Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE CONTEMPLATION OF DEATH”

Deuteronomy 32.29

 

Turn in your Bible to Deuteronomy chapter 32. Each one of you has had a beginning, but you will never have an end. Though your body will die and return to dust, yet your soul will exist for ages without end. Whenever you are called upon to mark the end to which you are rapidly moving, you need to take a serious and solemn look at death with all its consequences. For some of you the peaceful and happy death of the righteous, and the glorious rewards of heaven, is the end to which you have been pointed by the finger of God. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace,” we read in Psalm 37.37. However, for others of you the unhappy death and everlasting destruction of those who die without Christ is the end that you are called upon to seriously consider. Says the Psalmist in Psalm 73.3, “I was envious at the foolish when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Then, in verse 17, “until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” And in verse 19, “How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment.” It is you Paul writes of in Philippians 3.19, when he says, “Whose end is destruction.” In addition, it is also you the writer to the Hebrews refers to when he writes, “Who are nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned.” Moreover, Peter writes, “If judgment begin at the house of God, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” First Peter 4.17.

This morning’s text is along the same line as these I have just mentioned. Stand and silently read Deuteronomy 32.29, as I read aloud: “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” The LORD had repeatedly warned the rebellious Israelites, but they would not hear. He had announced an awful penalty for violation of His Law given through Moses. It was a penalty that could not be repealed. Yet the Israelites continued to rebel. In spite of the awful end to which they were already exposed by their repeated acts of disobedience, they continued to make their end still more awful. In addition, amazingly from our distant perspective, their sensibility diminished as their danger increased, until the LORD Himself lamented, “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!”

Our text reveals how strongly opposed you unconverted people are to seriously considering your own death and its consequences. You know that you can discuss with seriousness almost any subject. In addition, you are wise enough to plan and active enough to pursue the business that interests you. However, few, very few, of you seem to be laying your plans for and making your preparations for the world to come. At times, the thoughts of death and eternity may startle and alarm you. While you hear the thunders of God’s Law or witness your friends or relatives in the agonies of death, you think about such things. Yet, how soon is all forgotten. Others, there are of you, who make some faint resolutions to reform, or you decide to become Christians before you die. However, before even a day or an hour has passed all is gone and forgotten. The subject is dismissed. “There’s plenty of time left,” you think. Death and eternity are now viewed at a distance. However, his friends assemble around the lost man in the hospital. They take him by the hand. They tell him, “You’re dying.” Now, for the first time he begins to feel that he is mortal. All men think all men are mortal but themselves. However, this man is too far gone to prepare for eternity. The solemn statement, “You’re dying” is whispered in his ear as he nears the very threshold of death. Such is the reluctance of most men that they die without uttering a word about their souls. Friends, too, are no less reluctant. Everyone is concerned, everyone is active, everyone is anxious for the body. However, if anyone is anxious for his soul, nothing is said. Nothing is done.

What reluctance. What unwillingness to speak of death and its solemn consequences. Why is it that you will not pause and reflect on a subject of such infinite significance? Whatever may be the cause, the fact is obvious. On all other topics, you and your friends and neighbors can meet and talk with ease and interest. However, about death, judgment, and eternity you have little or nothing to say. It is as if the great end for which we came into being must neither be spoken of nor thought of. In this is both the wickedness and folly of sinners exposed. On all other subjects, you seem to have some wisdom and a little understanding and an opinion, but on this you have none. O that you were wise, that you understood this, that you would consider your latter end! However reluctant your heart may be to seriously reflect on death and its consequences, it is yet absolutely indispensable. Otherwise, no preparation will be made. God once commissioned the prophet Isaiah to cry in tears to all the world.

The prophet was sent with this message, in Isaiah 40.6-8: “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the Word of the LORD shall stand for ever.” Do you see the point of Isaiah’s message? Your physical life is temporary. You are rushing headlong toward eternity. Philip, king of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great, employed a crier to call at the door of his bedroom every morning, “Philip, remember that thou art mortal.” If a sinner seriously reflected on his own death, on his impending judgment, and on eternity for 30 minutes every morning and evening, he would soon be astonished at his own stupidity and the folly of the thousands around him. It may be useful to the believer as well as the sinner to become familiar with this subject. If you cannot face the image, how will you endure the reality? As wise old Solomon wrote, in Ecclesiastes 7.2, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to his heart.” Why is this so? Why is it better to go to the house of mourning? Because going to the house of feasting does not prepare you for eternity, but going to the house of mourning will challenge you to face the fact of your coming death.

