"HOW TO DIE"
1. Almost 4000 years ago lived a man of God named Isaac, the son of Abraham, the friend of God. In Genesis 27.2 he is recorded as saying to his son Esau, "I know not the day of my death."
2. The same is true of you, as well. You do not know the day of your death. Some of you are young and some of you are old. The rest of us are somewhere in between youth and age. Yet, not a one of us here knows the day of our death.
3. So, because I am your pastor, charged by God with the responsibility of watching for your souls, Hebrews 13.17, I'm going to spend this morning showing you how to die.
4. Understand that I have no intentions of being morbid. Neither will I try to tug at your heartstrings. I simply want to do the best job I can to get you ready for a day that must certainly come, the day of your death.
5. Perhaps you are like most, who don't want to deal with the subject of death, who don't want to consider it or discuss it. But Psalm 49.10 reminds us that "wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others."
6. You have an appointment with the grim reaper, though you don't know when that appointment happens to be, for the Bible declares that "it is appointed unto man once to die," Hebrews 9.27.
7. On the other hand, you may be like an increasing number of people these days who have a rather neutral and benign attitude toward death. Let's end that nonsense right this minute.
8. The Bible has much to say about the shadow of death, the snares of death, the pains of death, the power of death, the sorrows of death, the bitterness of death, the instruments of death, the pangs of death, the terrors of death, the ways of death, the sting of death and the fear of death.
9. Death is no man's friend. Rather, death is every man's enemy, a necessary evil exit from this fallen world that we live in. To shed some necessary light on this dark subject, consider death in a way you've probably never considered it before.
1A. FIRST, CONSIDER THAT DEATH IS AN EXPERIENCE
What you think you are experiencing is life. And, in a way, you are experiencing life, in a limited and brief fashion. But you are only experiencing physical life in a limited and brief fashion. When considered in its totality, the life which you are presently living, if you are not converted, isn't really life at all. You are living, or should I say you are experiencing, death and dying.
1B. You See, You Are At The End Of A Very Long Family Tree That Traces Its Beginnings All The Way Back To A Man Named Adam And A Woman Named Eve. Created By God And Placed Into A Garden Named Eden, Our First Father And Mother Were Alive In Every Sense Of The Word. They Were Alive Spiritually And They Were Alive Physically, So Alive That They Might Have Lived Forever Dad They Not Died. Let Me Explain:
1C. When God created Adam He gave to the man complete and unbridled freedom of action and choice, with one exception. He was forbidden to do only one thing, under penalty of death the day he disobeyed, Genesis 2.17.
2C. Well, Adam did the forbidden thing. Eve was tempted by the serpent and she ate the forbidden fruit. In turn she gave to Adam and he did eat, and their eyes were opened to their nakedness, Genesis 3.7. They sinned. Mankind, the entire race embodied in that one man, Adam, fell into sin.
3C. Genesis 3.22-24: "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."
4C. The human race died that day, since death actually refers to being separated from that which gives life. The immediate death was spiritual death and alienation from God. The eventual death of Adam occurred years later, and was the inevitable result of being spiritually dead.
2B. And What's The Result Of Adam's Spiritual Death? Adam's Spiritual Death Has Resulted In Every Member Of Our Race Going Through Spiritual Death On The Way To Physical Death. Your Life Is Actually A Journey Of Spiritual Death On The Way To Physical Death.
1C. Why else would the Psalmist have written, "What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?" Psalm 89.48.
2C. A more familiar verse to many people is Romans 5.12, where Paul explains this journey of death we call life: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
3C. So you see, this death experience of yours is so familiar to you, so common, and you are so completely unfamiliar with anything other than this death experience, that you don't know that it's death you are really experiencing and not life. Physical life, to be sure. But physical life in the midst of spiritual death, on the way to physical death.
2A. SECOND, CONSIDER THAT DEATH IS AN END
Death is not only an experience that lasts through the course of a human lifetime on the way to something climactic, something conclusive. Death is also the end. When you die, notice I did not say if you die, it will mean the end of some things. The end of what things?
