Cal Thomas, related in a recent post watching BBC and the Sky News coverage of Queen Elizabeth’s death. Thomas admitted he was surprised by two things.
“The first is that so many people interviewed were shocked at the Queen’s death.”
“Why should they be shocked?” Thomas wondered. “She was 96 years old and in failing health.”
The second thing that surprised the conservative columnist was that none of the male or female clergy who were interviewed spoke of eternal life. None spoke of Jesus. And all they talked about, Thomas wrote, were “temporal things, including the beauty of the building in which she would lie in state.”
Those observations call attention to this important passage and its sobering message.
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” –Heb 9:27-28
In recent days and weeks, we have learned of friends and brethren who died. One was a college classmate and teammate of mine on the Florida College basketball team. He was my age. Another was a lady we’ve known from our trips to the church at Cosby, Tennessee. Just last night I received a message that a brother from the Hickman Mills church in Kansas City who was over 90 had passed from this life.
Though none of these three have any claim to fame, or will receive national notoriety for their life and death, they share in the same end as the Queen of England. The Preacher in the book of Ecclesiastes observed that all flesh returns to the dust of the earth. The rich. The poor. Royalty. And common folks. Even the animals. Eventually all die.
So, our passage reminds us of these simple truths.
(1) Everyone has an appointment with death.
Death is a reality of life. None can escape it. Your money will not delay it. Your position will not stop it. Your good works will not circumvent it. It is a divine appointment all will keep. Sooner or later.
(2) The time of the appointment is unknown.
The Psalmist offers this insight.
The length of our days is seventy years —
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
We know from experience that not everyone makes it to 70. Or 80. An accident may untimely take the life of a teenager. A 40 year old can contract cancer. An unknown birth defect may be detected too late. And, as we have sadly seen in recent years, an evil person armed with a gun can snuff out the lives of innocent children.
The specter of death is ever real. But its time is unknown.
#3 Death is not the end.
This passage as well as many others remind us that this life is not all there is. Following death will come the judgment. Paul reminds us that we must “all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). And that “each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).
The book of Revelation pictures the judgment with these symbolic words
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” (Rev. 20:11-12).
No one will escape the judgment. You won’t be able to hide. Or run away. Or get lost in the crowd.
#4 We can face death eagerly when we belong to Christ.
One writer expressed it well, “Death is nothing to fear, but it is something to prepare for.”
Indeed, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). The Hebrew writer reminds us that Jesus’ victory over death and the devil provides for us confident assurance and eternal hope as we face death. Yes, we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
For those “in Christ” we enjoy all spiritual blessings in this life, and can look forward to our death as an occasion of everlasting salvation.
When we live in the light of eternity, death becomes our friend, not our enemy.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman