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Is There Any Hope in Death?

The unnatural ripping of the soul from the body, death, is a painful reality that escapes none of us.

Upon the death of His dear friend Lazarus—though He knew that He would yet raise him from the dead—Jesus Christ wept (John 11:35). He was moved, deeply! Tears streamed down His face as His chest heaved with the painful cries of loss.

We read, in Revelation 21:4, that death is the cause of tears, mourning, crying, and pain!

Is there any hope in death?

It is an enemy, you know. It is an enemy that is greater than any enemy we know on this earth. Death is a greater enemy than rival forces of evil. It is a greater enemy than Satan himself. It is an enemy that we cannot escape, run from, hide from, or outsmart.

The Bible tells us that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, ESV).

We all have an appointment with death and we do not know when that appointment is. When will your appointment arrive?

Is there any hope in death?

The Bible tells us that “through fear of death” the whole world is “subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:15, ESV). Like shackles that bind the condemned prisoner, so too, clamped upon the ankles and clenching the wrists of the human soul, is the crippling fear of death.

Oh yes, we can seek to escape it for a time, can’t we? That’s why we don’t like funerals. We prefer not to think about death. “Let me think about fun, family, future.” We distract ourselves with places to go, people to see, things to buy. But there are moments, such as the passing of a loved one, when we are confronted with that terrifying, fearful reality: death.

Is there any hope in death?

Have you ever wondered why you spend so much of your time, money, energy, and thoughts seeking to escape it? You build safe houses with locks and alarms; you buy cars with steel frames and airbags; you pay thousands of dollars for health insurance as you secure the best doctors at the best hospitals. Why? Isn’t it nothing more than seeking to escape the inevitable? You have an appointment with death, to which, may I remind you, you will not be late. And yet, even now, you do not know when that appointment is—will it be today, tomorrow, next week, several years from now?

Death is a dark enemy. The question is, why? Why is there death, and why is death so fearful, so painful, so unnatural?

There is a reason and God, in His Word, gives it to us. Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:56: “The sting of death is sin.” Sin is the cause of death. The apostle Paul tells us that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

All sinned and thus all die.

It is our fault that death reigns in this world. It is because of the moral corruption of the human heart that death is a reality. This is why death feels so unnatural and painful: we were not made to experience it! It was upon the first act of idolatrous human rebellion against God that death entered the world.

“It is our fault that death reigns in this world. It is because of the moral corruption of the human heart that death is a reality. This is why death feels so unnatural and painful: we were not made to experience it!”

And you think: “But me? Surely not me! I could not be the cause of such anguish!”

Oh my friend, didn’t you hear it? “And so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Not one of us is exempt from the indictment of sin. You have sinned, I have sinned, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

Oh yes, many a person proclaim themselves to be righteous, but God’s Word is clear:

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10–12)

It gets worse. In 1 Corinthians 15:56 we read, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”

We try to appeal to God: “I never knew Your law. I did not intentionally rebel against You, God!”

“Surely, I should not be subject to death for I am, after all, a good person, aren’t I?”

The Bible tells us that the power of sin is the law. How? Because the law of God—written upon every person’s heart and clearly revealed in His Word—stands as a witness against you that you have broken it. None of us can plead ignorance for every single one of us has heard the law of God—whether through the warnings of your conscience that have reverberated in your heart or through the explicit warnings of Scripture itself.

And guess what? Every single one of us has willfully chosen to break it. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”

Why is death such an enemy? Why is death so fearful? Do you remember the words of Hebrews 9:27? “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”

The judgment. Awaiting our exit from this body through the cold, turbulent, pain-filled waters of death is the judgment seat of God. Immediately following your last breath, you will stand before God Almighty to be judged:

For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

On what standard will God judge you? His holy law. My friends, that ought to be a terrifying realization for you: God will judge you based upon His law!

But perhaps you think: “I can keep God’s law. I’ll be approved! Look at all the good I’ve done—I’ve given money to church and charity and I’ve helped the poor; I’ve been a good child to my parents, a good parent to my children. I’m generous; I attend church faithfully every week. I may not be the most religious person you’ve ever met, but I’m not that bad.”

That kind of thinking does nothing more than expose the person as having a deficient understanding of what God’s law requires of them. God’s law is not satisfied by penance; God’s law is not satisfied with a certain level of spiritual devotion to church and charity; God’s law is not satisfied nor fulfilled by praying to saints, confessing sins, performing sacramental duties, abstaining from certain sins or performing certain societal “good deeds.” Oh no, my friends. God’s law requires much, much more: God’s law requires perfection.

Perfection of affection. Perfection of disposition, thought, action, and word. God’s law requires perfection of your entire being—heart, mind, will, and emotions!

“God’s law is not satisfied nor fulfilled by praying to saints, confessing sins, performing sacramental duties, abstaining from certain sins or performing certain societal ‘good deeds.’ Oh no, my friends. God’s law requires much, much more: God’s law requires perfection.”

It was Jesus Himself who said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). God’s law requires nothing short of absolute, utter moral perfection.

Isn’t that why His law begins with:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37–40)

My dear friends, Jesus did not say, “You shall try your best…” He said, “You shall…” Anything less than perfect love toward God and toward your neighbor is a failure to keep the law. “Trying your best” is insufficient law-keeping and such a testimony of attempts is unsatisfactory in the divine courtroom of God’s justice.

The point? God’s law is a law you cannot keep. God’s law is a law that keeps you shackled and bound by the power of death.

Is there any hope in death?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But… (1 Corinthians 15:56,57)

“But?” There’s hope? But what, Paul?

