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 Sermon on Beyond the Grave

By Brian Pepper


I suppose one of the hardest things that any minister has to perform in the course of his ministry is to take the news of a death to a mother or father.  Death is a cruel thing.  Death is a sad thing. There was a time when I feared death.  I think that we often fear a thing because we do not know very much about it. The majority of people in the world today really know very little about death. They have never taken the time to see what the Bible really says about it.

What the Bible says about death

Jesus said: "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."

When Jesus was on this earth he had much to say about his father's house. He kept pointing to the mansions on high. He urged his followers to look beyond the grave. He held out the promise of better things to come. Eventually he laid down his own life and after three days rose from the dead. It is on this fact that Paul builds his strongest argument to bring hope to bereaved men and women. Listen to this statement in 1 Corinthians 15:16: "For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised." In other words, if there is no resurrection, then Christ is not risen. And he continues, verses 17,18: "If Christ be not raised…they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." You see, the one depends upon the other. The resurrection of your loved ones is as certain as the resurrection of Christ. Your hopes and my hopes depend entirely on the resurrection of Christ. 

Science has no answer to death

With the great advance in science that is evident in the world today, we have seen one after another of the enemies of man conquered and eventually wiped out.  Smallpox, malaria, tuberculosis and polio have all succumbed to the advance of science. Cancer and heart disease is beginning to yield to the persistent study. But death still remains. This space age generation still stands as helpless before the power of death as any other.  St Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:26: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."

Only Christ can destroy death

And only Christ can destroy it.  I want you to be very clear on that. It is only a risen Christ that can break the chains of the grave.  In Rev 1:18, the Saviour says: "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen: and have the keys of hell and of death." Yes, he was the one who broke the bands of death by his mighty power.

It was Isaiah who said, in Isaiah 26:19: "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise…And the earth shall cast out the dead." Thy dead men shall live. Isn't that wonderful news? The earth shall cast out the dead.

What happens when a man dies?

But the question is, how will it all come about?  And what happens to a man between death and the resurrection?

In the world today we find that there are various opinions, sincere opinions, as to the condition of a man in death. There are some who believe that if a righteous man dies, he goes immediately to heaven. And that if a wicked man dies, he goes at once to hell fire.  Others say that this is not entirely true; that when a man dies, he stops over at a place called purgatory for cleansing. There are many who insist that he goes to a spirit world where he is able to send messages to his loved ones. There are still others who are convinced that when a man dies, it is the end of him forever. And there are those who believe that when a man dies, he quietly sleeps until the resurrection day.

Now you can readily see that all of these opinions cannot possibly be correct, for they are all contradictory. And there is one thing that is very certain: no man who lives this side of the grave can know what lies in and beyond the grave.  But God knows, and in the Scriptures he has placed enough information to satisfy any man who really wants to know the truth of this matter. You see, we are not left to our own faulty opinions. Let me take you to what I believe is the plainest text in all the Scriptures about what happens to a man when he dies. It is found in Ecclesiastes 12:7: "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."

Here we have a description of what happens to a man when he dies. And the question naturally arises, what is this spirit that returns to God?

What is the spirit that returns to God?

Now in many Bibles, down the centre of the page, you will find a what we speak of as the margin. In this margin, the men who prepared the Bible for printing have indicated other texts that they feel refer to the same subject. They have also given us some alternate readings of the original text.  For instance, we read in James 2:26 that: "The body without the spirit is dead."

In the margin we find that an alternate translation for spirit is 'breath'. So you can see that it can read this way: "The body without the breath is dead."

You see, it is the spirit or the breath, which keeps the body alive. Now I would like you to notice Job 27:3: "All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils."

Again we find in the margin that 'spirit' might be translated 'breath'. We find that the two words are used interchangeably in the Scriptures.

"The spirit of God is in my nostrils."

