Series of 13 Sermons by Pastor Ron Thomas On
"Our Final Journey"

801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040

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Final Journey Series

Introduction: When someone dies, where does he or she go? Death is separation, the departure of the soul spirit given by God to all men. A corpse is a lifeless body, a body minus a spirit. So, when the spirit that is in man leaves the body, from the first man Adam until now, where does it go?

If you asked the atheist, "When someone dies, where does he or she go?" he would say, "No where. Its over. That's it." To the atheist, humans are no more than animals that are born, live, die, and then cease to exist. The atheist would deny a FINAL JOURNEY altogether.

If you asked the Hindu and other such cults, "When someone dies, where does he or she go?" they would tell you that a persons departed spirit would enter this world again in some other form, depending on how well that individual lived. This is called reincarnation. Individuals are bound to live on this earth in life after life after life, until they get it right, until they work off their "bad karma," and arrive at a oneness with God, or the universe, or whatever. So, depending on your karma load, you might be a tree, a bush, a dog, a bug, or a mouse.

If you asked a Catholic, "When someone dies, where does he or she go?" more than likely the answer would be, "Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory." Those who obtained enough grace through the sacraments dispensed by "the church," that is the Holy Catholic church, would be received by God into Heaven. People like Mother Teresa would surely go straight to Heaven. Those who are absent of sanctifying grace bestowed through the favor of "the church," go to Hell. This is the punishment for people who die in "mortal sin," as opposed to "venial sin." The rest would more than likely go to a place called "Purgatory." What is Purgatory? Let me give you the definition given in my Concise Catholic Dictionary. Purgatory is the state and the place of punishment where the temporal punishment due to sins previously forgiven must be endured, and guilt of unconfessed venial sins is cleared away from the soul of the person dying in the state of grace; the place of cleansing and preparation from which the soul goes directly to Heaven. Purgatory is a kind of a holding tank, where the people who are bad, but not too bad, have an opportunity to work off their sin so that they can enter Heaven.

If you asked a Bible believing Christian, "When someone dies, where does he or she go?" the answer would be more likely, "Heaven or Hell." Those who are saved, that is who have repented of their sins and placed their faith and trust in the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ shed upon the Cross, go to Heaven. Those who are lost, who have rejected Jesus Christ dying in their sin, go to Hell.

There could be other answers to this question. Some believe that departed spirits hang around old houses and hotels so to scare people. They believe that the departed dead are wandering around always trying to connect with this world, trying to speak to the living and can be contacted by mediums. This kind of thing has no biblical merit, but it makes good movies!

What if I told you that all these answers were wrong? What if I told you that death begins OUR FINAL JOURNEY into eternity, but the first stop is neither Heaven or Hell, or Purgatory, for that matter? Please do not label me a heretic just yet, give me a little time to dig my own grave.

So, what is the first stop on our FINAL JOURNEY? What can everyone expect, saved or lost, one second after they die? To answer that question, we must go to the Word of God.

First, we read Psalm 49.

"Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world:

2 Both low and high, rich and poor, together.

3 My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.

4 I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.

5 Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?

6 They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches;

7 None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:

8 (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:)

9 That he should still live for ever, and not see corruption.

10 For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others.

11 Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.

12 Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.

13 This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings. Selah.

14 Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.

15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for He shall receive me. Selah.

16 Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased;

17 For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him.

18 Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself.

19 He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light.

20 Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish."

This psalm ponders the frailty and finality of man. All men, rich and poor, small and great, righteous and unrighteous, fall prey to death. We all must FACE THE INEVITABLE. This psalm tells us that there are "no pockets in a shroud," that "you can't take it with you." All of our worldly houses, lands, and riches perish at the grave and do not, can not, commend us to God. The only one who can redeem is God! Then in verse 15, we hear this great burst of hope. "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for He shall receive me. Selah." Here in this verse are three hope filled promises.

First, the promise of a Redeemer. He says, "God will redeem my soul." Praise God, from the very beginning, God was "in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." Job of old, cried out, "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer!

Second, the promise of a resurrection. He continues, "from the power of the grave." This body shall return to dust, but one day the trumpet shall sound, and the "dead in Christ" shall rise forth from the grave!

Third, the promise of a reception. He says, "He shall receive me." Paul said, "To be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord."

The psalmist could FACE THE INEVITABLE secured by the promises of God. He lived in hope of a Redeemer, a future resurrection, and the prospect of being received by God at death!

Second, we read passages from Ecclesiastes. In Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 we read, "For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?"

Are beasts any different from humans? Looking around, we might be convinced the evolutionist are right! The preacher Solomon said that from an "under the sun" earth bound perspective, they are much the same, sharing in the curse of sin upon all creation. They both fall prey to death and their bodies return to dust. The difference is their soul spirit. The spirit of man goes upward at death. Mankind was created by God in His own likeness and image. He received his spirit directly from God and it returns "upward" to Him.

Notice Ecclesiastes 12:6-7. "Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." The spirit of man goes upward, returning to God who gave it!

What happened to Enoch? In Genesis 5:24 we read, "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him." Hebrews 11:5 says, "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Enoch gave death the slip and he went to be with God!

The same thing happened to Elijah! II Kings 2:11 tells us, "And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven."

So, what is the first stop on our FINAL JOURNEY? What can everyone expect, saved or lost, one second after they die? The Word of God is very clear. The soul spirit of all men from Adam to the present, go out into eternity to meet God! He is the first stop. When we leave this world, we go to meet God. The spirit that He gave must return to Him. Everyone of us had better prepare to meet God!

I say all this, because we need to realize that there are no second chances. There is no Intermediate State. There has never been an Intermediate State. The word intermediate means in the middle, in between. God does not have, has never had, a holding tank for the departed dead.