1B. First, Your Death Will Mean The End Of All Physical Existence
1C. Broadly speaking, death refers to being separated from that which gives life. Spiritual death is separation from God. Physical death occurs when your soul is separated from your physical body, resulting in the physical death of your body.
2C. But what will happen to your body when you die? Though men strive for immortality by embalming the body, Job was in touch with reality when he acknowledged, in Job 19.26, that worms would someday destroy his body. And although formaldehyde slows the process down considerably, the critters are going to lunch on you and me, eventually, just as Job knew they would lunch on him.
3C. But though death spells the end of your physical existence in one sense, in another sense you will someday have a kind of physical existence again. The Lord Jesus spoke of a resurrection of life and a resurrection of damnation that will occur someday. That's in John 5.29. As well, in Acts 24.15, Paul made reference to a resurrection of the just and the unjust.
4C. In Revelation 20.5-6 John refers to them as the first resurrection, and implies a second resurrection. The first resurrection, the resurrection of life, the resurrection of the just, will be the resurrection of those who will live forever in heaven. Their bodies will be, not so much physical bodies, suited for life here on earth, but heavenly bodies, suited for an eternity in heaven.
5C. But for you who are not saved there will be no such resurrection of glory. Your resurrection will rather be a resurrection of shame, providing for you a body suited, not to heaven for eternity, but suited for an eternity in outer darkness, in the lake of fire.
2B. I Must Move Quickly To Save Time. Death Is Also An End Of All Human Relationships
1C. Will God allow the comfort of friendships and acquaintances in death? No. Will He allow gatherings of old friends? No. Will relationships be maintained after you die? No.
2C. Understand that your mother can only mother you in this lifetime. After you die you will be alone. Your husband or your wife can love and comfort you in this lifetime, but after you die you will be all by yourself.
3C. There will be no mother or father, no brother or sister, no husband or wife, after you die. Such relationships are for time and not for eternity.
3B. Thirdly, Your Death Will Also Be The End Of All Opportunities To Reconcile With God
1C. Eastern religions have fabricated reincarnation in the futile hope that death only means a another in a long series of chances to attain Nirvana.
2C. Roman Catholicism has invented a clever scheme called purgatory, or limbo, where a sinner gets a second chance to make restitution for his sins, making death something other than what it most certainly is.
3C. But let the Word of God speak, once and for all, and let's put to silence the silly inventions of wicked men. Hebrews 9.27 reads, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." So, there is no second chance after death comes. Rather, death is the end of your opportunities to reconcile with God. Once you die, your opportunities to be reconciled to God have passed forever.
4C. And does this not compliment, exactly, the case of the rich man and Lazarus? When righteous Lazarus died he was immediately carried to Abraham's bosom. But when the rich man who was not righteous died he was dispatched immediately to Hell. No second chance for that rich man. No second chance for anyone who has died to reconcile with God. What is done must be done in this life, for there will be Hell to pay if you do not.
3A. DEATH IS AN EXPERIENCE. DEATH IS AN END. DEATH IS ALSO A BEGINNING
What begins at death? Of what is death a beginning?
1B. Death Is The Beginning Of Real Suffering
1C. You hear of people who gripe and complain about life on earth so much that they claim that this is all the Hell there is, because suffering couldn't possibly be worse than what they are experiencing.
2C. If that were only true. Just remember, after you die you will begin to experience the wrath of God poured out on those who die without Jesus Christ. And no amount of suffering that results from poverty, from physical affliction, or from abuse at the hand of another, can compare in any way to the punishment that is meted out by God.
2B. Because Death Is The Beginning Of God's Wrath
1C. To be sure, Hell is nothing like the lake of fire is going to be, since Hell is only a temporary assignment of torment while awaiting the judgment of the great day. But make no mistake about the fact that Hell is the real beginning of the outpouring of God's wrath on you.