It is quite clear that the spirit that a man receives from God and that goes back to God when he dies, is what God put in his nostrils.  So we ask this question, what did God put into a man's nostrils?  Reading Genesis 2:7: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul."

What about man's soul?

God breathed into man's nostrils at creation the breath of life. And the death, that breath or spirit of life simply returns to God who gave it. You see it is the breath of life that gives life to a man.

"And the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground."

Let us just for a moment picture the scene as man is ready to come from the hands of his Creator. There he is! Complete in every part. There is a brain in his head ready to think, but it isn't thinking yet. There is blood in his veins ready to flow.  There is a heart in his breast ready to beat, but it hasn't started yet.  He is ready to live.  He is ready to move, but it hasn't started to move yet.

But listen to this: "And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

Nowhere are we told in the Scriptures that God gave man a living soul. Man became a living soul as the result of God placing the breath into his nostrils. Then when a man dies, according to Ecclesiastes 12:7: "The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit of life, or the breath of life, returns to God who gave it."

What happens to the soul at death?

That is clear enough, is it not?  Now this question may help us to understand: if the union of the dust of the ground and the breath of life makes a man a living soul, then what happens to that living soul at death?  Anyone can see that it simply ceases to be a living soul until the life-giver reunites the body and the breath of life on the morning of the resurrection.

Suppose we have here a pile of boards and a pile of nails. That is all we have, just a pile of boards and a pile of nails. Now we take these boards and we nail them together according to a plan. We no longer have a pile of boards and a pile of nails; we have a box. Where did the box come from?  "Oh," you say, "it came from the union of the pile of boards and the pile of nails."  And you are right.

Now let us suppose that we no longer want a box, so we pull out the nails and put them in one place, and lay the boards in another place. Now where did the box go to?  You say, "it didn’t go anywhere; it simply ceased to be a box."  And you are right again. Just so, in the beginning God formed man of two things, the dust of the ground and the breath of life. And as a result of uniting these two, man became a living, loving, acting soul. When he dies, the two separate. The dust returns to the ground. The breath, returns to God who gave it. That living, moving soul is changed to a dead soul. And remains that way until the resurrection when the body and the breath of life are united again.

Resurrection of the dead

What does that mean to you?  What does that mean to me?  It means that when a Christian dies, he can know that in the resurrection morning, not only will his life be restored, but he will also be given immortal life. 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 says: "Behold I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory."

What wonderful news! But I ask you. You believe what I have just read regarding the resurrection. You believe that when Jesus comes He will call the dead to life. Of course you do: that is if you are a Christian. The resurrection has been the hope of all Christians through the centuries. Yes, everyone looks forward to the resurrection.

Why a resurrection if the dead are in heaven?

Now I ask you. Why would we need a resurrection if we have already entered heaven at death. Yes, why would Jesus come to get His loved ones, if as it is popularly believed, they are already with him? We read in the Bible that men and women are judged in the last days. I ask you this, why would a judgment be needed if the dead are already in their place of rewards? Cant you see it? There is something wrong here. These ideas have crept into the Church and today many of them are accepted because most folk never bother to check up for themselves. No, according to the Scriptures, death does not mean that we go to heaven. Death does not mean that we are going to hell-fire.

Death does not mean to go to purgatory. Death does not mean to go to the spirit world. Death does not mean to go anywhere. Death simply means a cessation of life, a sleep, until the resurrection morning. Jesus called death a sleep. When Lazarus had died, He said simply, in John 11:11: "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep."

The Christian hope of a resurrection

Now I ask you, is there anything more relaxing, more wonderful, than dreamless, peaceful sleep at night? All toil, all heartaches, are all forgotten. There is no sense of passing time. And so, the Christian who dies may close his eyes in sleep for a hundred years, yet to him it will seem the very next moment when he opens his eyes to see Jesus. Just think of it! One moment the eyes are closed in the sleep of death. The next, conscious of that great resurrection call. Now doesn't that take away the sting of death? Yes, God's way is the best after all. We do not enter heaven one by one. We will all go together, at Christ's return, escorted by the Saviour Himself into the city of God.

