WHERE DOES THE SOUL GO AT DEATH?
Sermon by Dr. J. Frank Norris
I want to invite your attention to two Scriptures, first, the first chapter of Philippians: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.”
Second, First Thessalonians, 4th chapter: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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” – Together! Together! Together! “with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
“So shall we ever be with the Lord.” Suppose tonight you should deny heaven, and say, “There is no heaven, no home for the soul of man.” After he spends a brief existence here in this tenement of clay, suppose there is no heaven, then what? What a tragedy that man should have ever been born. Is it possible that our hopes and aspirations, our loves, our longings, with all these that they shall end with the grave? Surely we need no Bible to tell us out of this life, after the storms have ceased, in another world, in another day, there is a place where these deepest aspirations and longings are satisfied. They are not satisfied here. Where, oh where, is the soul that is satisfied? What pleasure can satisfy? What wealth can satisfy? What power and fame can satisfy? All fail to meet and answer the deepest longings of the soul.
Deny heaven, then what? You leave man to grope through this valley of night, and in the blackness of despair.
Deny the Bible, then what? You have ruled out of man the only light that shines on his pathway, more and more unto the perfect day.
Deny God, there is no Creator. The whole universe comes by chance – it is all a tragic accident.
Deny Jesus Christ, you have no explanation of the whence, the why and the whither of life. Rule Him out of the universe we cannot understand God. We cannot approach God. If we have seen Him we have seen the Father. He is God manifest in the flesh. If we understand Him, by faith, we understand every problem of life, where we came from, and most important where we are going.
I read the other day, the blackness of the unbelief, the skepticism of that great French infidel, Voltaire. He was a brilliant man. Here is his philosophy:
“I am a puny part of the great whole
Yes; but all animals condemned to live,
All sentient things, born by the same stern law,
Suffer like me, and like me, also die,
The vulture fastens on his timid prey,
And stabs with bloody beak the quivering limbs:
All’s well, it seems, for it. But in a while
An eagle tears the vulture into shreds;
The eagie is transfixed by shafts of man;
The man, prone in the dust of battlefields,
Mingling his blood with dying fellow men,
Becomes in turn the food of ravenous birds.
Thus the whole world in every member groans,
And o’er this ghastly chaos you would say
The ills of each make up the good of all!
What blessedness! And as, with quaking voice,
Mortal and pitiful ye cry, ‘All’s well,’
The universe belies you, and your heart
Refutes a hundred times your mind’s conceit…
What is the verdict of the vastest mind?
Silence: the book of fate is closed to us.
Man is a stranger to his own research;
He knows not whence he comes, nor whither goes.
Tormented atoms in a bed of mud,
Devoured by death, a mockery of fate;
But thinking atoms, whose far-seeing eyes,
Guided by thoughts, have measured the faint stars.
Our being mingles with the infinite;
Ourselves we never see, or come to know.”
My friends, that is the most hopeless philosophy of life – put over against that blackness and hopelessness of the great French infidel, the words of Jesus: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
I need no argument to tell me those divine words did not come from the lips of mortal man. I need no prophet to tell me that is indeed the pillar of truth. How many saints through the ages have pillowed their heads in the hour of death, as they have seen those mansions beyond the sky, and joined with old Isaac Watts in singing:
“When I can read my title clear
To mansions in the skies,
I’ll bid farewell to every fear,
And wipe my weeping eyes.”
Death is the last enemy. It is man’s greatest enemy. Man has invented modern machinery, discovered many things, found the secret atoms in God’s creation, in air, on land, in sea, in mines, under the sea, strange and marvelous things to protect life, lengthen life, put down diseases, yet man has never been able to do two things: First, create life, second, overcome death. All the skill of science, all its genius, cannot stay the grim monster of death. It is no respector of persons, knows no rich, knows no poor, knows no color, knows no creed, neither ancient, mediaeval nor modern. Sin entered the world, and death came by sin, and death passed upon all men. It comes and strikes down the bread winner as it cruelly enters the threshold of the little family, leaves the weeping widow with babe in arms; it snatches the infant child from the fond bosom of mother, and she reaches out into the cold night for her child that she will never see on earth again; it strikes down the best friend little children have ever known, mother.
