What Happens One Minute After You Die? – Program 4

By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©1998
If you’ve suffered the tragedy of losing a child, does the Bible say anything that will comfort you in your grief? Do you have the hope of seeing your child again?

What Does the Bible Teach About the Death of Infants?


Dr. John Ankerberg: What will happen to you one minute after you die? Today on The John Ankerberg Show, Dr. Erwin Lutzer, Senior Pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois, says:
Dr. Erwin Lutzer: John, the simple fact is that someday all of us will die. The Bible says that, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after death the judgment.” [Heb. 9:27] Death awaits all of us like the concrete floor awaits the falling light bulb. It WILL happen. And you know, God has created within us the knowledge that there is something that exists beyond the grave.
Ankerberg: The desire of many people to find out what lies on the other side of the grave is so great that some have turned to alternate methods such as channeling, reincarnation, and near-death experiences to gain a glimpse of what is coming after death. Today, you’ll hear what the Bible says will happen to you one minute after you die. You’ll also learn why the information coming from channeling, reincarnation, and near-death experiences, which attempt to peek behind the curtain of death, is not to be trusted. We invite you to join us for this edition of The John Ankerberg Show.

Ankerberg: Welcome. I think we would all agree there is nothing more tragic than young parents losing a baby. My guest today is Dr. Erwin Lutzer who is Senior Pastor of Moody Memorial Church and he experienced this first-hand when his daughter lost her baby. It got him thinking, what does the Bible say about the death of infants? What happens to them? Listen as he tells about the pain that touched his own life in losing his granddaughter:
Lutzer: John, today we’re going to begin by talking about something that is very sensitive and something that touches my own heart, too, very, very deeply, and that is the death of infants. It’s very difficult, you know, to accept the death of a child. My wife and I have had to accept the death actually of a grandchild that was stillborn. So we know something of the pain. You know, the remarkable thing was that as a man who never touched the baby, it was difficult for me to cry when I heard that my daughter was going to lose the child. But the time when the tears really flowed was when we looked at the little one and knew that she was a girl. Somehow, the reality that she was a girl just touched my heart. And my son-in-law and daughter named that little one Sarah. And I think of Sarah from time to time. I think of her there in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And we need to begin by talking about that issue because it has touched the lives of so many, many people. In fact, when it happened to us, immediately people from the congregation or outside of the congregation came to us and said, “You know, we had the same experience, too.” So the question is, what about the death of babies, of infants? Well, we wish that the Bible were clearer. I wish I could just point to the text and say, “I’m reading it right here. This is what God’s Word says.”
It’s not as clear as we’d like it to be, but I believe that all infants that die are in the presence of Christ. Now, they are in the presence of Christ not because they are sinless, because they were born under the condemnation of Adam’s sin. In fact, that’s why they die. The Bible is very clear that it is because of sin that death came. [Rom. 5:12] But they’ve committed no personal sin and so I assume that God takes whatever impact original sin has, attributes it to Christ so that they can go directly into the presence of the Lord.
