DEATH: The Stalking Enemy

 "Your heart is beating a funeral march to the grave!" That's right.

 For "As the long hours do pass away,
So doth the life of man decay."

We read in Hebrews 9:27,28:
        “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

There are four things we will examine this morning concerning death. First, Death is Appointed; secondly, Death is Inevitable; thirdly, Death is Sudden; and lastly, What Is There in Death That Makes It a Subject to Be Avoided?

Death Is Appointed

          “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
Death has an appointment with each of us, irrespective of who we are. During the Middle Ages artists depicted death as dancing with the common laborer as well as with the wealthy; with the leaders of the church, as well as with the king. Family names are unimportant. Death is no respecter of persons. Kings lie in ashes.
Death is no respecter of age.

“The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man hath the power;
To tell just when those hands will stop!
At late or early hour.”

As soon as life is conceived, we may die! And though we are almost daily made aware of miscarriages of life, we somehow never think that we are apt to die, perhaps even this very morning.
“But,” you say, “I’m in good health.”
Death is no respecter of health. He pays no attention to our doctor’s report, for “There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit: neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war.” Though a man would rather not have to face death, nevertheless, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.”
We may be fit as a fiddle but before the striking of midnight be out of time. We may be in the very peak of health now, but we may be gone before then – yes even long before then.
Death has no respect for place. Our whereabouts will not cancel our “appointment.” Were we to decide upon a world cruise on the day of our appointment, we would find Death an inescapable enemy. Were we to lock ourselves in our bedroom and spend the day in bed, death would be sure to keep his appointment.
          Years ago a movie appeared on the television screen which depicted a young man who had visited a fortuneteller. To his horror he learned he was destined to die the following day. Even the very scene was presented to him. There was a familiar street, and yes, that other street he recognized too. There on the corner of these two streets a movie was being filmed. Yes he had remembered seeing a filming crew at that site that very day. As the fortuneteller continued her presentation, he saw himself crossing the street. As he did so, a car raced around the corner and ran him down.
         He knew what he would do! He would flee the city. Miles were put between him and his home. But the next day as he walked down the streets of another city, he started to cross the street when he noticed the names on the street posts were those of his home city. A quick glance down the street brought a sight of horror before his eyes. There was a filming crew in full sway of producing a movie.
          Suddenly, a car raced around the corner and ran down the young man. “It is APPOINTED unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
        Death does not respect time. Death may come to us in the wee hours of morning, or at the striking of midnight. Actually, it statistically appears that more people die at night than in the day – between 12:00 o’clock midnight and 3:00 o’clock in the morning. And just as surely as death pays no mind to time, so it has as equally little concern for the weather. It may snow the day we die; perhaps it will rain. Death may embrace us on a sunny day, or come to us on the soft breezes of a balmy summer evening. One thing is sure: “Our heart is beating a funeral march to the grave,” for, ”As the long hours do pass away, so doth the life of man decay.”
“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”

Death Is Inevitable

         As death is appointed to us, it is inevitable. Two years ago while I was in the deep mountains of North Carolina, I came to an old cemetery. Intrigued with its headstones, I began making my way through the graveyard reading the epitaphs as I went. And there I saw it -

“Remember friends as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you will be;
Prepare for death and follow me.”

      How profound is this simple thought! Because death is inevitable, because it is bound to come, it is a necessary thing to keep death before us – if we are to rightly live our lives.
Saladin, who fought with Richard the Lion-Hearted of England in the fourth crusade, wore a black shirt- someday he must die!
         Philip of Macedon, the great conqueror, had a slave girl whom he told to remind him every morning by saying, “Philip, remember you must die!”
         It was the custom, upon the crowning of each of the Emperors of Constantinople, to present them with a tombstone to remind them – someday they must die!
       In ancient pagan feasts ashes were thrown into their drinks to remind them that one day they would die.
      We will die and shortly be forgotten and our riches shall be vomited forth again, and that which we have labored for will be possessed by another, perhaps not even by our children. Men don’t like to admit that they die and enter eternity, so they seek immortality upon the earth that they might not be forgotten. So they have built great marble columns, massive pyramids, glorious palaces and castles. Soldiers have sought immortal praise by winning famous victories, while the learned have sought it out by writing books. Remember the seven wonders of the world? Can we name two of them? Where is the Colossus of Rhodes? Or the hanging gardens of Babylon? And such as these men think to become immortal. They spend their money for that which is not worth a drop in the sea of eternity.
     Now it is a necessary thing to keep death before us. Death is inevitable. Even the world about us preaches to an attentive mind. What is night but the death of the day. What is sleep but the image of death. Our meals serve only to postpone him. The very seasons typify birth, growth, maturity, and death.
     At seven years of age our teeth fall out – a preliminary of death. What is baldness but our grooming for death. Wrinkled skin, dim eyes, tottering limbs, trembling joints, and shortage of breath – all serve to awaken us to our need for preparation for our inevitable appointment. Still, nine-tenths of all people die unexpectedly.
     Well might Statius, the Roman poet, write:

“The man whose mighty soul is not immersed
In dubious whirl of secular concerns,
His final hour ne’er takes him by surprise,
But full of life he stands prepared to die.”

     We need not die unexpectedly. In the great Cathedral of Milan there were three arches. Over the left arch was seen a wreath of roses over which read:

“The pleasures of life are but for a moment.”
Over the right arch a cross was seen. Under it could be read:
“The troubles of life are but for a moment.”
The center arch held the inscription:
“Only what things done for eternity are important.”
The world preaches to an attentive mind.

Death Is Sudden

     Death is appointed to us, even the day, the place and the manner in which we are to die. Therefore it is inevitable. And it is sudden, too.
     David wrote: “There is but a step between me and death” (I Sam. 20:3). Again, “Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no abiding” (I Chron. 29:15). And again, “Thou hast made my days as an handbreadth” (Ps. 39:5).
    In Job we read: “Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Again we read in Job: “…In a moment they go down to the grave.” And once again the book of Job tells us: “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle” (Job 21:13; 7:6).
     James wrote: “For what is your life: it is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away (Jas. 4:14).
The Greeks have a proverb that life is a “bubble.”
Homer called life a “leaf” – the weakest piece of an unsteady short-lived plant.
Pindar called life “the dream of a shadow.”
And Shakespeare cried, “Out, out brief candle!”

What Is There in Death That Makes It a Subject
to Be Avoided

     Now why don’t people like to talk about death? Why is the subject taboo? And if we mention it we are called ”morbid”? Because “The sting of death is SIN” (I Cor. 15:56). The thing that makes death hard to face is sin.
     Sin is the father of death. ”As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
Sin is the cause of death. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
     Sin is the sting of death. It is a sin problem. We must get rid of our sin!
But, “What is man, that he should be clean? And he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?…the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?” (Job 15:14-16).
How then can man be justified with God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold, even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. How much less man, that is a worm? And the son of man , which is a worm?” (Job 25:4-6).

“What can wash away my sin?
NOTHING but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
NOTHING but the blood of Jesus.
For my pardon this I see-
NOTHING but the blood of Jesus.

For my cleansing, this my plea-
NOTHING but the blood of Jesus.

NOTHING can for sin atone-
NOTHING but the blood of Jesus.
NAUGHT of good that I have done -
NOTHING but the blood of Jesus.
This is all my hope and peace-
NOTHING but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness-
NOTHING but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! Precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
NOTHING but the blood of Jesus.”

“Could my tears forever flow,
Could my zeal no languor know,
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone:
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling.”

Have you accepted nothing but the shed blood of Christ as your grounds for forgiveness? If not, will you do it right now?