Eternity in the heart

Hans-Jürgen Neuschäfer,

Kirche am Bahnhof, Frankenberg, November 16, 2023

David Livingstone, the English pioneer missionary, was the first white man to travel through Africa around 1850. He not only saw the beautiful Zambezi Falls, but unfortunately also many other less beautiful things. One day when he was in the middle of the jungle, a colored chief came to him and asked : “White man, don’t you have any means against death?” With this, the chief had addressed an age-old question of humanity.
Why do people go to spas, sanatoriums and clinics today, why do they often undergo such painful therapies and often pay for such expensive treatments? You want to extend your life, you want to enjoy it for as long as possible. But sooner or later every person is confronted with this question of death.
According to Geo magazine from July 24, 2023, there are 8 factors that extend your life by 20 years.
The magazine Focus from April 14, 2022 names 7 factors that have been proven to prolong life.
According to the health insurance company, 4 rules extend life by 14 years.
Why do doctors research this day and night?
What approaches does science have for people getting older? Is the so-called vampire cure an option? Vampire lifting has been around since 2023. It is a transfusion of blood. They tried this in young mice and it was apparently successful in animals, so they want to try it in humans too.
In 2007, the Japanese Shinya Yamanaka (Deutsch) discovered that body cells can be returned to their original embryonic state – with just four proteins. Can you perhaps use it to rejuvenate entire bodies?
But the fact is that two people die worldwide every second . If there is a major accident somewhere with 200 deaths, that seems like an enormous number to us. But those are only 200 out of a total of 150,000 people who died worldwide that day, the latter is simply not taken into account. It is always said: “Death came suddenly and unexpectedly” which is completely absurd. The only thing that is certain is death.
All people must die. Except for the generation in which Jesus returns. But until then, death hangs over us like the sword of Damocles.
But how do we, how does our society deal with it?
There have been people who have tried to avoid death throughout their lives. Louis XIV, “the Sun King,” had forbidden his coachmen to drive past a cemetery. Even in his presence, death was not allowed to be discussed. But did that stop his death?
Even with us today, death or dying seems to be “taboo”, even though we all know that we will die.
Death simply tears our lives apart. He takes a happy, lively child from the hands of parents and siblings without asking. He won’t let a father come home from work. Or he tears the mother away from the children before their eyes.
Even if we older people are already at the limit, he takes the middle away from the family with an old grandpa or old grandma.
This doesn’t just make us sad. It leaves us stunned, perhaps even angry, we perceive it too soon, we think it is wrong . And so he takes away our inner peace.
We start to doubt and question. Maybe it even takes away our faith, our trust, and leads us to more or less exclude this topic of death and dying from our lives, or to the fact that we become bitter inside because we don’t get answers to the questions that concern us restores peace in the heart.
So that this doesn’t happen, or maybe so that you don’t feel the way it happened to me, let’s look at a Bible text, but also some basic information that God’s Word gives us about the afterlife.
Philippians 1:23-24 “I would love to leave this earthly life behind and be with Christ; that would be by far the best thing. But you still need me, and that’s why – I’m convinced – it’s more important that I continue to stay here on earth.” NGÜ
Philippians 1:23-24 “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which would be much better, but it is more necessary to remain in the flesh for your sake. Schlachter 2000
In order to understand why Paul can say this, we have to look at some of the terms and Bible passages in which the Bible talks about the afterlife, but only insofar as that relates to today’s topic.
The Bible says a lot more about the afterlife, it talks about 3 heavens.
  1. Atmosphere: Genesis 1, 6-8 Hebrew Raqia, (spread out wide) Something that is spread very thinly and spread out, so-called air heaven
  2. Cosmos: Genesis 1:1 ; Deuteronomy 10:14 ; 1 Kings 8:27 Universe, universe
  3. Paradise (third heaven): Luke 23:34 ; 2 Corinthians 12:4 ; Revelation 2:7
The Lord Jesus went to the heavenly paradise after his death and the converted criminal on the cross was also allowed to go there on the same day.
In 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 we read how Paul was caught up into paradise.
In Luke 16:19-31 the place of the redeemed who went home is called “the womb of Abraham” . (a rabbinic term for paradise)
19 Now there was a rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linen, and lived in glory and joy every day. 20 But a poor man named Lazarus lay at his door full of sores. 21 He longed to eat what fell from the rich man’s table, but the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 Now it came to pass that the poor man died, and he was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. But the rich man also died and was buried. 23 Now when he was in hell, he lifted up his eyes in his torment, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 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 suffer torment in this flame. 25 And Abraham said, Remember, child, that in your life you have received good things, but Lazarus has received evil things; now he is comforted here, but you suffer torment. 26 And in all this there is a great gap between us and you, so that no one who wants to cross from here to you can come there, nor can anyone from there cross to us. 27 Then he said, I beseech you, father, to send him to my father’s house; 28 For I have five brothers, whom he shall warn, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 But Abraham said, They have Moses and the prophets; they should hear it. 30 But he said, No, father Abraham, but if one of the dead should go to them, they would repent. 31 And he said to him, If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.
Paul calls this place “ with ChristPhilippians 1:23
The redeemed are there fully conscious, can talk, pray, think, feel , sing, praise and praise, and recognize one another. They have emotions and justice is served to them too, and so Jesus is found there too.
A real paradise.
When I had to deal with this topic 7 years ago, this story with Lazarus gave me a lot of support. In a conversation with a pastor, I was beaming with joy and enthusiastically talking about this Bible passage and how it had pulled me out of my deep sadness and freed me. Then all I got was: “You really believe that? “It’s just a parable.”
That’s why it’s so important to me today to emphasize that this is not a parable.
  1. Proper names such as Lazarus and Moses never appear in parables.
  2. Historically known people such as Abraham, Moses or the prophets never appear.
That’s why you can be completely sure that it was a real event.
And I would like to take this opportunity to clarify something about another Bible passage that is often misinterpreted:
After his death, Jesus was in “Hades” until his resurrection.
This leads some to believe that Jesus preached in the realm of the dead and that one could still make a decision after death

