Death No More

“Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation‬ ‭20:14-15‬ ‭NLT

The lake of fire is filling up. We already have the devil, the beast and the false prophet sent there. Now we find out that death and the grave have been thrown in there as well. How do we picture death? A man wearing a monk’s habit with a hood covering his head, and carrying an old fashioned scythe? You know, the “Grim Reaper” that accompanies jokes about men catching a cold? But however we imagine the concept, or state, we call “death”, it is far more serious and significant than that. And the fact that “death” was to be no more restores God’s original order back to His creation.

When mankind was created, his sinless state meant that he would have the opportunity to live forever. In Genesis 2:9b we read, ” …. In the middle of the garden he [God] placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” And in Genesis 3:22 we read, “Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!”” The sin Adam and Eve committed resulted in them being cut off from the fruit of the tree that would provide eternal life. The result of that sin was mankind’s eventual physical death. So death was spawned in Eden through what has become to be known as the fall of man. And now death was being eliminated and consigned to the fiery lake. 

Now that death was, well, dead, there was no more use for the grave. Obvious really. No dead bodies, so no need for graves. So the entity John saw, the grave,  ended up in the fiery lake as well. So in our minds we have perhaps conjured up our own images of the Grim Reaper and a gravestone flying through the air and disappearing below the surface of the lake full of burning sulphur. 

It is a strange concept for us pilgrims that one day we will be resurrected and will live forever. In God’s company as He originally wanted. But some people in society cannot wait until they die. They find life so hard that they just have had enough. Sadly, some accelerate the process and end their own lives unnaturally. And we also have the frequent debate promoting euthanasia for those suffering from incurable or debilitating diseases. In the forefront of the news just now is the sad story of a poor girl in her early teens who committed suicide, her mental health challenges exacerbated by negative social media posts. The debate around the length and quality of our lives seems constant. But Jesus came to give us life, both here in this physical realm, and forever in the age to come. In John 10:10 we read, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My [Jesus] purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” Regardless of our circumstances, we can enjoy a wonderful life with Jesus.

So one day there will be no death. All those who have chosen to live God’s way, in a loving relationship with Him, will transition from this life to eternal life in Heaven. In a conversation with Martha, the sister of Lazarus, Jesus said to her, “ … I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” Jesus came to this life, walking the highways and byways of the Palestinian countryside telling people about God’s wonderful Kingdom. He healed the sick. He raised the dead. To Jesus, death was no obstacle. Paul wrote to his followers some comforting words about death. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:53-55, “For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”” Paul ends this section with these words, “But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That was why Jesus came. And through Him we really do have the victory that will enable us to once again enjoy eating from the Tree of Life.

Dear Heavenly Father. Once again we fall to our knees in worship. You are the living God, the true Life. How wonderful You are. Amen.


“Seventy years are given to us! 
     Some even live to eighty. 
But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; 
     soon they disappear, and we fly away.”
Psalms‬ ‭90:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Psalm 90 is the first Psalm of Book Four within the Book of Psalms, and this time it is Moses’s pen that records another lyrical expression of God. At apparent odds with today’s verse, Moses didn’t start God’s work until he was 80 years old. But what a life of service! Moses lived until he was 120, but how long will we live? “Three score years and ten” is often quoted in relation to our expectation of lifespan, but we don’t really know. None of us know the day when we will leave life on this earth and cross the Great Divide. The young seem to believe that they will live forever. Certainly many seem to act like it. But those who are older become more measured in their approach to life, particularly when they reach the “twilight zone”. Some terminally ill people want to legislate control over when they leave this life, but the sanctity of life prevails, at least for now. But whatever we feel about those last moments of our lives, worrying won’t be helpful. Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 6:27,  “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” I have read somewhere that over 90% of deaths occur when the person is asleep, which many will find reassuring. Certainly that was the case for both my parents.

So what is the impact on our daily lives of our lack of knowledge of when we will die? How should we respond? Most people don’t want to talk about it. They become fearful and depressed. Others park the question, preferring to live each day as it comes. Still others become frustrated because they know they have to age and leave this life one day and they regret that death is one aspect of their life that they have no control over. Some get paranoid when they observe the signs of ageing staring back at them from the mirror, reaching for magic potions to delay the inevitable. Cosmetic companies advertise the extraordinary powers of their products in halting the ageing process. And one topic of scientific research is sure to get the attention of many readers – how our natural lives can be extended. There are even a few wealthy people who go to extraordinary lengths to preserve themselves after death in the hope that one day in the future there will be technology that can resurrect them from a deeply frozen state.

But there is one sure-fire way of ensuring we can live forever. For eternity. Most people, particularly those who have rejected God, think that life ends when they die. But those who believe in, and follow, God, are convinced that there is a life beyond the grave of far more importance than the life we experience now. In faith, such people, Christians, believe that Jesus is preparing a place for them, so that they can live with Him forever. We can read what He said in John 14. 

