I am not going to try to address the oft asked question of "Why?" Because, frankly, I don't know. When my own father died suddenly and I found myself personally asking "Why?" Isaiah 57:1-2 was a great comfort to me: "The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death" (Isaiah 57:1-2, NIV).
I may not know why death comes when it does, but I know this: death is not the end. The Bible says, "We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word." (The Message: Romans 6:9). Believing the Bible to be God's promises, I am absolutely convinced that this life is not all there is. More, than that, I am absolutely convinced that we humans were not created for this transient life but we were created for eternity.
I believe that everyone will spend eternity somewhere. The same Bible that teaches that there is an eternal heaven also teaches that there is an eternal hell. Physical death is not the gateway to heaven as many wrongly believe. Jesus is the gateway to heaven. He said, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life" (John 10:7-10, NLT). Physical death is the gateway to eternity; Jesus is the gateway to heaven. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me" (John 14:6, NLT).
We are reminded at times like this that life, at best is tentative. Not one of us knows if we will take the next breath. Sadly, the only time we stop to think about that fact are at times like these, when we mourn the loss of a loved one. Rick Warren observed, "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." And a wise philosopher said, "You are not prepared to live, until you are prepared to die."
Death is an appointment we all must face. C.S. Lewis, speaking on war, reminded us that "war does not increase death; death is 100 percent in every generation." One out of one dies. Where we spend eternity depends on where we place our faith today. God doesn't "take the best" as the saying goes, he takes those who have placed their faith in Christ. The Bible says, "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God's one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God's light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil." (John 3:16-19, NLT).
You can have hope even in death, if you will place your trust in Jesus Christ.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.