Death is a fact that all of us have to face. Every moment of the day, death is a tragedy to someone. Death is the skeleton at every feast, the bitterness in every cup; the discord in our music; the nameless dread that has haunted man from the time sorrow had its first birthplace in a mother's broken heart, as she knelt by the side of her boy, murdered through the passionate violence of his own brother.
Death is a trememdous and terrible fact that must be faced. It cannot be ignored for continually it intrudes into the circle of our loved ones and friends. Many may feel that death is not a pleasant subject to think about, yet because of its certainty, it is incumbent upon us to consider its reality and issues.
Death is not only inevitable and uncertain but it is also termination. Death is not the termination of our existence. It is an act and not a state. If you belong to Christ, then death is but a gate through which we pass into ta richer, fuller life. Death, however, is the end of many things we cherish, such as physical beauty, material riches and earthly honors.
Death is a necessary law of nature to which we must submit. If people never died, the world would not be habitable, for according to the natural law of increase, the number of people on this planet would be absolutely appalling. People speak of death as if it were something horrible and to be afraid of, but life should be regarded socially as a banquet to which many guests are invited, and where there are many sittings. The first take their place, and, having finished, make room for other relays, until all are served. If we were here forever, the firstcomers to the banquet would gain all, the lastcomers, nothing.
Eternal separation from the presence of God is implied in the Apostle John's terrible phrase, "the second death" (Revelation 21:8). "Eternal" or "everlasting" means "perpetual" or "forever." There is an everlasting, perpetual life to be lived forever away from God, and this is eternal death. There is an everlasting, perpetual life to be lived with God and this is eternal life. And to gather together what the Scriptures have to say regarding eternal death is to find fresh cause for gratitude that we have been saved from everlasting woe through Him who came to the place of death for lost, guilty sinners.
Death is described in God's Word as the necessary consequence of sin - Romans 6:16, 21, 8:13, James 1:15; it is the wages of sin - Romans 6:23; it is divine punishment - Matthew 10:28, James 4:12, Matthew 25:31,41; it's only avenue of escape is Christ - John 3:16; it's banishment form God - II Thesslonians 1:9; society with the devil - Matthew 25:41; a lake of fire - Revelation 19:20; a resurrection to eternal condemnation - John 5:29, Matthew 25:46; eternal torment - Luke 16:23-26.
After death there is destiny, and God's Word sets down this destiny as being one of two alternatives known as heaven or hell. There is a state of unbroken peace and pure joy in the presence of the Lord for all the redeemed; or there is banishment from God's presence to a state of misery and dread.
Moreover, these two states of being are declared to be absolute, fixed, eternal. At death, the soul passes into a destiny, absolutely fixed and final. The broad proofs are:
1. There Is The Teaching Of Christ - With unmistakable clarity the Master spoke of heaven and hell. But while certainties are set down so that no man can miss them, yet details are treated with divine reserve.
Unspeakable anguish is indicated by the explicit parables of judgment. For example: we have the great gulf fixed - the door shut which cannot be opened - the outer darkness with its weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The other destiny carrying with it a state of close fellowship with Christ can be seen from the following: "Where I am, there shall also my servant be," "Abraham's bosom," "The Father's house."
Jesus Christ speaks not only of heaven but also of hell, that dreary abode, where "the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched." There are wheat and tares; good fish and bad; sheep and goats; loyal and disloyal; saved and lost; those who do His will and those who do it not; children of God and children of the devil. Each soul must go to its place.
There Is The Inevitable Contrast
Another reason for the two alternatives of heaven and hell lies in the contrast between those who are holy and those who are sinful. Our sins are set in the awful light of God's contenance, not in the partial discernment of man. Evil cannot stand in God's presence, so we have those awful sentences in the Bible - "I never knew you," "Depart from Me," "The wrath of the Lamb."
While all men agree that all must die in some way or another, for "What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?" (Psalm 89:48), not all are agreed that by dying we all will live again.