There is no Intermediate place for preparation. We men could write a book about waiting on women to while they work at being beautiful. Did I say that right? The Lord has not provided a celestial dressing room, so that we can make ourselves presentable to Him. We are never prepared for death, and after our death, there is no time or place to prepare to meet God.

There is no Intermediate place for probation. Carla Faye Tucker was on death row for 14 years. During those years she had time to prepare to meet God, and there was time for appeals to work through the court system. There is no such place in eternity! When we die, our fate is sealed. Either we are saved or not, either we are justified before God by faith or not, either our sins are forgiven by the blood of the Lamb or not.

There is no Intermediate place for purging or purification. We must understand that to God, sin is sin. God is totally righteous, pure, holy and cannot even look upon sin, any sin! James tells us in James 2:10, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." When we trust in Jesus Christ, all our sins are judged and forgiven "once and for all." We do not go out into eternity with leftovers. Either we are "in Christ" or not. Jesus did not die for some of our sins, or most of our sins, leaving us to work off the rest, He died for all our sins!

There are some who might ask, "What about Paradise? What about Abraham's bosom?" Some teach, and I once believed that before the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that all those who died in the Lord went not into the presence of the Lord in Heaven, not up but down into the heart of the earth, to a place called Paradise.

For example, in Luke 16, Lazarus died and was escorted by the angels to a place called "Abraham's bosom." Luke 16:22-26 says, "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."

We all know where Hell is, so this place called Paradise must be close to Hell because the rich man could see Lazarus there in "Abraham's bosom." Besides, Ephesians 4 tells us that when Jesus rose from the grave, "He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." Jesus said to the thief on the cross who repented and believed in Luke 23, "Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." So, was there another place that was in the earth, a part of Hades, where the souls of those who died in the Lord, were held captive until the resurrection of Jesus?

If so, why? Why down and not up? Why would God not let the souls of the redeemed go to Heaven, if the souls of the lost went to Hell? Does that "great gulf" described in Luke 16, have to be horizonal, and not vertical? If the rich man was in Hell and Lazarus was in Heaven, why couldn't he see Lazarus, if God willed it? Isn't the work of the gospel to "set the captive free?" Didn't Jesus descend to the earth from Heaven, to redeem man? In II Corinthians 12:4, the apostle Paul upon death in an out of the body experience, went to a place called "Paradise" in the third Heaven. This was after the resurrection of Christ. Was this the same place mentioned in Luke 23? Why shouldn't Paradise, Abraham's bosom, and Heaven be different names for the same place?

History tells us that "Abraham's bosom" was a figurative expression denoting the place of repose at death. The rabbis divided the state after death into a place for the righteous and a place for the wicked. That is similar to the Greek concept of Hades which also had two compartments.

Why must there be an Intermediate place before the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for those who had died in the Lord? Doesn't this open the door to unscriptural teaching such as Purgatory? Some have suggested that the reason Old Testament saints went to a place in the earth, and not to Heaven, was because Jesus Christ had not yet paid the price for sin. If you ask me, that is dangerous thinking? Salvation is the same before the cross, on the cross and after the cross. In the mind and heart of God, Jesus was the Lamb of God slain before the foundations of the earth!

Regardless what you believe concerning Paradise or Abraham's bosom before the resurrection of Jesus, the fact remains that if you were to die right now, your soul spirit, that is the real you, would go out into eternity to meet God. Paul says in II Corinthians 5:6-8, "Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." Then in Philippians 1:21-24 he said, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you."

Carla Faye Tucker faced the inevitable yesterday and as the seconds ticked down, she anticipated her FINAL JOURNEY. Her struggle with earthly courts, even the Supreme Court of the land, no doubt seemed insignificant one second after she died. Why? She found herself where we all one day will stand, fully in the gaze of God. I wonder what it is like, standing alone in the presence of God?

In Hebrews 4:12-13, we are given some sense of what it is like to stand before God. "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." The writer to the Hebrews describes the Word of God in a series of great phrases.

It is "quick" or alive. The Word of God is living. It is relevant for all men of all times. Other things may pass away and become obscure in their importance, but God and His Word are something that everyone must face, its offer something everyone must accept or reject.

It is "powerful" or active. The Word of God is effective. It is one of the facts of history that wherever men have taken God's Word seriously, things have begun to happen. When people take God seriously, they immediately realize that His Word is not only something to be studied, not only something to be read, but it is something powerful that works in us and through us.

It is "piercing" like a "two edged sword." The Word of God is penetrating. It penetrates to the division of soul (psyche) and spirit (pneuma). The Word of God, the presence of God, tests our earthly life and as well as our spiritual existence. He says that the Word of God scrutinizes our thoughts, desires, and intentions. Our emotional and intellectual life are brought before the scrutiny of God.

It is revealing. "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." Everything is "naked" before God and compelled to meet His eyes. There are two interesting words used here in verse 13 for "naked." The word "naked" in the Greek means unclad, without clothing, the naked body. The word "opened" in the Greek means to seize and twist the neck or throat. It was a wrestler's word and was used for seizing an opponent by the throat in such a way that he could not move. We may escape God for long enough, but in the end He grips us in such a way that we cannot help meeting Him face to face.

Sometimes when a criminal was being led to judgment or to execution, a dagger, with point upwards, was placed below his chin so that he could not bow his head in concealment, but had to keep it up so that all could see his face and know his dishonour. In the end, we have to meet the eyes of God. We may avert our gaze from people we are ashamed to meet; but we are compelled to look God in the face. There will come a time when every one of us shall meet God from whose eyes nothing ever can be concealed.

What is our hope as we stand before God? Our hope is that He will see red. John writes, ".....and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."

"There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel's veins, And sinners plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains."

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