A Voice in the Wilderness - Observations and Excursions of a Christian Zealot

Terry Walker's Weblog --- Occasional articles on the Christian Ethic

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I see dead people --- it’s my sixth sense!

Some time ago I was at a friend’s house watching a Bruce Willis flick. Christian or not I watch all Bruce Willis movies. Some are good, some are ok and some aren’t worth the cellulous that was wasted to create the movie, but, never the less, I watch all of Bruce’s movies. I guess I just relate to his often bad attitude. But this particular movie was an exceptionally good secular suspense thriller with a twist, in that the main character, a young boy, has an apparent gift, this gift being the ability to see dead people. As the movie progresses you learn that the dead people have not gone to the great beyond, because they have unfinished business with the world of the living. It seems that these ties to the living have hindered them from going “into the light”. Unfortunately for the poor terrified boy, these “dead souls” have often met their demise in some gruesome fashion, (apparently the dead don’t clean up too well), yet they seek the youth’s help in solving their various problems, so that they can “rest in peace”. So inevitably the boy comes to grips with his destiny, and learns how to use his gift to do what he can do to help these lost souls. But the twist is that the dead don’t always know they’re dead, and often, as our young hero explains in the movie, “They only see what they want to see.”

By the time the credits rolled I was struck by the undeniable realization that I too have this gift. I too have seen dead people!

This brings to mind a man who, years ago, lay on his death bed in a hospital, dieing of some dreadful cancer. His pain must have been excruciating because the doctors had administered near lethal doses of morphine to lessen the pain of this man’s passing. But this man was anything but sedated. His arms, legs and even his waist were tethered to the gurney with extremely wide leather straps, yet he strained with the strength of Samson against them, twisting and wreathing in every direction. He was intensely alert and overly powerful, like a person overdosed on crack or ecstasy. The heart rate monitor was beeping tones that seem more fitting for a hummingbird than a human. But it was not illicit drugs causing this man’s reaction, nor was his attention focused on anything on this side of death. No, this man’s words made his concerns abundantly clear, as he continually screamed about the sound of chains coming closer and closer, yet no one in the room heard any such sounds. His eyes seemed to peer into a world none other in the room could see, as he stared intently at things that where not there. He kept screaming, “He’s coming, he’s coming closer, let me go, get me out of here.” His screaming and physical wrestling became more and more violent until he announced that Satan was in the room, bound with endless chains. As he stared directly toward the foot of his bed, then toward those in the room, he screamed one last time, “Can’t you see Him?” and he died. The cause of death was not cancer, but an embolism in the brain that burst as a result of elevated blood pressure caused by an excessively high heart rate. The examining doctor noted, “This man was scared to death.” There was no doubt in the minds of those in the room, as to what caused this man’s fear.

Yes, like the boy in the movie, “I see dead people all the time.” When I go to work, there they are, working as if money can buy them life. When I go to Sam’s club, there they are, buying food, as if food is going to benefit their condition. And even when I drive from place to place, there they are again, speeding past me, as if their superior progress will gain them any more time in the long run. And I must say that as I grow older and more mature, their gruesome condition grieves me to the core and keeps my countenance low. These dead souls haunt me as I, most of the time, seem powerless to help.

Perhaps my view of life and death is rather odd. But it seems to me that what most people think of, and experience as their life, is barely a shadow of the real thing, and what most people consider as death, the physical death of a loved one, is really the least significant of the four types of death. And I do not doubt that Stephen or Lazarus would agree with me whole heartedly. Do you think that Stephen would, if he had been given the choice, choose to live another year or two, rather the see Jesus, after sitting at the right hand of God, stand up to mark Stephen’s own death? Do you think Lazarus, once absent from his body and present with the Lord Jesus Christ, preferred to return to his sin sick body and live all over again, amongst the living? And what of the resurrected saints who rose to live again at Jesus’ death, would they have wished that upon themselves after experiencing the glory of almighty God? No, no, while these Christians knew that such exits and returns served a God ordained and glorifying purpose, these Christians also understood the Apostle Paul, when he said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” It bears repeating with emphasis, “For Christians alone, to live IS Christ, and to die is GAIN.”

Consider the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, son of Berlin’s leading psychiatrist and neurologist, Karl Bonhoeffer, during the days of Adolf Hitler. Dietrich, a theologian intent on reforming the German church, said “It is because of Hitler that Christ has become effective among us.” Bonhoeffer, opposing the Nazis with all his might, called the church to repentance. His outspokenness put him at risk; every day, every year, the crisis grew and the tension deepened.

On Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night”), November 9, 1938, the Nazis unleashed their full fury against Jewish communities in Germany. Windows were shattered, houses stormed, synagogues burned, families brutalized, Jews imprisoned. Bonhoeffer, away from Berlin, raced back to the capital and stood like an intrepid prophet against the violence. He was furious with Christians, who justified the violence, by saying the Jews were reaping only what they deserved as the crucifiers of Christ. He marked the calamitous date alongside Psalm 74:7,8, which he underlined in his Bible.