That is unfortunate because apart from Biblical revelation, history and and archeology indicae belief in some sort of existence after death. Nearly every tribe an people on the face of the earth, savage and civilized, has held in some form this belief in a future state of existence. While no two nations or cultures may agree as to the exact nature of immortality, nevertheless, the light is there. Look at the mysterious "Pyramids" built with chambers because of the belief that the dead still lived and revisited their tombs. Rites and incantations, with food being placed at the graves for the sustenance of those who had died. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead there are prayers and formulas for the guidance and protection of the deceased in the After-World.
The Hindu yearns for "long life among the gods"; the Buddhist for his four-and-twenty heavens; the Babylonian for the "Merciful One among the gods....who restores the dead to life"; the Persian for the naked body to be "clothed only with the light of heaven"; the Grecian for survival; Socrates, who believed in immortality, said as he died, "Bury me, if you can catch me" and the African for a new abode out west, in the way of the setting sun. Where did this wide-spread belief in the future life originate? Atheism and agnosticism don't have any answers, whatsoever. The only true answer is that God set eternity in the heart of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11 R.V.). This hope of immortality, resident with the breast of unsaved person and saint, was planted there by Him who has no beginning or end. This brings us to the Biblical answer to the question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" (Job 14:14).
The scientific tenet of the conservation of energy teaches us that nothing ever perishes, it only changes its condition and combination. But while nature and science show that "immortality" is possible, it is the Bible alone which offers conclusive proof. Divine revelation supplies what human speculation lacks, and turns guesses into an absolute certainty (Isaiah 25:8). Without a belief in personal immortality, religion is like an arch resting on one pillar, or a bridge ending in an abyss.
As God is eternal, man made in His image shares His everlastingness. "The breath of the Almighty have given him life" -life here and heareafter (Genesis 1:27; 2:7; Job 32:8 R.V.; 33:4; Ecclesiastes 12:7). These Biblical expressions stating that man shares the immortality of his Creator are reflected in the Apocrypha -
"God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of His own Eternity" (Wisdom 2:23).
He was gathered to his people, is a repeated phrase indicating Jewish belief in an after life. Used alike of saints and sinners, it goes to disprove the theory of conditional immortality (Genesis 25:8,17; 35:29; 49:33).
Giving up the ghost, is employed both in the Old and New Testaments of death, and implies the return of the spirit to God (Genesis 49:33; Mathhew 27:50).
In the New Testament, where we have the fullest revelation of life beyond the grave, we expect to find more expressive declarations of such a hope. From our Lord we learn that, "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live unto Him" (Luke 20:37,38 R.V.; Exodus 3:6). This is why God is the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob who are alive forevermore.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that our Savior, "Brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (II Timothy 1:10). His further teaching is unfolded in other passages which were expanded by Paul (John 5:28,29; 11:25,26; I Corinthians 15:20,22,51-54; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:9,10). The Apostle John likewise speaks of eternal life as a blessing bestowed upon all who believe (John 5:24; 6:53; I John 3:14; Revelation 3:1).
Of other expressions describing the present condition of those who died with hope of a continued existence are:
In Abraham's Bosom, speaking of rest, refereshment and fellowship with other departed believers (Luke 16:22).
In Paradise (Luke 23:43; II Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7). This phrase represents the immediate presence of God.
Under the Altar (Revelation 6:9-11; 16:7). Here we have complete security but suspended perfection (Hebrews 11:39,40).
Sleep is the usual designation for the death of believers and applies only to the body (Matthew 9:24; John 11:11; Acts &:60; 13:36). This expression signifies rest, but not unconsciousness (Luke 23:42; II Corinthians 5:6-8 R.V; Philippians 1:21,23 R.V.; Revelation 14:13). The Apocrypha says: "The righteous live forevermore, their reward is also with the Lord, and the care of them is with the Most High" (Wisdom 3:1-3; 5:15).