1st Baptist Church,
Des Moines, NM
Death comes to us all. For some, it sneaks up and takes us without notice. For others, death gives warning in form of cancer or some other disease. Sometimes we’re fine but death takes a person close to us. However it happens, we all have some reminder of death throughout our lives. We are mortal and some day will all die and face the great unknown. In some ways, those who have warning via a disease or loss of a close one are blessed because this often acts as a wake-up call and gives them time to think about their own mortality. And death is something that we must think about and must be prepared to face. There’s no escaping it and we have no control over it.
First, let’s look at why we have death.
Genesis 2:16-17 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; (17) but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."
And, of course, Adam disobeyed and ate from the tree. This was a “sin” and as a result Adam died. You might say “Hey! No fair”, but God laid down the rule, told Adam what the punishment would be, and Adam disobeyed. The same can be said today- God has given us the rules, laid down the consequences of disobedience, and we fall to the same temptation that Adam did- the serpent whispering in our ear “Did God really say that? Surely you shall not die!” (Genesis 3:4)
When people sin, the result is death. This is fair. God laid down the law and laid down the consequences. Besides the illustration from Genesis, we have these passages:
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned--
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death…
There’s just no escaping it- sin results in death. And, as we saw in Genesis, this death is not only physical (you don’t immediately die physically from your first sin, although the process begins), but this death is also (and you might say “more importantly”) spiritual. After his sin, Adam was immediately removed from the Garden of Eden and thus from the presence of God. He was separated from God. As inheritors of his nature and guilty of our own sins, we also are separated from God. I’ll show you!
Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God...
Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God…
The first verse says that- thru faith- we have peace with God. When the Bible says “peace”, it’s serious! It doesn’t mean “cease-fire”, it doesn’t mean “set aside our differences”, and it doesn’t mean “let’s not argue”- it means peace! It means that the thought of firing doesn’t enter our minds, there are no differences to set aside, and we don’t argue because there’s nothing to argue about. Well, if we have peace through our faith, then what did we have before we were justified by faith? The second verse, a little further down in Romans, says, “if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God”. This verse makes it clear that not only were we enemies prior, but afterwards, we are reconciled to God. Why should we be reconciled? Because we were separated from God, that’s why! And why are we separated? Because of our sin. Once again, Genesis shows us that; Adam sinned and was removed from fellowship with God.
What does all this have to do with “death”, you might be asking? After all, even Christians die, right? Yes, indeed they do. I think most people will agree that people are not just flesh, though. There is a spirit, a personality, a soul to people. Virtually all religions agree on this point (even when they agree on nothing else). And virtually all agree that this soul is distinct from the flesh. When you die, the flesh dies, but the spirit lives. The Bible tells us that even when the soul is saved and reconciled with God, the flesh is still sinful, and that’s why the body dies. So, yes, even those who are reconciled with God still die- as the song says, their “flesh drops from the frame and the earth and worms both have a claim”. It’s the soul we’re concerned about. The soul must be reconciled with God or separation will be eternal.
Many people believe that God will simply forgive them and that all people go to “heaven” to be with God. But the Bible doesn’t teach that at all.
Revelation 20:12-15 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. (13) And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. (14) Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. (15) And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Well, I don’t know about you, but personally, I want my name in that book of life!! Notice very, very carefully here that although the dead were judged by their deeds, it was the fact that their name was written in the book of life that determined their fate. In other words, it was their deeds that damned them, not their deeds that saved them!
Perhaps you, yourself, are suffering from cancer or have recently had a heart attack, or have lost or nearly lost a loved one. You have gotten a glimpse of the abyss and you are wondering about death. I certainly hope that’s the case! Don’t forget, we all die! Frankly, I hope you are sweating and your stomach is churning itself in knots thinking about death and what happens afterwards. Those things are good because they are indications that you understand the seriousness of death. It’s all over at that moment. No turning back. Can’t stop the clock and say “Oh wait!!” And this is why I called disease and physical problems a “blessing”- they give you time to think about your eventual fate. You might get hit by a brick falling from a building and die instantly, having never thought about death and having never had the opportunity to consider your relationship with God. But, no…God gives us plenty of opportunity to repent and seek His forgiveness, and we have no excuse for not so doing.
How then, can we die peacefully and in confidence that our souls will be with our Creator? Well, not by our deeds, as we saw from the Revelation text above. Our deeds condemn us! Let’s go back and look at some of the verses we looked at earlier.
Remember this verse?
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death….
Here’s the rest of it:
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
How about this one? Remember it?
Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God…
Here’s the rest of it:
Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
How about this one?
Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God…
Here’s where it came from:
Romans 5:8-11 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (11) And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
One last thing- it is God who is in control of your destiny. We saw above where it is “appointed” to man to die. When the Bible uses language like that, it’s serious. All the associations and implications that we would use in the word “appointment” are there- a time, a place, a date, a reason…God has appointed all those things. Your death is as good as in His Day-Timer. Your death is not an accident or a surprise to God. Let’s look at some evidence:
Job 12:9-10 "Who among all these does not know That the hand of the LORD has done this, (10) In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?
Daniel 5:23 but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified.
Let’s sum up to this point:
1) Every person dies. This is a fact, no matter what you believe about the reasons behind or because of death.
2) Death is a result of sin
3) Every person sins as a result of the sin nature inherited from Adam.
4) Sin separates us from God
5) To be separated from God is to be either in hell or on our way there.
6) We cannot be reconciled to God through our own deeds. Quite the opposite- our deeds condemn us
7) We are reconciled to God through the justification provided by Jesus Christ.
8) We are already damned by our own disobedience but if we do not accept this justification, we can rightly be doubly condemned, if there is such a thing. Once for our own sins against God, and secondly for rejecting Christ. See (6) again.
9) Every person dies and they know not their time.
Don’t think that if you accept Christ’s atonement sacrifice and are reconciled with God, to no longer be enemies with Him and to be saved from His wrath, that life and death will be easy. No one ever said it would be easy. In fact, it will probably be harder.
Romans 5:3-6 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; (4) and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; (5) and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Once again, perhaps you’re reading this because you or a loved one are suffering from cancer, or have had a heart attack, or suffer from diabetes, or any one of a million things. We can (and will) pray for healing but the simple fact is that you and everyone else are still going to die. You may be healed for another 5 years or another 10, 20, 30 years. You might be spared for another year, but you are still going to face death, perhaps sooner, perhaps later. Far more importantly than being healed for a relatively short period of time is that your soul is prepared for eternity. And the only way to be prepared is to accept the atoning sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on your behalf. If you have not done this, I urge you to do so today. May God, who is rich in mercy and abundant in love be praised, through the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.