It's natural for us to ask at some point in our life, "What's gonna happen to me when I die?" But death is not something that a Christian should fear, said megachurch Pastor Perry Noble as he began a new series on heaven, hell and everything in between.
Fear of death is so profound for some that they become slaves to their fear and anxiety, said Pastor Noble, senior and founding pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina.
"You don't have to fear death," he underlined in his message, titled, "What Happens to You When You Die," the first in a series of five sermons he began Sunday.
Referring to 2 Corinthians 5:1-8, the pastor said Paul uses three words – tent, groan and confident – twice in the passage.
"For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord," the passage reads.
The "tent" tears down, Pastor Noble emphasized, adding that humans "groan" because of their decaying bodies. But Christians, like Paul, can be "confident" that their bodies will be "swallowed up by life" after their death.
"If you are in Christ, death never touches you," the pastor said, quoting John 8:51, which reads: "Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death."
All the religions do not say the same thing, Noble added.
The assurance and confidence of eternal life is found only in Christianity, he said. "Jesus didn't just teach about death; He didn't just have philosophy about death, He didn't just write a book about death; He died. Thousands of people have died, but only one came back to tell about it," he said. He came out of the grave and "destroyed death."
Noble quoted Hebrews 2:14: "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil."
While other religions call humans to themselves, in Christianity God comes to humans, the pastor explained.
Pastor Noble also told the congregation about a near-death experience he had in 2005, when due to a minor surgical procedure he experienced serious internal bleeding and nearly died in his living room. He had to spend several days in a hospital room, including in ICU.
But that was the "most transforming" experience of his life, he said. At one moment, he saw "the purest light I've ever seen." He was not afraid or fearful, but experienced peace, he added.
We have only two options, he said in conclusion. "Either death will destroy you, or Jesus destroyed death for you."
On June 8, Pastor Noble will speak on "Is hell a real place? Do people really go there? If God is so loving, why does this place even exist?" On subsequent Sundays, he will deal with the questions, "Do people really come back from the dead?" and "Is heaven actually for real? What will it be like?"