But thanks be to God,… (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Bound by the infinite and impossible demands of God’s law, we are all subjected to the chains of sin and death—doomed for eternity as we are crushed under the insurmountable weight of the law pressing down upon our souls. “But…

Oh, what a glorious word for us to read: “But thanks be to God…”

There is an escape? There is a way out? There is…hope? In what? Listen, my friends; listen to the hope being offered to you this day even in the face of death:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Taking upon Himself a human nature, Jesus Christ left His throne of glory above and entered this fallen, broken, sin-plagued, death-doomed world to live among us, to live with us, to live for us.

Jesus Christ, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant—by taking on humanity: flesh and bones, weakness and frailty.

Jesus Christ, the Word of God, became flesh and dwelt among us.

Why? Why would Jesus Christ enter this broken world to live among us? Listen to Galatians 4:4,5:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Jesus Christ entered this world as a man under the law. However, unlike every human born before Him and after Him, Jesus Christ was not crushed by the weight of law but He upheld it. In perfect obedience to His Father, Jesus Christ lived the life you and I could never live. He accomplished what Adam failed to accomplish; He performed what you have failed to perform—He lived a sinless life:

  • He never lied.
  • He never cheated.
  • He never lusted.
  • He never grew unrighteously angry.
  • He was never impatient, unkind, malicious.
  • He never gossiped nor slandered

My friends, listen to me: Jesus Christ not only never committed sin; He never omitted righteousness. Meaning, not only did He not do what was wrong, He never did not do what was right. He actively obeyed every law…yes, Jesus Christ perfectly loved the Lord His God with all of His heart, soul, and mind and always—at every moment in every day—loved His neighbor perfectly as Himself.

My dear friend, Jesus Christ lived the life you could never live—He was not crushed by the weight of the law’s demands; He upheld those demands in perfect obedience.

But that is not all He did. Having perfectly fulfilled the law’s demands, Jesus Christ walked into the epicenter of human depravity on Mount Calvary and, though He Himself had committed no sin, “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). He went to the cross of Golgotha after having lived a life that we could not live, and He died the death that we deserve to die.

Don’t you see what He has done? Jesus standing in the place of sinners, taking upon Himself their sin. This was a substitution—God in the flesh come to save you from His own divine wrath.

His breath leaving Him, Jesus pronounced the final verdict: “Tetelestai”—“It is finished” (John 19:30). His soul wrenched from His body, the Lord Jesus Christ gave up His spirit unto death.

But unlike every other victim death’s cold hands have grasped, this one would be different. Three days later, on the first day of the week, before the sun had arisen and the world had stirred, the pangs of death were loosed by the power of God and Jesus Christ rose from the grave, triumphant over sin, victorious over death.

“Do you sit here today as a guilty, condemned, helpless, and hopeless sinner? Then I have a Savior for you whose arms are opened wide, whose wrists, feet, and side bear the marks of divine love, and He is calling you today: ‘Come to Me, I will give you rest for your soul.’”

And now He extends that victory to you today! He died and rose to accomplish salvation for guilty, condemned, needy, helpless sinners.

Do you qualify? Do you sit here today as a guilty, condemned, helpless, and hopeless sinner? Then I have a Savior for you whose arms are opened wide, whose wrists, feet, and side bear the marks of divine love, and He is calling you today: “Come to Me, I will give you rest for your soul.”

How can you come to the Savior?

  • You cannot come with your self-righteous religion.
  • You cannot come with your own perceived “good deeds.”
  • You cannot come with your religious works or your acts of charity.

No, my friend, you can only come with open hands to receive the gift of God’s grace. Nothing in your hands can you bring, simply to His cross you must cling. The call from Jesus Christ is simple:

 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

Repent and believe.

Repent? That means to believe God about what He says about you—that you are a sinner who has turned, in your rebellion, against Him and his law. And, therefore, you are a sinner who deserves to be judged for your sin. Do you believe Him? Repentance is the change of mind whereby you stop believing the self-delusion that you can be good enough for God if only you do enough good deeds.

Repentance is agreeing with God that you can never keep His law, having already broken it, and turning away from your sin in your heart and with your feet, and toward God to worship, serve, love, and live for Him.

Believe? My friends, true, genuine, saving belief—saving faith—is casting your soul upon Jesus Christ to save you from your sin knowing that Christ, and Christ alone, can rescue you.

True saving faith is trusting nothing else other than Christ’s perfect work in fulfilling the law on your behalf and bearing the penalty of breaking it that you deserve to bear.

It is a faith that produces a life turning away from sin and toward God; it is a faith that produces a life that longs to live for, serve, and worship King Jesus! It is a faith that demonstrates its authenticity in the radically changed life of the one who possesses it.

Repent and believe the gospel.

Is there any hope in death?

For you who are trusting in your good works to save you from it, the answer is, “No. There is no hope in death.”

For you who are seeking to suppress death’s appointment and distract yourselves with the activities of life, the answer is, “No. There is no hope in death.”

But for you, the one who has cast yourself upon the Lord Jesus Christ in repentant faith for the salvation of your soul? “Oh yes, there is hope in death for you, for death then merely becomes the gateway to the eternal paradise of glory!”

Isn’t this why the apostle Paul could say, with hope teeming from his soul, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)?

Oh, in Christ, and in Christ alone:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54–57)

Is there any hope in death?

For those who have entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ through His life, death, burial, and resurrection, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!

It is my hope and it is my prayer that none of you would finish this article still shackled by the crippling fear of death. Come to Christ and know the peace of God that surpasses understanding, guarding your heart and your mind even in the face of such an enemy.

Amen.

Jeremy Vuolo

A former professional soccer play, Jeremy Vuolo is the pastor of Grace Community Church in Laredo, TX. He and his wife, Jinger, and daughter, Felicity, currently appear on the TLC show Counting On.

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