Now, there are some indications of this in the Bible. Do you remember the story of David? David lost two sons. Well, actually he lost even more than that, but I’m thinking of two. One was Absalom. When Absalom died, who was really a wicked, rebellious son, David would not cease crying. He wailed, “Absalom, my son! My son! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son.” [2 Sam. 18:33] To the point where Joab came to him and said, “David, shape up. You’ve got to run this country. You can’t spend all this time in mourning.”
But do you remember, earlier David had lost another son. It was the one that Bathsheba bore. And David didn’t shave, he didn’t eat. He was in great agony when that son was lying on a bed sick. But when the son died, you remember David shaved and he ate. And people said, “Well, why are you rejoicing now,” as it were, “and you weren’t before that time?” And he said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not come to me.” [2 Sam. 12:23] Now, I think David meant much more than simply saying, “Well, I’m going to go to the grave like my son has gone to the grave.” Obviously, that is true. What David seems to be saying here is, “I expect to see my son again.” But maybe even a clearer indication of the preciousness of children is in the 18th chapter of Matthew where Jesus says these words about them, “Even their angels behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” [Matt. 18:10] I always like to think that takes little children and puts them right up there, right with God in His very presence; right in the very presence of the angels.
Ankerberg: If you were to ask Dr. Lutzer, “What do you think your little granddaughter looks like now?,” this is what he would say:
Lutzer: If you ask me the question, you know, “What does Sarah look like?” What does our little granddaughter look like? I can’t really answer that. Though I have a suspicion that in the day of resurrection she’ll be given a grown body because in heaven those kinds of limitations I don’t think will apply, the limitations that an infant would have. I expect that we will get to know her, that we will fellowship with her. And I don’t know, but I like to think that when we get to heaven God might even give us the grace to be able to recognize her instantly and know who she is.
Ankerberg: Some of you dear ladies watching today have had an abortion and you wonder, when you get to heaven, how will things all work out? Out of his own pain, Dr. Lutzer talks to you Listen:
Lutzer: You know, after our little granddaughter Sarah died, I asked my wife, I said, “Well, honey, are we grandparents or aren’t we?” because this is our first grandchild. And she said, “Yes, of course we’re grandparents.” She says, “It’s just that our grandchild is in heaven.” And I like to think of it that way. Somebody gave me a tee-shirt that says, “Grandfathers are great.” Something to that effect. And I’ve had some trouble wearing it, but from time to time I do because I say, “I am a grandfather. It’s just that our little granddaughter is in heaven.”
And today also I speak to some of you ladies, bless you. You’ve had an abortion. And as a pastor I’ve counseled women who have said two things: first, “Will I recognize my baby in heaven?” and, “Will the baby understand?” Well, I want to say two things. Yes, like the rest of us, I’m sure you’ll recognize your child in heaven, but also, I believe God will help you and help that child to understand. In heaven there is reconciliation. In heaven there is fullness of joy and God wipes away all tears from their eyes. That’s an expression that we’re going to have to yet discuss in this series. But God wipes away all tears from their eyes. And there will be reconciliation and there will be understanding. I can assure you of that.
Sometime ago I came across a poem written by a man who lost an infant, a father, and it is so touching that, John, I think it would be good if I just took time to read it, if that would be okay. It’s written by a Bob Neudorf and this is what he says. It’s entitled, “To My Baby”:

