Before you say, “I don’t believe.” Chapter 13

Other than through Jesus, do you have an answer to death?

Famously Woody Allen quipped, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” None of us has actually died, if the definition of death is separation of the spirit and soul from the body. But we are all aware of our mortality, and to a greater or lesser extent live in fear of death, and wonder when and what will be the manner of our departure from this world.

Dorothy Parker in her book ‘Sunset Gun’ wrote,

‘It costs me never a stab nor squirm
To tread by chance upon a worm.
“Aha, my little dear,” I say
“your clan will pay me back one day.”

Every individual faces two major problems: we are not the people we ought to be, and we are not here on earth for ever. The ultimate statistic is that every one of us will die. Death, like a Damocles sword, hangs over us suspended by a single thread, and we never know when our time will be up.

For many, their answer is to live and let live with no thoughts of tomorrow. Maybe they hope the vicar will say some sugary, reassuring words at their funeral. Of course, a vicar or priest is not the judge who determines our eternal destiny. In fact, I believe that many a clergyman at a funeral, may, albeit with good intentions, have misled a grieving family in order to give them a moment’s false assurance. Of course, nobody wants to hear bad news, especially at a funeral. Everyone wants at least a morsel of comfort. I love words written in a letter in 1759 by the writer, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, describing death, ‘He left the world he was weary of with the cool indifference with which you quit a dirty inn, to continue your journey to a place where you hope for better accommodation.’

Many people, including religious people, do their best hoping that their good works will outweigh their bad, and that God will treat them favourably. This is the belief of several other faiths, but the Bible makes clear that our good works are not sufficient to save us. Sin and guilt need to be forgiven and cleansed. Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount are harrowing: “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Can there be a more important issue than settling our eternal destiny? After all, careful preparations are made before making any other journey, but this is for eternity. We are told that there are books to read, films to see, and places to visit before we die. We know for certain that one day we will die. We all have a limited amount of time. Therefore how much we can read, see or do is also limited. But this one thing is more vital than anything else. And it needs sorting out before we die, or it will be too late.

Even though death is an enemy, it need not be feared. When a person dies, their soul and body are separated. The body returns to the elements, but the ‘real us’ returns to God. You and I have an eternal existence. In the moment of death we leave behind all our money, property, friends, loved ones and ambitions. The one thing we take with us is a record of our lives.

After death Jesus will judge every individual. Every member of the Royal Family will stand before Jesus, the King of kings. He will judge them according to whether they trusted or rejected Him as their Lord and Saviour. Every politician will give account of every word they have said, and all they have done … and so will you and I. There will be no spin on what anyone says, there will only be truth, because God knows all about us.

Every magistrate and judge will be in the dock, as God Himself ‘sits on the bench’, before passing sentence. His verdict is final. There will be no appeal to a higher court, for God is the highest court.

Every entertainer will face the solemn moment of hearing from Almighty God whether they go to Heaven or hell. God’s sentence is eternal.

Every secret of each individual, from every country, and each era of time, whether rich or poor, powerful or abused, young and old, famous or unknown, is known by God.

Therefore the one thing to do before we die is to make sure that we are ready to meet God. We need to know that eventually we are going to Heaven. To know that, all our sins need to be forgiven.

God has told us in the Bible how this can happen.

First, we need to acknowledge to God that we are not the people we were created to be. We should confess to Him that we have sinned by breaking the commandments that tell us to love Him and those around us. We should tell God of our wrong thoughts, words and deeds.

Secondly, we need to believe that Jesus is the Saviour-God who came from Heaven to earth to deal with our wrong. Jesus taught and did great things because He is God manifested to the world in a human body. His greatest act was to take on Himself the sin of the world. When Jesus was crucified, He paid the punishment for our rebellion. Our sin was laid on Jesus. He died so that we could be forgiven, and so be set free from the grip of sin. When Jesus rose from the dead, He was defeating the things that ruin us: sin, death and grave.

Thirdly, we need to ask Jesus to bring us to Himself, and by His Holy Spirit come to live within us as our Lord and Saviour. Jesus comes as the forever Friend to all who trust Him, and He will keep us through life, death, judgement and eternity. The Bible says, “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

You need to do this before you die. And as none of us know when we will die, you need to do this now. A preacher used to say, “Repent the day before you die!” But when told that no one knows when they will die, he replied, “Then repent today!”

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