by Martin G. Collins
CGG Weekly, June 20, 2003
"Cast all your cares on God; that anchor holds."
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
According to the website Deathclock.com, I have 575,122,423 seconds left to live as of this writing, and the projected day of my death is Thursday, September 9, 2021. Deathclock.com gives me three options: 1. Delay the date of my death through proper nutrition. 2. Freeze my body for possible future reanimation (to be brought back as a vegetable, no doubt). 3. Pre-plan my funeral arrangements. Let me see, which one should I choose?
The reality of death is that we can rarely predict when it will occur. Many factors affect longevity—some we have control over and some we do not. There are positive effects—God's will, righteousness, and nutrition—and on the flip side, negative ones: carelessness, war, and destructive behaviors like inactivity, smoking, and gluttony.
We experience death on television as an overwhelming flood that numbs us into emotionless absorption. A second or third death anesthetizes us against sympathy and compassion for the victims. Even the death of real individuals on the nightly news results in a reaction of remote, unreal thoughtlessness. Death at a distance fascinates us, but we do not like it up close and personal. With the death of a close friend or family member, we experience emotions that catch us off guard. Death rattles our feelings like nothing else we face. Emotionally unprepared, uncomfortable feelings settle deep down into the pit of our stomachs, sickening us and making us feel helpless.
King David of Israel experienced a great deal of death during his life and desired to fly away from its terrors. He expressed this feeling with words of despair: "My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me. So I said, 'Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest'" (Psalm 55:4-6).
Most people experience similar times of despair, and for the average non-Christian, this empty, helpless feeling receives little or no comfort from the Scriptures and Jesus Christ's reassuring teachings since they have no faith in these things. In fact, most people view even the death of Jesus casually at best.
In contrast, those who obey and truly love God receive a true understanding of death's function in human existence and Christ's good news of what is to come after death. We know that those who have died are still dead and buried in the grave, awaiting a future resurrection. Jesus asserts, "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven" (John 3:13). Peter affirms that not even David has ascended into the heavens but awaits a resurrection from his grave (Acts 2:29, 34). The apostle Paul explains that the dead in Christ will rise first:
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (I Thessalonians 4:15-18).
True Christians live and die as others do, but we are never alone—and especially in times of despair. Does God really notice whether those who follow Him live or die? David answers this question with simplicity, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints" (Psalm 116:15). God the Father is forever merciful in His care for us and in providing comfort (II Corinthians 1:3-5). Many times, He provides that comfort through members of His church. All Christians have a responsibility to comfort others with words of hope regarding God's promise of resurrection to eternal life and the benefits of overcoming sin.
Death, the end of the human life cycle, is only the beginning of a future joyous time for those who have an intimate relationship with their Creator:
"God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son." (Revelation 21:4-7)
Let us comfort one another with these words.