Death Is Only The Beginning
With these words, the character of Imhotep (the reincarnated
mummy) in the movie “The Mummy” sinks into the dark pit and is covered
completely in a black, oily ooze never to return (until the upcoming
sequel). This phraseology is a common
theme throughout the movie and its sequel, “The Mummy Returns.” You may remember the first time our intrepid
explorers, Rick, Evelyn and Jonathon, encounter this phrase, it is inscribed in
the mummy’s sarcophagus. Although I
disagree with the snippet of theology presented in the movie concerning
reincarnation, the overall theme, i.e. death is only the beginning, is not only
correct but also thought provoking.
“The only certain things in life are death and taxes.” That saying is something that we grow up with
from an early age. You cannot predict
the twists and turns of life except that you will pay taxes during your life
and you will die. In many societies,
including the United States,
you may very well pay taxes when you die.
Death is a fact of life and if you live long enough, you will experience
the death of a friend, family member or acquaintance. We cannot escape it although we seem to be
bent on trying.
Early in our history, explorers in North
America were searching for the “fountain of youth.” Today, we have discovered that fountain. The fountain of youth is available in
virtually the entire civilized world; it is contained in cologne, perfume,
automobiles, clothing, soap, lotions, body sprays and exercise equipment. The world of advertising promises us that we
can erase our worry lines, tone our bodies and forestall the effects of aging (and
therefore, death) if we will just use their products. However, as we all know, this is not the
The issue of death is most often ignored by people who
somehow seem to think that by failing to confront
it, death can somehow be postponed. A
prime example of this attitude is the simple fact that most people do not plan
for death; they do not make out a will or a right-to-die (living will) document
until they are presented with the absolute necessity of doing so. That necessity most often presents itself
when you are admitted into a hospital.
The key questions that will be raised at that time are:
- Do you
have a living will or right-to-die document?
you an organ donor?
- Do you
have any special instructions such as a “DNR” (Do Not Resuscitate)?
The reason that hospital personnel ask these questions is simple
- people die. People die everyday, both
expectedly and unexpectedly, and very often, they die in a hospital. The common reactions to death range from apprehension
to fear to terror. The thought of death
often produces a sense of loss and foreboding.
Throughout the world the concept of death is often fearful
for the individual and is symbolized by horrid images. In our society we envision death with depictions
of an open grave, a tombstone and the angel of death, typically shown as a sinister
dark figure clothed in a black robe, carrying a scythe and beckoning with a
boney finger (commonly known as the “Grim Reaper”). Death seeks us out. It is unrelenting. At best we can only temporarily avoid it and
then it drags us down into the pit.
The Bible addresses death on three separate levels: physical, spiritual and eternal. While the last two encapsulate the most
important death issues to be encountered, the first issue, i.e. physical death,
is the one that seems to capture our attention.
(For a discussion concerning the avoidance of spiritual/eternal death,
please see the author’s previous article “I’m Not Good Enough???”).
Our attention is drawn to police dramas and murder mysteries
as shown on television and depicted in best-selling novels. Three of the most famous and watched trials
of the last one hundred years centered upon heinous murders committed in California. Death surrounds us yet we shy away from the
issue of death until it is unavoidable.
What is death?
Death is commonly defined by what it is not. It is not life. It is the end of life or the cessation of
bodily function, particularly brain function.
With technological advances, death, as measured by body function such as
heart beat, can be postponed almost indefinitely. It is now possible to sustain body functions
even when one is “brain dead.”
The issues of the definition of death and its actual
occurrence have become hot button topics.
It now appears that the condition known as a “persistent vegetative
state” is synonymous with death. The
question now posed is not “Is this person dead?” but rather “Is this person
We speak in terms of viability and debate the beginnings of
life along with the end of one’s existence.
Depending on the person’s opinion, we may even litigate over the birth
of one who shouldn’t have been born (wrongful
birth). Abortion will remain a topic of intense debate and disagreement in our
country and many anticipate will be argued again before the highest court in
our land. The reason for these continued
disagreements is that many still maintain, at least conceptually, that life is
sacred and therefore subject to protection.
(As an example, consider the legal protections afforded death row
inmates and the efforts undertaken in the Terry Schiavo case). Consequently, the concept of death and when
it occurs (or should be administered) is vital to our society. It is a rallying cry for the masses; just
look at the bumper stickers you encounter each day.