1.Peter 3:19 .2019 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

The Lord Jesus did not go to the lost after His death to preach the gospel to them. The text only speaks about the people of Noah’s time.
Rather, his spirit preached to the people before the flood , Noah, “the preacher of righteousness” (Genesis 6:3; 2 Peter 2:5. Now the spirits of these disobedient people are “in prison.” So there are no “universal reconciliation or second chance.
It is appointed for man to die once, after which there will be judgment Hebrews 9:27
The term “Hades” or “Sheol” generally refers to the place of the departed, regardless of whether it is paradise / the bosom of Abraham / being with Christ or the place of torment / prison.
The translation of “Sheol” and “Hades” as “Hell” is incorrect. The lost people wait in “Sheol” for the final judgment in hell. To this day, hell is empty, except for the angels who left their home at the time of Noah (Jude 1:6).
Now that we have clarified 2 essential Bible passages, let’s get to the actual text.
Philippians 1:23-24For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
  1. Since I have been living with Jesus, I have been happy to die.
“I want to leave and be with Christ” (Elberfeld Bible)
How does Paul actually talk about dying?
Like he’s leaving for a more beautiful country , something he’s looking forward to.
I, for example, would like to just get away from the gray everyday life of November and lie on the beach in sunny Egypt. That’s exactly how it sounds when Paul talks like that.
“Departure” reminds me of deathbed, loss, ending. But nothing of this is noticeable in the basic Greek test. There is the word: “Apolein”, which means something like: untie, “untie his ship and sail away”. This is where Paul comes up with the meaning “to depart.”
or drive away, run away, so today we would say:
“I really feel like leaving, traveling to Jesus and staying with him forever.”
So this is how Paul talks about dying: nothing about fear of death, suffering, wasting away or agony, grave or cemetery, nothing about holding on to life and the things that make our lives so pleasant that we would like to hold on to them.
“I have desire,” he says, even stronger in Greek: “I have desire, that is, longing to depart.”
You have to ask Paul whether he even knows what he is saying ? Have you no idea of ​​the horror of death? There is something horrifying, unpleasant, oppressive about the end of the body. Walking into the unknown is somehow scary. Don’t you have any idea about it, Paul?
And Paul says:
“You people here in Frankenberg”, “ Dying is even more frightening than us, than normal people can understand
“You can all learn that from Jesus,” he would say.
And that wasn’t child’s play, or peanuts, you don’t do that with your left hand, as we would say today. And that wasn’t all.
On top of that, the sin of the whole world lay on him – innocently.
And so, as he was dying, Jesus experienced how God cast him out , threw him out .
“My God, why have you forsaken me?” He cried out on the cross!
It’s not just about human or physical death.
This is about Jesus bearing my sin and yours on the cross,
It is this sin that causes him to die the death of judgment and thus puts him far away from God.
God casts out his own Son – because he bears my sin!
Anyone who dies with their sins not only experiences physical death,  but also experiences that God casts them out, throws them out of fellowship with Him. What we call “dying” is doubly horrific: the dissolution of our beloved body here on earth and being cast out by God in eternity. For all people who are not yet Christians, this happens at the judgment seat of God.
If that is the case, then why does Paul speak so childishly naively about “dying”? “I feel like leaving…..? Paul would answer: you have to understand that, you absolutely have to understand it. “I believe in Jesus the Son of God with all my heart. I gave him my life.  And I now know that in my place (for me) he went through death and separation from God.  He made that clear for me.  Now death and judgment are no longer my concern.”
Now we understand why Christians love their Savior so infinitely. That’s why it’s our hope: see Jesus, be with him, finally home !!!
“I want to leave and be with Jesus. – nothing else!!”
And Jesus has promised us that until then we will be safe and secure in his hands, no matter what comes our way. He will never let go of us, will always be for us and strengthen us. Regardless of whether we personally have to suffer a lot, experience pain and deprivation, perhaps lie in bed for a long time, or whether world events send shivers down our spines.
Charles Hutchinson Gabriel wrote the song around 1900:   “When after earth’s suffering, work and pain, I enter the golden streets, only the vision of my Savior will be the reason for my joy and worship.”                                          
I want to take this opportunity to specifically invite YOU to Jesus today.
Without Jesus, “dying” is much more terrible than we can imagine. And then death is just a “waiting for the judgment of God,” which will come with absolute certainty.
But with Jesus you can say: “Since I belong to Jesus, I like to die.”
  1. Since I died with Jesus, I have enjoyed living.
Paul says, “I desire to depart…”
If you listen to Paul like that, you might suspect that he himself has lost interest in life – like a suicide or someone who is depressed – only that he hasn’t taken the final step yet. Don’t we have a real, eerie death mysticism here – a longing for death, the enchantment of death?
