Death is unavoidable. We all know that in 100 or so years, everyone we know will be dead. Death is the end of life, the eternal closure to our fleeting years on this planet. The progress of medicine and cultural shift towards entertainment and self gratification have sheltered – or distracted – us from this reality, and we typically only contemplate death and eternity when a loved one dies but we all know death is our destiny.
“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”
– Heb 9.27-28
Scripture is unashamed about that fact that all mankind will die, and that by appointment of God. After death we will all be judged according to the life we lived while on the Earth. It has been a popular evangelism tool to ask the question, “If you were to die today and God were to ask you why He should let you into Heaven, what would you say?” This question reveals a person’s understanding of the Gospel: that there is nothing we can do to earn or merit our entrance into Heaven because God’s standard is perfection and we have all sinned – but Jesus died in our place and paid our debt of punishment so that we can be forgiven.
This question, however, reveals much about our personal faith and worldview. If we approach a stranger or loved one with this question the likelihood is that we are considering salvation our escape from Hell, and that alone. Jesus is for our eternity, He is for after we finish our life here on Earth. Yes, it addresses our greatest need – but only in a superficial way – essentially saying, “one day we are going to die, then what?”
Jesus did not come to the world to take care of what happens after death, only. Jesus came to the world to take care of what happens before death. We cannot get a passport to Heaven, lock it in the drawer and count on it to gain us entrance into Heaven when we die – all the while continuing in life just as we did before. Jesus came to give us new life which begins at the New Birth, our Spiritual birth, and never ends. Our physical birth ends in our physical death, but our Spiritual life never ends. You can read more about that here.
The New Birth required for salvation is when we are born Spiritually: given Spiritual life (John 3). This is the life that will continue beyond our death and will enter into eternity with Christ. This life is birthed by the gift of faith by grace and results in our deep and unfaltering love for God and Jesus Christ (Eph 2.8-9). God is love. Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. If we do not love God and one another, we do not know God (1 John 4.7-8). Loving Jesus and God means “abiding” in Him – or remaining in Him (John 15.4-7). This means that our love for Jesus draws us continually to prayer (talking with Him), reading Scripture (to learn from Him and understand what He expects from us) and drawing strength from Him (relying on the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us throughout the day).
In short, salvation necessarily results in our love for God. Everything that we do, therefore, should be in response to that love for God. Thus we have commandments like:
“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
– Col 3.17
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
– 1 Cor 10.31
– Col 3.23-24
Scripture is indeed full of commandments. If defines and condemns sin, it outlines how we should love, respect and care for the Church and for the world, it even teaches us how to worship God. And while we take great care and make every effort to obey those commandments, it is not out of duty but out of love for God because of the love He has for us and the salvation He has given us through our new life.
“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
– Luke 7.47
And conversely, he who is forgiven much loves much. Therefore, those who love Jesus will talk about Jesus continually. They will recount the story of how He saved them, how He changed them, how He has given them Spiritual life. They will talk about how much the love Him and what He is doing in their lives. Their evangelism will not be, “Are you prepared to meet Jesus when you die” but rather, “May I introduce you to Jesus now?” If Jesus is not transforming our lives now, we should seriously step back and examine our so called salvation – and see if we truly have Spiritual life.
I personally am more concerned about meeting Jesus and giving an account for my obedience to His commands. He clearly taught us to go into all the world and make disciples of every nation (Matt 28.18-20). He clearly taught us to love our neighbor in the same way that we love ourselves (Matt 22.39). He clearly taught us to bear much fruit – growing in Spiritual maturity and teaching others to do the same (John 15.8). We are promised that we have everything that we need for life and godliness in the Scriptures alone (2 Peter 1.3). Can you imagine meeting Jesus face to face and admitting that you barely read or knew the Scriptures – His story and instructions for us? Can you imagine meeting Him face to face and explaining why you did not go? Why you did not make disciples? Why you never met your neighbors, never gave to the Church or met other people’s needs? Why you wasted all of your money on a house, car, entertainment and retirement?
Everything in the Earth is God’s (Ps 24.1). We have been granted use of the Earth, the gifts and the finances that He deems fit. We are stewards of His possessions. Thus Paul says,
“For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
– 1 Cor 4.7
Jesus came to give us new life, which starts while we are alive physically. He commanded us to be a part of Him bringing new life to others by going into all the world. He is not primarily concerned about what happens after we die – even though we all will die. He is primarily concerned about our love for Him that drives us to obedience of Him. In this same vein John Piper said,
“The question, brothers, is not whether we will die, but whether we will die in a way that bears much fruit.”
How will you die?