Good News: We're All Going to Die
We are all going to die.
I know. That’s just the word of encouragement you were hoping to wake up to this morning. Death is an inevitable fact of life, but that doesn’t make it any less depressing. Death means an end to all of our work here on earth. It means leaving behind everything we’ve accumulated and separation from our human relationships. It represents an end to so much we love and value.
We worry about our futility in the face of death, but here’s the thing, nothing we do is going to change that reality. None of us, by our power, will overcome death. We cannot change the fact that we’re going to die, but we can change how we deal with that fact.
As the book of Ecclesiastes closes, The Preacher wrestles with the inevitability of death. In verses 1–8, he deals with the reality of his decaying health and the fear and frailty that grip him as his end nears. It leads him to cry, for the last time in the book, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.”
It’s a depressing conclusion to a difficult message, but standing on the edge, gazing into the eternal abyss, the Preacher is struck by a wave of revelation. At the end, he finally discerns the meaning and movement behind it all and how we might engage with that meaning and movement.
The final chapter of Ecclesiastes, before it embarks on a depressing view of every human life, begins by saying, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth.” That single statement is the beginning of the wisdom the Preacher reaches at the end of his life. Gazing off into the infinite unknown, he perceives the wisdom of living for that moment.
So often, the things that are most real to us are the things we must leave behind. We, trying to accumulate perishable goods, hope their meaning will somehow extend beyond their expiration date. They won’t. But, there is an imperishable life offered to us.
We find imperishable life in the “words of the wise…given by [the] one Shepherd.” When we “fear God and keep his commandments,” as the Preacher says, we begin to live in a new world, a new Kingdom. We begin to live lives where we enjoy and experience the things that will last.
Of course, there’s a problem with that statement. If you’re theologically minded, perhaps you picked it out. Even our good deeds in this life have an expiration date. I can’t earn my way into an eternal relationship with God, and neither can you. Death will defeat even my good. We need someone to defeat death for us, and someone did.
This is where Jesus becomes profoundly good news. Romans 5:14 says, “Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” Death doesn’t defeat us in the end because that is the cruel fate God made for us. Death defeats us in the end because we live in a world corrupted by sin.
But even in that corruption, there is hope. The Bible calls Adam a type of the one to come. In the far-flung consequences of his sin, we find hope in the far-reaching effects of Jesus’ death. The passage continues,
“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.”
In other words, because Jesus died, He paid the penalty of death we owed. And now, grace abounds to many. This grace means that just as death reigned through Adam, so now life reigns through Jesus. It’s true, all of us will still face physical death, but if we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, if we put our faith and trust in Him, if we choose to follow Him as our Lord, there is hope beyond the grave. Death is no longer a period, stopping the sentence of our lives. It becomes a comma, giving way to an eternally excellent clause.
Death robs us of purpose, but purpose is restored in the life given us in Christ.
Remember Jesus. Follow Jesus. Love Jesus. Stand firm with Jesus. Let us be, experience, demonstrate and proclaim the hope of that eternal Kingdom. There is a lot of good in this life, but there is only one kingdom that will last.