2C. And when does Hell begin for you? It begin when you die. Death is the portal from physical life to physical death. Death is the passageway from here to eternity. Death is the great divide between God's long-suffering and God's wrath.
3B. Death Is Also The Beginning Of Unending Eternity
1C. You've heard all the illustrations of eternity's duration. A man with a tea spoon empties the world's oceans, one spoon full at a time. And when the oceans are empty eternity has only barely begun.
2C. But such illustrations are only that. In reality eternity is existence outside the boundaries of time. Time has no meaning in eternity. Eternity is actually something about which we can only speculate, since there is nothing in our experience with which to compare it. Suffice it to say that it will not end.
1. So, unless you've blocked out my words from your mind, we've considered death as an experience, death as an end, and death as the beginning.
2. After brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song I want to spend a few minutes telling you how to get ready to die. After all, "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished," Proverbs 22.3.
3. Perhaps you've been simple your whole life. If so, now is the time to turn things around. Now is the time to be prudent. Since you are already spiritual dead and are certainly going to die a physical death, who knows when, why not take a few minutes this morning listening very carefully to find out how to get ready to die?
4. Brother Isenberger? Please come now and lead us as we stand.
1. My exposition was very long, so my sermon must be very short so I do not exhaust your patience or your attention span.
2. This is declaration time, not explanation time. I can tell you what to do in the time remaining, but I cannot elaborate. If you want to prepare for death you must do what I tell you to do.
1A. FIRST, I WANT YOU TO THINK ABOUT THE CALAMITY OF YOUR DEATH
1B. Your Life Is Like A House That's Built On The Sand. Like So Many People Who Live In Santa Monica On The Cliffs, Or In Malibu, When The Storms Come Their Houses Collapse And Coming Crashing Down. We Read About Them In The Papers And See Them On The Evening News All The Time. Understand That Your Life Will Come Crashing Down In The Same Way When You Die.
2B. When You Die Your Fruitless Existence Will Be Uprooted Like So Many Vines That Bear No Grapes And You Will Be Cast Into The Fire. Now, Maybe You Are Such A Fool As To Deny The Calamity That Your Death Will Bring About Now, But There Will Come A Day When You'll Not Be Such A Fool, I Guarantee You. The Only Question Will Be Whether You Wise Up In Time To Save Yourself From God's Wrath.
3B. When You Die It Will Be A Terrible Calamity. It Will Be Horrible. It Will Be Terrible. A Tragedy.
2A. SECOND, I WANT YOU TO THINK ABOUT THE TIMING OF YOUR DEATH
For most of you death is many years away. For some of us death will occur much sooner than we would like to think. How will we go? We can predict. Brian Spicer will go by a heart attack. Mike DiGiovanna will go by complications of respiratory problems. Archie will die from old age. Gary Isenberger may go from an asthma attack. Lee Moyer may be taken by cancer. My family history suggests the risk of heart attack in my fifties, and a ripe old age if I make it to sixty. Don and Dale will probably die from complications of diabetes. And these things will likely happen, if we are not struck by a car, or if we don't have a stroke, or if we're not shot during a home invasion robbery. My point is, Who knows when or how? But there are two things that we can be rather sure of about our own deaths:
1B. First, Your Death Is Likely To Be Unpredictable
1C. Who would have predicted Dave Magnifico would be taken by lymphatic cancer, for crying out loud?
2C. And who could have imagined that Shirley Chavez' sister, Lois, would be stricken with Lou Gehrig's Disease?
3C. James was so profoundly on target when he wrote, in James 4.14, "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."
4C. My dad had seven brothers. One still lives. The first was killed as a teenager. Two were taken quickly about my time in life. One survived two wars and a prison camp, only to die at his kitchen table. The other two died in their old age.
5C. Will you die? O, yes. When and how will you die? There is no way to tell, is there? That is quite unpredictable.
2B. Your Death Will Also Be Very Inconvenient
1C. Unless you are a rare bird, you will leave your children unprepared to live on without you, you will leave your spouse unprepared to live on without you, and you will not have prepared yourself spiritually to enter eternity.