My text, Deuteronomy 32.29, leads us to contemplate death and its consequences. “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” Please close your Bible and look up.

 

First, DEATH SEPARATES YOUR SOUL AND BODY

 

Consider these related observations.

First, the soul is the man. Your soul is the real you of you. Your soul is the only thing you have worth an important thought. Your eternal and immortal soul dwells in a clay tenement, your body. And your body is subject to decay and death. Because we dwell in houses of clay, our foundation is in the dust. So, though your body is fearfully and wonderfully made, it was not made to last all that long.

 

“Our life contains a thousand springs,

And dies if one be gone;

Strange! that a harp of a thousand strings,

Would keep in tune so long.”

        

Second, your body must die and return to the dust. There is no person who has power over his spirit to retain that spirit. Neither is there any man who has any power in the day of death. So, the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the soul can no longer keep possession, but must return to God Who gave it, who will then dispose of it. One of our own kids at camp was overheard to say that he needn’t worry about dying and going to Hell because he was going to arrange for his body to be cremated, as though without a body there would be nothing for God to send to Hell. I informed the boy that no matter what he could arrange for the disposal of his dead body, God had already arranged for the disposal of his wicked soul . . . in Hell.

Third, your soul and your body will not part without a struggle. It is a solemn thing to die. Aside from its consequences in the lives of others, dying is itself the end of a struggle to live. That is why death is called the king of terrors. Though I have stood by and watched men and women die, exactly what it is to endure the pangs of death I do not know. Some people, in their hour of death, have indicated that dying is more solemn than they had ever before imagined, even though they always considered it to be a very serious and solemn thing to someday have to experience. Though they had thought seriously about death and dying, at the doorstep of their own death it now appeared indescribably more solemn than they had ever imagined it to ever be. After all that the dying have told us about their approaching end, they have never in a single instance told us all there is to dying. Forget the charlatans and their out of body experiences, and their near death experiences. Despite the claims of such fools, no one has ever returned to describe the last struggle and the sharp stab of death’s separation of the soul from the body. I am not denying all out of body experiences. However, most such accounts are exposed as fraudulent after careful and cautious examination of the claims that are made.

Fourth, death is an unexperienced event to all the living. Even though we seem familiar with death, since so many have died in our world and so many are daily and hourly dying around us, yet when your turn comes it will be all new. Though you may have seen many in the agonies of death on television or in the movies, or several times in real life, yet when your time comes you shall then feel as you have never felt before. And so death will always continue to be new to all who shall die. It will be as new to you as it was to Abel, the first who died in the flesh.

 

Next, CONSIDER THAT DEATH DISSOLVES ALL YOUR EARTHLY RELATIONS

 

We have tender connections with people, relationships with those near and dear and beloved. But all these connections must someday be dissolved, for the very best of them are only earthly ties. No ties of kindred blood, and no ties of love and affection, are regarded by the king of terrors we call death. When he calls the nearest relations must part, the dearest earthly ties are broken. The husband is a husband no more. The wife is a wife no more. Daddy is a daddy no more. Mommy is a mommy no more. The child is a child no more. Little baby is a baby no more. The brother is a brother no more. The sister is a sister no more. The pastor and his people must part. The king of terrors demands it.

 

Third, DEATH STRIPS YOU OF ALL YOUR POSSESSIONS

 

You who work to have large possessions of wealth, houses and land, and money and merchandise, and you who desire to have many things that you carefully collect over the years. You are now laying up treasures on earth. Do you not realize that you, too, must obey the summons of the king of terrors? As God said to the presumptuous rich man in Luke 12.20, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” And as Solomon wrote to his son in Proverbs 11.4, “riches profit not in the day of wrath.” When you die you are released of all your possessions at once. You’ll be reduced to possessing only a coffin and a grave. “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out,” Paul wrote in First Timothy 6.7. In addition, Ecclesiastes 5.15 tells us that, as you came into the world, naked shall you return to go as you came, and shall take nothing of your labor, which you may carry away in your hand. Death strips everyone of their titles. It dissolves kings and presidents and scoring champions and most valuable players. All must lay themselves in the dust someday. As must you someday lay yourself in the dust.

 

“Princes, this clay must be your bed,

In spite of all your towers,

The tall, the wise, the reverend head,

Must lie as low as ours.”

 

Visit the land of darkness we call the cemetery. Who do you step on as you walk? The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counselor, and the cunning craftsman, and the eloquent orator. The grave has enlarged herself and opened her mouth without measure, and the glory of the nations, and their multitude, and their royalty have descended into the hole in the ground. “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. Man dieth and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost and where is he?” Job 14.1 and 10. Where is he? His body is in the grave.