“Or, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud:
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
Man passes from life to his rest in the grave.
The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high,
Shall moulder to dust and together shall lie.
The infant a mother attended and loved,
The mother that infant’s affection who proved;
The husband that mother and infant who blessed,
Each, all, are away to their dwellings of rest.
The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Shone beauty and pleasureher triumphs are by;
And the memory of those who loved her and praised,
Are alike from the minds of the living erased.
The hand of the king that the scepter hath borne;
The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn;
The eye of the sage and the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depth of the grave.”
As I said a moment ago that if to live in this life with our hopes and aspirations and desires, there be no life beyond the grave, far better had we never been born. That’s exactly what the Scriptures say, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Let me quote that Scripture – reverently – suppose I put a period after that little word “only?” “If in this life only.” All of man’s wealth ends “in this life only.” All man’s science ends, “in this life only.” All man’s philosophy ends “in this life only.” All man’s achievements end “in this life only.” All man’s fame ends “in this life only.” All man’s government ends “in this life only.” How dark then if we shall say, “in this life only.” But the next verse says: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.”
If I had time I could quote you Scripture after Scripture that very plainly tell us, not only that we live on the other side, but show us very clearly what that life is. Perhaps the oldest book in the Bible is Job. The old patriarch was a rich man. He had a “depression,” everything was swept away. He lost ten children in an hour’s time. Job was left a poor man. All day long his servants came with bad news. They laughed at him; they turned their backs on him; his great company of friends forsook him, even his wife told him to curse God and die – his health was gone, he was covered with loathsome boils. He was in the depths of the deepest darkness that ever came to a man, but he rose to the height of Divine revelation, and shouted to all coming time: “I know!” “I know that my redeemer 1liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.”
That’s what David meant when he said, in contrast with the wealth of the world, in that immortal 17th Psalm, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”
Isaiah said, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out her dead.”
Jesus said when the seventy returned, “Don’t rejoice in the things you have done, but rather rejoice” – Why? – “because your names are written in heaven.” The very names mother gave us on earth, are the names that God’s recording angel writes down in the eternal Records. “Abraham,” “Isaac,” “Jacob,” Jesus called them by same names that they had during the time they were on earth. Moses and Elijah have the same names.
Stephen, when he was dying under the blows of the persecutors, “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Then he prayed a prayer for the forgiveness of his enemies, and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
I could quote you Scripture after Scripture that prove beyond question that the soul goes out of this body, out of this life, instantly, into His presence.
“For we know,” says the Apostle – I love that word, k-n-o-w. It doesn’t say “think.” No. There is no word of speculation. No guesses, no hypothesis, no perhaps, not even believe. “For we know!”
My friends, we do not know anything outside the Bible. We do not know anything outside of Jesus Christ. Everything else is guess. Everything else is speculation when it comes to our own destiny. But the Word of God says, “We know!” It would he interesting sometimes to count the things we do know. First of all, we know we are saved. Paul writing to Timothy said, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” And concerning our sorrows that we don’t understand – Paul, standing on the highest peak of New Testament revelation, shouts, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Then I have just quoted to you how old Job says, “I know that my redeemer liveth.”
Then when we come to the hour of death, when we say fare well to earthly possessions, earthly desires, earthly connections, Paul says, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved – What was the result? What after that? – we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” We are in a little tent now – soldiers for days and weeks slept out in the cold winter rain, not even a dog tent this body is a little tent, and the storms of disease, and ten thousand things attack it, it breaks down. But Paul tells us when we go out of this little tent, we have a building that is permanent. This tabernacle, this body, is of the earth, our permanent building is of heaven. This tabernacle is a temporary one, the one God gives us is eternal. This tabernacle is human, the one God gives us is Divine. Therefore, we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.” Oh, the groanings of this tabernacle. “For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened.” We are burdened he says. Oh, the burdens. Oh, the wail of poverty. But at last we shall be satisfied. Therefore, I want you to notice, “Therefore we are al ways confident, knowing” – What do we know ?” – knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord . . . We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” How clear, how simple, how sublime are these divine words. There are only two places for the soul – no half way place, no soul sleeping period, no intermediate state-in this body, out of this body into His presence. Swifter than lightning, as swift as thought we leave this tenement of clay, this tabernacle, and go into His presence.
