HEAVEN’S GATEWAY

 


Stop Fearing Death!  

  

 “And He said to him,

‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise’” 

(Luke 23:43)

 

Those who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior have nothing to fear from death.  Although the mere thought of death (the unknown) creates immeasurable amounts of anxiety and fear, the words of God the Son, Jesus Christ, above, assures the believer that death is nothing more than a gateway to Paradise.  Our Lord’s words caress and comfort the troubled heart.  In other words, death for the believer is not an unknown.  Once our eyes close for the last time here on earth, they reopen the same day above, in Paradise.  Death is merely a gateway or door; as one closes, another opens.  

Let us look at Paul’s attitude toward death (he knew it was a gateway to heaven).  Paul preferred death (Paradise) over life, considering it great gain.  Notice this in his letter to the Corinthians and Philippians, below:   

 “we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord”  (2 Cor. 5:8)   

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.  But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sakes.”  (Philippians 1:21-24)

“What is this place called paradise?  The word paradeisos, ‘paradise,’ originally comes from the ancient Iranian, pairidaeza, and means ‘a garden with a wall.’  The Greek word is used for the first time by Xenophon for the gardens of the Persian kings.  The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew word for garden in Gen. 2:8 is paradeisos.  In the New Testament the word occurs only three times: 2Cor. 12:4; Luke 23:43; Rev. 2:7.  It was indicated as the place where the spirits or souls of men go immediately after death, which is also the place that Christ was going to once His spirit was separated from His body.  The continuation of the existence of the personality is also clearly intimated in the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.  The paradise of 2Cor. 12:4 is the same as that spoken of by Christ in Luke 23:43.  In Rev. 2:7 the word is spoken of in an eschatological sense as being a gift to be given to the one who overcomes.  It is evidently the place where the disembodied personalities as spirits or souls of the believers go immediately at death to be with Christ.”  (Greek Scholar, Dr. Spiros Zodhiates – “The Hebrew-Greek Greek Key Study Bible,” pg. 1545)

At death, our disembodied personalities as spirits or souls arrive in heaven.  They are seen given white robes to wear:  

“And when He broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?  And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed.”  (Revelation 6:9-11)

Our brother Stephen, too, knew where his disembodied soul or spirit was destined:  

 “And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ (Acts: 7:59) 

In the Gospel of Luke, the continuation of the existence of the personality is clearly intimated in the story of the rich man and Lazarus:

“Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day.  And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.  Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.  And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.  And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’  But Abraham said, Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise, Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.  And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.  And he said, ‘then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’  But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’  But he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’  But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’”  (Luke 16:19-31)

The account in Luke paints a vivid picture of both destinations.  This is not a fairy tale.  This is as real as it gets.  Jesus Christ is giving us a sneak-preview into the future.  The spirits or souls who accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior go directly to heaven.  On the other hand, those spirits or souls failing to do so go directly to hell.  As the disembodied souls in heaven (Rev. 6:9-11) cry out and are given white robes to wear, the rich man’s soul or spirit, too, discovers his new and eternal abode.  However, while his future (not Paradise) is far less pleasant, all those who reject God’s Son, Jesus Christ, as their Lord and Savior will experience the rich man’s fate.    

The dead do not praise God but go down into silence.  The believers, however, dead or alive praise their Lord forever:    

 “The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor do any who go down into silence; But as for us, we will bless the LORD From this time forth and forever.  Praise the LORD!”  (Psalm 115:17-18) 

For all of us who accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, His words in Luke remove all fear of death (the unknown), and bring peace to the living.  Our eyes will close but reopen in Paradise: 

 “And He said to him,‘

Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise’” 

(Luke 23:43)

 

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