SUNDAY STUDY: Is Death the End of Existence? Part 1

Excerpted from The Berean Call: Dave Hunt and Tom McMahon radio program

Tom: Death’s not a popular subject. Why would you start out with that?

Dave: Well, because it’s inevitable—except if the Rapture occurs before we die. That’s the only hope, but people have been dying ever since Adam and Eve were created, and it’s a subject that isn’t pleasant. You don’t like to think of it. Maybe when you get as old as I am, you think about it a bit more than when you’re younger. But there are so many reminders in the Scripture. In fact, in two Psalms 90, 91 that most people don’t realize were written by Moses, it says “A Prayer of Moses, a Man of God,” —he says, “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” In other words, if I think I’m going to be here forever, I’m not going to make the wisest decisions. But if I realize that life is brief—and it really is; James 4:14 says, “Your life is like a vapor. It appears for a little time and is gone.” Now, you couldn’t make me understand that when I was 15, or 20, or even 30, but now I can understand it because I don’t know where 73 years went. I never thought I would be this old! How in the world did I get this old? It doesn’t seem possible!

Tom: I feel the same way, Dave.

Dave: Well, I’ve got 20 years on you. Can I be the same person I was back there? And Solomon, in fact, even goes further, when he says. “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to a house of feasting,” in other words, it’s better to go to a funeral than to a party, he says, because “that is the end of all life, and the living will lay it to heart.” In other words, it will remind us of how short life is.

So it’s something . . . death is, they say, inevitable—death and taxes. It’s something that we have to face, and what concerns me is at one time, … I owned and administered—a convalescent hospital. A lot of elderly patients. And I had thought that when you are approaching death, you would be concerned about it. And yet, I didn’t find that in any . . . well, maybe a very few exceptions, of these dear people. They just kind of drifted off. And it seems that if you don’t face the reality of death in time, you know, when you get old and you’re nodding in a chair, or you’re heading for a coma in a hospital, or whatever, you’re not likely to think about it.

On the other hand, younger people, religious people, who think that they have made some preparation in what they believe—I’m staggered by the pitiful reasons that they have!

I was talking with a flight attendant on a flight, and she thought she believed in reincarnation. She didn’t have any reasons for it, and it took me about three minutes to disabuse her of that idea. She could immediately see that what she’d been believing was foolishness. But yet, that was what she had put her hope in.

Tom: Yeah, but Dave, let me stop here. Before I was a Christian, I bought into that, and it wasn’t that I really, truly believed it. It just looked like something that solved the problem: “Well, if I don’t get it right this time, I’ll come back again.” Now I didn’t understand transmigration, or any of the religious beliefs behind it. I just thought, “Well, this will cover it.” So then I just put it aside and went on to . . . being merry, or whatever.

Dave: Right, but the point I’m trying to make is, Tom, you didn’t have a good reason for that.

Tom: No.

Dave: Nor did this lady. And yet, death . . . I remember a scientist some years ago giving his testimony. He was at Stanford Research Institute, which became SRI. He was a physicist, a brilliant guy, and he . . . he was so unhappy that he was ready to commit suicide. Although the friends—he was an atheist—the friends that he would invite over to his cocktail parties, they would say, “Wow! You must really have a great psychiatrist! You throw such wonderful parties.” And he’s dying inside. And the only thing that kept him from suicide was that he had a Christian grandmother who was praying for him, and she had warned him that there’s a place called “hell” out there. Now he didn’t believe that, but he kept thinking, “Suppose Granny’s right!” [Chuckling] “Suppose there is a place called hell, and you get out there, and you can’t get back! I’d better hang on a little longer.”

And, in fact, he met Christ through reading the Scriptures. His life was transformed. Now he knew where he was going—he was going to heaven now, not because of anything that he had done—in fact, despite what he had done, because Christ had paid the penalty for his sins. And his last visit to the psychiatrist, he said, “I don’t need you. You need me! I mean, I’m not coming here to pay you if you don’t want to listen to the gospel.”

But the point I’m trying to get at is suppose there is a place called hell out there. When you die . . . and I’ll go into the three possibilities…

When you die—unless one of three ideas will bring you back or give you another chance, and we can dispense with them pretty readily—it’s pretty serious! In other words, people will make a choice of the church or the religion they believe in: “Well, I was born a Hindu, I’ll die a Hindu,” or “I was born a Catholic . . . ” or a Baptist or whatever, “I’ll die a Baptist.” And you try to ask them, “Well, what do you really know for sure about this?”

“Well, I like the choir,” or “The pastor’s so friendly, the people are so friendly . . . ”

I mean, they have reasons for their hope of eternity that I wouldn’t be comfortable with buying a refrigerator or a used car, you know? They would be much more careful about that, and yet, they’re going to launch out into eternity . . .

