SOME PEOPLE NEVER DIE !
By: ROBERT HAROLD SCHULLER.
And I will dwell in the
house of the Lord for ever
* * * * * * * *
W HAT A TOWERING FOUNTAIN IS TO A PARK, AND A ROSE WINDOW IS TO A CATHEDRAL, AND THE KEY DIAMOND IS TO THE POINT OF A CROWN, THAT IS WHAT THIS SENTENCE IS TO THIS ROYAL PSALM.
It is a soul-thrilling, heart-lifting, eye-moistening, faith-generating sentence: “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Which brings to my mind an impertinent, impetuous, proud professor who not long ago in my hearing, “It is now scientifically proved that there is no heaven and there is no hell.”
The poor fool! I forgot all about him until quite recently. I was driving along one of our two-lane black-top roads that is called upon now to carry four-lane traffic. As I rode along this narrow, dangerous street, I saw on the side of the road a stiff-kneed, snowy-haired, trembling old man.
In one hand he hugged a paper sack out of which peeked the top of a loaf of bread. He embraced it tightly as if it steadied and supported him somehow. In the other hand he was holding the banner of blindness, a white rubber-tipped cane, with which he fingered cautiously the crumbling edge of the uncurbed black-top road which told him whether he was still on the side or whether he was wandering into the oncoming traffic.
I looked at him as I drove slowly by; I could almost see the weary eyelids twitching and trembling over his unseeing eyes. The sight of him made me nervous, for there were cars coming too fast toward him and I hoped he would not miss his white-caned cue and wander into the oncoming traffic. I wanted desperately to stop and offer him a lift. But I thought my offer might offend his dignity. So I drove on. And then, strangely enough, I was suddenly reminded of that proud, impertinent professor who denied belief in life after death.
He, too, was stumbling dangerously and blindly out of his own field of safe knowledge into the realm of religion. And he was teaching as facts what were only his negative assumptions.
It reminded me of the very ordinary joke about an old farmer who confronted an arrogant agnostic with this comment: ‘‘Just ‘cause you say there ain’t no hell ain’t no sign you ain’t going there.”
There are a variety of doctrines, opinions, and philosophies about life after death. But they all fall into three major categories, and you may take your choice.
Let us look at them briefly.
You can be a nihilist, believe in nothing, as does that impertinent professor. According to this theory, when you die, you are dead, a candle blown out. It would be more accurate to say that man is more like a moon that reflects and mirrors the sun.
William James said that many of the thoughts in the human experience and very the euman existence are not thoughts produced by the gray matter under the skull, but they come from outer space and the spiritual universe in which we live. The mind does not produce all of its thoughts — it just transnIits some of these thoughts, not like a sun that generates its own light, but like a moon that is daily reflecting other light that comes fromxi without.
And James goes on to say, “It is impossible for me or for any psychologist to determine whether the ideals and the obsessions and the compulsions in the mind of a man are produced in his own brain or whether they are impulses and ideas that are being transniitted through him from outside.”
But you can believe as the nihilists believe. A nihilist believes there is nothing. Everything is annihilated, done away with, obliterated. That would be heaven for people who live a devil of a life! In fact, it would be a rather universal injustice to think that some people could get so neatly off the hook!
Well, there is another idea. It is that the soul survives death and enjoys elation; there is a heaven and everybody goes there, because God is so loving and so kind that He would not let anyone miss it. Presumably even Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and the butchers who burned the millions of Jews go there because God is all-loving. Frankly, if that were the case, I think I’d want to be counted out!
Then there’s a third view, and for this belief let us go to the Person that I really consider to be the authority on the subject, and that is Jesus Christ.
Now, let us assume that Colonel John Glenn gave a lecture to tell what it was like in outer space and that he described the sights and pictured for us very, very dramatically what the world looked like from up there.
After his detailed lecture let us presume that I stepped forward and said, “Now, just a minute, Mr. Glenn, I want to challenge what you say.” Who would believe me over against Colonel John Glenn who has been there and has come back to tell us about it?
The truth is that Jesus Christ gave His life to tell us the truth about life after death. And what is His report? Let us listen to Him. I suggest that you are on far safer ground believing Him than believing your doubts.
His first statement and His first report is that the human being has an immortal soul which survives the physical experience called death. He said, “He that lives and believes on me shall never die.” Now, there you have it.
I suppose some people have difficulty believing this in our agnostic world, because they think of the human being as merely another animal. And it is true.
We happen to have animalistic bodies in the sense that we eat like animals; we see and we smell and we taste and we reproduce ---— in that sense, we are animals.
I remember a biologist who said to me, “I would like to show you the embryo of a monkey and the embryo of a human being.” He was one of those agnostics. He said, “You can’t tell the difference!” He’s right . You can’t. If you saw the embryo of a monkey and the embryo of a human being, you could not tell the difference. They are that much alike.
My answer to him was simple. The difference is in what they are becoming! One will grow up to be nothing but a hairy monster! -------The other will grow up
to have the gift of intelligence, intuition, creativity and what Victor Frankl, the psychiatrist, calls noesis, or a noetic quality, or the neshama. and what the Bible call s the soul and the spirit. That’s the difference!
This reminds me of a very interesting story.
You may have heard it.
There was a Western farmer who on a mountain hike found an egg lying in the grass. He picked it up, took it home, and put it under the hen that was sitting on chicken eggs. Eventually the hen hatched the egg along with the other eggs. But what coriie forth was the most awkward, crude, ugly-looking creature the farmer ever saw.
