“The End of All Men”
Jeremiah wrote “My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me” (Lam. 3:18-20). “The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning. The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned! For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim” (Lam. 5:15-17).
None of us would ever choose to visit the house of mourning, if we did not have to do so; but the Word of God tells us plainly that it is good for us to have our merriment interrupted and our dancing turned into mourning, that it is good for eternity bound sinners to be found in the house of mourning, because “that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart” (Ecc. 7:2-4). We go to the house of mourning because we are compelled to go by the arrangement of God’s wise and good providence. In the house of mourning, as we view the cold, dead body of a mortal, we are forced to face the fact that death is the sure and certain “end of all men.” “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment.” Will you lay these things to heart?
Are You Afraid to Die?
I have watched a lot of people die, some young and some old, some believers and some infidels, some with no hope, some with a false hope, and some with a good hope. I have seen some die in utter terror and some with great comfort, some in brazen blasphemy and defiance, and some with peace and joy. How will it be for you when you come to death’s chilly waters? I know a good many men and women who do everything they can to avoid visiting a rest home, a hospital, or a funeral parlor. They simply cannot face the fact that they, too, must soon die. Even now, the fear of death terrorizes them. I ask of you what Jeremiah asked long ago. If sickness and death torment you now, “then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” Are you afraid to die?
A reasonable fear
The fear of death is a very natural thing to sinful men. If you are without Christ, you have reason to be afraid. Soon you and I must die. Long ago, a dying man requested that the words below be inscribed upon his tombstone. He wanted all who passed by his grave to be reminded of the brevity of life and the certainty of death. We would be wise to lay them to heart.
“Please view my grave as you pass by,
For as you are so once was I,
And as I am soon you must be,
So make your plans to follow me.”
Because of your sin and guilt before God, you must die. But death will not end your existence. You will stand before a holy, just, and righteous God in judgment. And you will reap the exact penalty due for your sin, the infinite, eternal wrath of God in hell (2 Cor. 5:10-11; Rev. 20:11-15). This is “the second death,” the everlasting death of your soul in hell. It is a torturous death that never dies!
No Reason to Fear
For the believer things are indescribably different. In Hebrews 2:14-15 the Holy Spirit tells us that one great purpose of our Savior’s incarnation was that He might destroy Satan and deliver his elect from the fear of death. The Lord Jesus Christ came into this world for this purpose, that he might “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
Being washed in the blood of Christ and living by faith in him, we should have no fear of death. Certainly, we must not expect to have dying grace until our time to die has come. Yet, we ought not live out our days on this earth clinging to the vanity of mortality and fearing its end. Christ came not only to deliver us from death, but from the very fear of death. He does so by effectually teaching us the gospel, giving us the blessed confidence of faith in himself as our all-sufficient Savior.
Our Savior destroyed the power of death by dying in our place and rising again. Since all of God’s elect were partakers of flesh and blood, under the dominion of death, Christ became a man to suffer and die for us. It was not possible for our Representative to satisfy the claims of divine justice against us unless he lived and died in our nature. By his substitutionary death on the cursed tree and his triumphant resurrection, the Son of God destroyed the power of Satan and the power of the grave over us. We are now more than conquerors in him. Why then should we fear death?
The Lord Jesus delivers us from the fear of death by removing our sin. “The sting of death is sin.” It is sin which causes men torment in death. But in Christ we have no sin. In him we are fully forgiven. By his blood, our sins are washed away. If we are born of God, we are in Christ; “and in him is no sin” (1 John 3:1-5). Be sure you have the forgiveness of sin by faith in Christ, and fear death no more. To die forgiven, “accepted in the Beloved,” is not really to die at all. It is simply the departure out of this world into the Father’s house.
The law of God held us in bondage to the sentence of death and condemnation; but “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3:13). “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). He is the end of the law’s power to condemn. In the book of God’s holy law there is no legal claim of condemnation upon any believer. Christ satisfied that claim for us. Why then should we fear? If I am in Christ, I am dead to the law (Romans 7:4; 8:1-4).
The Lord Jesus Christ delivers us from the fear of death by changing the character of death. For the unbeliever, death is a horrible thing. For the unbeliever, anything short of death is mercy. But, for the believer, death is a great blessing. John Trapp wrote…
“To those that are in Christ death is but the day-break of eternal brightness; not the punishment of sin, but the period of sin. It is but a sturdy porter opening the door of eternity, a rough passage to eternal pleasure.”
Why should Israel be afraid to cross the swelling Jordan into the land of promise with the ark of God before them? The fact is believers do not die in the sense that others do. Our Lord said, “Whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die.” To the ungodly, death is the penalty of sin; but to the believer, it is just a change of location. Death to the wicked is the execution of justice, but to the believer, it is a deliverance from sin. To the worldling, death is the beginning of sorrows, but to the believer, it is admission into glory. To the rebel, death is imprisonment, but to the believer, it is freedom.