Are You Prepared for Eternity?
September 1, 2002 - Someone said, "Live each day as if it’s your last. It may be." One year ago we experienced a day that still reminds us of the brevity and the uncertainty of life. That day thousands of people got on airplanes or walked into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, not knowing that it would be the last day of their lives.
A Message by Billy Graham
And we too never know when we will be called into eternity. That’s why we need to face our own mortality and commit ourselves to God and to His will.
When I hear of sudden fatalities, I often wonder if the victims were prepared for death. Every day we hear of such happenings—people who in an instant are transferred from this life to the next. The Bible has much to say about the brevity of life and the necessity of preparing for eternity.
Many Christians avoid thinking about death because they think that the subject is unpleasant. Death is Satan’s weapon, and he uses the thought of it to bring confusion and fear into our hearts.
Death is not of God; it is part of the curse that sin brought on this world. The good news for Christians is that death is not final. Death is another phase of life. When Christians die, they move immediately into a glorious eternal life. The Bible says, "Death has been swallowed up in victory."(1)
Christians know that they have eternal life: "This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."(2) Those who do not have Jesus Christ in their hearts will spend eternity separated from God.
Is Your House in Order?
If we accept that sooner or later we will have to face death, should we be making preparations now while we are living? Hezekiah, a king of Judah, was a sick man when the Prophet Isaiah went to him and said, "Put your house in order, because you are going to die."(3) That was good advice. But many people neglect to put their houses in order.
How much time do we have? The Scripture teaches us that God knows the exact moment when each person is to die: "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."(4)
Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. What preparations should we be making now? The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.
We are told to "be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity."(5) If we knew today was to be our last day on earth, what would we do? Call a friend who is hurting? Say "I’m sorry" to someone whom we’ve slighted? Encourage a young person who was struggling with school or a job? Tell our spouse, or parents or children how much we love them? Most important, would we tell people about Jesus Christ and how they can have eternal life through Him?
What Is Death?
Young people especially ask, "What is life all about?" Seldom do they ask, "What is death all about?" And yet one follows the other.
The Bible says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."(6) How could there be anything precious about death? When a young person dies, the tragedy seems so great. People question why God would allow such a thing, but do you think that God who knows the very number of the hairs on our heads(7) would neglect us or leave us in our hour of peril?
The Apostle Paul lived most of his life on the brink of death. When his tired, bruised body began to weaken under the punishment he received, he said triumphantly, "We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands."(8)
What is death? For the Christian death is a friend rather than an enemy. It is another step on the pathway to heaven rather than a leap into some dark unknown.
Is There Life After Death?
If we have never died, how do we know there is hope for eternal life? Can we be certain there is life after death? Yes! There is one great fact that gives Christians assurance in the face of death: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This truth is the basis for our belief, for our living, and for our hope. The resurrection of Christ is the central event in all of history.
Because Christ rose from the dead, we know that sin and death and Satan have been defeated. Because Christ rose from the dead, we know that there is life after death. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."(9) Christians go on living in another realm, in a wonderful place. Someone has said that death is not a period, but a comma in the story of life.
Death Is a Rest
Some of God’s people accomplish more in a few years than others do in a lifetime, but someday all toil will come to an end. The Bible says, "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his."(10)
We may get some rest on earth, but heavenly rest will be so refreshing that we will never feel that exhaustion of mind and body that we frequently experience now. I’m looking forward to that.
Death Is a Departure
Ruth and I have said good-bye many times in our life together. Sometimes we were separated by oceans and time differences. There is always a tinge of sadness, because she is the one I love more than any other person on earth. But we part in the sure hope that we shall meet again.
The word departure means to pull up anchor and to set sail. Everything that happens prior to death is a preparation for the final voyage. Death marks the beginning, not the end. It is our journey to God.
Believing Christians have hope as they stand at the grave of a loved one who is with the Lord, for they know that the separation is not forever. It is a glorious truth that those who are in Christ never see each other for the last time.
Death Is a Transition
The story is told of President John Quincy Adams, who, when he was 80 years old, was met by an old friend. This friend shook President Adams’ trembling hand and said, "Good morning. How is John Quincy Adams today?"
President Adams looked at him for a moment and then said, "John Quincy Adams himself is quite well, sir, but the house in which he lives at present is becoming dilapidated. It is tottering upon its foundations. Time and the seasons have almost destroyed it. Its roof is worn out. Its walls are much shattered, and it crumbles with every wind. The old tenement is becoming almost uninhabitable, and I think that John Quincy Adams will have to move out of it soon. But he himself is well, sir, quite well!"
To the Christian, death is the exchanging of a tent for a building. If our earthly tent is disintegrating, or if it has many structural imperfections, someday we will be given the title to a home that will never deteriorate.
The paralyzed will walk and run again. The blind will see, the deaf will hear. The man crippled with arthritis will stand upright. The woman who was disfigured in a fiery car crash will have a face without blemish. The child who died of cancer will have rosy cheeks and a strong body. Everything that we try to change, paint and correct on earth will have a glorious new look. And yet we will know each other in our heavenly bodies!
Many years ago the Reverend and Mrs. R.W. Porteous were taken prisoners by Chinese terrorists and led to the top of a hill where they were to be executed. The executioner took a long knife and raised it above the necks of the courageous couple. Certain death seemed imminent, and the couple began to sing: "Face to face with Christ, my Savior,/Face to face—what will it be?/When with rapture I behold Him,/Jesus Christ who died for me!"(11)
These two were ready to die, but to their surprise the executioner returned the knife to its place, and the couple was released. Subsequently they told of their singing faith and their anticipation of seeing their Savior "face to face" in their hour of death.(12)
In your hour of death, will you anticipate seeing Jesus face to face? Will you be ready to be called into eternity?