Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…”
Having reached the ripe old age of 75, I have begun to think more seriously and frequently about my mortality and the two appointments that I will soon be keeping (hopeful not real soon!). These thoughts have caused me to reflect more and more on the “then what’s next” aspect of my existence.
A senior adult man was talking with a young student. The man asked, “What will you do when you finish high school?” The youth replied, “I’ll probably go to college.” “Then what?” inquired the old guy. “After college, I probably will get a job.” “Then what”? “Then I probably will get married.” “Then what?” “We’ll probably raise a family?” “Then what?” “I’ll continue in my job until I retire.” “Then what?” “I guess the next thing will be that I will die?” The shocking question came again, “THEN WHAT?” This last time, the question was met with total silence from the student. But the THEN WHAT is the most important question of our entire existence, because when we die, we have just begun to live the “eternal life” which we will endure forever, whether we are saved or lost.
The principle of it is appointed for men to die once is not an absolute principle. There are some unique, remarkable exceptions. Enoch (Gen_5:24) and Elijah (2Ki_2:11) never died once. Several people in the Bible were raised from the dead (1Ki_17:22, 2Ki_13:20-21, Mat_9:25, Joh_11:43-44, Act_20:9-11), and therefore died twice. Those taken in the rapture at the end of history (1Th_4:17) will never die once. Yet these remarkable, unique exceptions do not deny the principle of it is appointed for men to die once; they are exceptions that prove the rule.
The writer of Hebrews uses the all-inclusive generic word “men”, referring to all mankind, and to each person. And note further that, according to this verse, each person has two Divine appointments specified by God which they MUST and WILL keep. There will be no escaping or eluding either appointment. They are written indelibly and unalterably in the Ledgers of God’s Eternity. They are unarguable and unavoidable! What are the two appointments? First, each human being has an inescapable appointment with HIS OWN MORTALITY. Each will die. Psalm 102:20 reinforces our text by mentioning “those that are appointed to death”. Then, each one has an equally inescapable appointment which will follow his death, the appointment with DIVINE JUDGMENT. In short, he will meet his own mortality in a head-on collision from which he cannot survive, and then he will meet his Maker in Judgment, the other unbreakable appointment. In this life, due to any number of reasons, you may miss many appointments, whether they were important or incidental, but these two appointments - death and judgment - will end your life of probation on earth and introduce you into your eternal destination and your destiny there forever.
A church wall posted this notice, “Our Maker ultimately recalls all of His products,” and your life is no exception. His “recall” of your life could come suddenly at any time and without further notice.
The line of demarcation as to what death will mean for us – whether it will be “friend or foe,” “faith or fear,” “hope or hopelessness,” “truth or terror”, lies in the Person of Christ. He Himself is the difference between Joy and Judgment, between Heaven and Hell, between Pardon and Punishment, between Relief and Reprisal, between Celebration and Condemnation. So Death will bring final Delight to the saved, and final Despair to the lost.
Death is not a stopping place. We are going right on through it to a Destination, and a Destiny throughout a long ETERNITY within the Destination. Notice that we are making a distinction between destination and destiny. Destination may mean just one stop, and you’re there. But DESTINY with the DESTINATION means that, when the DESTINATION is reached the DESTINY will continue long after the arrival there - indeed, FOREVER LONG!
We read in Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the VALLEY of the shadow of death….” Death is here pictured as a valley, and what a revelation is given of this valley in Psalm 23. Note that the “valley” comes in the middle of the Psalm, and not at the beginning - as if to say that Death is not the end of the journey, but only a Comma in the journey! Death is only a “bump in the road”, not a wreck at the end of the trip!
We think of life and death as a logical, inevitable, chronological succession - but the Truth of the matter is that LIFE is on both sides of death! A stipulation must be added here: This is only true for a CHRISTIAN; his succession is indeed Life/Death/Life. But tragically, for a lost man, the succession is Life/Death/SECOND DEATH (second death is an eternity of living death and dying life, to be experienced without cessation).
Hebrews 2:14-15 is an astounding, hope-giving, fear-dispersing text: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
My old mentor, Herb Hodges, in commenting on these verses in Hebrews, refers to the “4-D Dimension” of the ministry of Jesus: “Devil”, “Death”, “Destroy”, and “Deliver.” Read the text again and note how massive each “D-factor” was in the accomplishment of Jesus.
(1) He has annulled the DEVIL for now;
(2) He has annulled DEATH for now, and will fully DESTROY it for us at our own dying, and thereafter, when we enter Heaven, we will live with Him “in the power of an endless life;
(3) He will finally DESTROY the Devil in the lake of fire;
(4) He will ultimately DELIVER us who are in bondage through the fear of death, a DELIVERANCE that will be forever finalized at the moment of our own death. We must be very careful here; to say that we are finally delivered from these common adversaries of our lifetime on earth at the moment of death is almost to say that DEATH is the Savior. Ah, no, JESUS IS THE ONLY SAVIOUR, but the stages and stops within our salvation are totally controlled by HIM. Even the abruptness of our death-stop is absolutely no threat to HIM. Speaking of Heaven, Revelation 21:4 says, “There will be no more death.”Friends, we are indeed in good Hands with Him - He has NEVER lost even one of His children!
Back to our title, “THEN WHAT”. Since this is the most important question of our entire existence, I would be remiss if I did not extend God’s invitation to any reader who might not have trusted Christ, to receive Him today. How? First, frankly and firmly admit that you are desperately LOST without Christ, and that you cannot do anything to save yourself. Salvation is not “of yourself”; it does not and cannot originate with you. Nothing in your PERSON will impress God to save you. And it is “not of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9); nothing in your PERFORMANCE will impress God to save you. Salvation is not a matter of “Do’s” or “Don’ts”, but a matter of DONE (On the Cross, Jesus cried as He was dying, “IT IS FINISHED”). Now, you must simply REPENT of your sins and RECEIVE CHRIST by faith into your heart. (John 1:12) and TRUST HIM ALONE to save you. When you do, you are forever saved. If you do this today, let me be the first to WELCOME YOU TO THE FOREVER FAMILY OF GOD!
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