Where Does the Soul Go at Death ?
Where does the soul go at death? On either side of Jesus were crucified two malefactors, one repentant, the other impenitent. One said, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy Kingdom.” Jesus, bleeding, suffering, as only God and man could suffer, crowned with cruel thorns, the blood streaming down His innocent face, turned and said, “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise,” and when the Spirit of our Lord went through the gates of Paradise he took with Him the first trophy of redemption of the cross, not some crowned monarch, but a nameless, penniless, friendless thief, washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb!
Stephen, when dying, looked up into heaven and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Paul in his second and last imprisonment in Rome, writing his son, Timothy, in the Gospel, said, “The time of my departure is at hand. It is time to lift anchor on the shore of time and put out to sea. The time to cross over to Immanuel’s shore has come, but I am not afraid. I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” He knew what it was to wear a crown. He had seen the successful athletes crowned in the Olympic games. He wrote about it. He had seen conquering Caesars returning from the far off battle fields, bringing their trophies up the Appian Way, and princes and kings chained to their chariot wheels. But he says, “I have a crown, not a corruptible crown, but an incorruptible crown that shall never pass away.” And I am glad he wrote this “Not to me only, but to all them that love his appearing.” And every blood washed soul, every humble believer that goes through this world of sin, sorrow and death, whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, will receive that incorruptible crown. That’s why the Apostle Peter wrote, “We are begotten unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To an inheritance – an inheritance! – incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Therefore, the Apostle writes to all the sorrowing, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” It doesn’t say not to sorrow. There is an infinite difference in sorrowing with hope and sorrowing without hope. The one who sorrows with hope can look up through blinding tears, and watch and wait, and work, and live, knowing that Christ will come, and the dead will be raised. The one who sorrows without hope sees no stars in his sky in the blackness of night, and the morning never comes. Two things he says, first, “If we believe that Jesus died,” and second, “and rose again,” just as certain as you believe those two great eternal truths, even that certain will God bring with Him, them which sleep in Jesus.
My friends, as certain as we are living tonight, there is a heaven beyond this world. We need no Bible to tell us that. But we have the Bible, our guide book. When you travel in a foreign country you are foolish if you don’t acquaint yourself with the country to which you are going. Pack your grips full of guide books, study the guide books before you get there, and when you get there, a stranger in a strange land, instantly you recognize things about the land. Beloved, I hold in my hand a Guide Book. It tells us where we came from, tells us why we are here, and, thank God, it tells us where we are going. It tells us of our home beyond the sky. This Book tells us of a place where we will never die, where no funeral processions are ever seen. This Book tells us where there will never be any tears shed, and there will be no poverty there, and our desires, our longings, and our aspirations will be satisfied. It tells us of a place where we will never say goodbye. It tells us there will be no night there. It tells us there will be no sorrow there. It tells us there will be no pain there. This Book tells us there will be no separation there.
Folks, come on and let’s go there. That’s where we are bound. That’s what Jesus Christ means to give us when John says: “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign forever and ever.”
“The mention of thy glory
Is unction to the breast,
And medicine in sickness,
And love and life and rest.
With jaspers glow thy bulwarks,
Thy streets with emeralds blaze;
Thy saints build up its fabric,
The cornerstone is Christ.
O, one, O, only mansion;
O, Paradise of joy!
Where tears are ever banished,
And smiles have no alloy.
Thou hast no shore, fair ocean!
Thou hast no time, bright day!
Dear fountain of refreshment
To pilgrims far away!
Upon the Rock of Ages
They raise thy holy tower;
Thine is the victor’s laurel,
And thine the golden dower.
O mine, my golden Sion!
o lovelier far than gold!
With laurel-girt battalions,
And safe victorious fold.
O fields that see no sorrow!
O state that fears no strife!
O princely bowers! O land of flowers!
