It’s often said that in life there are two certainties: Death and taxes. I’m not so sure about taxes as there are all sort of — shall we say — creative ways to avoid taxes, but death is still batting 1.000. We will all die. The time of our death and the manner of our death are unknown (at least to us), but what is not unknown is the fact that we will one day die.
In regards to death, we can ask the why question — Why do people die? — and we can give all sorts of scientific reasons why people die. But the biblical answer to that why question is due to sin. The Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Adam’s sin plunged the human race into a life of sin, misery and death. That’s the answer to the ultimate ‘why’ question.
However, I am more concerned with the how question — How will people die? One might think, “Well, people die in all sorts of manners. What do you mean by asking the ‘how’ question?” When I ask the how question, I am not asking in what manner do people die, but in what state do people die. Biblically speaking, people die in either one of two states:
- People die in a state of faith
- People die in a state of sin
There are no other states with which we should be concerned.
Why is this distinction important? Again borrowing from the Apostle Paul, he writes, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). People who die in a state of sin receive the wages of sin, which is death. You may wish to ask. “Wait a minute! People who die in a state of sin receive death? Isn’t that a bit circular?” It is only if you assume that death is the end of all things and the cessation of our existence. The bible teaches otherwise.
The bible teaches that once we die we will face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). At that judgment, God will judge us based upon what we have done during this life even down to the careless words we speak (2 Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 12:36). The basis of judgment will be God’s law (Romans 2:12-16). The standard we are expected to meet is complete perfection (Matthew 5:48). Those who fail to meet that standard will be judged with eternal punishment in hell (Matthew 25:46).
Now, based on this, how well do you think you’ll do? Are you prepared? For the most part, people are not prepared. Many churches have moved away — implicitly or explicitly — from teaching about sin and death and hell. To the extent that churches do this, they are setting up their congregations for failure. This is not an easy message to preach, but is the alternative any better?
Allow me to illustrate. You’re a doctor and a patient comes to you with severe chest pain. You run some tests and find out the person has advanced cancer. It’s operable and the chances for survival are slim, but not impossible, if the patient begins treatment soon. What do you do? Do you spare the patient the bad news for fear of ruining his day? Not if you cared for the patient!
This is no different than our problem with sin. Sin is a deadly disease — the deadliest. There is only one cure for sin and that is faith in Jesus Christ. The second half of Romans 6:23 says, “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Through faith in Christ we are justified (made righteous) in God’s sight. Why? Because through faith, the perfect righteousness of Christ is credited to our account. At the same time, our sin is transferred to Christ’s account. Christ’s death on the cross pays our sin debt before God, and his righteousness makes us holy and blameless before God.
There are only two ways to die: In faith or in sin. Are you prepared?