Officials in Texas are assuring the public that the Dallas resident who has the first-ever case of monkeybox in our state is “not a reason for alarm.” The infected patient in isolation at a Dallas hospital may not agree.
It is human nature to downplay threats we cannot control. For example, we say of those who die that they “departed” or “passed on.” But euphemisms cannot change the reality they describe.
As of this morning, 188 people have died in massive flooding in Europe. The death toll in the Surfside, Florida, condominium collapse stands at ninety-seven. At least sixty-five people underwent decontamination on Saturday following a chemical leak at a Six Flags water park near Houston.
Three people were wounded in a shooting outside the Washington Nationals baseball stadium that caused the game to be suspended. At least two people were killed and several others were wounded by shootings at three locations in Tucson, Arizona, yesterday afternoon. And the global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic stands at 4,089,175 at this writing.
American Christians are under unprecedented pressure by our secularized culture to compromise biblical truth and morality. But the inescapable realities of death and eternity beyond the grave demonstrate conclusively that every person we know needs to know what we know about death.
Martin Luther said, “Every man must do two things alone: he must do his own believing and his own dying.” Let’s see how the first helps us with the second.
Why nonbelievers fear death
It’s human nature to fear the unknown. The dread we feel that keeps us from venturing into a cave where a predator is waiting is a God-given response that may save our lives.
Even when our lives are not at risk, we understandably fear what we cannot predict. From going to a new school to beginning a new job or moving to a new city, we are naturally apprehensive of the future.
Death, of course, is the greatest unknown. Nonbelievers do not believe anyone has ever come back from the other side, so they have no empirical way to know what happens when we die. Do we simply cease to exist? Are we reincarnated? Do we spend eternity in heaven? In hell?
However, our post-Christian society has devised a solution. Postmodernism has taught us that our reality is the reality. Truth is “our truth.” Therefore, if we don’t believe there is an afterlife, we don’t need to be concerned with an afterlife. The man who declared to me “I don’t believe in hell” was convinced that his opinion settled the matter.
“I consider eternity as another possibility”
This is illogical in the extreme, of course. Denying that cancer exists doesn’t keep me from getting cancer.
Even more, this is a satanic deception. Our enemy wants nothing more than to delude us into thinking we don’t need what Jesus came to give. We are unlikely to repent of our sins and seek forgiveness if we don’t think we need to repent of our sins or seek forgiveness. We would not turn to Christ as our Lord if we do not need a Lord. If we can be our own god (Genesis 3:5), we’ll try to be our own god.
The poet Mary Oliver wrote: “When death comes / like an iceberg between the shoulder blades, / I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: / what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?” As a result, she continues, “I look upon time as no more than an idea, / and I consider eternity as another possibility.”
She concludes: “When it’s over, I want to say all my life / I was a bride married to amazement. / I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. / When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder / if I have made of my life something particular and real. / I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened / or full of argument. / I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
Nor do I. Nor do you, I suspect. But her plan for being “married to amazement” and “taking the world into my arms” is to “consider eternity as another possibility.” If we see eternity as only a “possibility,” we will assuredly not be ready when we experience it as a reality.
Are you a practical universalist?
I hope you do not share nonbelievers’ agnosticism or atheism with regard to death and eternity. If you are not certain that you have made Jesus your Savior and Lord, please turn to him today. (For answers to frequent questions about Jesus and a way to trust him for salvation, please see my website article, “Why Jesus?”)
As we have seen, one of Satan’s great deceptions is convincing lost people that they are not lost. A second deception is convincing Christians that lost people are not truly lost.
Based on the clear teaching of Scripture (cf. John 14:6; Acts 4:12; John 3:18; Revelation 20:15), we may agree theologically that lost people need Jesus. But if we are not taking the risk to share Christ with them, our actions betray our supposed convictions.
In this case, we are practical universalists. We are not so certain that our lost neighbors, friends, and family members need Jesus to avoid hell and go to heaven that we are willing to share God’s love with them.
Here we face one more satanic deception: that sharing the gospel is “imposing” our beliefs on others. Postmodern secularists have convinced many Christians that tolerance is the highest value, that telling people they risk eternity separated from God in hell is intolerant and bigoted.
In fact, it is just the opposite. Sharing God’s love in Christ offers others the greatest gift they could ever receive. It is giving people the only key that opens the door to heaven. It is sharing the cure for spiritual cancer with people who are dying of the disease whether they know it or not.
We will say more tomorrow about what happens to Christians when we die. For now, would you ask God to help you help someone you know be ready to die today?