The Last Enemy - Part 2
The Last enemy
Living On the Edge
Instead of being paralyzed and bullied by the thought of death, faithful Christians can approach death with optimism and confidence (2 Corinthians 5:1; Philippians 1:21-23). In turn, we can also take death and use it as a powerful incentive for holy living (1 Peter 1:17; Hebrews 9:27). Instead of the devil beating us with the concept of death, we can use it to beat him.
"For whoever is joined with the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. Indeed their love, their hate, and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun. Go then, eat your bread in happiness, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to your under the sun; for this is your reward in life, and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or wisdom in Sheol where you are going" (Ecclesiastes 9:4-10).
- We tend to envy the wrong people. If you are alive, then you have a more valuable possession than the wealthiest unbeliever who has just died. You have time, the time to change, repent, and make sure that you are right with God. What is the price tag on an extra ten years of "time" to become the person that God intended you to be? "Time" to be the husband or wife that you always should have been? "Time" to be the dedicated Christian you should have been? Or "time" to be the virtuous and holy person you should have been?
- Death completely cuts a person off from this earthly life, "they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun" (9:6). At death all earthly knowledge (current events), rewards and memory are forfeited. In addition, they no longer share in the knowledge, love, hatred, or zeal of this world.
- In view of such a future awaiting all of us (Hebrews 9:27), which could come upon any one of us at any time, there is a certain way that God’s people should respond. Far from being depressed or discouraged, God exhorts us to "Go then", which is a summons to be up and going and is directed against the tendency to brood and to ponder over problems. First, enjoy the simple and wholesome pleasures of this life. Sadly, people seem so worried about their health that they can’t even enjoy a good meal (1 Timothy 4:1-4).Secondly, far from acting like the Amish or some ascetic group, God exhorts us to enjoy the nice things of this life, including clean and comfortable clothing. "White garments" are symbols of purity, festivity, and a happy mood. At this time one of the comforts of life was perfumed oil, which made the skin sweet-smelling and soft. For the righteous person, God says, "Enjoy life, for you are right in My sight". And brethren, that is about the only thing we can really control in this life, that is whether or not we are a Christian.
This Isn’t a Dress Rehearsal
Too many people live their lives as if this was a dress rehearsal for another earthly life to come. People put off spending time with their mates, children, friends, thinking that they will do it at some later date. Ten or twenty years from now it may be too late for you to simply jump into the lives of your children and others and say, "I now have the time to be a parent", "I’m now ready to work on our marriage", or "I want to have friends now".
Love Your Spouse
When God uses the phrase,"all the days", He doesn’t feel that love in marriage has to die over time, In fact, in view of the fact that the marriage relationship is found only in this life (Matthew 22:30), the word "fleeting" is very appropriate here. At the most, how many anniversaries are you going to have? If you have been already married for 10 or 20 years how many do you have left? The same thing could be said of time with friends, and our children. How many summers do we have left? How many spring vacations? Thanksgivings and so on? "Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the extent of my days, let me know how transient I am" (Psalm 39:4), "Surely every man is a mere breath" (39:11).
Seize The Day
"Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10). There is work to be done! Jesus had the same attitude when He said, "We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work" (John 9:4). God expects us to make the most of our earthly lives and righteous people should be seen as people who love God and who have a zest for living. There should be no such thing as a boring, lazy, apathetic, or unmotivated Christian. The end of this verse reminds us that we cannot redeem lost opportunities once we are dead. Death will stop all earthly plans, goals, and projects. In addition, 9:11-12 reminds us that we cannot anticipate the future nor pinpoint the time of our death. There is no guarantee of tomorrow, even with the best well-laid plans.
The Death of the Righteous
"Let me die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his!" (Numbers 23:10).
- "He still speaks" (Hebrews 11:4): Live the type of life before your friends and family that will still exhort, encourage, and admonish once you are gone. You can also "still speak" by writing or recording a message (cassette or videotape) for each one of your children. A message in which you encourage them to serve God, praise them for their accomplishments, and express your desire to see them in heaven. In the Old Testament, various individuals prior to death would call in their children and give them final exhortations or a final blessing (Genesis 27:1ff; Genesis 48). Before he died Moses gave final instructions and exhortation to Joshua(Deuteronomy 31:23), Paul did the same thing for Timothy (2 Timothy 3:14-4:5).
