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BURIED ALIVE – PART II

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Evening, July 16, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation” (Numbers 16:33).


When my maternal grandmother Myrtle Clevenger was twelve years old she got diphtheria, a very serious illness. The classic symptom of a “web” appeared in the back of her throat. She went unconscious and they thought she was dead. That was long ago, in 1893, deep in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. There was no doctor and no funeral home way back then. Those hillbillies did their own “buryin.”

The family laid her body out on the dinner table and covered it with a white sheet. They brought in a coffin and got ready to bury her, which was done very quickly in those days. As she lay there under that sheet, she slowly regained consciousness, but still couldn’t move. Yet she could hear her family crying and talking about burying her that afternoon. She thought, “I’m going to be buried alive.” She struggled to move, but her body was paralyzed.

I remember Grandma telling me, “Robert, I knew they were going to bury me alive, but I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk. I struggled to move, but I couldn’t.” She lay there draped in a sheet, going in and out of consciousness. Finally, she awoke, left alone in the room with an old lady watching her, while the others were in another room. She thought, “I’ve got to move or they will bury me alive,” which she knew had happened to others of her “hillbilly” neighbors. Finally, with great effort, she was able to move the toes of one of her feet, causing the sheet which covered her to move back and forth. The old lady watching her body screamed, “She’s alive! Myrtle is alive!”

Grandma lived through that horrible experience. She died sixty-two years later, when I was fifteen years old. I have never forgotten that story, which I heard her tell so often.

Author Jan Bondeson has written a book called, Buried Alive (W. W. Norton and Company, 2002). A review of Bondeson’s book says,

Readers of Edgar Allan Poe’s tales – just think of The Premature Burial – may comfort themselves with the notion that Poe must have exaggerated: surely people of the 1800s could not have been at risk of being buried alive. But such stories filled medical journals as well as fiction, and fear in the populace was high. It was speculated, from the number of skeletons found in horrific, contorted positions inside their coffins, that ten out of every one hundred people were buried before they were dead (www.wwnorton.com/catalog/ fall01/032222.htm).

Think of it! Back in the nineteenth century and earlier, you had one chance in ten of being buried alive!

We read a strange account of this happening in the Biblical Book of Numbers, where we are told that

“The earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up…They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation” (Numbers 16:32-33).

There can be no doubt that this happened to Korah and his friends. The New Testament tells us,

“Woe unto them! for they have…perished in the gainsaying [rebellion] of Core [Korah]” (Jude 11).

I. First, they went down alive.

The text says,

“They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive…” (Numbers 16:33).

It is a great mistake to think that you will not be alive after they bury you. In a sense, everyone of us is really “buried alive.” Not one in ten – but all of us!

One of the Devil’s greatest tricks lies in telling people that there is no life after death, that “death ends it all.” That is not the truth at all!

The Bible repeatedly tells us that there is life after death. For instance, Jesus told about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus in the sixteenth chapter of Luke. Both men died physically. But both men were still “alive” after death. Lazarus was alive in Heaven. And the Bible says that the rich man “died, and was buried” (Luke 16:22), but he was still mentally alive and fully aware of his horrible surroundings,

“And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:23).

Jesus said,

“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:46).

Your life will not end when you are buried. Of each and every person who dies it can be said,

“They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive…” (Numbers 16:33).

II. Second, they went down into the pit.

The text says,

“They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit…” (Numbers 16:33).

Korah and his followers rebelled against Moses, and

“The earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up…They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit…” (Numbers 16:32-33).

Dr. Merrill F. Unger, late professor of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, said,

In this solemn scene, where the divine authority and grace were so flagrantly flouted, the Lord is seen to “make a new thing” [Numbers 16:30], literally “create a creation.” Apparently this took the form of a supernatural earthquake, as the ground opened and swallowed up the rebel leaders with their families (Merrill F. Unger, Ph.D., Th.D., Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament, Moody Press, 1981, volume I, p. 206).

Notice, in our text, that they “went down alive into the pit…” (Numbers 16:33). The word “pit” here is translated from the Hebrew word “shehole.” It means “hades or the world of the dead…including…grave, hell, pit” (Strong’s Concordance, number 7585). Matthew Henry said,

It was typical [a picture] of the eternal ruin of sinners who die impenitent, who, perhaps in allusion to this are said to “sink down into the pit” (Psalm 9:15) and to “go down quickly into hell,” Psalm 55:15 (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, 1996 reprint, volume I, p. 503).

The New Testament makes it perfectly clear in Jude 11-13 that Korah and his friends went to Hell. In these verses, we are told that they entered

“the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 13).

III. Third, they perished from among the congregation.

Let us stand and read the text out loud. It’s Numbers 16:33.

“They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation” (Numbers 16:33).

You may be seated.

“And they perished from among the congregation.” Am I going too far when I suggest that this is a type or picture of people who sit unconverted in a congregation like this? I do not think so. “And they perished from among the congregation.” Oh, what a terrible thought! Does it apply to you? Have you sat here Sunday after Sunday in an unconverted state? When death comes to you, will it be said that you “perished from among the congregation”?

The great Puritan preacher Joseph Alleine (1634-1668), in his famous book, An Alarm to the Unconverted, said,

Oh sinner, stop here, and consider. If you are a man, and not a senseless block [of wood], consider. Think where you are standing – upon the very brink of destruction. As the Lord liveth, and as your soul liveth, there is but a step between you and this. You do not know when you lie down, but [that] you may be in hell before morning. You do not know when you rise up, but [that] you may drop in [to hell] before night. Dare you make light of this? Will you go on in such a dreadful condition, as if nothing [was wrong with] you?...Do not blind your eyes. Do not deceive yourself. See your misery while you may [still] prevent it. Think what it is to be a vile outcast, a lost reprobate, a vessel of wrath, into which the Lord will be pouring out His tormenting fury…Divine wrath is a fierce, devouring, everlasting, unquenchable fire, and this must be your [fate], unless you consider your ways, and [quickly] turn to the Lord by a sound conversion.
       Sinner, it is [useless] to flatter you: this would [only] draw you into the unquenchable fire. Know from the living God that [there] you must lie; with these burnings you must dwell…till eternity run out and omnipotence is no longer able to punish, except you [are earnest in seeking to be renewed by grace].
       The law [of God] discharges all its threats and curses at you. Oh how dreadfully does it thunder! It flashes devouring fire in your face. Its words are as drawn swords, and as the sharp arrows of the mighty. It demands satisfaction to the utmost, and cries, Justice! Justice! It speaks blood, and war, and wounds, and death, against you. O man, [flee] to your stronghold; away from your sins; [flee] to the sanctuary, the city of refuge – even the Lord Jesus Christ. Hide in Him, or else you are lost, without any hope of recovery (Joseph Alleine, An Alarm to the Unconverted, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1959 reprint, pp. 65-66).

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

Turn fully to Christ! Do it now, lest you be one of those of whom it is said,

“They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation” (Numbers 16:33).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Numbers 16:1-5, 25-34.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“If You Linger Too Long” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).


THE OUTLINE OF

BURIED ALIVE – PART II

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


“They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation” (Numbers 16:33).

(Numbers 16:32-33; Jude 11)

I.   They went down alive, Numbers 16:33a; Luke 16:23, 22;
Matthew 25:46.

II.  They went down into the pit, Numbers 16:33b, 32, 30;
Psalm 9:15; Psalm 55:15; Jude 13.

III. They perished from among the congregation, Numbers 16:33c;
Mark 16:16.