So, that was why I began there, because that’s what we have to face, and really, that’s what so-called religion is about. Every religion believes there’s something after death, and they’ve got their theories, and so forth. This is what’s called “faith.” So, let’s get serious about where we’re heading.

Tom: Well, let’s talk about the popular views. One that you mentioned is, “Well, when it’s the end, it’s the end—it’s just extinction, that’s it! When the lights go out, the lights go out.”

Dave: Right.

Tom: What about that one? It’s based on materialism.

Dave: Materialism. In other words, material bodies die, and that’s it for the body! (Unless there’s a resurrection.) So, there’s no doubt about that. But nobody can sensibly imagine that they’re just a lump of protein molecules wired with nerves, you know—a piece of educated beefsteak that has learned to make programmed responses to stimulus, like Pavlov’s dog. You can’t explain a sense of truth, justice, morals, ethics, purpose, and meaning in terms of electrical current in your brain.

Tom: Or chemistry, or . . .

Dave: Yeah, chemical reactions in the brain. There’s got to be something else in there, and . . .

Tom: So it’s absurd that . . . just the physical exists.

Dave: Well, Tom, a young man sitting in the back of a courtroom, let’s say, and he doesn’t like the decision the judge has just come up with. And he says angrily, “There’s no justice in this world!” Well, what is he referring to? The absence of something that he says doesn’t exist—he’s never seen it—how does he know it’s missing? You can’t explain that away. When you read 1 Corinthians 13, and you’re confronted with a love that is so beautiful, so pure, so perfect, so selfless, we have never seen it on this earth, and we recognize that we do not have the capability of a love like that, but we know that it exists. The reason that we know love, truth, justice, and perfection exist is because we’re made in the image of God, who—not the physical image; God is a Spirit—in the spiritual image of God, who is perfect in justice, in love, in truth, in holiness.

Now, we said you can’t explain ethics, morals, and so forth, in terms of chemical reactions and electrical processes in the brain. You can’t even explain thoughts. Your brain doesn’t even think. If your brain thought, you would be the prisoner of your brain—you’d be running around, doing . . . whatever your brain comes up with, you’ve got to do it! We all have a pretty good idea that we do make choices—not always rational, sometimes based on lust and greed, and so forth. But we are not running around following our brain, but we are telling our brain what to do.

We have nonphysical thoughts. Thoughts are not physical. For example, you say to me “justice” or “truth.” I know what you’re talking about.

Tom: “Love.”

Dave: Yeah, but justice isn’t physical; truth is not physical—I mean, what does it weigh? What’s the texture? What’s the color? What does it taste like? What does it smell like? It has nothing to do with this physical universe in which our bodies function. So we have thoughts about something that isn’t physical. That bugged Lenin. And that’s a very famous problem in . . .

Tom: Communists, the atheists, the materialists . . . Vladimir Lenin!

Dave: Right. That’s a very famous problem in philosophy: “Lenin’s Dilemma.” Lenin, as you said, was a materialist—nothing exists but matter. And, in fact, he was right when he said, “You can’t think of anything that doesn’t exist.” Try it! Well, I can think of pink elephants, but pink exists, and elephants exist. If you think you can think of something that doesn’t exist in this physical universe, come up with a new prime color to the rainbow. You can’t do it! So all that we can think of is supposedly what we know out there—what has affected us.

Ah! But what about God? Where did that idea come from? You’ve never seen anything in this universe that looks like God, that feels like God, that, you know, even comes close to the human concept of God. And that bothered Lenin to his dying day. He couldn’t solve that problem.

So, the thoughts that we have are not physical, cannot be explained in terms of any process going on in the brain—in fact . . .

Tom: Dave, can I just . . . am I oversimplifying here? So, the only way we could possibly know about God is Him revealing Himself to us.

Dave: Exactly.

Tom: In other words, man did not—could not, according to Lenin—could not make up God.

Dave: That’s right. And Lenin couldn’t get away from that. Now the Bible does tell us, Romans 1, that the power and the eternal wisdom of God are revealed in the things that are made. .. Not too far outside my kitchen window, is a mother goose, a Canadian goose, sitting on eggs. Now, how do they even know enough to lay all the eggs first and then start hatching them? Otherwise, you’d have them popping out at different times and it would be chaos. And how does a spider spin a web? Where did this come from?

You can’t . . . well, look, with the electron microscopes we have now, we’re able to probe into the molecular level of life. It is so complex, it is incredible! We’ve probably quoted it before, but you remember Richard Dawkins, one of the world’s leading evolutionists—he acknowledges that the nucleus of every cell has (this is just the nucleus!) has a digitally—these are his words—a digitally organized database larger than the 30-volume set of The Encyclopaedia Britannica, okay? So, you couldn’t be a rational person and say this happened by chance. Someone planned this, designed it, and so forth, and you cannot escape it, all right?

