl is not dead, she is fast asleep. This was met with scornful laughter. But when Jesus had forced the crowd to leave, he came right into the room, took hold of her hand, and the girl got up.” Matthew 9:18-19,23-25. Like I said before, Jesus never attended a funeral and joined in committing a body to the grave. Death was not a part of his mandate, and he never taught others to accept it as a part of man’s gift from the Father. One Thursday in London, England, while sitting on the commode, the Lord spoke to my heart and said” “After Jesus said “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” what was he trying to prove when he went down to the tomb and raised Lazarus from the dead, and how would a little child understand it?” What can we extrapolate from what Jesus demonstrated? (Will revisit later on.)
Here is a little child who knew that Lazarus is dead and upon seeing Jesus coming into town worked her way to the front of the crowd. The child heard Jesus announced that he is the resurrection; that the dead who believed in him shall live again, and the living who believes in him shall never die. None of this made any sense to the child, but she followed closely to the mouth of the grave where Lazarus was buried. All of a sudden, Jesus called for Lazarus and he came out as if on thin air, still wrapped from head to toes like an Egyptian mummy. They cut him loose and he is alive and well! The child runs home and excitedly yell to Mom; “Mommy I don’t have to die!” Mommy said, “Don’t be ridiculous, honey, every dies sooner or later!” But Mommy, you don’t understand, protests the little child; let me explain it further! Jesus just said that the dead who believed in him will live again, and he proved it by raising Lazarus from the dead. But he also said that the living who believes in him will never die, so you see Mommy, I don’t have to die! Exactly, the Lord said to my heart! But the Lord said ministers have watered the truth down by saying the soul of the righteous will never die, so we should seek to preserve the soul. But as proven, Jesus did not simply raise Lazarus’ soul; he raised the whole man, and linking this fact to those who are alive and believe in him as being the resurrection, that they (spirit, soul, and body) will never die. Like I said before, Christians will accept and anxiously await the resurrection, but will not accept Jesus as being our resurrection here and now, and I am speaking as a man living just passed my 75th birthday. For me, it does not matter what the calendar says, or even what I see in the mirror. Paul said; “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20b.One of my favorite statement is that Jesus bought all of me by offering all of himself.
Jesus made a remark that sent the Jews in a rage of confusion among themselves. Listen to him: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” Before we go any further in this particular setting let us see what the term “never see death means” from where it is used before. “What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?” Psalm 89:48. This sounds like physical death to me! “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Luke 2:25,26. This second usage of the term seems to indicate physical death as well. We go back to Jesus saying that if a man keep his sayings he will never see death, and again we must agree that this term equates with the other two, meaning physical death, but let us see how the Jews understood what Jesus was alluding to. (Will revisit in a later chapter.)
“Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. (They knew what he meant in no uncertain term.) Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? And the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? Jesus was not introducing a new doctrine of his own; rather, he was simply truning the light of the gospel on what God has proposed in the Old Testament. Israel was told; “Your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand.” Isaiah 28:18. God’s message to the Church was on this wise: “Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.” Isaiah 52:2. The message is very clear in this lesson! What do they say at the grave side? “Dust to dust—ashes to ashes.” But God is saying to his people, shake thyself from that dust mentality. What dust mentality” The belief that we came out of the dust and back to the dust we must go. “Shake thyself from that dust mentality and loose thyself from that which kept you a slave in bondage to those old curses that died at the cross with Jesus. But what do we do for ourselves? We see the hearse rolling down the street and think, “Well every body got to go one day!” Many of us do not keep the Sabbath because Jesus nailed it to his cross! Many of us do not offer animal sacrifices because Jesus nailed those ceremonies to his cross. But we find it so difficult to arise from out of the dust and to loose ourselves from the bondage that the very thought of death has locked us into.
Look what Jesus did: “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2nd Timothy 1:10. However, I dare say that this does not refer to just any gospel, but a gospel of life, that inspires people to awake out of sleep, to change out of their night clothes and bask into the beaming light of God’s new day. I must try and enforce this concept with you. It does not matter what you see when you look in the mirror! It does not matter what your family doctor said to you during your recent visit. God’s word stands predominantly over and above all of the above. Paul spoke of a time when this mortal shall have put on immortality and death shall be swallowed up in victory. The Jews argued with Jesus that Abraham is dead, the prophets are dead, and here is this man saying that if you keep his sayings you will never taste of death. They know what he said and understood its clear message just the way Jesus wanted it. We have read time and again how Jesus said, “Because I live ye shall live also” and “ye are passed from death unto life and shall not come into condemnation.” But seemingly, ministers prefer to embark upon “prosperity sermons” that attract more people who are seeking to profit here and now. In fact, the message of death comes in as a handy tool to increase support of the local ministry because the reasoning is that “you cannot take it with you” so the most worthy thing to do is to give it all to God’s work. Giving is fine just so we don’t forget that food in God’s storehouse is meant to help the less fortunate among us, and merely to support the celebrity status of the clergy. “When this mortal shall have put on immortality” to me, speaks of a certain time frame and I strongly believe that we are the people upon whom this truth will be fulfilled. To put on means to be stand upright and be clothed upon with our house which is from above. If it becomes an event that transpires after death, it is no more “put on” but rather to “take up.” Here is a special note!
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Royce O. Kennedy