By Dr. Ronnie Wolfe – September 9, 2015
I really don’t know what death is, but I know it’s there–somewhere. Scripture says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Scripture says that “love is the fulfilling of the law.” Scripture speaks about the “hope that is in you.” But Scripture never says what death is. Scripture tells us why death is and where death leads, but it does not tell us what death is.
The Scriptures, however, do tell us that the end of all temporary things is death, that the wages of sin is death, that to be carnally minded is death, and that death is an enemy; but they never really define death. I suppose if we delved deeply enough into the nuances of Scripture that one could argue that there is ultimately a definition of death, but I am sure that could be debated ad infinitum.
Death is a calm, silent type. I shall portray death as a person–or personify death. He is like a shadow (Psalm 23). He haunts me, and I am fine until he reminds me of his presence very near to me. I don’t know just where he is, but I know he cannot be far away. He is as near as a phone call, a front-door visit, or a sit-down with a friend. He seemingly comes when he wants and warns no man.
His memory is cruel. We see death only in the stone-cold faces of those who have been visited by him. As loved ones stand silent and crushed in emotion beside the beautiful bier, they cannot help being reminded of his black heart and his anxious torture. Tears drop down from spectators as some of them kiss the forehead and gently touch the hand and even talk as though the deceased may be able to hear. They make promises to a corpse–what silliness death brings to our minds to act in such a way!
Does death hurt? It seems it may, as we notice the beautifully soft cloth on which the cadaver lies. Each touch is tender and hesitant; each kiss is soft and gentle. Hair is stroked in fond memory of a passed life, which this demon, death, has ended with his cruelty.
Youngsters fear him not. Their minds are solidly set upon their futures and their fortunes. Their minds are set upon a life that must last forever and cannot easily be snuffed out. But the train comes rushing along to suddenly crush a vehicle and take a life unsuspecting. Often have I preached the funeral of a young child upon which this curse has come, and death seems to have no care as to the age or the condition of his victim. The reasons for death’s temporary victory is questioned, but it makes no difference; he is there, and he pounces his prey; and he wins the battle under subjection to the Holy One.
As I approach old age (no one knows just when that comes), I am mindful of death more often. I speak of him more plainly and reveal to my grandchildren the brief extent of their grandfather’s life, though, I am sure, they cannot fathom the depth of that truth. Appalled at my mentioning it, they offer me twenty or thirty more years to enjoy this present life. They want to be sure, but I cannot be sure.
Death is watching me closely lest any craft of humanity, any mindful divergence from God’s law, any crush of temptation, or any beauty of sin should capture me and offer my life to death himself. He gladly would oblige. Now, my sin is ever before me and before my God; and God knows the way that I take, so I am grateful to God that He watches death as death watches me.
One day death will come to me, and in quiet collusion I shall acquiesce to his demands. God will be honored in it. Then, as death gives way to victory, I shall see his doom, for 1 Cor. 15:26 says, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
1 Cor. 15:55-57 “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now, death, where are you, hiding behind some dark corner? sitting on a park bench nearby? following me as a shadow, stuck to me in strong bond? What is your thought? What is your plan? No matter, for it is God which dispenses the way of his children, and you, oh death, cannot persuade Him my life unless he wills it.
And when I die, it will be precious in His sight, though you mean it for evil. One day I shall be past death and graduate temporariness into God’s great tomorrow, a world filled with blessedness with no pain, no sorrow, and no death. No, death will be gone, and I will no longer think of his clinging presence, his accusing spirit, or his threatening air. 2 Cor. 2:14 “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.”