As briefly touched on above, there is also the issue of
reincarnation or past lives. Some
religions take the position that you continually evolve until you reach a
higher plane of consciousness; there is a continuing progression throughout the
ages allowing each person the opportunity to grow. However, the Bible is quite specific when
addressing this issue.
27 And as it is
appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ
was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He
will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. Heb 9:27-28 (NKJV)
There is no reincarnation; there are no second chances once
you die. When you expire, you can no
longer call a “do over” or claim “King’s X.”
There is no crossing of your fingers or claiming you were just
kidding. Your life is what you make of
it, here and now. You cannot and will
not be prayed out of your predicament if you have failed to make final,
adequate preparation for eternity.
If God is really a loving God, why do we have to
This is sort of like the question, “Why do bad things happen
to good people?” It would seem that
death is the ultimate in bad things and if God really loves us, why do we have
to die? We have all heard someone proclaim:
- that a
certain person didn’t deserve to die especially when there were others in
this world who were much more deserving;
someone “went” before their time; or,
“only the good die young.”
The implication is, of course, that it was unfair for the
person in question to die. Is that really true?
Is death unfair? How did we
arrive at this point? Was death really
God’s plan all along?
12 Therefore, just as
through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death
spread to all men, because all sinned-- 13(For until the law sin was in the
world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death
reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the
likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. Rom.
15 Then, when desire
has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings
forth death. James 1:15-16 (NKJV)
Death exists because of sin.
It was not God’s original plan for man to die. It entered the world through Adam and
original sin and spread throughout mankind because we all sin. This concept is seen throughout other
17 For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one,
much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness
will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore, as through
one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even
so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in
justification of life. Rom.
Death takes on a very negative connotation; it is a time of loss,
a time of regret and a time of mourning and sorrow. However, that perspective may be incorrect,
at least for the believer in Jesus Christ.
What does the Bible say about death?
21 What fruit did you
have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those
things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin,
and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end,
everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of
God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 6:20-23 (NKJV)
21 For since by man
came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the
dead. 1 Cor. 15:21-22 (NKJV)
15 Precious in the
sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. Ps 116:15 (NKJV)
The idea of death, while abhorrent to man, is certainly not
to God. Sin and its aftermath leads to physical
death, but for the believer in Jesus Christ, that is not the end. The death of the believer is merely a release
and transition into another life where that death is viewed as precious by God
because we are then with Him. Death for
the believer is not the ultimate penalty.
The ultimate unbearable penalty would be eternal life in a sinful,
corruptible state. God, through His
grace, allows us to die in order to take on incorruption.
Death is the enemy but it is not an enemy that is
unconquerable. Death itself will be
26 The last enemy that
will be destroyed is death. 1 Cor. 15:25-26 (NKJV)
54 So when this
corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:
"Death is swallowed up in victory."
55 "O Death,
where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your
56 The sting of death
is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives
us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:54-57 (NKJV)
14 Then Death and
Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. Rev. 20:14
As for the attitude of the believer in Christ, the testimony
of the apostle Paul as contained in the Word of God should be sufficient. He felt the tug of eternity and yet realized
that his time and purpose on earth had not yet been completed.
21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the
flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot
tell. 23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and
be with Christ, which is far better. Phil. 1:21-23 (NKJV)
However, the end for the unbeliever is quite different and
should be feared.
15 And anyone not
found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Rev 20:15 (NKJV)
8 But the cowardly,
unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and
all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and
brimstone, which is the second death." Rev 21:8 (NKJV)
In these increasingly dark times, death is becoming more and
more common. We are plagued by the
images of death through war, famine, pestilence, accident and suicide. Many of us have actually confronted death, more than once, in our lifetimes and
do not understand why we are still here.
The answer, of course, is God’s grace and purpose.
If the Rapture comes (and many think that it will), many
people will no longer inhabit the earth.
They will be attending a magnificent wedding feast with Jesus Christ as
members of the body of believers. They
will not see death.
On the other hand, the end times, particularly the
Tribulation Period following the Rapture of God’s people, will present a time
in history that has never been seen before and will never be experienced
again. People will die in numbers beyond
our comprehension and will then pass from this existence into another. The questions will be: What was your decision? Did you prepare for the end of your earthly existence?
I once heard an ad slogan for a security company that was
very appropriate for this discussion topic.
That slogan was: “Better a year
to early than a day too late.” Good
advice. You might want to take it.
Comments or questions may be directed to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.