The reality of death is something that we all know too well. It has no favourites; it does not respect age or care how close we are or were to the departed. Most importantly, death or our view of it, governs how we live. In Ecclesiastes 7 verse 2 Solomon says "Better to go to a house of mourning, than go to a house of feasting, for this is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart" (NKJV).
In the passage of this scripture, Solomon is stating the certainty and universality of death. Of equal importance is the latter part of the verse "the living will take it to heart". There is wisdom to be gained from death and what it signifies. This wisdom speaks to the inescapable question in light of death - "How then should we live?"
This is made evident by looking on whom the challenge is put to, namely the living. In light of this, I wanted to look on three lessons we can learn from the scripture mentioned above.
Just as there is a beginning, there is an end
As the passage indicated, "...this is the end of all men...". However, some of us live with the absence of this reality in mind; that is not to say all of us (I will explain in the next section). For some of us we plan so much for the future, we barely consider how short and uncertain life is. James 4 verses 13-14 speaks aptly to such a man "Come now you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (NKJV).
These verses remove any doubt in an individual about the certainty of life, it will end. In making plans for the future we ought to bear this in mind.
How then shall we live?
I pose this question in this way to point to the fact that the scripture calls on us to respond, but especially by living wisely. In his book, The City of God Augustine says "How then does he live as he wishes who does not live as long as he wishes".
Thinking about living wisely and seeking to do so is the appropriate response to such a reality in light of the predicament that Augustine paints. As I said earlier not all people live with the absence of this reality in mind, they respond, but how? They make necessary preparations for their death. A common preparation many make is to ensure their family will be financially secure.
Yet these preparations are only for this life, what about the next? Do we live with the understanding that we will stand before God and give an account? King David stated in Psalm 90 verse 12 "...teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (NKJV).
More specifically, we have been called to live our lives according to what God wants for us. In 2 Corinthians 5 verse 15 Paul the Apostle informs us that "He (Jesus) died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves but for Him who died and rose again" (NKJV).
Ultimate lesson learnt
Some may say, "But how does this change the reality of death?" To them I say, "I am glad you asked". According to Romans 5 verse 12 "Therefore, just as through one man did sin enter the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (NKJV). Through sin, humanity was plunged into sickness, disease and ultimately death. When Jesus came, he came to give life in two senses.
Firstly, we were enslaved to sin. Through Christ's death we have been given life in that we are free to serve him because the power that sin has over us has been broken.
Secondly, we now have life beyond the grave. Let me explain. The power that death had was sin. This was so because sin was both the means by which death entered the world and the reason man could be held in the grave based on Romans 5 verse 12; in that all men sinned. Sin offended God and as much as he loves humanity, sin must be punished.
For sin to be punished there must be a sinless sacrifice. Jesus, who was without sin, died in place of humanity – bearing the punishment of sin: separation from God. Jesus died and by his resurrection, destroyed the power that death had. As a result sin had no power or right to hold Him in the grave.
Jesus' resurrection is a promise and hope for us all. Jesus reverses our reality with a future hope based on an evident fact "because I live, you also will live" (NIV).
Paul Lewis is a Staff Worker for Inter School's Christian Fellowship in Kingston Jamaica, where he also resides. He has aspirations of becoming a Christian Apologist and he loves reading especially topics like: History, Philosophy and Theology. You can follow him on twitter @VeritasDeiVinci
Paul Lewis' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/paul-lewis.html