Preparing for Death

by Gene Taylor

"And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." (Hebrews 9:27)

While our society openly discusses sex, immorality, crime and violence, it does not usually speak of death openly or frankly. Most people do not want to think of death let alone discuss it. The exent of this aversion is seen by comparing today's attitudes to that of the Victorian era. Even in the Victorian era death was discussed more openly than now. "The taboos the Victorians placed on sex have been transferred to death in our culture. We simply, in our modern morality of sensual, materialistic, pleasure-mad existence, deny its existence, unless we see it in living color in our living room or local theater" (Rodney Miller, quoted in an article entitled, "Death," The Pekin Bulletin, November 16, 1975).

There is a time coming in each of our lives, though, when it will weigh heavily upon our minds for as Hebrews 9:27 states, it is universal and inevitable. Ben Franklin spoke of it in the oft-repeated adage, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Mark Twain said, "Death, the only immortal who treats us all alike, whose pity and whose peace and whose refuge are for all -- the soiled and the pure, the rich and the poor, the loved and the unloved."

Attitudes Towards Death's Reality

The emotions one feels about death are usually the same as he has toward life. Some face it with fear, dread, resentment and hate. Others face it with contentment, anticipation, and even joy as a welcome to another life.

In her book, On Death and Dying, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, psychiatrist, listed five emotional stages of death.

1. Shock and denial: "No! Not me!" Denial is one way to ward off an overwhelming situation and give oneself time to develop other defenses. Denial pushes away shock but reality must be accepted.

2. Resentment, anger and rage: "Why me!" An emotional reality sets in which sometimes shakes a person to the very foundation of their being and even their faith.

3. A bargaining period: A promise to do something for a longer lease on life: "Yes, but..." These might be something like, "If you give me one more year to live, I'll go to worship every Sunday" or "I'll be a good Christian from now on." Bargaining is like a temporary truce.

4. Realistic depression: "Yes, me." To be depressed when you face your own death is normal. To grieve is to realize the enormity of what is happening.

5. Acceptance: "Yes, me, and I am ready!" This attitude does not imply resignation which is giving up. It is a peaceful stage when the person realizes he or she has done what he can and the end is here. One has fully come to terms with reality.

Preparing for Death

Since death is unavoidable as our only exit from this world, we must prepare for it. Death is not the end but rather the beginning of eternity (John 5:28-29).

It is God's desire for people to be delivered from any fear of death. Jesus Christ died and was raised as the Christian's assurance of God's care, even in death (1 Cor. 15:20). The child of God can face death without fear (Psa. 23:4; Luke 23:46; Acts 7:59).

Since heaven has done all it possibly can do for us, we must now do our part and prepare for our inevitable demise. To properly prepare, one must:

1. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33) and live a life of self-denial to the glory of God (Luke 6:26,33).

2. Live in Christ. To die in Christ one must live in Him. Those who die in Him are blessed (Rev. 14:13). To be found in Christ, one must be baptized into Him (Gal. 3:26-27), and abide in Him (John 15:7) and His word (John 8:32), His doctrine (2 John 9).

3. Let Christ have preeminence in all things (Col. 1:18). One must live a life in humble submission to His will, the gospel (Rom. 1:16). One must always seek to do His will (Matt. 7:21).

Conclusion

The rewards of living a righteous life that properly prepares one for death are many. They include receiving a hundred-fold in this life and in the age to come, eternal life (Mark 10:30); being carried away by angels (Luke 16:22); going to Paradise (Luke 23:43); going to a house with many mansions (John 14:2); being with Christ (Phil. 1:23), at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8); and gaining (Phil. 1:21) an eternal inheritance (1 Pet. 1:4) as a joint-heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17), reigning with Him eternally (Rev. 22:5).

The concluding question is obvious: Are you prepared to die?