1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 says: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

The God of Life will speak on that resurrection morning. Loved ones who have passed from us, their bodies racked by disease and pain, will come forth in the likeness of their Lord, in new and wonderful bodies, perfect in form and glowing health. When Jesus comes through the blazing heavens, he will call out with a voice of thunder: "Awake, ye that sleep in the dust of the earth. Arise to everlasting life!"

And that voice will be heard the world around. Families will be united; children snatched away by death will be placed again in their mother's arms. What a great reunion day it will be! Think of what it will mean to the crippled, to the blind, to those weakened by disease, to minds confused by fear.  God says in Isaiah 35:5,6: "The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap…and the tongue of the dumb sing."

But think what it will mean to the able bodied and the strong, to those who love life and want to live. Death may seem welcome to the body racked by disease and pain, but to the strong and the youthful, death can mean only disappointed hopes, disillusionment. Here is the answer to death's sting.

The resurrection day is not far away

That day is not far distant. It is the day to which Job looked forward when he said:
"Yet in my flesh shall I see God."

It is the day of which David said: "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."

It was the same day mentioned by the dying thief when he prayed, in Luke 23:43: "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."

I wonder if we realise the faith it took for the dying thief to pray that prayer. For it seemed very unlikely that the One who called himself the Son of God would ever have a kingdom in that dark hour. And I wonder if we can comprehend the faith it took for the Son of God to answer as he did. I want you to notice the vital significance of that word 'today'.

"Today" when even my disciples have forsaken me.

"Today" when my own people have crucified me.

"Today" when it looks that I shall never have a kingdom.

"Today" when it looks as though I could never save anybody.

"I say unto you today, you will be with me in paradise."

Resurrection our only hope

Friend, never let a comma, misplaced by sincere men, ever confuse you. The thief, no doubt, did not die that day. He did not expect Jesus to die that day. He knew that death by crucifixion was a long, slow process, often taking several days. You will recall the surprise of Pilate, late that afternoon, when he learned that Jesus was already dead.

And death for the Son of God was to be like that which comes to everyman- a quiet restful sleep. He was to be resurrected, not from three days in paradise but from three days in the tomb. For did he not say to Mary on that Sunday morning, found in John 20:17:
"Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my father."

No, the dying thief looked far past that dark hour when he said:
Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."

Friends, the resurrection is our only hope. And one day soon we will be reunited with the departed loved ones. May God help us to be ready is my earnest prayer.


The Bible in Song Sermons category is expected to be enlarged over time as hard copy sermon notes are scanned, typed and edited in webpage format. Visit Sermons Page for the complete list of sermons and Bible Commentaries

  PDF Sermon Files
Click image for sample. The Complete Sermon Collection is available at the Store Page. It includes 169 sermons which are listed on the Sermons Page, plus several audio visual sermonettes and a number of incomplete sermons. Original typed sermon notes have been scanned in PDF files on a DVD.


  PDF Revelation Files
Easy access to all the uploaded Revelation Bible Commentaries written by Brian Pepper. Also a CD of the complete Book of Revelation consisting of 22 PDF files scanned from original typed documents. These files can be downloaded by Adobe Acrobat to view on computer screen, or printed in booklet or other format.


  SDA Prophecy Chart
Bible in Song Sermons and Commentaries pages have exposed flaws in the "2300 day" prophecy chart most notably used by Seventh-day Adventists. Seventh-day Adventists in their biblical interpretation have favored the tradition of their founding fathers over Scripture and the "divine revelation" of their own prophet Ellen White. Read more.


Thank you for posting some of (Brian Pepper's) sermons. It's like reading the very words Jesus has spoken to me and is a great encouragement. I cannot say that about many Pastors but I can say that about (Pr Pepper). Thank you. Robert (USA) ... more testimonials.



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