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Death & Dying: The Difference

Dying is not a “welcome” stranger! Often it catches us off-guard. And too often, we are not prepared! When I was 10 years old my mother died very suddenly of a brain tumor. She went to the hospital with severe headaches and three days later she died. It was sad.We cried. We missed her. She was gone.

What is it to “die” and what is “death” and are they the same? We use these words interchangeably but are they, spiritually-speaking, different???

We all have experiences with dying! Some are close and personal- someone we work with dies of cancer, or a grandparent dies of old age. Sometimes it is distant and impersonal as when we read of someone dying in an earthquake in a far off land. It’s understandable then that the closer we are to someone who dies, the more difficult it is to deal with their dying. It’s so final when someone dies!! We often don’t know what to do or say. Or we didn’t have a chance to say “goodbye” or a last “I love you” or to resolve past hurts. We feel so helpless.

The real question though that we must face is not are we “helpless”, but “are we hopeless?” Every time we hear of someone dying we are reminded of our own destiny, our own “appointment” with time. The Bible says in the Book of Hebrews 9:27,

“It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this, the judgment!” (KJV)

God says very clearly that there is no such thing as reincarnation! We live once, and then we die! Some kind of “future” is awaiting us all! I’m reminded of an old tombstone that I read about in an Indiana cemetery: “Pause, Stranger, When you pass me by, As you are now, so once was I, As I am now, so you will be, So prepare for death, and follow me!”

An unknown passerby, after reading this, scratched this reply below the epitaph: “To follow you, I’m not content, Until I know which way you went!!”

This humorous poem has much to say about our future. We all will spend eternity somewhere!

Do you know where you will spend eternity?

Many people in this world live in what I call “death denial”, that is if I don’t talk about it or think about it, I don’t have to deal with it. We live in the fear of death and try to hide that fear with pleasure, money, self-beauty and so on. That is, until a friend or relative dies!! And again we are confronted with the truth Everyone dies!!

Everyone you know or have ever known or will ever know, will die. But although everyone “dies”, everyone does have to not experience “death!”

If we are to be effective “encouragers” to those affected by AIDS, those who are so very often forced to “face their mortality”, we ourselves must understand the difference between “dying” and “death”. So where do we start?

Our perspective of what death really is “begins” in the beginning

Genesis 2:17, “But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die!”

From the very first, God warned mankind that if we rebelled and went our own “way”, there would be a consequence. We would die! That’s what happened to Adam and Eve when they sinned- they were forced out from the Garden of Eden and could no longer have fellowship with God. They were “separated” from God. At first it was only spiritually, but eventually the toll was physical. So the best way to define death then, in a Biblical sense, is “separation from God”. But we can’t just blame Adam and Eve. Romans 3:23 helps us to see our own responsibility in all this when it says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!”

There is no question about it- all of us have sinned! A little lie, a big lie, a little gossip, a hateful word, a sinful act, a horrible act- we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And remember, sin separates us from a sinless and Holy God! Ethan of the Old Testament tribe of Ezra understood this when he wrote in Psalm 89:48, “What man can live and not see death, or save himself from the power of the grave?”

The answer is pretty clear- no one!!! And the evidence of that is that we all die! There is no way out of it- you and I will die! But there was One person who died and in fact, would not “stay” dead. That One is Jesus Christ! The Bible says in Romans 4:25, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification!”

Even now some 40 years later, although I miss my mother,

I know where she is! She is with Jesus!! Her body may be gone but her soul and spirit are alive in Him. What comfort that brings. What joy to know that I will see her again someday. Really!!! We understand what Jesus meant when He spoke in the Gospel of John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to Life!”

Jesus goes on to say in the same Gospel chapter 11:25 as he spoke to a woman by the name of Martha- “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

That’s the question before every one of us Do YOU believe this? Is Jesus your Resurrection?

Confronting your mortality because of HIV and AIDS means that you now have an opportunity to face dying with dignity and know that because of Jesus Christ in your life, you will live forever.

If you know this, you have eternal life in Jesus Christ and death has been conquered for you. His peace is yours!

If you do not, then why wait any longer to accept the Truth? God loves you, forgives you, and has a plan for your life and your death! You don’t have to live in fear of the “unknown” any longer. You don’t have to be afraid of dying. You can trust Jesus and be with Him forever. And that’s the Truth!

We are not helpless or hopeless for Jesus is our Hope!

Ask Him into your life you will never regret it, and never means forever!!

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