Between Death and Resurrection
November 17th, 1968 @ 7:30 PM
BETWEEN DEATH AND THE RESURRECTION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-17-68 7:30 p.m.
If you share this service with us on radio, turn to Luke chapter 16 and with us read out loud this passage that our Lord has revealed to us, beginning at verse 19 and reading to the end of the chapter. As I so oft times say, on Sunday night, unless there is a change in the program of our church, on Sunday night I preach about the Lord, following the life of our Lord. And these several Sunday evenings we have been in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Luke. Now read out loud with us in the sixteenth chapter of Luke, verse 19 to verse 31. And the title of the sermon is Between Death and the Resurrection.
It is a sermon on the intermediate state from the time that we die to the eternal heaven and earth, the new one, the recreated one that shall be our eternal home. So the message concerns that time of our life between death and the final great resurrection of the body. Now together all of us reading out loud, Luke 16:19:
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
If you read that revelation in any piece of literature in the earth, it would cause immediate pause and consideration. Because you are a thinking animal, you can’t help but think God placed that faculty of reason and rationality in you. You can remember yesterday. You can remember, and you can’t help but remember. You were made that way. And you are cognizant of the present around you. A cow can graze in a pasture, utterly oblivious to the firmament above earth, but not you. The stars at night say something to your soul, and the glory of God’s world around you speaks to your heart, and you can’t help but notice.
But not only the remembrance of a yesterday and a cognizant of the present, but there are presentiments in all of us of the future: what shall it be like? And you can’t help but wonder and think and surmise and sometimes in your finest moments, seek an ultimate, authoritative and final answer.
Now, the ancients peered into that future to find some final word and never discovered it, never. Some of those Greek philosophers were hedonistic, they were Epicurean. They said it is undiscoverable and unrelatable, and they had a saying, “Let us eat and let us drink and let us be merry, for tomorrow we will die, which is mostly the materialistic philosophy and attitude of modern America.
I see it sometimes in a play on television. There will be a little scene and one will ask another about death and about the life to come, and the answer will always be, “I think when I die I go out like a light. I die like a dog. I perish like an animal.” That’s modern philosophy, hedonistic, Epicurean. Let’s just squeeze the most out of this present life for there is nothing to come.
Well, that was one of the sectors of the ancient Greeks. Another some of them were stoical in their attitude. They tried to meet the future with great personal fortitude and therefore indifferent to whatever might lie ahead. There were those who were Platonists, and they sought to spiritualize so much of the meaning of life. But the ultimate of all of their searching was finally cynical despair. They found no answer, nor can we find any answer today. However learned men may think they are becoming in psychological research, in physics, in chemistry and astronomy, in all of these areas of modern life, as for our actual knowledge of the great issues that we face and the destiny of our souls, a man however finely trained is no nearer to a revelation now than Abraham was or ten thousand years before Abraham’s day. There is no answer save in God’s Book. And there is no voice to speak to us of these things save God’s voice. Now there are two things in the Scriptures about the revelation of the future, what lies ahead.
First is what I just mentioned, all that we know is what God has revealed in this Book. You can read a book of physics forever and never find another word. You can read any kind of a book of science and never find another revelation, nothing, no syllable, not one. Sometimes these come along who are spiritualists, and I understand Dr. Newport has been speaking of some of these things in the class in adult training that he leads here in the evening. But all of those spiritualists, and I have met some of them and some of them have come to me with messages from the dead and messages from heaven; why, I’d no sooner come here to be pastor of this church when I had two spiritualists who worked on me all day and all night and finally came out to the house, and they said, “We’ve got a message for you, we’ve got a message for you from Dr. Gambrell, and we’ve got a message for you from Dr. Truett, and we are burdened.” Well, I said, “That’s the most unusual thing.”
“Yes,” said one of them, “it finally got down into my legs, and I can’t sleep, and they ache and pain me because of the message that they are telling me to deliver to you.” I said, “Oh, dear Lord, then deliver it because we can’t have your legs full of aches and pains.” Now what is this message of these spiritualists? You know what the message was? Why, bless you. I just never heard of such goings on in my life. They said, “These voices have been speaking to us, and Dr. Gambrell is saying things to us to tell you, and Dr. Truett has been saying words to tell you, and what the word is is this: this building is going to fall down and kill all your people!” That was the message. Now that has been about twenty-four years ago, and I tell you I am crazy myself. I come down here and I look at this building and I notice any cracks in it, I notice that steeple. Well, that steeple did look like it was going to fall off, but we prepared that.
Law me alive! Why in the world would the voices of the dead try to tell me that? It looks to me as though some of these architects in this church could walk around here and tell me whether the building is going to fall down or not. And the whole thing is a bunch of idiocy and foolishness, just like that. I often think if what these people who speak from the dead, “Is that all they’ve got to say? Well, then man, why fool with seeing at all?” It’s so impertinent, it’s so foolish, it’s so idiotic, it’s so inane. Well, man, why did I get off on that? I am just saying to you there is no revelation of the future except in God’s Word, except in God’s Book.
