Death by Decree

In the small village I grew up in, the news of someone’s demise would always leave me terrified, traumatized and even tormented. My childhood nights were a nightmare. Those ghastly dark nights yet to be illuminated by the luxury of electricity didn’t make my nightmares any better. In fact, the darkness added to my childhood fascination with the mystery surrounding death.

I was accustomed to vividly dramatized horror stories around fireplaces by my grandparents about the “walking dead” or the roaming pirates of Port Royal, Jamaica. In the 17th century Port Royal was regarded as the “richest and wickedest city on earth,” my youthful, yet ingenious world was overtaken by a zeal to search for truth about an appointment all of us have in this life—an appointment to die! I yearned for knowledge about what happens after death.

My answers didn’t come until many years later when I came into the Church of God. And even then, it took me a while to get used to the reality that when someone dies he or she falls into a deep sleep, waiting for a resurrection to life. I came to understand that the same day someone dies their thoughts perish that “there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) and that “…a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing,” (Ecclesiastes 9:4-5).

My father passed away in March, last year, my father-in-law three weeks before in February, my brother last November, my aunt last December, and my mother four years ago. During the past year, I lost several family members to the common enemy—death. This meant for me a reluctant re-visitation to my childhood years and my reaction back then to the concept of death.

If I had experienced as many losses during my youthful years, as I had this past year, it would have been far more devastating for me today; but instead, I’m comforted because I now understand the truth about death! However, in the same breath, one can never get used to death during this physical existence; the pain and grief still takes its toll on us. Why?

“…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrews 9:27)

There’s a decree that eventually you and I will one day have to leave this flesh for one of two destinations: eternal life into the Kingdom of the Most High God or the second (final) death in the lake of fire. But death in this life isn’t the end; rather it’s the beginning of something greater to come. A child of God can take solace in the promise that we’ll be given eternal life in the first resurrection.

The day is coming when all those who are in the grave will come to life again. We are told in John 5:29,

“…they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

All those who we have known and died, whether this year or several years ago will live again, but in a new age, under different circumstances. They will either be in the first resurrection, thereby escaping the second death or they will be in a future resurrection when they will have their opportunity to either accept or reject Jesus Christ (Revelations 20:5-6). Should they choose the latter, their fate will be the second death where they will be thrown into the lake of fire, of which no resurrection is promised.

There’s a way to escape this second death. Since we all know that one day we’ll return to the dust from whence we came, be assured that if we repent of our sins and surrender our life to Jesus Christ, one day in the fullness of time, we’ll have the victory over death. The last enemy Jesus will destroy is death (1 Corinthians 15:26) and if we have victory in Christ, undoubtedly we will have victory over death.

Remember the gift of God is eternal life and the opposite of eternal life is eternal death or the second death, as the Bible describes (Romans 6:23). In essence, human beings have a choice and the Almighty God in Deuteronomy 30:19 advises:

“…I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life…”

He gives us choice and on top of that He tells us which is the right choice: choose life! Based on this promise, my childhood nightmares are no more; they are gone and have been replaced by the assurance that Jesus Christ will give us victory over death, including the second death.

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