Jan 23, 2009

What Happens When You Die? - Observation

By Dr. David R. Reagan

It's the topic no one wants to think about or talk about. Yet, it's a subject people are fascinated with.

The Bible says that most people live in lifelong bondage to the fear of death (Heb. 2:15). Most of the time that fear is suppressed, but it is always there, just below the surface. It normally surfaces when a friend or family member dies, when a person experiences a near death event like a serious auto accident, or when a person begins to reach middle age. And, of course, lying in a fox hole with bombs exploding all around always gives rise to thoughts of death!

I think one of the reasons the death of Princess Diana had such a great worldwide impact was because she was so young. When we are young we tend to think we are invincible and will live indefinitely. It is always sobering when we experience the death of a young person. It forces us to think about our own mortality, something that is most uncomfortable to do. But it never lasts long, because we are always anxious to put the whole topic in the back of our minds.

I saw this happen when I was a teenager. I was living in Waco, Texas in May of 1953 when the worst tornado in the history of the state hit the city. A total of 114 people were killed by the storm. The downtown area looked like it had been hit with an atomic bomb.

For weeks thereafter, the churches of Waco were filled to capacity as people tried to deal with the terror of the storm. But within about six months attendance began to taper off, and before long, the churches were back to normal in their attendance.

Death is a fact that all people need to face and prepare for. The only people who are not going to experience death are those believers in Jesus Christ who are alive at the time He returns to rapture the Church (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Those believers who die before that time will overcome death through the resurrection and glorification of their bodies.

Jesus of Nazareth gave us the most comforting words ever spoken about death.

At the tomb of Lazarus, before He raised his friend from the dead, Jesus proclaimed: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die" (Jn. 11:25-26).

Sixty-five years after his death, burial and resurrection, Jesus returned to this earth and appeared to his dear friend John on the Isle of Patmos (Rev. 1). John was so astonished that he fell upon the ground like a dead man. Jesus laid his right hand on John and said, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades."

Jesus has overcome death Himself, and He consequently has the power over death. Overcoming death is a matter of putting your faith in Him (1 Jn. 5:1-5).

Read more about what we can expect after death in the next part of this series — What Happens When You Die?