Now there is a second thing about that. First was all that we know of the life beyond the dead, beyond the grave, all that we know we know in God’s Word. Now the second thing that is amazing to me is how God will speak of it and the Book will reveal it, and all through the Bible you will find the background of eternity in everything that God will say. But when you come down to the particulars, you will be amazed at how God doesn’t say. There are ten thousand things, things, things of life, things of relationships, things of place, things of living, there are ten thousand things that God doesn’t answer. The particulars are amazingly sparse and few, but the great fact is with great emphasis presented.
Now in the moment that I have to preach in these services, let’s look tonight at just one thing, just one thing. We are going to look at that intermediate state between the time we die and the great resurrection, the consummation of the age. First of all, it is an unusual thing that in the Hebrew and in the Greek they had, and they are incorporated here in the Word of God, they had the same ideas. Of course, they had to use language to express God’s revelation, and it had to be in a language that people could understand. But the same ideas, the same nomenclature is found in the Hebrew and in the Greek, whether you read it in the Old Testament or whether you read it in the New Testament.
Now in the Hebrew religion the world beyond they called sheol, the land of the dead, the world beyond the grave. And they had the same idea exactly in the Greek world. In their language they called it hades. And sheol, Hebrew, hades, Greek, referred to the land beyond this life. For example, Jacob would say about his boy when they came and said, “Joseph has been destroyed. A wild animal has eaten him, torn him, and here is his coat of many colors” that they dyed in the blood of a goat. “Here is his coat and the boy is dead and he is torn and he is gone” [Genesis 37:31-34]. And Jacob says, “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning.” Thus his father wept for the boy [Genesis 37:35].
Now what you have translated here, “For I will go down into the grave, for I will go down into sheol, into sheol unto my boy”: now his boy was not in a grave somewhere because they said an animal had eaten him up, had torn him apart [Genesis 37:32-33]. What Jacob says, “That my boy is in this other land, and I will go to be with him” [Genesis 37:35]; now you find that idea all through the Hebrew religion. David said about the little lad that died for whom he prayed, “He cannot come to me, but I can go to him” [2 Samuel 12:23].
And Jesus based the same doctrine of the resurrection upon that idea. When the Sadducees laughed and scoffed and ridiculed the idea of resurrection, our Lord said, “Did you never read in the Book where God said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and I am the God of Isaac, and I am the God of Jacob?’” Then the Lord added, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” [Matthew 22:31-32].
Of the living; somewhere Jacob lives, and Isaac lives, and Abraham lives, and somewhere the lad that died for whom David prayed lives [2 Samuel 12:23]. “And somewhere,” Israel said, “my son, my son Joseph lives, and I go to be with him” [Genesis 37:35]. Now, that was the idea of the old Hebrew in the revelation of God: there is a land beyond this life, there is another world. And the same thing as you find in the Hebrew so you find in the Greek revelation. There is another land, hades. You have that in the story that you read in the sixteenth chapter. “And in hades he lifted up his eyes” [Luke 16:23]. He died to this world and lifted up his eyes in another world, in hades, in the world to come. Now, that same pattern of thought in the Hebrew and in the Greek is also followed in dividing that land. In the land of sheol there are two sections, two parts, two places. In the land of hades—whether you read it in Hebrew or in Greek, it will be the same thing—in the land of hades there are two sections, there are two places.
Now, in the Hebrew idea of their tradition and their literature, and here in the story of our Lord, He will use their language. There is a place that our Lord will call Abraham’s bosom [Luke 16:22]. As the apostle John was close to the Lord and leaned his head in the bosom of the Lord [John 13:23-25]; well, so the idea, Abraham’s bosom, in the sweet communion and fellowship of God’s saints; Abraham’s bosom, in the land of sheol [Luke 16:22]. But there is also in the Hebrew language, there is a name that they call topheth, and Isaiah will use it, for Topheth is ordained of God. And he says that it is there a stream of brimstone with which God fills it [Isaiah 30:33]. So the Hebrew will say, that in this land beyond this life, there is Abraham’s bosom, a land of the blessed [Luke 16:22], but there is also Topheth, which is a stream of fire and brimstone, filled with the judgment and wrath of Almighty God [Isaiah 30:33].
Now when we turn to the Greek New Testament, you will find the same idea presented here in God’s Book. In the Greek language they would use a reference of Elysian fields, Elysian fields, Elysium, to refer to the land of bliss and of happiness. And the Greek would refer to tartarus as the land of judgment and torment and agony. Now you will find both of those, you will find those ideas in the New Testament, and you will find the exact word. For example, Peter will say in the second chapter of his second letter, “If God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell,” and the Greek word is tartarus, “cast them down to torment, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved against the day of judgment” [2 Peter 2:4]; so in the New Testament also is that idea of Elysium, happiness, glory, blissedness, and the idea of tartarus, of torment [Luke 16:22-23].
