The certainty and unpredictability of death
I live in the Midwest, in an area that sees its share of heavy snow, and an occasional minor earthquake, but little else in the way of natural cataclysms. It’s a pretty safe place to live, actually. Life here may not be as exciting as New York City or have the breathtaking vistas of Malibu or Aspen, but what it lacks in sensory and emotional stimulation it makes up for in relative security and predictability.
We were spared the recent monster blizzard that dumped on the Northeast, causing a number of deaths and severely hampering normal life for many. Though it certainly was a whopper, at least the folks up in New England knew it was coming because of our excellent weather forecasting technology and were able to prepare for it somewhat. The storm, and its aftermath, were predictable.
Most of what happens to us in life is not unusual and at least somewhat expected, and we can take steps to be ready for it. And then there’s North Korea. The repressive, Communist nation on the other side of the world set off a nuclear bomb last week. Just testing…but apparently the purpose of the test is to determine how close they are to being prepared to cause havoc and destruction in the United States, should they find that in their best interests.
Now North Korea has been provoking the international community with its nuclear ambitions for many years, so there’s no need to lose any sleep over this. Yet, this latest test gave evidence that they are closer than ever to their goal of putting a nuclear device on a long-range missile aimed for the US. The nuclear capability North Korea and other nations possess now, or will in the future, introduces an element of unpredictability that each of us must deal with.
Or perhaps it simply shines a spotlight on a reality we prefer to ignore. Because even if we built an impenetrable underground bunker complete with a radioactive particle filtration system and stocked it with food and water to last us months, we could have a heart attack while waiting out the apocalypse, and breathe our last within the “safety” of our impregnable fortress. Even if we eat only optimally nutritious meals, take a multivitamin, exercise regularly, and avoid all high-fructose corn syrup, we could be taken down and taken out by a pernicious microorganism. Even if we consistently practice safe driving habits, our well-planned life can be cut short by a dangerous and drunk wrong-way driver. Because ultimately, no matter the lengths we go to in an effort to delay it, death is certain, and unpredictable.
How easily most of us live with the unpredictability of the day of our death. We know it’s coming, but we prefer not to think about it. What do you suppose would happen if we ignored the only other certainty of life: taxes? There’d be hell to pay, for sure. Unfortunately, the same fate may await us if we disregard the reality of our mortality.
The Bible says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” There are no do-overs. The end might arrive in your sleep tonight…on my drive tomorrow. It might not come for 50 years. But it will come.
It is certainly wise to take care how we live for the purpose of maximizing our years on this earth, but we have only limited control over that. North Korea may never attack the United States, but even a safe, happy life will one day succumb to the laws of nature. What is even wiser is to consider how we are living in light of the laws of nature’s God. And when they expose our culpability, as they will, to recognize that the unpredictability of life leaves us no better option than to throw ourselves on the mercy of the Court today. Because if we wait until we stand before the Judge, it will be too late.
Death is certain. The hour and day are unpredictable. Unless you have reason to be confident that you are nothing more than a conglomeration of atoms, you would be wise to make sure you’re ready for it.
“Because if we wait until we stand before the Judge, it will be too late.”
Supposing you are correct, and there is life after death. Why would your eternal existence be judged on less than 100 years?
It comes off as giving a person a failing grade at the end of the year because on their first day of class they failed a pop quiz, regardless how the rest of the year went.
Seems silly to me.
The quiz is easy and there is only one question – not what have you done in 100 years or less, rather is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior? Easy question.
So it’s even sillier than I thought. Gotcha. You pass or fail a class based on a single question on that first pop quiz.
Arbitrariness, as opposed to ‘justice’.
If it were justice no one could do enough good to off set the bad. By nature we are selfish people only concerned about our needs. So yes, not justice and for that I am grateful. Keep searching, it is a good sign.
Yeah, no. What you are talking about isn’t justice or mercy or good. It’s weird, arbitrary and, thankfully, not true.
I understand that it may “seem” silly. A lot of things seem silly at first, until we dig a little deeper. But I don’t see how your analogy of failing a pop quiz applies. Would you mind expanding on that?
Some Christians say we will live for all eternity. And yet, we only live here on Earth for around 100 years.
100 years is an incredibly smaller amount of time than ‘forever’.
That being the case, it is more than reasonable to compare ‘forever’ to an entire college class, and ‘100 years’ to a pop quiz on the first day of that class.
You would have us believe that our judgement for that entire class (our entire span of existence) is based off of that first pop quiz. Indeed, just the first question of that pop quiz.
How is that just or mercy or anything but completely arbitrary?