O realm and home of life!”
Will We Know Each Other?
This question: Will we know each other, or will we be strangers in a strange land? I answer that first by saying, it would not be heaven if we did not know each other. If we are transformed into some other creature and lose our identity, then, friends, it would not be heaven. Yes, we will know each other. Don’t you think we will have as much sense then as we have now? Do we know each other here?
Paul says, “Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
Will we be the same? Listen, we will have our same individuality, our same personality. The same friends we know here we will know there, minus the corruptible element. We are sown in corruption, we are raised in incorruption. We are sown a natural body, we are raised a Spiritual body. We are sown a mortal body, we are raised an immortal body. As we bear the image of the earthly, so we shall bear the image of the heavenly. Paul says, There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.” Go out into the clear night, and behold the stars. They look down and laugh with you, and they deciare the glory of the hand that made them. Find two, if you can, just exactly alike. So also we will be different in the resurrection, just like we are different here, we shall have our same personality, our same individuality.
Are You Afraid To Die?
I want to say, on this thought, are you afraid to die? Are you a slave to the fear of death? How can you get out of it? I cannot conceive of a more important question. There are some who take the position of the fatalist, and say it doesn’t matter. That doesn’t answer it. Some take the position of the atheist, that there is no God, no soul. How sad today that by law in a land that is nearly three times the size of the United States, that there is no Christmas allowed. It wasn’t much trouble for Russia to enforce it. For fifteen years they have caricatured God. The youth has been inoculated with their atheism. God grant that we may have a revival of faith in this land to meet the floodtides of atheism sweeping through this land.
There is no fear of death to the man of faith. What, shall I dread to die? Did Israel when they saw Canaan’s land on the other side of Jordan, did they fear to cross when God divided the swollen stream? Fear to die? Would the prisoner, who after weary years had sat in darkness behind the iron bars and gazed at the little light of day that came streaming through the bars that held him, would there be any pain to him to walk out into the sunlight of day. Is there any pain after a long stormy night, when we awake, and see the clouds rolled away, and behold the sweet light of another day? No, there is no pain when we come to that hour – we may see what looks like struggle, the voice may not answer, the tongue may be paralyzed, the hearing may be gone, the hand palsied, but the soul, it leaves this worn out body, this little tenement of clay, and goes into His presence. Therefore, my friends, there is no use, no need for us to have fear of death, if we believe in Him who rose from the grave.
I conducted the funeral of a great woman – it seems to me I am conducting more funerals than I ever did in my life – Mrs. Parker, 83 years old – when she saw the hour for her departure was at hand, she requested her family – she has a large family, of sons and daughters, and had them promise to send for me to conduct her funeral. I felt it a great honor as I stood beside the silent form, and said, “She is not here. The house in which she lived is here.” With tender hands we took her out and buried her. That was not mother – dust to dust returns, but the real mother, the soul that they loved lives on in another world.
Heaven a Prepared Place
Heaven, my friends, is a prepared place. The old time preachers used to say, “Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.” That is a wonderful statement.
If you expect to go there you have to get ready before the time comes for us to leave here. Oh, you might get ready in the last moments, but there is too much involved. I don’t like to just catch a train I am like the man you have heard about who went down to the depot two hours before the train left, he asked everybody around the station when the train came in, then when it pulled in and he got on and sat down he asked everybody on the train, “Is this the right train?” And he kept on asking until he got there. I am very much like that. I never want to get there after the whistle blows. I want on the inside when the thing moves out, safe and sure, and I wouldn’t want any of this death bed repentance. While I am walking on two feet, I would rather settle this thing.
Listen, suppose you have out here a little home – if the mortgage hasn’t already been foreclosed or it has not been sold for taxes – suppose after you had spent your life’s labor sweating and toiling, you paid it out, and the sheriff comes with papers and shows you you have no title to it. It means you are dispossessed. You examine the abstract and you find it is true, you make a fight for that roof under which you dwell, for which you have sweated and toiled, but you lose because your title is not good, you did not make sure about it – how much more should, a man take no chance to his title to the mansion in the skies, and, thank God, we don’t have to take any chances. What is the price? The price has been paid –
“In my hands no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.”
