Over the past year many of us have faced some of the toughest days of our lives. For me, it was the week before Christmas. Several of my elderly patients were very ill with COVID-19. One had already died in hospital separated from his family. On top of this I had just heard of a further unexpected death, this time from a non-COVID emergency. It seemed as if the spectre of death was prowling the land. As it had on previous occasions, the sombre reality of humanity’s mortality impressed itself on me once again.
Over the following days, as these thoughts continued to weigh on me, it struck me that for many years we have relied on the NHS as a security blanket. We have reassured ourselves that if we were to take ill everything would be all right. The coming of COVID-19 has reminded us this is not true. The NHS, as much as we appreciate and value it, cannot keep us alive forever. Despite this, society rushes on, chasing pleasure and ambition, ignoring the fact that everything it strives after will one day be left behind. In a few short decades these things will be almost entirely forgotten.
The Bible describes life as “a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Most respond to their mortality with either fear or denial. But it should prompt us to consider what lies beyond death, and to prepare for it. Moses wrote that life “is soon cut off, and we fly away . . . So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:10,12 KJV). The Bible alone can be trusted to give us reliable answers to a matter of this importance, for it has proven itself to be God’s Word through the hundreds of fulfilled prophecies it contains.
The Bible teaches that our souls exist eternally, in either heaven or hell. The apostle John wrote, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). The apostle Paul explained this further, “to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil” (Romans 2:8,9).
The Bible speaks in such stark terms about what happens after this life because the holy God, in His kindness, does not want to leave us guessing. We are facing His eternal judgement for our sinful selfishness and pride. He warns us because He wants us to turn to Christ for salvation. He does not want us to find out the truth when life is over and it is too late.
God wants us to prepare to meet Him now, while He is offering us forgiveness. The Lord Jesus died for our sins and has risen again, meaning that all who repent of their sins and trust Him to save them will be forgiven and can face death without fear. They can confidently look forward to heaven, a place where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Rather than letting the fact of our mortality paralyse us with fear, God wants it to prompt us to come to Christ for salvation. Then we shall know true peace, even in the face of death.