Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Salve For the Sting of Death


Unless we live until the rapture, there is one door we all must pass through alone.  For the Christian, it is a door to eternal life.  For the unbelievers, it is a door to their impending eternal judgement.  No matter who you are, great or small, rich or poor, strong or weak, popular or unknown, or king or slave, it is a door we must pass through alone.  Today I am going to talk about death. 
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.  Hebrews 9:27-28 NKJV
The cold hard truth is that we are all going to die.  For the only people this is not true for are Christians who are taken in the rapture or people on earth at the time of the Lord's return.  Otherwise, everyone will experience death.  It is not something we like to think about.  Even for me, when I know where I am going, I can honestly say that I am not ready to die.  I believe the Lord has so much more for me in this life.  I believe the Lord wants me to be a good husband for my wife and I believe that the Lord has children in store for me when His time is right.  I do honestly believe that especially for the believer, God prepares those who are about to make that final step.  As much as a big step it is for a Christian, I can only imagine how terrifying a step it must be for an unbeliever.  For those not in Christ, there is no basis for any kind of assurance of where they will go.  For the unbeliever, they take a long leap into a great unknown.  This is even true for people of other faiths where your destination after death is determined by your works here on earth.  Death is utterly terrifying for the nonbeliever, and it should be as they will awaken into a nightmare worse then their worst imaginations could ever come up with and one that will never ever end. 

I think that part of everyone knows this fact.  That is why the world comes up with so many nonsensical ideas about life after death.  Some charlatans even manipulate these fears and offer false comfort by pretending to talk to dead relatives.  Of course these dead relatives can barely talk in complete words let alone complete sentences but they can say letters for the most part.  They speak in vagaries and allow the dupe to fill in the details.  it is an age-old and much discredited scam called cold reading.  We tell our departed loved ones to "Rest in peace."  We tell each other that they are in a better place or that their suffering is over.  We tell each other that they are watching over us.  We hear rumors of ghosts and spirits haunting old buildings.  Not that the ghosts and spirits are any kind of comfort themselves, but the fact that they allude to some kind of life after death is a comfort.  We talk about God as some great jolly old grandfather in the sky who welcomes everyone in (unless they do something really bad).  We see images of scantily clad female angels playing harps on clouds and God with a big white beard like Santa Clause living in soft puffy clouds in the sky.  We speak to our dead loved ones and even sometimes we think to hear from them.  We make up this great fantasy to try and cover the utter terror of death that hides inside all unbelievers. 

Death is no illusion, though. It is something we all must face and the courage and comfort to face it will not come in the illusions we create.  For the unbeliever, this is the reality of death.  First of all, your loved ones will not talk to you.  As we read in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, they can not even come back to warn you.  Where they are there is no return except for their own final judgement.  No charlatan can reach them for you. If they died in Christ, they are in His presence.  If they were unbelievers, they are in torment.  For the unbeliever, you will not rest in peace.  You will not rest at all, but be eternally conscious of your eternal torment.  There is no sleep, there is no rest, there is no  break from the pain.  For the unbeliever, you will not be in a better place at all.  You will be in a place worse than you could ever imagine and that is only your holding cell before you are eternally thrown into the lake of fire.  For the unbeliever, your reality is constant eternal torment.  There will be no rescue. There will be no parole.  There will be no end to your sentence and someday make it to someplace better.  There will be no hope.  You will exist forever, banished from the presence of God, in a place created for Satan and his demons.  There are no scantily clad angels playing harps.  In fact, angels are always described in the masculine in the Bible.  God will be your judge, not your jolly grandfather in the sky.  God will not allow anyone in unless they did something really wrong.  In fact, if our place in heaven were determined by meeting God's standards then none of us would be in Heaven and all of us would be judged eternally.  Please do not ever think that only some people are too bad for heaven.  The fact is that no one is good enough for heaven.

This is very important.  You are not good enough for heaven.  I am not good enough for heaven.  No one is good enough for heaven.  We all deserve eternal judgement.  We all deserve the pain and misery of the fires of Hell for all eternity because all of us have rebelled against God.  Like it or not, that is reality.  But there is an even greater reality.  While we all deserve punishment, none of us have to experience it.  All that horror of death that I spoke about does not have to happen to you.  For the believer, death is so much different.  For the believer, death is a door to an eternity in a place much better than our best dreams could ever imagine.  Forget the silly drivel the world makes up, the real heaven is so much better.  So how does one change their lot in afterlife?  How does one not get what they deserve but rather the eternity they desire?  The answer was already given.  Note I used the word "believer" instead of "Christian."  I used that word on purpose to emphasize just how easy it is.  You see,  eternal life is a free gift paid for by the death of Jesus Christ.  It is not about living the right kind of life, we can not.  It is not about doing something great enough to deserve that level of reward, we can not.   It is not about currying favor with God so he kind of lets us slide in, because, once again, we can not.  It is about believing in Jesus.  It is about believing in Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  Here is what Jesus said in a verse we are all familiar with.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16 NKJV
It really is that simple.  It is called a free gift for a reason.  Death is a door we will all go through alone.  Even if we die with our loved ones around us, they can only go so far as the door. They can not come through it with you.  It is a door from which there is no return and the life we enter into after will be our life for all eternity.  It does not need to be scary, though.  It does not need to lead to a place of torment and horrors.  It does not need to lead to a place void of the presence of God.  It does not need to be the end of all hope, but the realization of the hope you have in Jesus.  In the end, our eternal destination is up to you because the choice of whether or not to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is up to you.  No matter who you are or what bad you have done, the invitation is open to you.  No matter who you are or what good you have done, the invitation is open to you as well.  There is no one who sinned so much where they can not accept it and there is no one good enough where they do not need it.  Jesus died for all of us and all of us have that opportunity each day we are alive to accept that free gift of eternal life in paradise.  The hard reality is that we are all going to die.  None of us knows exactly when.  There have been many people on their deathbeds who go on to live for years and there are others in the prime of their lives who were taken in one tragic instant.  Why not make that decision today.  Why not take the fear from death and turn it into the glorious hope of our eternal redemption.  While we may cross over into death alone, I look forward to Jesus waiting for me when I arrive when the hope I look forward to becomes the reality of now.  That day may be years or even decades away, but in the meantime I will live to serve the God who redeemed me.  Someday your day will come as well.  Whether it be today or fifty years from now, it will come.  There is no avoiding its inevitability.  Prepare now and live in hope for eternal life and not in fear of death. 
"O Death, where [is] your sting? O Hades, where [is] your victory?" The sting of death [is] sin, and the strength of sin [is] the law. But thanks [be] to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NKJV

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