 

Fourth, DEATH BREAKS UP ALL YOUR EARTHLY PLANS

 

All your worldly schemes are blasted the moment you die. The worldling, the covetous, and the man of pleasure must interrupt all his plans. All your purposes are broken off. The rich man says, “I will pull down my barns and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”[1] But death destroys all his plans. God says: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.”

You carefree and thoughtless young people flatter yourselves with the prospect of future happiness in this life. Because as suddenly as Billy can fall off a bicycle, or Dominic can take a spill on his skate board, or Jerry can fall from his scooter, or Mike can spill on his roller blades, or Larry can miss a stop sign, or Officer Jones can be shot by a criminal, the stroke of death can end everything forever. All your schemes and plans for doing good, however wise and pious and benevolent, are now come to an end. Also your loves, and your hatreds, and your envyings are now perished. You have no more to do forever with anything that is done under the sun. “Whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might: for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest,” Ecclesiastes 9.10. Death ruins it all.

 

Fifth, DEATH ENDS YOUR PERIOD OF PROBATION

 

This world is not your home. You are on probation here. The great mission on which you were sent into this world is to prepare for eternity. You are now living out your time of trial, your period of opportunity, the most important period of time you shall ever witness during the long eternity of your existence. Every act and every deed will have some influence on you through interminable ages of eternity. To every soul, God has assigned a great and important work. All things are now ripening for the day when God shall bring every work to judgment, with every secret revealed. The gates of heaven are now standing wide open to sinners under the gospel. Heaven with all its glories is now brought within your reach.

At this critical moment, the world is also presenting all its distracting charms. The path to Hell is broad, with an easy and rapid descent. The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life, and all the fascinating pleasures of sin, are now exerting their united influence to try your immortal soul, whether you will yield and go to Hell, or, whether you will resist, deny yourself and take up the cross, despising the shame. Every hour and every moment is big with consequences. Character is rapidly being formed. Your season of trial is short. It is never to be enjoyed but once. There will not be a second chance. Eternity is written on the wings of every moment. Every one of you is now on trial once for all.

You are now invited by all the charms of a now exalted Savior, urged by all the horrors of the second death, to enter the ark of safety. You are now called upon to strive and agonize to enter heaven. But death closes the door forever. At midnight the cry is made, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.” Then those that are ready enter heaven and the door is shut. To the man yet in his sins, death closes the door of heaven. It closes it forever. The voice of the savior and the sound of the gospel will be heard no more. Preachers will preach and pray no more. No more will I warn you night and day with tears.

You will never again be disturbed by the sound of the gospel. No Sunday will ever dawn upon your guilty head. The doors of the auditorium will never again be opened to you, and the voice from the mercy seat inviting you to enter will be heard no more.

 

“The sacred temple’s sounding roof,

The voice of mercy and reproof,

Regarded never,

will be heard no more forever.”

 

Finally, DEATH SEALS UP YOUR ACCOUNT TO JUDGMENT

 

“It it appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment,” Hebrews 9.27. At that solemn hour, with all the duties toward God neglected, with all the sins which have been committed and unpardoned, they will remain unpardoned. When you die your work for eternity is ended.

The account is closed, it is sealed up, it cannot be altered. At death, everything begins to put on eternity and to wear the appearance of permanence. And a voice is heard, a voice from heaven. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still,” Revelation 22.11.

 

I have attempted to lead you to consider some things related to the closing scenes of your life. Death separates your soul from your body. It dissolves all your earthly relationships. Strips you of all your possessions. Breaks up all your earthly plans. Puts a period to end your period of probation. Seals up your account to judgment.

It is a terrible thing to die. When I look around in this room, I see only those who must die. Though death now appears to be serious to you, there will come a day when it will appear more serious. Your body, which some of you are so proud of, will soon fade and die. Then your few friends will gather around you, and take you by the hand and tell you, “You are dying.” How will you then feel? All earthly relations in this room will soon be dissolved. Husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, must all bow down to the king of terrors. As the nations and empires which have gone before you are all sleeping in the dust and we now walk over them, so shortly your body will lie in the grave and the living will walk over you. When your body has gone to its long house and your soul has departed to eternity, where will your soul be? Where will you be? Heaven, as a result of preparation? Or Hell, as a result of procrastination?

My friend, you and I need to talk. There is Someone I would like to talk to you about. His name is Jesus and He saves people from their sins and prepares them for eternity. However, time is short and this must be dealt with before your day ends.



[1] Luke 12.18-19



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