He called the neighbors in and asked if they knew what it was but they could not tell . Nobody had the slightest idea what this peculiar creature was. it developed wings that became a heavy burden on the little body — big, oversized, clumsy wings that were too big for him. And its legs developed deformed crooks that looked like claws, and the beak, instead of being straight and sharp was crooked.
It survived and it grew until one day, above the barnyard, there was a shrill scream and this awkward bird looked up and he saw gliding slowly in great circles above the farmyard a huge bird; and for the first time, his instinct told hini what he was. He was an eagle — bred for the mountains, born to fly, and destined never to be happy while earth-bound in a barnyard.
Ah, that’s it. Why do human beings have such frustratiôns, such disturbances, such mental problems? We may have legs and we may have mouths and we may have eyes like animals. But we are bred for heaven.
And so, St. Augustine said, “No human being is really at peace until he has come to God by faith.” We instinctively feel the call of eternity, like the wild, domesticated animal who hears the call of the wild and must respond. One wise philosopher said that when God wants to prove something to people He puts it in their instincts. So that is Christ’s first word on the subject; we are born for eternity.
Then He goes on and He says something quite specific. He says there is a hell out there. At this point we ought to remember that the whole idea of hell was taught by the gentlest, tenderest, sweetest Person who ever lived.
And the talk about outer darkness and the closed door and the weeping and the gnashing of teeth and the lake of fire and other figurative expressions also fell from the lips of the most compassionate Person who ever lived.
But that kind of talk is outdated now, isn’t it? Wait a minute, maybe it isn’t outdated. Leslie Weatherhead, who is considered a liberal British theologian, had these words to say: “Sin is a terrible thing in the universe . Let us never forget that though the idea of hell has been caricatured in a fantastic vulgarity by the whole generation of our great-grandfathers, we are doing our generation a far greater disservice if we make light of sin and pretend that it does not matter and that you are all going to the same place and that God will pat everybody on the head and say finally, “Therc, there, it doesn’t matter. I am sure you didn’t mean it. Come, now, and enjoy yourselves, ‘‘ “We need,’~ Mr. Weatberhcad said, “to remember that the most terrible things ever said were spoken by the most wonderful person who ever lived.”
And Peter Marshall, in a book that Catherine, his wife, published, puts it this way: “We must never forget that the lust to pain, the tendency to abuse sex, the crave to drink are evil desires; first, not of the body but of the frustrated spirit.
And the spirit survives death. Suppose,” Marshall continues, “these grand souls still have their desires and lusts, their passions and their cravings still gnawing, eating and burning constantly at their personalities. Suppose in eternity they still have their desires and no bodies to gratify these desires. Would that not be hell?”
Or imagine that someday your soul and mine stand completely naked before God, completely stripped of all of the things that made us feel secure and confident in this life. Would that no t be hell?
An allegory tells about a soul that came to heaven. Just outside of heaven was a huge arena called “The Court of Status Symbols.” Before he could get into heaven he had to go through this area, past the keeper of the door of the court. Inside he saw sleek automobiles, membership cards to exclusive clubs, white poodles, silver-tipped canes, etc. As he went farther back into the room he saw the crowns of kings and beautiful jewelry from princesses. Then the guide said, “Yes, these were all things that the world used to impress people, symbols of significance. But they don’t impress Him! So we have everybody drop them right here before they come to stand before Him!”
For some people, I submit, to have to stand before God without all of the props that we have been using to impress people might be a nightmare. Or suppose, as a certain theologian suggested, that death is like a dream. Imagine that death will be like falling asleep. Suddenly you awake to an unending dream! We know, of course, that dreams for the most part are exaggerated projections of our past experiences. For one who has lived in the love of God and has thrilled to beautiful music and has felt the wonderful warmth of faith, life after death will be one long, beautiful, unending and inspiring dream
But for one to whom existence has been nothing more than self-indulgence, feeding the desires of his physical organism which can no longer be fed in eternity, would not the dream be one unending nightmare? So Christ makes the point clear. There is hell ; there is heaven.
Now against this sober background, one important question looms large. Are you saved? Your eternity is determined by you in your lifetime. How? By the life you live? To some extent, I suppose, but that is not really all. None of us can really atone for the sins we have committed . Then how can we be redeemed or saved? I know of only one Person in all of human history who ever said, “I am the good shepherd. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” His name is Jesus Christ.
Indeed, there have been many religious leaders.
There have been many philosophers in the stream of human history, but no one ever dared to say, as Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.”
So, this is how! You simply come to Christ.
It means that you must admit that you have sinned and need salvation. “A broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, thou wilt not despise.”
God has never sent a single soul to hell. He never has and He never will! Men send themselves there by proudly refusing to accept His gift of love. Christ will save anybody who comes. “Him that cometh unto me,” He said, “I shall under no circumstances cast out.”
Someday I shall have to cross the dividing line and move to the other side, and so will you. Personally, I anticipate it as the most exciting trip I have ever taken and I anticipate it with more excitement than I did my first around-the-world trip two years ago. ‘I have no fear, for thou art with me.”
“Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” And what does it mean to come? It doesn’t mean just to sit and politely ignore Him. It means to rise up and accept Him. “Someday,” John McNeil said, “I will draw my feet into the bed for the last time and turn my face to the wall and I will have to look at the gulf, but my Shepherd and I will look at it together . ‘I will fear no evil, for him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out. ’ I will hold onto that and dare to swing out over the wide gulf on that slender rope, knowing that it will not drop me, for it is rooted in God’s imperishable love.” Take hold of that rope now!
YOUR FUTURE IS YOUR FRIEND. (Pgs. 90-98)
Copyright @ 1964. By: Wm. B. Ferdmans Publishing Co.,
Grand Rapids, Michigan
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