Coping With Death
March 13, 2019
The Bible teaches that it is appointed for a person to die once, and then the judgment. History proves this concept as true. History shows that everyone dies. It is a gross reality of life. The manner in which a person dies or the time in which a person dies is hardly the issue. The issue is how we leverage this life to prepare for death. It might seem like a morbid endeavor to live just to prepare for death, but since death visits at times that usually don’t fit into our personal schedules, we must always be sure to be prepared. The Bible explains that death is final. After death, there are no other chances in this life to make changes, make gains, or change course. When we’re done living here, that’s it. There is no more opportunity. Thus, it is important to understand the truth of death and how the Bible provides the only source of hope concerning the end of things on this earth.
The testimony of Job provides a good example of the proper attitude that a believer should have about death. Job suffered greatly, and so death was looked at as a sweet release from his pain. Job believed in God. Job understood the eternal greatness of God. Though Job felt that he was an enemy of God for some reason, he figured that death could be the means by which his relationship with God could be restored. Job had hope in death. He was more depressed about his current condition rather than the condition he would experience in death. This shows that, while Job suffered, and even though Job was confused about God’s work in his life at that time, he knew that death for a blameless and upright man was nothing to fear. To Job, death was just the next step in God’s work concerning people, at which point a change occurs so that God can complete the work He desires to do with that person.
In Job 14:7-15 the Bible provides great insight concerning the finality of death. This is perhaps the issue that scares people about death. When death comes, there is no second chance here. Other world religions have tried to promote the idea of reincarnation and other forms of a second existence, but the Bible emphatically disagrees with these ideas. The reason that some people have false ideas like this is because nature kind of hints that there might be a form of regeneration for people. Job attacked this principle with a contrast. It is true that a tree can appear as dead. Job pointed out that a tree can be cut down to just a stump, but if its roots remain, only the scent of water might be enough to bring life back to that tree. The tree would be dead for a time, but the cycle of natural life on this planet can bring the tree back to productivity and fruitfulness in time. Some religions believe that this principle holds true to people too, that we might not come back in our same human form, but experience another quality of life that is also productive in this world. This is not so.
Job actually contrasted human nature to the tree, showing that even a tree is more hopeful in this life than a person. Though a person is more cherished by God than a tree, the tree has more ability and opportunity than a human being. When a human being dies, that person is laid away. A person takes their last breath, and God does not provide any more breaths for that person in this world. Of all the people that have lived, there were only a handful of people that God raised up from the dead to function with a restored body, and only to prove His authority and power over life and death. Once the point was proved and God stated the case about His power and authority, God did not continue to raise the dead. Job compared human life to water that evaporates. Where does the water go when it evaporates from the sea? Is it put back into the sea to be used the same way, or does it change form to be used in unrecognizable ways? When a parched river or creek becomes dry, does that river or creek have the ability to fill itself up again? Unless God changes its condition, that river or creek is done! The river or creek cannot, of itself, restore its original condition. This is also true of those who die.
This is why Job plainly stated, when a person lies down to die, they don’t get up again. This is what makes death so hard to deal with. We grow accustomed with people being in our lives, and when death visits them, it becomes difficult for the brain to understand that they are not coming back here. We won’t see them in the same manner that we have grown accustomed to in the past. It is not until the resurrection preceding God’s final judgment, that people will rise up from the grave, unless of course they are able to escape death altogether by inheriting eternal life by the grace of God according to faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus promised that those who trust in His testimony, work, purpose, and promise, though we die, will actually never die! The Lord does not speak of death concerning His people. The Lord speaks of sleep, at which point our souls experience a radical change. The Lord promises the distribution of new bodies that will never decay or expire, clothed with the glory of His own righteousness. Thus, for those who trust in the gift of God found exclusively in Jesus, death is not morbid, final, or scary. It is simply a necessary step to the fulfillment of God’s eternally unconditional promises. To the child of God, death is merely the vehicle we take into the presence of God’s glory where we are separated from the corrupted and painful things of this life.
Though the Gospel of Jesus Christ was not documented in the form that we have today, Job understood some of the principles of the Gospel nonetheless. He understood the value of death as it relates to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Job sought death, but as a means to embrace the glory of God. He asked God to “hide” him in the grave. Here, Job refers to death as a form of protection against worse evils. This means that Job considered the suffering of this life to be worse than the finality of death. Death was a deliverance from him and a means by which he could escape worse evils in this life that God will administer by His wrath. Job understood that sin causes issues in this world that God will address in His wrath. He acknowledged God as a just Judge many times already. However, Job also trusted God as merciful, able to deliver him from the coming wrath. Job had suffered enough. If God was going to express greater wrath in anyway, Job didn’t want to be a part of it. Therefore, death was a means of escape of greater calamity since he trusted God as Deliverer and Savior of life that transcends the breaths we take on this earth.
Job asked a simple rhetorical question that summarizes the issues of death and the promise of eternal life. Job asked, “If a man dies, shall he live again?” The point is simple. When a person dies in this life, their time on this earth is over. They will not live again. They will not come back in another form. They will not raise up from the dead to be restored as previous. They will not have the chance to do anything in this world anymore. To those without eternal life, this is a frightening thought. Job already established that life on this earth is continually decaying and expiring. We don’t get closer to life but death as time goes on. This scares people to the extent that they go great lengths to distract themselves from this reality. Still, no one escapes the inevitability of death, and for those whose lives expire here while being enemies of God, the next life only gets worse.
Since we cannot come back to life to try and please God once we face death and realize the truth of His identity and judgments, we must be sure to pay close attention to His promises and purposes concerning eternal life. Since death here resembles the end of our opportunity to please and serve the eternal God, we must make good use of the time we have here to ensure we are pleasing to Him. We won’t get another chance otherwise. In Luke Chapter 16, Jesus told the testimony of a rich man that treated people poorly, especially a poor man named Lazarus. When the rich man died, he suffered greatly and pleaded his case to have another chance to change his ways. He was unable, and thus, stuck suffering the consequences of his sin for all of eternity. This might scare the non-believer, but Job was hopeful. He knew death resembled the end of our time here, but ultimately resulted in a change that God does. This change is fruitful and profitable as a blessing to God’s children. This change resembles the fulfillment of God’s promises. The weaknesses and issues of this body and this life are removed forever. Job’s boils and sores would be gone. The pain of the loss of Job’s family would be gone. Job expected this change to result in the restoration of his relationship with God. Since Job thought he was God’s enemy in this life, death would correct his sin and restore him to God according to the forgiveness God offers to the faithful. Job expected his connection to God to be restored because his pitiful nature would be healed, and thus, be able to approach the glory of God with a new and better form.
What is to fear in this? What is to despise about this hope? Is there anything on this earth that compares to such a thing, that is more valuable than this promise? So then, what should keep the people of God from cherishing the promise of eternal life? What is there to fear of the finality of death if we truly cherish the value of God’s glory in eternal life? If death is only final concerning the things of this world, then why should we despise the death and the departure of this world if we genuinely prize God’s presence and promises?