I have heard the often-quoted verse, John 3:16, used at funerals to assure the relatives and the friends of their departed loved one that he or she is now in Heaven, along with their mum and dad, and Auntie Mary thrown in for good measure. That may or not be true, but such soliloquies often ignore the following verse, verse 17, where Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” There is only one way to join God in Heaven, and that is through Jesus. In John 11, Jesus said to Martha, the sister of Lazarus,  ”… I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die ….” It’s all about the word “Believe”. It implies not just an acknowledgement that Jesus is real. That God exists. Even the devil believes that! It implies aligning our lives during the time we have in this life to how it will be in the next. Dealing with our sins. Following God’s teachings. Building up a relationship with Him. Otherwise we will be unable to enter into God’s presence – how could we if we don’t know Him?

So today, let us stop worrying about how much time we have left for us in this life. Instead, let us ensure our future in the life to come.

Mud and Clay

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalms‬ ‭40:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Imagine the scene. You have wandered over some fields and come to a bank, down which you accidentally slip. You find yourself stuck in a bog, mud up to your knees and you are starting to sink further. Your cries for help are unheeded because of the remoteness of the place and very quickly the enormity of your predicament floods over you leaving an acute feeling of fear and despair. So you cry out to God for help, waiting with patience for Him to answer, full of assurance that He will do just that. And then, out of nowhere, a rope falls in front of you. You grab it and find a stranger at the other end who manages to pull you out, back up the bank, to a place of firm ground. God hears your cries and prayers for help and sends someone to rescue you.

Imagine the scene. After several days of heavy rain, the local river has burst its banks and your house is being flooded. The ground floor is now under water but you have managed to get onto the roof. You look anxiously around at the water-filled devastation, watching trees, rubbish, even cars, float past. Despair and fear increase. There is no-one to help. But God hears your prayers and sends a rescue helicopter, that quickly lifts you to a place of safety where you can wait for the flood waters to recede.

Imagine the scene. You realise that you are heading for a lost eternity because of your many sins. You are filled with fear and despair. Your situation appears to be hopeless because you realise you can’t save yourself. You cry out to God for help. But God has a plan. He loves you so much that He sends His Son, Jesus, to rescue you. But it’s a costly exercise – to rescue you Jesus has to become a sacrifice for your sins. There is no other way. And through His death on a cross, Jesus takes upon Himself all your sins, leaving you without guilt and shame, in right standing before God and able to say with confidence that your future with God in Heaven is secure. You have found a place of security. Solid ground on which to stand. Paul wrote in his Roman epistle, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” (‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Three scenarios. Two of physical danger, one of spiritual danger. But all three a potential “pit of despair”. But after rescue what do you feel? Elation? Relief? Most probably an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to God for His rescue. A song you have never sung before comes from deep within you, as you sing grateful praises to God. A song that tells of God’s amazing works. A song that brings others into a trusting relationship with God too.

Far-fetched scenarios that don’t apply in real life today? God may, or may not, rescue us from all occasions of physical danger. It wouldn’t be danger if He always did. But we can have an assurance that God will always rescue a repentant sinner from spending eternity in that place Jesus called hell. How do I know? The Son of God, Jesus, told me. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” ‭‭John‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬.

The Land of the Living

“Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Psalms‬ ‭27:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In spite of all his trials and attacks from people who were out to get him, David, the psalmist, continued to have confidence in the Lord, his God. You see, he had made the connection between life here on planet earth, and his life secured and assured for him with God Himself. And more, David had confidence in his expectation that the Lord’s goodness would extend from the Heavenly realm into his earthly bubble. All he had to do was wait patiently, something that he apparently needed courage to do.

Once again I am in a place of intersection between the the land of the living and the land of the dead. My aunt, the sole remaining member of my mother’s generation, passed over “the great divide” a few days ago. Her spirit has now taken up residence somewhere else, where her options for eternity are limited. Her spirit is dependent now on the Lord’s mercy and decisions she made “in the land of the living”. Her options for experiencing the “Lord’s goodness” in this life have ceased. She had heard the Gospel many times during her long life, but did she know Jesus?

So what lessons can I learn from these final two verses in Psalm 27? For me, I see the necessity of keeping close to God, being in His presence, making right choices, being confident that He loves me and wants to bless me “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:3). My pilgrimage through “the land of the living” involves looking out expectantly for the “Lord’s goodness” to me with patience and courage. Fending off all the enemy’s attacks in the knowledge that I don’t have to listen to his lifeless message from the land of the dead. Father God I am so grateful for Your presence in “the land of the living”, enabling You to be accessible to all.