Death is not a subject we like to discuss. Our society is almost schizophrenic on the subject. On the one hand we are drawn toward death and destruction in the movies which entertain us, on the other hand we are so afraid of the real thing that we confine the dying to hospitals, hospice facilities, nursing homes, any place to keep the thought of death in real life from haunting us.
Now, please do not misunderstand what I have just written above. I am thankful for hospitals and hospice facilities and nursing homes that can care and do care for the chronically ill or dying. I am not disparaging the industry itself, rather I am stating the fact that many make the decision to place a person in such facilities not because of real need for the patient, but to shield our own sensibilities from the stark reality of death. With all the advances in modern medicine, man still dies.
Rick Warren makes an astute observation when he writes, "The only time most people think about eternity is at funerals, and then its often shallow, sentimental thinking, based on ignorance. You may feel morbid to think about death, but actually it's unhealthy to live in denial of death and not consider what is inevitable. Only a fool would go through life unprepared for what we all know will eventually happen. You need to think more about eternity, not less." Good point.
Psychologist Dr. Gregory Zilberg reports, "Fear of death is present in our mental functioning at all times." We may try to ignore it, we may fight to deny it, but the reality of death is present in our mental functioning at all times. Why is that? The Bible says, "(God) has set eternity in the hearts of men," (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV).
The God who made us has placed within us the realization that this life is not all there is. We may deny these feelings, but to do so goes against our very natures. Those who successfully silence this inward conviction end up with a hopeless philosophy that results in hopeless living. Some thinkers along this line have described death as the great absurdity of life and have concluded that the only logical thing to do is to commit suicide (though none who have advanced this absurd view have actually followed through on it while sadly some who have been influenced by the teachers who are not doers have).
There is an answer to death. The answer is life. No, not this temporal life, but the life that God promises to all who will put their faith in Jesus Christ, eternal life. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die," (John 11:25-26 NIV). He backed up that claim by rising from the dead himself.
In another place, Jesus was talking about life after death and he said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am," (John 14:1-3 NIV).
Now I happen to believe that Jesus was God in the flesh, God come looking for us, and so when he makes statements like these, he can be completely trusted. It is this particular statement that has removed from me any doubt that there is life beyond the grave. He says plainly, "If there were no heaven or hell, I would have told you." So we have it on Jesus' word that there is life after death. The question is not, will the dead live again, the real question is, where will I spend eternity?
You can answer that question right now by giving your heart and life to Jesus Christ. Death does not open the door to heaven; not everyone who dies goes there. Only Jesus Christ can open that door and only by receiving him as Savior and Lord can the sting of death be removed. We don't have to live in fear of the grave. The final word for the Christian is not death but life.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA, 30016. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org