Good or bad, rich or poor, famous or unknown, all die. But, while alive in these bodies, most of us have the idea that we will go on forever. Most of us don’t even want to think about death; perhaps hopeful that it won’t happen if we ignore it. But, for each of us there comes that day when, having inadequate words to say, we will be sitting by the bedside of a dying friend or family member. No comforting words of truth come to our mind. Sometimes we grasp onto an old cliche such as, “God works in mysterious ways.” We may also find ourselves in the position where, after a death occurs, a friend or family member reaches out to us for answers and all we may do is to assure them that we’ll understand someday. Most of us don’t really know what the Bible has to say about death. Would’t it be wise to prepare in advance, thus replacing fear and despair, with hope and truth? The Bible has a great deal to say concerning death.
We build houses, businesses, and relationships but the reality is, in seventy-five years, more or less, another person is going to be living in that house into which we have poured our heart and soul. Someone else will be operating that successful business we have worked for years to build, reaping the fruits of our labor. Many years ago The Psalmist accurately wrote these words: “For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others. Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.” (Psalms 49:10-12)
Is there an appointed time for each person to die? We read these words in the book of Ecclesiastes: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2) This indicates that there is an appointed time. But, many that we read about in the scriptures were struck down before their appointed time. Some did live until, what appeared to be, their appointed time, while others like Hezekiah and Lazarus had their time extended.
We also see from the scriptures that there are those who appear to die accidental deaths. Jesus seems to confirm this thought in the book of Luke where he warns us to be prepared, because an accident could happen to us. First, he perceives what the people are thinking; that some who recently died, died because of their sins. “There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:1-4)
From the above scriptures, and others, it appears evident that there is an appointed time for each of us to die, but that time can be decreased or extended by circumstances and by God. And, even if there is an appointed time to die, the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that, as a rule, we are not given the ability to know that time. “For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.” (Ecclesiastes 9:12) We discover there are exceptions to this fact. Two of them being Moses and his brother, Aaron, who were both informed in advance of their deaths.
Whatever we conclude concerning an appointed time, one valuable fact a believer can hold dear to their heart are the words of this verse: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalms 116:15)
We have all questioned why. We are troubled sometimes when we see a good person die young while there appear to be evil people that go on living. That fact is confirmed in the book of Ecclesiastes. “All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.” (Ecclesiastes 7:15) We discover an answer to the question, “Why sometimes does the good die young?” in the Old Testament book of Isaiah where it states: “The Righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.” The New International Version Bible may make these verses clearer to understand, “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” (Isaiah 57:1-2) These words give us a solid answer as to why a young man, woman, child, or perhaps a baby, including a miscarried baby, may have died. They also give us an answer to the question why good people, ones who are making a difference, sometimes die.
There are those of us who attempt to be the judge after a death occurs, concluding that a person wasn’t “saved” or they weren’t “baptized” or perhaps they were “living a sinful life,” losing sight of the fact that God is the judge. There is no way we can know what is in a person’s heart.
In these sobering words of Jesus while dealing with the centurion, we find verification that, when all is said and done, there may be some surprises in the end. “And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:5-12)
What does he mean? We can determine from Jesus’ words that circumstances may not always be as they appear. God knows the heart of each person. This is affirmed by the words he spoke to Solomon so many years ago. “For the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts.” (I Chronicles 28:9) We don’t know how much time a person may be given before they die. Or, had they lived, where the future would have led them? We can know that God is more concerned and fairer than any man, and in the eons of time we will say, “Thank you, God, that you allowed things to happen exactly as they did.”
There are other scriptures that make us consider that things may not be as they appear and the outcome may be different than we have assumed. One of them is in the book of Mark, concerning the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, who have throughout history been considered the worst of the worst. But, when Jesus sent out his disciples to several cities throughout the land he gave them this instruction. “And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.” (Mark 6:10-11) That tells us that those who reject truth will have more to answer for in the Day of Judgment than Sodom and Gomorrha, reinforcing to us the importance of leaving judgment in God’s hands when a death occurs.
The New Testament book of James describes the span of our years here on this earth as but a vapor. “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, which appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14) According to what is written in the Psalms we are given seventy to eighty years here as humans. “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10)
Because of our short span of time, we are cautioned again in the Psalms that it would be wise to make good use of the time we are given. “LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.” (Psalms 39:4-6) The word, “vain” and “vanity” used here is number 1892 in the Strong’s Hebrew Concordance and could be described as empty or emptiness. Is it possible that we are empty? Could we wasting precious time on meaningless possessions or useless efforts?
We have established from the scriptures that we need to use our time wisely, because no matter who we are or what our position in life we will only live here as a human being an average of seventy to eighty years. A beautiful concept, which we unveiled, is that our death is precious in God’s eyes. This truth helps us to understand death in a new light. Could anything that is precious to God be considered negative or bad?
From Journey to the Long Home by S.L. Honeycutt