December 11, 2016

Images of death are common: the wailing of distraught Arab women hugging the blood-smeared bodies of their sons, victims of the latest outbreak of fanaticism; the singing, weeping, dancing inhabitants of an African village as yet another victim of tribal conflict is carried to a simple grave; the pomp and circumstance as the remains of servicemen lost on foreign fields are returned to Arlington cemetery draped in the Stars and Stripes; the pitiful gaze of emaciated starving children lying, fly-infested, waiting for death to release them from the misery which is, sadly, all that they have known. Violence and agony seem to be the order of the day. We have become so inured to them that we can eat our food while keeping an eye on the television as it conveys to our minds the hideousness of death at the same time our knives and forks convey sweet food to our bellies. Death in the abstract no longer moves us and we like to keep it that way.



But death is not abstract. Paul tells us that “death spread to all men” (Rom. 5:12), and he attributes this to Adam’s transgression. The death that Adam experienced started the day he sinned (Gen. 2:17), although he continued to live for many years afterward. This death was clearly not physical death but rather a separation from the God with whom he had known intimate fellowship. But subsequently Adam died physically (Gen. 5:5). Whether Adam and the human race would have died if Adam had not sinned has been debated by many. But it would appear that since death is called an “enemy” (1 Cor. 15:26) and death will be ultimately destroyed (Rev. 20:14) that it could hardly be regarded as part of God’s original plan for man.



Enoch, we are told, “walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Gen. 5:24). The New Testament called this termination of his earthly walk “his translation” as if to suggest that his walk down here had been so precious and intimate that God chose to deliver him from the pains of death and simply transfer him to a walk with Him on a higher plane. Perhaps in this account and that of Elijah’s translation we are given clues as to how man would have been taken from earth to glory had not sin entered. Whatever the case might be there is no doubt that this ancient statement pierces the gloom of pervasive death with a ray of hope which, shining through the centuries, grew in intensity until Christ’s glorious Resurrection and its attendant promise, “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).


On the other hand, it is a sobering thought that no hint of hope for life after death is mentioned for the other men of this chapter. This alone does not mean that they perished, but it does remind us that life after death for some will mean glory and for others judgment. Part of this awesome prospect is called “the second death” and is related to the “lake of fire” into which those who are not written in “the Book of Life” are cast (Rev. 20:14-15).


It has been suggested that only those who view death rightly can hope to live properly. If this is true, great care should be taken to ensure that we understand death in its spiritual, physical, and eternal dimensions and accordingly embrace life in all its physical, spiritual, and eternal possibilities.



It touches us all, and all must be ready, if you have any doubts at all about your fate after death, if just a small part of you believes that God may exist then today is the day to make things right with God. Eternal life or eternal judgment, you are not the captain of your destiny, God is, but you do get to choose, choose life ever after not damnation.



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