Haven’t you heard this before: “You Christians are all unworldly dreamers and looking for heaven?”, “You make life easy for yourselves because your Jesus always forgives your sins.
Do you think that you can behave like an ax in the forest?
This is stupid talk. But how we affect our environment should make us think. But what is much more interesting is how our text continues:
“But it is more necessary to remain in the flesh for your sake.”
that means:
I Paul like to live because I can live meaningfully – for others. And that again has to do with Jesus.
Only those who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior can die confidently and live meaningfully !
What does the normal person understand by life?
The run-of-the-mill person calls “life” when he can properly nurture and live out his “I”, his “EGO”:
“I am the boss, the prettier one, the clever one, I have a lot of money. I am the center of attention, without me nothing works here.”
According to the dictionary, an egoist is a person who never gives up something for the benefit of others. He has a basic attitude of contempt for other people
But a Christian (disciple) (follower) is a person who kneels or stands under the cross.
And there he is now under the cross and knows exactly:
This death sentence is actually for me. He recognizes it and thereby voluntarily goes to death with Jesus.
Paul says: “I am crucified with Christ.” But one thing must be very clear to us: that this dying with Jesus is not done all at once.
Paul writes to the Christians in Colosse:
“You died with Jesus on the cross – so now kill, defeat your self .”
But what’s the point now?
So if I assume that something should die more often for me. What is it that needs to die for you today? Paul says: “I die daily.” This also applies to everyone who belongs to Jesus and follows him – to die daily.
In this moment when my self dies with Jesus, my life becomes free for others.
Where do you hold on to your self? Where are you and your wishes and goals are more important?
There are things you only keep if you give them away. Here’s a story:
An old legend tells of a saint making a pilgrimage to a famous shrine. He lights a torch at the altar fire. He wanted to take the flame of the holy altar home with him and let it burn in his own sanctuary. So he took his torch and carried it very carefully so that it would not go out.
On the way a poor woman spoke to him; it was cold and her fire had run out. At that time there were no matches or lighters and she had nothing to relight the fire with. And so she asked the saint to help her with his fire. At first he refused because he did not want to share his sacred precious flame with anyone. Eventually she was able to persuade him. He lit her fire and she blessed him for it. After he had been on the road for a while, he was caught in a terrible snowstorm. He did everything he could to protect the flame, but it was still blown out.
The saint was very depressed, but then he remembered that he had given the woman the fire. So if he turned back and relit his holy torch from their fire, it would still be fire from the holy altar. So he turned back. As he lit his torch on her fire, he remembered that he had almost refused her fire. Then he said to himself: “I would have lost my fire forever if I had not given it away.
Where the EGO dies with Jesus, you no longer live for yourself!!!!!
The text contains the bold statement: “It is more necessary to remain in the flesh for your sake.”
I actually know a lot of people, including a lot of Christians, but I only notice this freedom from one’s own self in very few people.
What does life bring me, love, wealth, enjoyment, a brilliant role in society? So all of this also exists with us Christians.
If my self really died with Jesus,
then my heart no longer primarily desires these things, like wealth. Love and so on, but rather it longs to invest itself in the distress and pain, the problems and worries of others, to see them and perceive them.
Martin Buber: If someone comes to you and needs your help, then it is not your job to piously recommend to him: “have trust and cast your needs on God”, but then you should act as if there were no God and no other person can help him except you alone.
This means living meaningfully! Anyone who lives like this can say: since I died with Jesus, I have enjoyed living.
  1. Since I belong to Jesus, I have always been alive
When I read the text a short story comes to mind:
A lovely but older woman had been lying in your bed for some time. She was deathly ill as the children stood around her and cried. Then she looked up again at the children’s faces. Her eyes began to shine, she said very calmly and confidently:
“Why are you crying, it’s going to life in glory?”
Only people who have found Jesus as their Redeemer and Savior speak like that
Only people who know that for them death is just a move home talk like that.
Jesus himself said: “Whoever believes in me will never die.”
That means: having death behind you , done, defeated.
Because I was not only crucified with Jesus, but also resurrected with Him.
Anyone who belongs to Jesus can also sing with joy on the Sunday of the Dead:
“Death where is your sting, hell where is your victory?” Since I belong to Jesus, I have always been alive.
I wish that this longing that speaks from these verses, this longing for eternity, finds expression in our hearts for our environment.
I invite you: Anyone who does not yet know Jesus in such a way that he voluntarily died and rose with him, I invite you to do so today in order not only to die here but also in order not to be cast out by God forever


Bible references with kind permission: ERF Bibelserver