THE GATE MARKED "DEATH: ENTER ALL"
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."
The subject of death
The subject of death is one that we should talk about. Death is something that touches everyone? We are able to ignore death only temporarily. Do you know what it is like to die? In the B western movies that I saw as a kid at a Saturday matinee, the action was limited to fisticuffs and shooting. The good and the bad cowboys shoot at each other. Their ammunition was endless. Their skills at hitting the target were poor. No one seemed to die. If a hero was rarely shot, it was just a "wound" and a shoulder sling would take care of it. The bad guys eventually would be beaten up and taken off to jail. Today, action movies on TV or theater have people falling dead everywhere in bloody scenes. They don't get up. We in the audience seem to get insensitive to death as a result. Death is no more real than the movie is. The dead stars will be resurreected in the next episode or film.
In reality, death is not like the movies. No dramatic orchestration. There is no great farewell oratory to the living. The person just quietly as it were stops breathing. Even in the midst of a struggle with accompanying pain. That's it. They just simply pass away. And they remain dead.
A reliable source for information
The Bible is the only true source for information of death. Roger Shouse* in one of his Jump Start Dailies tells about a truck driver, Don Piper, that had an accident, died for a few moments and then "came back" alive to tell of his experience in death. The public is hungry for such a story; they pay good money,and put more store in such accounts than they do the Bible. The apostle Paul was allowed to go to the "third heaven" in 2 Corinthians 12:4. Yet he said that it was unlawful for him to repeat what he heard. Should we deny Paul's account but accept Mr. Piper's story that brought him fame and money?
Death and Luke 16
Jesus told the story of two men that died in Luke 16. Jesus told human stories to illustrate spiritual truths. Some say that this story was just a parable and is not an accurate account of death.
But the stories Jesus told were unlike fables but were stories about real things, real people, and real life and in this case death. The rich man died and was in torment. He wanted to send a message back to his brothers on earth. It was not allowed. Of all the people who died in the Bible, no one ever sent word back. The famous escape artist Harry Houdini who dabbled in the arts of talking to the dead promised to get word back if it such was were possible. No one has heard from him since he died.1
Near death experiences
A popular notion today is that people have had "near death" experiences and they have shared them. The Bible does not tell about lights at the end of the tunnel or bright lights or floating sensations, etc, that are described by atheists, Hindi, and "Christians" alike. Such phenomenon has been explained by skeptics to be reactions to sensitivity to bright hospital lights while unconscious. Also consider that all would not be experiencing Heaven since Jesus taught that narrow is the way to Heaven and broad is the way to destruction. Few people are going to go to "Heaven." However, all of these claimed to go without qualifying by any set prescription.
The dead according to the Bible are resurrected as a result of divine miracles.
Jesus came back from the dead and was seen by witnesses. There was a resurrection of righteous people after the resurrection of Jesus. "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many" (Matthew 27:52,53). These body resurrections occurred along with the miracles of the sun being dark, an earthquake, and the temple veil being torn into. All of this was accomplished by God. No human being ever "come back" on his own without God intervening.
Death is the separation of the body and spirit (James 2:26).
"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26). The spirit still exists. The body rots and returns to dust and disappears until the future resurrection day. Birth is the gate that brings us into this world. Death is the gate that takes us into the next. We are still alive. It doesn't end at the cemetery. Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus as being "alive" after leaving earth (Luke 16). They both knew, felt, remembered and were recognized identities. Even in the Old Testament it is recorded that a "spirit shall return to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Death is simply "switching rooms" (a thought by Roger Shouse* in one of his Jump Start's).
God is with us in death.
In Luke 16 Jesus says that the angels carried Lazarus to Abraham's bosom. What a contrast with the rich man's tormented fate. Did that happen? Jesus said it did. What a beautiful picture of the soul of the righteous dying in Christ. He did not die alone. God cared about him. 1 Corinthians 7:39 is often compared to Romans 7:1,2. However, there is a contrast. The woman's husband dies (apothnesko) in Romans 7. But the widow's Christian husband in 1 Corinthians 7:39 sleeps (koimao). What comfort to know that the righteous do not die alone.
Wonderful words describe the death of His children.
It's "everlasting life" (John 3:36); it's "incorruption" (1 Corinthians 15:5); it's a "gain" (Philippians 1:21); it's "precious" (Psalm 116:15); it's a "victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54); its' a "hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). It's the gate we go through to get to where God is. Blessings and joy await us. One witness tells of "a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10). It's a rest: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them" (Revelation 14:13).
We must all go through the gate marked "Death." Hebrews 11 gives the cloud of witnesses that urge us to hang on to the goal of keeping the Faith of Jesus. We need to develop the right attitude about death. Walk with Jesus here and have nothing to fear. Shelve the modern fiction about Heaven and read what God says. That's where our faith is to be.
"Scripture is not the book of death, but of life, of everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord. It tells us, in oft-repeated and unmistakable terms, of the dreaded reality of death, but it proclaims to us still more loudly the wonderful power of the life which is in Christ Jesus" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, "death").
* Roger Shouse. http://www.jumpstartsdaily.com/