- "Meaningful Possessions": Often a person’s property is disposed after their death. But how much more meaningful, if you have advance notice that your days are numbered to give certain valued items to your children, along with a history of that item and its meaning to you. Of course, the most valuable possession that we have is the truth. Make sure that you entrust it to the next generation (2 Timothy 2:2).
- "Plan Your Own Funeral": Many people die without making any preparations for what they want done or said when they die. Let your death be one more way of glorifying God (Philippians 1:20). We can honor God with a funeral in which God is praised, Jesus is magnified, and Christianity is portrayed as having the answers for life and death. Many funerals are almost last minute affairs, with hurried preparation. How much better to have everything pre-planned with specific songs, specific speakers, subject matter, prayers, and so on.
- "Be Creative": Many books on death and dying point out that when it comes to dealing with the funeral home, negotiating the final cost is appropriate. The mark-up on caskets is often 300 percent and even up to 500 percent or more. Various people prefer to buy their own caskets, or actually make them themselves. There are books out on the market which help you understand what your rights are when it comes to being buried: Caring for Your Own Dead, by Lisa Carlson, and Dealing Creatively with Death: A Manual of Death Education and Simple Burial by Ernest and Jenifer Morgan. In addition, be realistic. Even embalmed bodies start to decay within a week. Embalming is typically practiced in North America and is solely for the purpose of short-term preservation of the body. Grave liners are required by most cemeteries. Their only purpose is to prevent settling, over time of the ground above the grave as the body decomposes and the casket deteriorates. Even the most expensive casket will deteriorate. A good resource book that I found in this topic was, The Funeral Arrangement Choice Guide, by D. Allen Polen, Jr.
- "Involve God’s Family": One writer noted, "Today one of the most significant issues facing all Christians is to understand the nature of the Church. Many forces press the Church into institutional molds. Many advocate a spiritual leadership which is modeled on the latest management theories" (Death and The Caring Community, Larry Richards/Paul Johnson M.D., p. 8). The above writers point out that the Church is revealed in Scripture as a family (1 Timothy 3:15; Galatians 3:26-27; Hebrews 2:11; Galatians 6:10), and as a result we are to care for each other: "Through love serve one another" (Galatians 5:13); "Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2); "Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:18); "Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you are doing" (5:11); "Fervently love one another from the heart" (1 Peter 1:22). The above authors noted, "The changes in lifespan and causes of death in our society have led to other changes, which also deepen the need for support from a caring community (the local congregation). Many writers have pointed out that ‘dying is largely done for us by the old, tucked away, out of sight’ and that ‘people don’t die at home, as they used to’ (p. 11). That is death is very unfamiliar to many people in our society. Death is increasingly reserved for the old; witnessing death is not a normal or common experience for the majority in our under 40 society. Added to this, Roy and Jane Nichols describe ours as a society that is ‘defiant about death; which reveres youth so highly; which conceals the aged and ill in institutions’. At death Christians are given the chance to demonstrate to society how one can exit this life, not with hype or shallow platitudes, but with a strong foundation of faith and hope. Hence, when we or a loved one is dying, the Church needs to be allowed to help. It is so tempting to think that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but Christians need to be given the chance to serve and use their talents. The above authors also note, "Most people do not know what to say to a person, or how to relate to him. Many people in our society also do not want to face the reality of death. They’ve had no close contact with death, and seem bent on denying its personal possibility. And of course there are the normal pressures on everyone: not enough time, and a desire not to get involved. Finally, all too often people aren’t emotionally stable enough themselves to walk through the experience with someone who suffers from a terminal illness. Dying has never been easy. But our society has stretched out the dying process. Our society has increasingly isolated the terminally ill from the relationships in which they might find support" (p. 15). Hence, the admonition is to allow other Christians to help, be open to visitors as long as possible, and allow your brethren to say goodbye. Remember, contact with the reality of death is healthy for us(Ecclesiastes 7:1-4).
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church Of Christ/(503)644-9017