Our Latter End
One of the tragedies of our modern day is that having rejected the real explanation for man’s origin people make light of their own impending demise. We do not like to dwell upon death in our thoughts or our conversations. Churches may be full at funerals but few mourners have serious thoughts at such solemn times. Death has become a ‘taboo’ subject – and the devil is delighted. Moses had to say regarding the ungodly of his own day: “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” (Deut.32:29).
It is often overlooked that the Bible teaches us not only the right way to live but also the right way to die. It is the only place where we will discover the truth about death. There are two great things we need to know about this “last enemy” (1Cor.15:26).
Firstly death must be seen as a departure. Some say that death is the absolute end; others say that we will come back in another life; many say that we simply cannot know. However when Paul was aware that his life was drawing to a close he said, “the time of my departure is at hand” (2Tim.4:6). He viewed his approaching death as like a ship loosing from its moorings or a tent being taken down. He would be moving on and going elsewhere.
Death therefore is not an extinction of our being but a translation. The soul is separated from the body, leaving this world and entering the next. After death a man’s mortal remains go into a grave but his soul has already gone into eternity. “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecc.12:7).
Secondly death will bring us instantly to our destination. At death the sentence comes forth from God: either admission to heaven or banishment to hell. Some believe that after they die they will spend a period in purgatory, supposedly a place of fire which refines the soul; others imagine that they will enter into an unconscious state. However Jesus spoke of two places only for the departed, arrived at immediately upon death by souls that are fully conscious. Lazarus died “and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom”: the rich man died “and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:22,23). These are both final destinations: it is either “everlasting punishment” or “life eternal” (Matt.25:46).
When faced with these two alternatives it is of course natural for us to prefer heaven to hell. But what idea of heaven do we have? Many think of it as a continuation of earthly delights, free from every harmful consequence. They know nothing of the real heaven! Heaven is a holy place where Jesus Christ is all the glory, for “the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev.20:23). Paul desired “to depart, and to be with Christ” (Phil.1:23). As a sinner he had trusted in Jesus as his own Lord and Saviour and been forgiven; now he wanted to be with Him. For every believer death means to be “absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2Cor.5:8). Can you say that this is your great desire?