2C. "Prepare to meet thy God" was a command issued some 2600 years ago, but you have not yet taken steps to obey that command.
3C. Ill-suited for heaven, you will be no better prepared for Hell. But you will have to make due, for there is nowhere else for you to go, when it's time for you to go, when God commands you to go, when He withholds that last breath, that last beat of the heart.
4C. And your last thoughts as you slip into the fire? They may be along the line of, "Why didn't I tell my boy I love him, one last time?" Or, "Why did I not caress my wife's cheek and look tenderly into her eyes that last time I saw her?" Or your thoughts may be, "No God. No God. Please God, no. Please God, no."
5C. And then you will be gone forever.
3A. NEXT, THINK ABOUT THE CAUSE OF YOUR DEATH
1B. What Is The Root Cause Of Your Death? What Is The Underlying Problem That Lies Back Of Everything Wrong? Sin. Your Filthy, Nasty, God-Hating, Defiling, Soul Damning, Accursed Sin. Your Sin, Which God Hates. Your Sin, Which Cuts You Off From The Life Of God. Your Sin, Which Is The Reason You Are Estranged From God. Your Sin Is What Lies At The Root Of It All.
2B. The Recent Cause Of Your Death, However, Is Death. Death Will Be The Death Of You. Your Spiritual Death Is The Immediate Cause Of Your Physical Death. Doctors Say They Are On The Verge Of Finding Out What Causes Aging And Death, But I Already Know. Sin Causes Spiritual Death, And Spiritual Death Makes Physical Death Inevitable.
1C. It took 930 years of spiritual death to finally extinguish Adam's physical life and bring about physical death.
2C. It will take much less time than that for the process begun by our spiritual death to climax in our physical deaths.
4A. FINALLY, COME TO THE REMEDY FOR YOUR DEATH
The remedy for death is life. There can be no other remedy for death than life. But it's not physical life that you are in need of to counter your impending physical death. Oh, no. Your great need is for spiritual life to counter the spiritual death brought on by your sin. In a nutshell, let me outline the remedy for your death.
1B. First, There Is Your Wickedness
1C. Make no mistake about it, you are wicked and evil. Your single greatest sin is your stubborn refusal to love the Lord your God with all your heart. That makes you as guilty as any criminal have ever been.
2C. Your sinfulness has left you dead spiritually. Dead in trespasses and sins, we read in Ephesians. So, you are actually in need of forgiveness and cleansing for your sins, and life for your death. Who can do such a thing as this? He must be One Who can cleanse away sins, as well as possess the power and might to impart life to the dead.
2B. Next, There Is His Willingness
1C. Of course, the Lord Jesus Christ can forgive sins. His shed blood cleanses us from all sins, First John 1.7. But He is also the resurrection and the life, by His own testimony. Did He not demonstrate His power over death by rising on the third day? So, the Lord Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by Him.
2C. But is He willing to save you? Doesn't the cross, where He atoned for sins, answer that question, my friend? Doesn't the Great Commission, where He sent out His disciples to preach this Gospel, answer that question, my friend? Doesn't His invitation to come to Him if you are weary and heavy laden, answer that question, my friend?
3C. And if that's not sufficient to make it clear to you, listen to Revelation 22.17: "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
4C. Does the Holy Spirit know the mind and heart of the Savior? Does His betrothed know His mind and heart? Yes! So, the Savior's willingness is beyond question. He is willing to save anyone who will come to Him.
3B. The Issue Is Your Will
Will you come to Jesus Christ for life, for forgiveness from sins, to prepare to meet God, to be fully and forever prepared for death?
1. That is the question, is it not?
2. There has never been any question about the Savior's willingness to save you, only your willingness to be saved.
3. God is not willing that you should perish. Jesus shed His blood and invites you to come to Him. The Spirit and the bride say "Come."
4. There is but one thing remaining. I urge you to come to Christ.