Is it proper to cry

For a baby too small

For a coffin?

Yes, I think it is.

Does Jesus have

My too-small baby

In His tender arms?

Yes, I think He does.

There is so much I do not know

About you – my child –

He, she? quiet or restless?

Will I recognize

Someone I knew so little about,

Yet loved so much?

Yes, I think I will.

Ah, sweet, small child

Can I say

That loving you is like loving God?

Loving – yet not seeing,

Holding – yet not touching,

Caressing – yet separated by the chasm of time.

No tombstone marks your sojourn,

And only God recorded your name.

The banquet was not canceled,

Just moved. Just moved.

Yet a tear remains

Where baby should have been.

[The Alliance Witness, 16 September 1987, p. 14.]

You know that what God wants when He takes a child from us is to recognize the nearness of heaven and for those of you who have never accepted Christ as your Savior, I want you to know that unless you die as one who has believed in Jesus, you will not see that child again. It is those who have trusted Christ who will be in heaven. They will be reconciled. And in heaven, as we shall discover, the families shall be reunited and the larger family of God shall all join together and then we will understand. We will know fully “even as we also are fully known.” [1 Cor. 13:12]
Ankerberg: Next, Dr. Lutzer tells us a touching story that illustrates that death is real, but heaven is also very real.
Lutzer: You know, John, there’s a story that I came across that I love to tell because it talks to us about how real death is and how real heaven is. In Iowa there was a little girl who was dying and the pastor came to visit her one Saturday morning and she looked up and she said, “I want to go to heaven but they’re letting Mamie in ahead of me.” And then a little while later she said, “And now they’re letting Gramps go in ahead of me.” And as the time continued the pastor had to leave and he discovered a few hours later that the little girl died. So the pastor, Pastor Sandborn, decided that he would check on who these people were. Who was Mamie? Who was Gramps? He discovered that Mamie was a little girl who used to live in the neighborhood but had moved to New York State and Gramps was someone who was a friend of the family who had moved to the Southwest. He tracked them down and would you believe that both of them died that Saturday morning?
I want you to know that death is real but heaven is very real. And that little girl, bless her, actually saw the entrance to heaven and saw those people go in. Now, of course we don’t build our theology on this. We build it upon the Scriptures. But an experience like that is consistent with what the Bible teaches. It makes sense that there are those who die who during that period of transition, especially in the days before tranquilizers were given to people and sedatives, they died with their faculties intact and they could already see the spirit world. Jesus died that way, in fact. He refused what was given to Him. That does not mean that we should not use pain killers and things like that. I’m just simply saying that the experience of seeing the other side is a very, very real one.
Ankerberg: Maybe you’ve lost a wonderful husband or a loving wife, a son or a daughter, and today you’re grieving. What words would God have you hear to comfort and encourage you? Listen:
Lutzer: You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, how then do I integrate all this with my own grief?” because I speak today to those who grieve. I remember when Peter Marshall died – I remember the story, I should say, of how his wife Catherine said that as he was being taken to the hospital, she realized something: that the value of a life is not dependent upon duration. It’s not how long it is. It’s dependent upon donation; it’s what you give. And those little ones who have died, they have given a lot to us. They’ve reminded us of heaven. They’ve reminded us of love. They’ve made us anticipate the life to come. They’ve made a reunion in heaven something that we look forward to. Accept your grief. Weep. Be comforted in your weeping and know that some day all is going to be different. You will be reunited if you’re a believer in Jesus.
Ankerberg: With all this talk of death, what does the Bible tell us about heaven? What can we look forward to? Listen:
Lutzer: John, one day a little girl was looking at pictures of Jesus. Her parents were reading her stories of Jesus and you know that there are these picture books that are very, very valuable and we’ve all used them to communicate scriptural truth to our children and pictures of Jesus. And that night she dreamt about Jesus. And in the morning she said to her mommy and daddy, “I dreamed about Jesus and He’s a hundred times better than the pictures.” Well, I think that the time is going to come when you and I are going to agree that He’s a hundred times better than anything that we could possibly say about Him. And even eye is not able to grasp and ear is not able to hear and tongue is not able to speak all of the wonders that God has prepared for those who love Him. [1 Cor. 2:9]
Lutzer: What we’d like to do is to help us to understand heaven a little better by looking at what the Bible calls “the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,” the text says in Revelation 21:2. Just this past Saturday I attended a wedding. Beautiful bride adorned. We all know what goes into that dress, don’t we? We know how much it costs, those of us who have had daughters who have been married. But the whole emphasis is on the bride and God makes them beautiful, even more beautiful on the day of their wedding.
Now, what can we say about the New Jerusalem? First of all, I want to say a word about its size. Listen to the words of Scripture: “And the city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod 1500 miles its length and width and height are equal.” [Rev. 21:16] Now, when you stop to think about it, you realize that the New Jerusalem could either be a cube 1500 miles square, or it could also be a pyramid, because it talks about its height and then its base being 1500 miles. Whatever. Let’s suppose that it is a cube. Do you know that the New Jerusalem would have 396,000 stories, each one-half the size of the United States? Each story 20 feet high, if you take it literally, 1500 miles by 1500 miles. I’ll tell you, that’s lots of room. It’s enough for the Redeemed of the Old Testament. It’s enough for the Redeemed of the New Testament. And it’s enough for you.
