Man Expires and Where is He?
In the past, when we hosted youth groups at our home, I would begin our sessions with, “Ok, before we open in prayer, who died?” We would then consider the reality of death all around us. Every week some famous, some infamous, some not so famous, and sometimes someone we knew would be recalled and momentarily mourned. My objective was to keep death in front of our youth group. Am I a death culture groupie? Is that too morbid for young people? What purpose does it serve to talk about death?
Conversations on death are a great entry way to the doctrines of heaven and hell, hence, salvation. Even last things and God’s judgment day are easy discussion segues. Death looms with the remaining sands in the hourglass. It puts pressure on our lives. Most people cope with the pressure of pending death by ignoring it, usually through the levity of distraction. Who wants to live life sober, somber, and solemn? Does death demand we live dour?
Death is one of the Bible’s most voluminous topics. Whole chapters are dedicated to it (Job 14; Eccl 12). The fear of death enslaves much of humanity (Heb 2:15). The problem is the disappearing act of the soul. While a man is united, body and soul, we know he is here or on holiday. When a man dies, he lies prostrate, but where is he (Job 14:10)? His body returns to the dust from which it came (Gen 3:19), and his soul returns to God who gave it (Eccl 12:7). There is much separation in death.
Most of humanity hurtles toward death with great reluctance, but Christianity has a very different view of death. Let us learn some things pertaining to our mortality.
First, the soul is dead when we are conceived alive in the body. It sounds paradoxical to be born alive, yet dead. All people are conceived in sin (Ps 51:5), and this means every soul is spiritually dead to God (1 Cor 2:14), being dead in sin (Eph 2:1). Our bodies begin to die sooner or later. Some people live for as many as seventy years, eighty or more if they are strong (Ps 90:10). One’s dead soul lives on until a dead body marks the end of a person’s life. It is appointed once for a man to die, and then comes God’s judgment (Heb 9:27). Without God’s mercy (Rom 9:15), people die and are judged with perfect justice. Eternal punishment is right (Mt 25:46; Jude 7).
Second, a certain number of days have been appointed by God for us, and our comings and goings are constrained by Him (Job 14:5; Acts 17:26). Even the wicked have their day of evil in His providence (Prv 16:4). Because the days are evil, God’s people are encouraged to redeem the time (Eph 5:16). There is a day appointed for one’s birth and for one’s death, and for the Christian, our days in between should be lived in service to the Lord. There is a day when no man shall work (Jn 9:4).
Third, death does not care how we have lived. Vanity and futility are man’s appointed works for those vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Rom 9:22). Some labor as if the world depended on them. Others frolic in mirth and levity. Some natter from cradle to grave. All of it is meaningless from death’s perspective.
God has not hidden the cursed nature of this life, for it is revealed in Ecclesiastes. Impending death, for the aged, premiates days, if not years of no pleasure in life (Eccl 12:1). Simply put, death renders life fleeting, frustrating, and empty. Knowledge of this truth makes some people very depressed, but it liberates others from having to strive with their neighbor in the world of competition (Eccl 4:4). No matter how we opt to live, we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10).
Fourth, Christ’s death has greatly altered our death. For those who have been baptized into the death of Jesus Christ (Rom 6:3), a significant change has occurred, is occurring, and will occur. The dead soul in the Christian has been made alive (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13). The resurrection life of Christ has come with the Spirit of Christ to give life to the souls of God’s elect (Jn 6:63; 2 Cor 3:6; Eph 1:4–5). Being born again of God (Jn 3:1–8; 1 Pet 1:3), the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9, 11), leads the redeemed people of the Lord in a new life of obedient faith in Christ (Gal 2:20). The Christian soul has received eternal life, and it will never die (Jn 11:26).
The death of the body for the Christian is simply a disrobing of a worn-out tent (2 Cor 4:16; 5:1, 6). We live in a body of death, fighting sickness and disease, but there is hope for the body. Just as Jesus Christ was bodily raised from the dead (Mt 28:6) and retains His glorified body for eternity (Rev 1:12–16), so we will be like Him in the resurrection of the body from the dead (Rom 6:5). This present body of death is perishable, but the resurrection body will be imperishable (1 Cor 15:42). Paul argued that God’s predestined elect will all be glorified (Rom 8:30), that is, Christians shall all have a glorified, imperishable, eternal body.
Fifth, living and dying in a godly manner. The reprobate muse, “Let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die (Is 22:13; 1 Cor 15:32).” Antinomian licentiousness is the way of the practical atheist. Indulging in every reckless behavior, the ungodly often experience shorter lives, and die without hope (Job 27:8). Living like hell on earth warrants a swift transfer to one’s permanent state of hell (Ps 89:45). Until the day of their demise, they are simply storing up wrath for the day of wrath (Rom 2:5).
God-fearing Christians should consider what they know of the wrath of God being directed against all ungodliness (Rom 1:18). Fearing God and keeping His commandments is the wise living plan for Christians (Eccl 12:13). Humility manifests in the one who truly understands the substitutionary atoning sacrifice of our Savior (Gal 1:4; 3:13). The wrath of God we deserve was redirected to Him who died in our place on the Cross (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10).
The desire to live godly in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:12) is from the indwelling Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17). Godliness is profitable for all things in this life and in the world to come (1 Tim 4:8). Instead of storing up wrath, we are storing up treasure in heaven, by carrying the treasure of Christ in our earthen vessels and sharing the unfathomable riches of Christ with others. God rescues the godly from temptation (2 Pet 2:9), and He instructs us to live godly in Christ Jesus (Titus 2:2).
Finally, for Christians, death has been defeated (Hos 13:14; 1 Cor 15:55). Death is the last enemy to be abolished (1 Cor 15:26). Death, as noted, separates us from life, and loved ones from each other. It separates our body and soul, but it can no longer separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:38–39). Christians have our Lord’s encouragement, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Rev 2:10).”
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory over our last enemy (1 Cor 15:57; 2 Cor 2:14). We do not mourn as those who are without hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:12; 1 Thess 4:13). Life in this body and in this world is fleeting (Jas 4:14), but our life in Christ is eternal.
Labors in this world and for this world have been judged (Is 64:6); but labors as unto the Lord and for His kingdom have eternal rewards (Lk 6:35; 1 Cor 3:8; Heb 11:26). Our labors in Christ are not in vain (Is 65:23; 1 Cor 15:10). Therefore, let us be wise to invest our time and treasure in the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col 1:13), for the day of accounting is soon upon us (1 Thess 4:13–5:11), when we will enter the joy of the Lord to receive our return on investment and the inheritance reserved for us in heaven (1 Pet 1:4). As for death, it will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:14–15).
In conclusion, we have observed how man lies prostrate, having expired. We have asked, “Where is he?” There is another question we must ask, “Where will you be when you expire?” Death has reserved its place in the lake of fire, and it has reserved a place for you. Only the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can defeat death in you. He is victorious, but has He won your trust? May God grant you this grace, and may you be where He is on your expiration date.
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 3, 2021