Death is a direct consequence of sin. It is a direct result of sin. It is precisely because we as humans chose to rebel against God. Death came in to this world because of our absolute arrogance. We thought and think we know what to do and how to do it. We neglect(ed) a God who created us by positioning ourselves as gods who create constant catastrophes because of us.
The bible teaches us that the wages of sin are death (Rom. 6:23). It does not matter if you are a religious person or a staunch atheist. You will die. The date of your death is impending. It is looming over you. You cannot control it. You cannot do anything about it. It is an event in your life that will come like a thief in the night. You will not expect it. You might not be ready for it. You are surely not anxiously anticipating it. You are for certain not overtly excited about it. But it will happen. Just yesterday, news broke that Steve Jobs, the modern messiah of all things technological, has passed away at the pivotal age of fifty-six.
If you are someone who does not care about their date of death and does not live in light of an impending death, you are a person to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:19). How could something so horrific and tragic not alter your mood for a slight second? How could something so definite not catapult you into a state of deep contemplation about your current life and the way you live your life?
I feel like I have dealt with death and dying more so than most people I know. I feel like I have dealt with the tragedy of death and the knowledge of death more than anyone else I know in my current age bracket.
- My first encounter with death that hit closest to home was when my wife’s dad died of cancer. She told me when he was diagnosed with cancer, when he went to the hospital with cancer and when he eventually died of cancer, surrounded by his family, softly singing to him. He was just 47 years old. I attended that funeral. Along with other men, we picked up shovels that were provided at the gravesite. In somber silence we filled the grave with dirt before the bulldozer filled the rest of the space with the remaining pile of dirt. Her dad loved Jesus and went to be with Jesus.
- One year later, my own father was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors told him he would live for only five more months. Five months later, I found myself flying to Seattle to bury my father. He was 56 years old. He died peacefully in the living room of my home where I spent seven years of my life. We often put the kitchen table in the living room for special occasions and parties. My dad died on a hospital bed that was delivered to our home for him. During the night of his death, the bed was situated in the middle of the celebratory living room. He was surrounded by my mom, my sisters and close family and friends. A few days after that, I once again found myself taking the heavy shovel, replete with a rugged handle, shoveling in dusty dirt into the grave where my father’s body was enclosed in the casket. My dad was fanatical about the Christ who saved him and the Savior who died on the cross in his place. He continued to passionately preach Jesus until he was not physically able to do so. He also went to Jesus to be with Jesus.
- During the first half of this year, we held two funerals at our church, both of which were for men who were exemplary Christians and loved the Lord.
- In the place where I work, I am constantly dealing with death certificates. If you have ever handled a death certificate, you would notice on it a space that reads “reason for death.” I have never handled a death certificate without trembling hands. I envision the entire life of the person as they have lived it. It is then reduced to about ten characters, spelling out The End and pointing to the usual suspects. As my eyes scan the reason for death, I thank my God for giving me hope after death. There have been times when I helped a client one week — and the next week, I am handling their death certificate, provided to me by their heirs.
What I despise about death is the angst and emotional pain that it causes. I hated having to wear a full body radioactive suit when I came to visit my dad in the hospital. I hated having to see his frail, thin body, barely able to move from one room to the next. The one vibrant thing that pierced the hearts of the people who saw him before his death was his deep blue eyes, professing Jesus as Lord, even when he was not saying a single word.
Despite the fact that I despise death, I personally cannot wait to die. It is true. I say this not to be flippant but because I know definitively that death is not the end. When I die, I have full confidence that I will be with my Lord and my Savior, who is Jesus the Christ. I know that my death will happen at a God appointed time. In His sovereign choice, God will allow me to finish the work He has placed me to do and then I will go home.
If you are a Christian and have declared Jesus as Lord over your life, your date with death should not be an encounter to dread but an event to welcome. The bible is replete with pleasant promises that ironically deal directly with death. We are not people who live with no hope. We need to be encouraged by this and encourage others with this.
- Jesus said he is going to prepare a place for us. Jesus promises that He will come again and take us to Him (John 14:1-4).
- Paul asserts that for him to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Php. 1:21).
- Paul promises that we will be glorified with God. This is truth we can trust (Romans 8:16-17).
- Paul also could not wait to die. He said that he would much rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6-8).
- Paul promises that we will all be with the Lord! Does this thought not bring joy to your existence? If it does — encourage one another with these words! (1 Thess. 4:16-18).
- Paul says that God has not destined us to death. God destined for us to be saved from death through His Son Jesus Christ. We can and must build one another up with this firm and confident truth (1 Thess. 5:9-11).
Because of the death of Christ on the Cross, we can now live — forever:
- Jesus declared victory over death: (John 11:23-26)
- Paul echoes this victory: (1 Cor 15:20-23; 1 Cor. 15:54-57; Php. 3:20-21;)
- Peter is on the same platform. He says that we have been born again to never die again. We have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. We have gained an inheritance that no physical death can every take away. This is an inheritance to which cancer cannot spread to or infect. It is imperishable. It is undefiled. It is unfading. It is kept in heaven for me and for you! (1 Peter 1:3-5).
- John affirms this same truth. One day, our God, our Creator, our Savior will wipe away every tear from your eyes, every tear from the eyes of your family members, every tear from your brothers and sisters who have lost a loved one. Death shall be no more! There will not be mourning over a person who has suffered at the cruel fate of cancer. There will not be any more crying. There will not be anymore anxiety. There will not be any more grieving. There will not be any more pain. Anything and everything that we despise here on earth will be absolutely disabled from causing any more damage (1 John 3:1-2; Rev 21:1-4).
Death is tragic and serves as a demise of a physical life — however we are safe and secure with Jesus:
- Here is what the psalmist says: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4).
- The bible says that those who pass away to the Lord in the Lord are precious in the sight of the Lord: Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints (Psalm 116:15).
- Jesus promises eternal life to those who declare Him as Lord over their life: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand (John 10:27-29). We are safe and secure in the arms of our Heavenly Father.
Consider these promises from the Apostle Paul:
- Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Romans 14:8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
This is what was revealed to John regarding death:
- Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
Here are two potent quotes regarding death:
- ”When the time comes for you to die, you need not be afraid, because death cannot separate you from God’s love.” Charles H. Spurgeon
- “He whose head is in heaven need not fear to put his feet into the grave.” Matthew Henry
My sincere hope is that we would be a people who live with a strong hope. We need to look at life from an eternal perspective. We can despise death because it is a tragedy. We should embrace death because in it, God is glorified — provided that you live and die in the Lord and with the Lord.
Question: How have you personally dealt with the reality of death? What gives you hope during a tumultuous time? Have you experienced a death of someone in your life? What gave you hope and confidence during that difficult time?