1 – Death. All men will die. There is nothing you can do to escape the reality of experiencing physical death. No amount of money, popularity, happiness, spirituality, etc. can prevent the eventual demise of the body. Whether it’s five minutes from now, or 100 years, everyone (all of you reading this right now, regardless of when or where you came across it, and even those not reading this) will die. Maybe it will be in a horrible accident. Maybe you will grow old and simply “fall asleep forever”. Or maybe you will get a disease, or be attacked by an animal, or fall off a cliff, or have a heart attack, or a stroke, or whatever…we will all die at one point or another. Death is an unavoidable reality that all men experience. Even though it was not part of our original design, it has become “natural” for us; it’s just part of the picture now. We’re all going to die; but that’s not the end - not by a long shot.
2 – Judgment. I won’t go into particular and general judgment here. Suffice it to say that, after death, all men will be judged according to the state of his soul…his spirit (Jn 3:5), and according to his deeds (Rom 2:5-8, 2Cor 5:10, 11:15, 1Pet 1:17, Rev 20:12-13, Col 3:24-25, Mt 19:16-17, etc…). During your earthly life, you will have either obtained supernatural grace, or you will not have. You will have been Baptized into Christ (cff. Ez 36:25-27, Acts 2:38-39, Jn 3:5,22, Gal 3:27), or you will not have. You will have accepted a life in Christ, Who is the only way to the Father (Jn 14:6), or you will not have. You will either have “fallen asleep in Christ” or you will not have. And once you have died, there is no way to come back for a “re-do” (cf. Lk 16:22-26). You had your time on earth to get it done, and you either did or you didn’t, and no amount of wishful thinking is going to change what you would have wanted to have changed…barring a miracle of God (cf. Mt 7:16-27). (There is also invincible ignorance, which I won’t discuss here because it tends to side-track.)
3 – Hell. This is an “either/or” with #4 (below). If you were on the “or” side of Judgment, if you did not receive that grace and did not have life in Christ and were not Baptized into Christ, if you did not love but hated others (1Jn 3:14-15) or if you separated yourself from God and did not repent, or neglected the poor or His little ones, (Mt 25: 31-46) your eternal existence will be hell.
So many people think of this as some medieval punishment willed by God. It’s not. It's a punishment that a person chooses. Hell is torment, but not because God wants to eternally torment anyone. It’s torment because it was created for the devil and those who followed the devil in renouncing God (Mt 25:41). Hell is eternal existence in the absence of God. And for those who rejected God, or those who did not receive the supernatural Grace to co-exist with God, and did not choose to live in Christ, it was their choice, not God’s. God gives us all the grace to come to know Him. We all have an inner calling, so to speak, to know our Creator. God does not will for anyone to be damned. Hell is a choice that a person makes when they choose not to unite themselves to God, or they choose to separate themselves from God and then choose not to repent up to their death.
Think about it. If you were told that you were going to go to space (and for whatever reason there was no choice in the matter, just as experiencing death has no opt-out), but you chose not to wear the spacesuit that was offered, whose fault would it be when you were shot up to space and you died for lack of equipment? The fault would be yours. It was your choice not to be prepared.
Here’s another way you might look at it. If you lived your entire life for yourself, doing what YOU wanted and fighting for the causes YOU wanted, and only worshipping God the way YOU wanted, regardless of how HE wanted to be worshipped, you have essentially set yourself up as your own God. Then imagine you eternally meet God, and He’s not the God that YOU wanted Him to be…He does not match YOUR ideals, His ways are not YOUR ways, He doesn’t support the things YOU fought for in life, He doesn’t give YOU the respect/homage for your own ideals/opinions that you would expect is due to you, etc… How much pride would you have to let go of to worship Him? And would you be willing to do that? Satan obviously isn't, and he was one of God's angels...mightier than any of us humans (obvisously, since he has so far been able to tempt us with an array of sin when we stray from Christ).
So, having failed to accept God's grace which is neccessary to have eternal life with Him, as horrible as Hell would be, being eternally separated from the God whom we were created to be united with, to Hell you would go by your own choice, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth (Mt 8:12, 13:42,50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30, Lk 13:28), and an eternal reminder that you are there by your own choices, your own fault. You won’t blame God, because you will be eternally aware of those instances where God nudged you in the right direction, and you ignored Him or chose contrary to Him.
4 – Heaven. This is the other “either/or”. If you died with supernatural grace and had not separated yourself from God through serious sin, you are destined to spend eternity with God and will *know* Him and see Him as He is (1Jn 3:2, 1Cor 13:12, Rev 22:4). This is the destiny of every man. Heaven is God’s Will for every single human person He has created, regardless of whether they end up choosing His Will or not. Granted, not all of us will be as clean as others, and will need a bath before we go into the house, so to speak, but we’ll be there as soon as we have been cleaned up…purged…since nothing unclean can enter Heaven (Rev 21:27, cff. 1Cor 3:13-15, Heb 12:22-23). In Heaven we will be with God and join that great cloud of witnesses (Hb 12:1, cf. Rev 6:9-11) and experience that eternal glory which eye has not seen, nor ear heard (1Cor 2:9). And it won’t be for just a passing moment or for a few years, or decades, or centuries…it is eternal (Rev 22:5, cf. Mt 25:21,23).
So, back to our questions: What are the positives about death? If we have decided to follow Christ and renounce our own desires for the sake of His, and receive that grace He offers freely to us, we can view death as a “birth” or sorts, and a joyous occasion. Just as our physical birth brought us from our mothers’ wombs and into this world, our physical death will separate our bodies from our spirits and allow our spirits to move on to that next step in the journey of life…eternity with God. We can view death as a passageway to Heaven.
We can even view the pain and suffering we experience during our death as part of that purging process to clean us up, so to speak. For those of us who wind up depending completely on others to care for us as we near death, we can learn to let go of our own will, our own ways of doing things, our own preferences. We can let go of our pride as we submit to the need to have someone else bathe us or wipe us. We can let go of our desires for our favorite foods as the reality sinks in that we no longer will be free to eat whatever we want; we might not be physically capable of eating in the first place. We can let go of the notion we had of “having all the answers” as we slowly realize that we have no idea what’s going to happen next and we can learn to depend on others to serve us instead of always trying to be self-sufficient. We can grow to realize that we have no control over anything that matters in this world, and that only God is really in charge. We can learn to let go of ourselves and to learn to ask more about what God wants for our lives, instead of what *we* want. We can learn to put God at the center. Not only can our death be a positive event, but preparing for it and learning from it can be positive as well because, in viewing death in this way, we can grow toward God through the reality of death.
Heck, we can even look at the reality of death as a warning to us, given the only two options we have after our judgment. While it’s not the ideal way to view the worship of God, if you have the only two ends (Hell or Heaven) in mind while you make your decisions in life, I bet most people will make decisions that don’t jeopardize their eternal salvation.
We are all going to die. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a reality. It is a reality that can be for us the next step to eternal glory with our Father in Heaven. And that is a WONDERFUL thing.
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