Now I am going to take a word that we use in the New Testament. They don’t use the word Elysian fields here in the revelation of God, but they use the word “paradise.” Jesus, in the story we’ve just read, Jesus uses the Hebrew nomenclature of Abraham’s bosom [Luke 16:22]. Now, let me use the word paradise.
What is paradise? Let me give you an illustration of the use of the word. The word ultimately, etymologically, semantically comes from a Persian word meaning park; paradise. Let me give you an illustration of its use.
A few years before 400 BC, Xenophon wrote his Anabasis, which is the story of the return of the ten thousand Greek soldiers back to Greece from their Persian mission. Now in the Anabasis, written by Xenophon, several times he will speak of those Greek soldiers seeing a paradise. And by that word paradise they meant a place on which the king lavished abounding riches. And it was a retreat for the king. It was not his court, nor was it his capital palace, but it was usually a country retreat. It was surrounded by a high wall. It was protected in every way. Wild animals and beasts, vicious, and robbers and those that would destroy the life of the king could not enter in. Usually it was on a hill, and it was usually forested and a place of rest, and relaxation, and leisure, and they called it a paradise. The word paradise referred to a place like that.
So there are two things in that word paradise. First, it is a place of relaxation and rest, such as you find in Revelation 14:13; “that they may rest from their labors.” And second, it was not the permanent home of the king. The king was in a city somewhere, in a capital, and his court was there. But this was a retreat, a beautiful one, a place of rest—and it was temporary.
Now that word paradise is used in the same way in the Word of God. Paradise is not our ultimate heaven. The Lord Jesus said to the thief, the robber, the malefactor who was crucified by His side, “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” [Luke 23:43]. And when we die, we go to Paradise. All of us who are saved, who have trusted in the Lord [Acts 16:31], whose sins are covered by the blood of the Lamb [1 Corinthians 5:7], when we die we go to Paradise [Luke 23:43].
Now that leads to this second thing. When we die and enter, as the Hebrews would say, sheol, or as the Greeks would say, hades; when we die, according to the Word of God we are immediately ushered into one of those two places. We wake up, carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom or into Paradise. Or we wake up in hades, in tartarus, in torment, in damnation. And immediately we are so ushered in [Luke 16:22-23].
But that is not our final state. Torment, tartarus, is not gehenna, it is not hell. The first one who is thrown into hell, into gehenna, is the devil, he’s the first one; the second one is the false prophet [Revelation 19:20; 20:10]. And finally, after the great white throne judgment [Revelation 20:11-13], those who wreak their lives with the failing purpose and cause of the devil [Revelation 20:14-15]. It was prepared not for us, but for the devil and his angels [Matthew 25:41]. And it is only those who identify themselves with Satan and Satan’s lost cause that find themselves in the judgment of Satan.
Now we must hasten. The reason we do not come into our final estate when we die is because a man doesn’t die when he dies. A man keeps on living when he dies. His influence, what he has done in this earth, continues on and on until that great final consummation. Think of what Paul does today, as I read him, as I study him, as I preach about him. Think of the good that Paul has done in this world, and he’s been dead a thousand nine hundred years. But his life still lives on. As the author of Hebrews says about Abel, “He, being dead, yet speaketh” [Hebrews 11:4]. And how many thousand years has it been since Abel died? A man doesn’t die when he dies. “He, being dead, yet speaketh.”
So it is with these who are evil. I went to see a friend, a boy that was graduated with me from Amarillo High School, and in Baylor he turned to be an infidel, to the amazement of us who loved him. And I went up there to see him one time, and there he was seated at his desk, reading Tom Paine’s Age of Reason. Why, Tom Paine’s been dead one hundred seventy-five, eighty, or ninety years. Yet after one hundred eighty or one hundred ninety years, there that young man was reading of that infidel and following his thoughts. That’s why you cannot receive your reward when you die, because your influence lives on.
But at the great judgment day, at the resurrection day, at the day of God’s rewards, that’s when we receive our final crown [2 Corinthians 5:10]. Now that is what I call the intermediate state, this time between when you die and that final resurrection.
For example, when the fifth seal is open, the apostle says in the sixth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, When he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them which were slain for the word of God: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘O Lord, how long, how long?’ [Revelation 6:9-10]. And white robes were given them. And God said to them they should rest for a while, until their brethren should also like them be killed [Revelation 6:6-11]; and then, at the great final resurrection, they should receive their rewards [Romans 2:6-10].
So there is a time, when in heaven, we are what Paul calls, what Paul calls unclothed, desiring to be clothed upon [2 Corinthians 5:4]. That is, we are spirits. But God intends for us to have a body, and between the time of our death and the redemption of our bodies, there is that intermediate state. Now I hate to say so much more without so much more of explanation with it, but I have to close. The time has passed.
I just point out to you that in this state into which we go when we die, in this state, whether I lift up my eyes being in torment, in damnation, or whether I am with the Lord in Paradise, in heaven, I am first conscious. I am conscious. I close my eyes to this life, and I open my eyes to the life that is to come [Luke 16:22-23].
Another thing I remember: I remember when Abraham said to Dives, “Remember, remember” [Luke 16:25]. I guess some of the most burning and searing of all the judgments of God in this earth will be the remembrance, the remembrance of the times when I could have accepted the Lord, and didn’t; could have loved Jesus, and didn’t; could have pled the mercy and blood of the Lord, and didn’t; could have asked God to forgive my sins, and didn’t; could have come down this aisle and take Jesus as my Savior, and didn’t. So, remember, remember, we have a remembrance in that life [Luke 16:25].
And then another thing hastily, there is a great gulf fixed between us, a great gulf fixed [Luke 16:26]. There is no intimation in the Bible, nowhere, there is no intimation in the Word of God, nowhere, that there is ever any change or ever any intercommunion when we are dying and dead and enter that other world. There is never a change in our state [Luke 16:26].
As the Book of Ecclesiastes says it, “As a tree falls, so shall it lie” [Ecclesiastes 11:3]. And if in this life I reject Christ, and if in death I die unsaved, I am unsaved forever and forever! There is a great gulf fixed so that they that would come here cannot go from there. There is no exchange [Luke 16:26]. This thing, the Bible says, is fixed between our estate in torment, in tartarus, in damnation, or the bliss and the glory of heaven [Luke 16:22-26].
Now I have noticed something about the Lord God, and it’s always true. To you and to me things are kind of gray; they are never white or black. We are never quite able to be sure. Our judgments are cloudy. We see, as Paul would say, through a glass, darkly [1 Corinthians 13:12]. We are that way. And when we look out over the world, people are kind of so-so, they are somewhat good, they are somewhat bad. It’s kind of gray to us. But it is not before God. And that is an awesome truth for me to remember.
In God’s sight a man is saved, and his sins are covered by the blood of the cross [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. Or in God’s sight a man is lost and undone, and without God and without hope in the world [Ephesians 2:12]. We kind of judge people, you know, by ethical standards. Well, he’s good or he is bad, or he is half good or half bad. There is nothing of that in the Lord. There is no one of us going to be saved because we are half good or because we are quarter good or because we are nine-tenths good. The Book says we are all sinners alike [Romans 3:23], and if we are saved at all, we are saved by the blood of the Crucified One [Romans 5:9]. When you get to glory, you are not going to say, “Praise, O praise me for half of my salvation and praise Jesus for the other half,” or “O bless God for the nine-tenths that I did and the one-tenth that Jesus did.” No sir. When you get to heaven you are going to say, “All glory and praise to Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood. To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen and amen” [Revelation 1:5-6].
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
All praise to the Father, all praise to the Son,
All praise to the Spirit, the great Three in One!
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
[from “Saved by the Blood,” S.J. Henderson]
My brother, if you have any hope for heaven, it is in Jesus [John 14:6; Acts 4:12]. If there is forgiveness of sins, it is in Jesus [1 Corinthians 15:3; Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:9]. And if I die tonight with any hope of seeing God’s face, I must die in the love and in the trust of the Lord Jesus [1 Thessalonians 4:14].
All of you men in the Baraca class, coming down the street to the church this evening, a man got in step with me, and I said to him, “Isn’t it a sadness, the loss of Mr. Barton this morning, presiding over the class? Fell asleep there in the Lord, isn’t it a sadness?” But he said, “Pastor, wasn’t it also a triumph? Wasn’t it a triumph? What a glorious way to go.”
I said, “Yes, and indeed.” If you are saved, if you love the Lord, to die is a gain [Philippians 1:21]. Paul said so. Paul said so. No fear, no dread, no crying, just triumph and victory. Closing your eyes to this life and waking up in heaven [2 Corinthians 5:8]. And the angels carried Lazarus into Abraham’s bosom, into Paradise [Luke 16:22], where he is now awaiting the great resurrection day of the Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
While we sing this hymn of appeal, you, give your heart to Jesus. A family you, come to love God and to pray with us. As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. In the balcony round, you, on this lower floor, in the aisle down here to the front, “Here I come, pastor.” Make that decision now. Do it now. And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up coming. Make it now. Do it tonight. On the first note of the first stanza, come. And may the angels that carried Lazarus to Paradise [Luke 16:22], may those same guardian angels guide you and attend your way as you come tonight, while we stand and while we sing.