“There is a time to be born and a time to die” said the wise teacher (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
I wish he was only half right. Indeed, death is “the last enemy to be destroyed” (I Corinthians 15:26). I long for the world where “there will be no more death…” (Revelation 21:4).
But until we enter that world, as the wise teacher wrote, “Death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
We are all wise to join the Psalmist and ask God to, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
When we are young we tend to live as if there is no end. As we grow older, we should become wiser about matters of living and dying.
There are always people who believe that everything ends with death. Yet I find the thought of death getting the last word terribly wrong and very sad.
I believe we were made for more and no one taught me to believe it. What did the wise teacher mean when he wrote that God “has set eternity in the human heart”? (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
So the the ancient question lives on, “If a man dies, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14) deserves an answer.
Living, Dying and Living again
I don’t pretend to have all the answers to life and death but what I’ve found has proven reliable. I discovered this hope in the pages of the Bible – a book about living, dying, and living again. It boldly announces the inevitability of death for all people and yet offers hope for those who are destined to die.
The main character of the Bible is Jesus. He said amazing things about death and about life after death. He used the language of destiny and determination when speaking of his own death.
“Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed…They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him…” (Mark 10:32-34).
Jesus spoke of being “the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). He said, “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again” (John 10:18).
The death of death
Those unfamiliar with Christianity might find it curious how much emphasis the first followers of Jesus attached to his death. They even spoke of boasting in the cruel instrument of his death, the cross. His followers today continue to eat bread and drink the fruit of the vine in memory of his death.
Christians have always embraced the cross as the symbol of faith. It’s hard to travel a hundred miles anywhere on the earth without encountering the cross in art, jewelry or architecture. There is something astonishing about this. In the Greco-Roman world, the cross was an instrument of degrading torture and humiliating death. It was reserved for violent criminals and traitors.
When Jesus died something happened on His cross that brought hope. I don’t know how to soften this truth for those who find it too hard to accept. Simply put, Jesus died for sinners like you and me. He died because death is the punishment sin deserves. He died to take our punishment for us and to free us from the fear of death.
Centuries prior to his death, the prophet foretold it, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him…” (Isaiah 53:5).
Gratefully, the account of Jesus does not end with death. He broke death’s power. The Christian hymn says, “Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my savior; He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord.”
Jesus said, “I am to the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even if he dies” (John 11:25).
The hope I have found is in Jesus Christ — the one who said, “I am the living one; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18).
We can only celebrate victory over death through Jesus. He said, “Because I live you also will live” (John 14:19). He promised that, “… everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).
When early Christians spoke of Jesus’ resurrection, they did not mean his influence remains and his cause moves forward. They were not referring to a spirit of resurrection; an ideal of new beginnings. They meant He lives. The same Jesus who walked with them, taught them and died on the cross is alive — forever!
I don’t know of any hope for life beyond the grave apart from what is promised through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
How sad it would be if death got the last word.