And you know, I believe that there’s a crown that only you can wear. There may be a condominium – and of course, I’m putting this into language that we can understand – there may be a condominium with your name on it. The Bible says that there’s a place reserved in heaven for you. [1 Pet. 1:4] I like that. I’ve been to restaurants, you know, and you have this long line and then if you have a reservation, though, you can walk past the line and you can immediately be served because it’s reserved. And there is a place reserved in heaven for you. Heaven has enough room for you. It has enough room for the saints of all the ages.
You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, now, what if I am stuck on the thousandth floor or the ten thousandth floor and all of the activity is on the downstairs lounge? Well, I want you to know that’s no problem because remember this – and we learned this previously, that when we have our resurrected bodies we will be like Christ. Do you remember how effortlessly He traveled? How He could be in Jerusalem and then be in Galilee or be in Galilee and then be in Jerusalem? How He went through doors because He had a body whose molecular structure was different and therefore was not limited by matter? And you know that in heaven the thought is going to be the movement. If you say, “I want to be where the action is” and you want to travel in a certain direction or to a certain place, you simply desire to do that, you choose to do that, and so far as we know, the travel is effortless and you will arrive there. So we have all of that to look forward to in the heavenly Jerusalem. It is indeed a place. You know, Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you,” [John 14:2] and this is the place that He went to prepare. And He spoke and it was created.
Ankerberg: Have you ever asked the question, “What are we going to be doing in heaven? Will it be boring or fun? Listen very carefully:
Lutzer: Now, John, another question that people oftentimes ask is, “Well, what are we going to be doing in heaven? What is our occupation going to be?” Well, it’s not going to be like that Sunday School child who thought that heaven was going to be like sitting in a church service where you begin in the hymnal with number one, you sing all the way through, and when you’re finished, you start over again and sing the same songs. Heaven is not going to be boring. God is going to have work for us to do. For example, it says, first of all, that we’re going to worship God. Revelation 5 places God right in the midst of the throne and then it talks about the elders worshiping Him and it talks about all of us joining together to worship Him. What a wonderful experience that is going to be. You know, I think of the Church – and I’m interested in Church History and maybe you are, too. You read it and what do you find? Doctrinal heresies. You find moral failures. You wonder how in the world the Church survived all these centuries. Well, it wouldn’t have unless Jesus Christ were behind it and building His Church. Won’t it be wonderful to finally be all together, believe the same thing, united with one mind? And what you have when the Church is finally in the presence of God, one Church all worshiping together, all praising the same Lord, united in one faith. I look forward to that. It’s going to be a wonderful occasion.
But also, keep in mind that we are going to serve Him. Heaven is going to be a place of activity. In fact, the text says here, “And they shall see His face; His name shall be on their foreheads and there shall no longer be any night and they shall not have need of the light of the lamp nor of the light of the sun because the Lord God shall illumine them and they shall reign forever and ever.” [Rev. 22:4-5]
You say “Well, what is it that we’re going to reign over?” The Bible says that we’re going to judge angels. [1 Cor. 6:3] It means that we’re going to rule over the angels. By the way, John, I think this is what makes the devil so angry is to think that sinners like us who fell, just as he fell, that we who were plunged into sin, God redeemed us, lifted us up, made us heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, and we shall be above the heavenly hosts, a position which he once occupied. We’ll be above that. And we shall rule over angels.
I tend to think, too, that the universe is a big place. Hundreds of trillions of stars. The experts tell us more stars in the sky than there are grains of sand on the seashores of the world. I don’t know about you, John, but I can’t believe that God would create all of these without each one of them giving Him glory. Who knows? I don’t know. Maybe we are going to be ruling over galaxies and have huge responsibilities in the universe. Travel is going to be effortless. We’ll be able to travel from one place to another even as Jesus did, as we’ve emphasized, and therefore God is going to have responsibilities for us and we shall serve Him. We shall serve Him.
Of course, we have to combine all of these wonders with the fact that we will have an indestructible, eternal body, as we’ve already learned. And no one will comment on our age, John. Nobody is going to say, “John, you don’t look as youthful as you used to.” Because we will be eternally young.
I love the poem that Dr. Henson wrote. “The stars shall live for a million years and million years and a day, but God and I shall live and love when the stars have passed away.” Wow. All of that awaits us.
But if you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior, what you must do is believe that when He died on the cross – listen carefully – He did all that ever will be necessary to reconcile you to God. If you give up trusting yourself and believe in Him, you’ll belong to Him forever. “For as many as believed on Him, to them He gave the power to be the sons of God, even to those who believe on His name.” [John 1:12]

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