But that doesn’t tell me about God’s love. That doesn’t tell me about God’s character. It tells me of His power and His genius. So, as you said, that must be revealed to me. And the fact that I have a sense of perfect justice, of truth, and so forth—it indicates that.

Tom: So the point here is that there’s something beyond our physical makeup that we have to acknowledge.

Dave: That’s inside of us.

Tom: Right.

Dave: Right. The Bible calls it “the soul and spirit.” In fact, we’ve quoted Robert Jastrow, you know, who says that some beings—he’s an evolutionist—“some beings out on some of these planets could have evolved beyond the need of bodies. They would be what old-fashioned religious people call ‘spirits.’” So even he believes that there could be nonphysical entities.

Wilder Penfield, one of the world’s leading neurosurgeons—experts on the brain—he says the mind is separate and distinct from the brain. The mind is nonphysical; the brain is physical. He says the brain is a computer that is programmed by something independent of itself, and that is the mind, okay?

Your brain doesn’t even think. But your brain is a computer, which you use—I use—to operate this body, to interface with this physical universe in which our bodies function.

Tom: The mind—or the spirit? Can we say that?

Dave: Absolutely! Tom, no rational person can deny that! So the man that sticks a gun to his head, pulls the trigger, can be assured of only one thing. He’s stopped the function of his brain cells. He ended the life of this physical body. But the bullet passed (pfft!)—didn’t even touch the soul and the spirit. That goes on forever!

Physical things—you know, second law of thermodynamics—physical things wear out: The law of entropy. And we can see that in the universe around us. That’s how we know the universe hasn’t always been here. If it had been here forever, the sun would have burned out by now. So there was a time when it didn’t exist, and so forth.

But the spirit and soul—we have no reason to believe that they wear out! Therefore, the most important question any person can face is, Where will I spend eternity? But to suggest that when you’re dead, you’re dead—and that’s it—we’ve got no rational basis for that. Everything that we experience of life says that’s not true. There’s something inside of you that’s going to go on beyond the death of that body.

Tom: But the other option, Dave, is that, well, when I die, it’ll all just be bliss. It’ll just be the white light and perfect acceptance, and I’ll keep evolving upward; I’ll be more brilliant than I am right now. And that’s what I have to look forward to.

Dave: Right.

Tom: Is there any evidence for that?

Dave: And those people, they do believe that there is a spirit and soul, okay? Give them credit for that. And they believe that it survives the death of the body. A lot of problems with that idea that we just move on into graduate school, continue to learn our lessons, and so forth: a Hitler’s fate is no worse than a Mother Teresa’s. It doesn’t really matter . . .

Tom: One’s white light is not going to be as white as others.

Dave: Well . . .

Tom: Maybe it’s dark grey, or . . .

Dave: But they never say that. These people that have these near-death experiences, and they go through this tunnel, and they see this bright light, and there’s nothing but love and acceptance, and they come back, and they say, “Wow, I didn’t even want to come back! You know, death is a myth. You don’t really die. You just move up,” and so forth. A lot of problems.

Tom: No judgment, no accountability.

Dave: That’s right. I mean, that’s just a wonderful thing! You can be a murderer and a thief and so forth. But then you escape it all when you die. I mean that makes suicide sound wonderful, you know! Let’s escape every . . . No, no! That violates the very sense of justice that we have. The Bible says, “It’s appointed unto man once to die; after this the judgment.” And we wouldn’t let somebody get away from this on this earth. To imagine that you leave this earth and you can escape all the consequences—that doesn’t make sense.

Tom: Well, we’d object to it. Most people would say, “Wait a minute! This guy was a [murderer. How does he either get away with it all, or how does he become a non-murderer? What’s the change? If he hasn’t changed here on earth; why is he going to change later?

Dave: Exactly. The one basis, you would think, for keeping people in line—at least, some people think this—would be the death penalty, that there are some serious consequences; or imprisonment, or whatever. And now, suddenly, when you die, you escape all of this and you’re out in a realm somewhere, where you’re just floating around and everything is peaches and cream, and you’re just accepted and you’ve got no incentive for progressing. It doesn’t make sense, from that basis as well.

Furthermore, there are people who do come back from these near-death experiences, and they’ve experienced hell! Now, they don’t remember it, generally. But if you talk to them right away—in fact, some of them, I know doctors who have resuscitated people who have suddenly had a massive heart attack, and they’ve gone into a coma and then they’ve brought them back, and they come out of it screaming that they’re in flames. So I can’t trust these experiences, because I get contradictory reports. . .

Tom: As you said, we don’t know if they’re really valid—if it actually happened, or if this was something that just went on in the brain or the circumstance of the physical nature of what he was going through.

Dave: So, I wouldn’t trust this “when you’re dead, you’re dead” idea. I’d investigate it a bit further … We’d better investigate it further on the next program.


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