He was eventually incarcerated at Telgel Prison outside Berlin. His six-by-nine-foot cell contained cot, shelf, stool, and bucket. Here he lived 18 months, writing letters and poems. Eventually Bonhoeffer was taken to Flossenburg Concentration Camp. As he led a small worship service on April 8, 1945, the Gestapo burst in and dragged him away. Shortly after five o’clock the next morning, he was taken to an execution site in a grove of trees and forced to strip. He knelt naked and prayed, then ascended the gallows to God. The last words he cried were, “This is the end --- for me, the beginning of life.”

Dietrich understood, as I do, that to a Christian, physical death, the third type of death, is not death at all; it is the beginning of life, the beginning of life free from a need for hope and faith, free from the burden of God’s mercy and grace. It is my hope that you understand how God’s mercy and grace are a great burden to bear.

Yet there are souls that walk this Earth with but one birth to their credit, having been stillborn, dead in sin, this is the first type of death, inherited from our common, fallen, father. They, as we once did, walk this earth unafraid. We all, Christian and heathen alike share this common death and, except for the rare exception, we all experience the third type as well, the physical death. Yet there are four types of death, two are common to all without regard to your election and two are opposing, the second being for Christians alone. In America I see very few of these dead people, they seem to be a dieing breed.

But there are those that have no fear of Satan, and even less reverence for God. They do not yet hear any chains, nor sense Satan’s presence. They are utterly oblivious, suppressing the truth, they only see what they want to see; they are the dead I see all around me. They are everywhere, a great burgeoning crowd, too numerous to number. Yet they are not through dieing. As a heathen they must die twice more, the latter two forms of death, they will suffer physical death and then kneeling before God, they will confess Him as Lord, receive the realization and fruition of their final death. They will suffer separation from Jesus and an eternal dieing of their flesh and soul. In brimstone and fire they will burn perpetually. In everlasting torment they will nash their teeth in searing anger and despair. But not one drop of relief will ever, ever, even touch the tip of their tongues. In this undying, unending anguish, oblivion would be a merciful end, but they shall have no peace, no rest, no joy, no radiant, glorious light, only the intense unrelenting alertness to their interminable suffering! This is the forth death, set aside for the heathen alone to experience.

I hope by now that you truly sense the gruesome plight of the dead heathen and are stricken to the very core of your soul, oh claiming Christian, to do what you must, to die the second death, to feel the true burden of grace and mercy that comes with being dead in Christ. This is the second death!

Have you died in Christ? Experienced the second death? I am not asking if you made a profession of faith, walked an isle, said a prayer, made a commitment, got wet in a ceremony, passed a class, or even were confirmed as a Christian. I am asking, “Have you experienced the death of your useless flesh, to now derive your entire existence in Christ?” To live IS Christ. Forget about is He my Lord or Savior, is He my Friend or Master! There is no “or” with Jesus, He is all or nothing. I am asking if you are dead to yourself and now find yourself alive in Jesus? Are you no longer flesh, but spirit?

If so then praise the Lord, for He surely revealed this to you. I remember when my second death became real to me. When the understanding of the burden of grace and mercy came upon me like a great millstone, when I ceased to exist and only Jesus within me remained. While the execution of my second death happened at the moment of my salvation, the realization of it occurred the moment that I crawled out of that baptismal pool, having made my public confession of life in Christ, I was unable to walk or stand before the almighty, holy, righteous, just and perfect God, that had both permitted and caused my complete submission to Him. Having vowed my life to Him, I could hear His word speaking to me, “Go, sin no more, and teach those who will listen what I have commanded you, making disciples of those with ears to hear.” From that moment on, to live in the flesh means fruit from my labor, as it has been needful for me to work toward your progress and joy of faith.

So listen, those of you with ears, if you still walk this Earth with two births and two deaths to your credit, then why do you perceive your life with such high regard, why is your countenance so happy, why have you left you first love behind to pursue things of such low import? Can you not see the dead all around you? Do you not know that they only see what they want to see? Where is your grief for them? They do not even comprehend that they are dead! But does this concern you into action? Does this cause you to set your own life aside? How gruesome must their fate be to gain your attention? Can you not smell the brimstone? Will you stand in the face of evil like an intrepid prophet or will you step aside as Satan’s Gestapo reaps their eternal bounty?

God has drawn you, opened your eyes, saved you and set you apart by unmerited grace, and by undeserved mercy he perseveres you to the end. I hope that these great gifts have become your burden to the salvation of others, rather than to your uneventful comfort. I hope that you do not rest in peace until you rest in peace. Indeed, I hope that you see dead people too!

Brother Terry Walker
Providence Baptist Church
Greer, South Carolina