By Don Potts
The most repulsive word in the tongue of men or angels is death! Death is a subject we avoid like a plague, but of those of you now reading this article, some of you may not live to see 1976 come to an end. What death has done for our friends, he will surely do for us. Each one of us can say with Job, “For I know that thou will bring me to death and to the house appointed for all living” (Job 20:23). Some of us may die sooner than others, but all at last will hear his call. We are marching in a great procession toward the grave, judgment and eternity! But death is everywhere, the fields that yesterday were green are today brown and lifeless. The tree whose branches were filled with lovely foliage and blew so gracefully in the summer wind, a thing of true beauty; now it is nothing but a lifeless trunk. Our childhood found us the very essence of strength and vigor, but today our faces are wrinkled, our hair is turning gray and steps that once were quick and lively have slowed their pace. Soon those once strong and beautiful bodies will perish in the grave.
Perish the thought you say, talk about something more pleasant. But still, death as an irresistible force, like a marching army on the field of battle coming nearer, and nearer, and finally life’s battle is over. When death finally comes, the undertaker embalms our lifeless body with hope to preserve our body for just a few more days. The body is dressed in the finest of garments, the face is painted to resemble life, and hopefully, to hide the presence of death. When the casket reaches the place of burial, artificial grass is placed over the cold clods of fresh dug earth and the banks of the grave decked with flowers to hide the hideous face of death. Yet, our efforts to stay the cold, chilly hand of death are in the end, futile. “There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war” (Eccl. 8:8).
In the last 24 hours it is estimated that approximately 206,000 souls have died, and if the world should stand another 24 hours, 206,000 more souls will meet their maker. There is no way to avoid the inevitable. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). One of England’s queens cried out on her death-bed, “Millions for an inch of time!” All the money in the world will not buy one second of time when death summons. I once read of a beautiful statue in a St. Louis museum, a statue which teaches a great lesson. The statue depicts a sculptor at work on probably what he thinks will be his masterpiece. But death appears and beckons to him and he must go, leaving his masterpiece unfinished. How many masterpieces have been left behind, unfinished because of the sudden interruption of death. In Taylor’s paraphrase of Psalms 146:4, he renders it like this, “For every man must die. His breathing stops, life ends, and in a moment all he plans for himself is ended.”
The Death of the Righteous
Death befalls all, but not to all alike. It is human to fear the unseen, but could it be that death to the righteous is one of lifes most rewarding experiences9 Suppose a child in his mother’s womb is about to be born, and suppose he has complete use of his mental faculties. Knowing that soon he is to be removed from that state of security and all that is so familiar to him, he is filled with fear and anxiety! What kind of dreadful world will he awake in? But, once born, he finds that all he once feared is the most rewarding experience he has ever known. He finds himself in a world of beauty that is beyond his wildest dream. For the righteous dead, this is true. The Psalmist said, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his Saints” (Ps. 116:118). True, it is a sad experience for the loved ones of that departed soul. They must readjust their life to their absence, and it is natural for this to bring heartache and tears. But the shortest verse in the Bible tells us “Jesus wepe’ (John 11:35). When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled and the record tells us, he wept. In the dampest, darkest, drearest, blackest night, when the crepe hangs on the door, when the vibrating heartstrings of the deceased family cries out in desperation, Thank God, Jesus cares!!
“Does Jesus care when I’ve said ‘goodby’
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks,
Is it aught to Him? does He see?
“Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary,
The long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.”
Yes, thank God and take courage! As the apostle exhorts, “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13-18). For the righteous, it puts us one step closer to our eternal home. “. . . Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13).
The Death of the Sinful and Rebellious
For those who go on in their sins it will be a day-of sorrow! When death comes, his soul-the real you-will leave the physical temple and wing it’s way into the eternal flames of a burning Hell! Paul spoke of “the sting of death.” The soul that has been careless, indifferent, unconcerned and rebellious will have a sad awakening! When the drunkard in his dying minutes audits up his life and sees his poor weeping wife, who in the hours of intoxication he abused, and his children who went hungry, ragged and uneducated, what a sting!
Imagine, if you can, the man who lived a life of immorality as he recalls all the innocent young ladies he has robbed of their purity. Some of them in a fallen state of ruin, bodies diseased, aged, wrinkled and worn! He may also see the illegitimate children he has fathered and whose lives he has shamed. Or, perhaps in that dying hour to see all the souls of murdered babies, slaughtered by the hands of physicians in abortions, who have vowed to give their lives in the preservation of life. Oh, the terrible sting of sin!
On the other hand, here is the man who has heard the gospel expounded, and listened to the sweet invitation songs of the Saints, but hardened his heart and said “No” to Christ. In Hell he may very well see the weeping, tormented souls of loved ones he might have saved, but he would not. For such, death will be a dark, lonely, horrible experience! Go to the bed of the dying sinner and see the anxiety, the dread, the despair, which surround him. Gibbon, just before he died, said, “All is now lost . . . finally, irrecoverably lost . . . All is dark and doubtful. I know not where I’m going.” Sin stung! The French infidel lay on his deathbed, looking up at his physician said, “I’m abandoned by God and man. I’ll give you half of what I am worth if you’ll give me six more months of life.” And the doctor responded, “That cannot be.” Death stung! Why? Because of his sin of unbelief!
Thomas Paine, as he came to his dying hour exclaimed, “0 Lord, help me, for I cannot bear to be left alone! Please Lord!” “The sting of death is sin” (1 Cor. 15:56). My friends, thanks to Christ you need not die the death of the wicked! Christ came that you might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). John tells us that that life in in His Son (1 John 5:11). By being baptized into Christ you can have access to that life. (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:26,27).
Is there one pondering the thoughts of this article, who at this hour is unprepared to die? You know the truth, but through hardness of heart you have turned down a loving saviour who died for you. What a treacherous path you tread. “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Prov. 29:1). Brethren, we cannot live wrong and die right!
Truth Magazine XX: 28, pp. 442-443
July 15, 1976