“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
What do we do? Accept the price. We are redeemed, not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with His own precious blood.
I wouldn’t dare prophesy. It is not within the gift of mortal man to prophesy – what will another year bring? I got a lot of criticism when the crash came, when I tried as a faithful minister to sound forth the note of warning. I got more letters of criticism – look how things have happened, such times as earth has never seen – I took my position out of the Word of God. I will not prophesy tonight, but the clouds are hanging low. I say to you it is the saddest hour in the history of America when twelve million men are walking the streets and highways hunting jobs and bread. We are not in a famine. There is more wheat than we know what to do with, yet little children stand in the lines for their bread. But sadder than that, the greatest piece of moral legislation any government ever witnessed has been done away with. You can call it repeal, or nullification, or whatever you want to, when the United States Congress voted back intoxicants – they won’t pay any attention to percentage, that’s all bunk – the old saloon will be back on the street corners of America. I have made my protest through the years. We have had our prohibition protest meetings, but, like a Noah’s flood, it is back on us. The underworld of our great cities have taken charge of America. You say that is a pessimistic view to take. It is a correct view of what is taking place. It is enough to tie crepe on the door of heaven, and cause the angels to lay their harps aside, and all hell dance for joy. It is enough to tie mourning on every church door. It is enough to cause the people of God to clothe themselves in sack cloth and ashes and fall on their faces and like old Jeremiah weep over the blackened ruins of the burned temple, after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem. Gone is the glory of this fair land. Only God can save us. But, thank God, we have that hope!
Never mind what Congresses may do, what Parliaments may do, what Peace Conferences may do, one thing we can do, we can say, I have made my peace and calling and election sure.
“A few more years shall roll,
A few more seasons come,
And we shall be with those that rest
In peace beyond the tomb.
A few more suns shall set
O’er these dark hills of time,
And we shall be where suns are not,
A far serener clime.
A few more storms shall beat
On this wild rocky shore,
And we shall be where tempests cease,
And surges swell no more.
A few more struggles here,
A few more partings o’er,
A few more toils, a few more tears,
And we shall weep no more.
Tis but a little while
And He shall come again,
Who died that we might live, who lives
That we with Him may reign.
The soul that leaves this body wings its way to the Judge of the universe. First there is the unsaved man. He had his time here below, and invested it, not for God and eternity, but for his own selfish ends in time and in pleasure, he comes unclothed, unrepentant, without the robe of righteousness – he hears the word, “Depart, depart, I never knew you.”
Another soul comes – this soul comes from Fort Worth – it comes by the way of the cross, it comes washed in the Blood of the Lamb, comes with his name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, comes with salvation, and hears the words from the blessed lips of the King of kings and Lord of lords, “Enter into the joys of thy Lord!” Then it matters little what has happened below. If she will pardon me – dear Sister Dean, was in a wreck a few weeks ago, another car hit the one she was in and smashed it to smithereens. Everybody thought they were killed. She was all broken, and in the second she lost consciousness, with bones broken, the last word she said, as she thought she was being hurled into eternity, was, “Praise the Lord, I am going home today.” When she woke up, they had bound and dressed her injuries, and she was so disappointed. She said, “I thought I would be in heaven.”
My friends, that’s the faith God gives His saints.
How many have that faith tonight? How many believe that Jesus Christ receives the souls of the redeemed?
Oh, Lord God our Father, in this closing word, in this closing moment, this Christmas night, the last Sunday night of the year, in this tabernacle of the flesh, the last time that we will ail ever be together in a church service – soon the midnight hour will come, and the bells will toil, and the year with its trials and tragedies will be no more. Oh, God help us then tonight, with humble hearts and bowed heads, to say, “Lord, I give my life and soul to Thee now, and trust in Thee for salvation, repenting of my sins and taking Jesus Christ now for my Saviour.” And may every one pray, “God be merciful to me a sinner” For Christ’s sake. Amen.
Just a minute, perfectly quiet, without a song, without a word, I want every one of you that lifted your hands for prayer to come down to the front. (A large number came.)