A few days ago I witnessed a funeral procession passing by. It was that of a young man who had died in the prime of life. As I watched, many thoughts filled my mind. Though many others watched along with me, I can’t tell what they were thinking. But one question came to my mind. What’s life? Is it having good friends, being wealthy, popular, partying, being macho, sex, drugs, having as much fun as you can for as long as you can? Is that all there is to life? Some would simply say, “Here today, gone tomorrow!”
There was an emptiness inside me that day. Death is an awful idea, and one most people are unwilling to speak about or even listen to. “Oh no!” some would yell: “Talk about something else, anything, but not death.” For the idea is a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense. Most are scared to face reality, though it is a fact, that death is inevitable. A very better way to describe life is that “Life is a terminal disease.”
Although natural death is inescapable, and the word “death” is a frightening word to those of us who have not put on Christ; every human being knows that one day, at a certain time, he or she will die. How do we know this? Because we see people die every day. But we believers have the truth of the Bible. Romans 6:23 states emphatically, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.”
While all will die naturally, we can also die spiritually (Eph. 2:1). Jesus Christ spoke of death in the same way in the well-known parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:24-32) — as a spiritual death. By nature we are spiritually dead, dead in our sins, until we have life injected into us through the word of God, by believing the gospel of Christ and being baptized into his saving name.
The prodigal son got a new lease on life when he returned to his senses, for he had been spiritually dead. The gift of God is eternal life, not for the wicked but the repentant sinner who accepts and acknowledges his sins and is baptized in the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:3,4,6-8). Baptism is a fundamental requirement for life out of death: it is the symbolic action of dying and rising with Christ.
In John 12:24 Jesus describes the passing from death to life as a grain of wheat buried into the ground and springing up into new life. This was so for us after our baptism and will remain so if we produce good fruit; but if we don’t — if we fail to check our shortcomings and frailties — then for us there will be no life out of death, whether spiritually or naturally. Instead, we will remain dead both naturally and spiritually forever.
In 2 Corinthians 4:11,12 we read: “For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.” Here Paul is referring to both spiritual and physical death. Those of us who are alive in Christ can die spiritually through trials, tribulations, and persecutions — if we are weak and not strong in the faith. On the other hand, many may have to suffer a physical death for the sake of Christ. Though death may work in us, let us strive for life out of death, which is a new life in Christ (John 5:24).
Since I may have frightened you so much about death, I would like to ease off a bit by quoting Paul: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).
Let me ask you a question. When Christ our life shall appear, will we be ready to appear with him in glory to enjoy life out of death? This decision is yours and mine. For there is no repentance in the grave; there is no conversion after the last breath is drawn away.
Now is the time to lay hold of eternal life, and to make our calling and election sure — for there may be no tomorrow.
I will now conclude with those comforting words found in the book of Psalms: “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures for evermore” (Psa. 16:11).
Don’t get hooked on the temporary things that seem to give pleasure in this life. Rather, find real fulfilment in a new life in Christ. He came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).
Andre George, St. Lucia, WI