Oh, I see what you mean. Well, to address your objection I think first I need to state my view of what needs to happen before we die in order to avoid that “hell to pay.” In a nutshell, God is perfectly holy and cannot allow sin in his presence. Because he created us to have a loving relationship with himself, he had to give us free will or we could not freely love. But we all, once we were old enough to decide, turned away from him and sinned in some way. So, because he loves us, he provided a way to deal with our sin that involved becoming one of us and paying the penalty that removes our sin if we just accept that payment on our behalf by faith in surrender to him. That is a very short explanation of the Gospel. I will expound on it further if you want.
So, believing and trusting in Christ is that “first question of that pop quiz.” But I see it more like a final exam that we have had more than enough opportunity to study for, than a pop quiz. God gives us plenty of evidence of his existence, goodness, and power in what he has created, and through the records of his miraculous interactions with man and in the incarnation and life, death, and resurrection of the God-Man Jesus Christ. It is enough, and he alone is able to determine and decide that it is enough.
In considering whether 100 years is a sufficient and fair enough time span to be able to pass the quiz, it’s notable that in the earliest Old Testament times, men lived many hundreds of years (Genesis 5) but that only served to increase their wickedness. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5) So God declared that the maximum life span would be only 120 years. (Gen. 6:3)
He knows what he is doing, and what is the best way to reach us. He wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), but he will never force himself on anyone. And he is merciful. Read the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, or reread it if you already have, and know that that is a picture of God’s love and mercy for you, and me.
Oh that micro organism can be a nuclear bomb in disguise! Great post my friend!
You know it! Thanks. 🙂
“I will expound on it further if you want.”
No, that’s fine. I’ve heard it before. And believed it for a time. Now, in addition to not believing it, I don’t see it making much sense.
Why, if you’re god, do you need to sacrifice yourself to yourself to create a loophole to a law you created in the first place? Seems terribly convoluted and unnecessary, even if I believed it were true.
“God gives us plenty of evidence of his existence, goodness, and power in what he has created,”
Apparently not, as the majority of the people in the world don’t believe in the god that you believe in.
And I still don’t buy the ‘free will’ argument. Satan (if he existed) knows that a god exists, and yet still chose to turn away. Why not give everyone that exact choice, as opposed to saying we have to believe on faith?
You see it as a “loophole” but I see it as a necessary provision for our salvation and the only option a loving, compassionate but also holy and righteous God had.
The majority of the world’s population believe that a god exists. Many of them reject Christ, just as you do, for a variety of reasons. But the fact remains that the evidence is there. Christians and atheists look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions. Why? Because of other factors besides the evidence…worldview, desire for control, an unwillingness to be held accountable, etc. Those who are brought up in different faith traditions like Hinduism and Buddhism can still be saved because God knows everyone’s heart. If they recognize that there must be a God and they want to know him, with an attitude of surrender, he will reveal himself.
Your point about Satan is well taken. I believe what you’re saying is that if the angels had the privilege of “seeing” God and that did not override their ability to choose or reject him, why can’t we have that same privilege. Is that correct? I’m not quite sure at this time how to answer that, except to say that though the angels (of which Satan is one) are created beings, they are different from us and have a different relationship to God. The Bible says that we will “rule over them.” They are never referred to as God’s children or those whom he loves. They seem to have solely the position of servant, so their situation, responsibilities, and opportunities are different than ours.
Necessary? So a god who has all the power in the universe couldn’t think of a better way to resolve his problems than human sacrifice? Really?
“Many of them reject Christ, just as you do, for a variety of reasons.”
Sure. But the Christ you believe in isn’t the Christ my friend Joe believes in.
How exact does the belief have to be? If you think Christ would be for gay marriage, and Joe thinks Christ would be against gay marriage, will one of you go to hell for being wrong?
My opinion? Christians accept bad evidence.
Saving faith isn’t about believing all the right things. It’s putting your trust in and surrendering to God, as best you understand him. He knows your heart and whether you sincerely desire to know and obey him.
Christians disagree about gay marriage and many other things. But God doesn’t send anyone to hell for being wrong. Salvation is and has always been by faith alone. Those who will end up there send themselves by refusing to surrender in faith to the God that has been revealed to them.
NotAScientist, when you say “his problems,” do you mean it is God who has problems? On theism, God cannot have any problems, he is holy and perfect. It is we who have problems. But anyone is free to dismiss that characterization as they wish.
The self-sacrifice of Christ as expressed in the gospel has had an inspiring and positive impact on the thoughts, feelings, and actions of billions since Jesus died almost 2,000 years ago.
As for the exactness of belief, why do secondary issues like gay marriage matter? You and I may have differing beliefs as to whether Caroline prefers apples or oranges. Ultimately, she will not fault us as much if we get that belief wrong than if we were to say, deny her existence altogether.
“On theism, God cannot have any problems, he is holy and perfect.”
Then I guess the whole ‘drown everyone on the planet’ thing was always in the plan?
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