"Christians (and others) who think burial is somehow more consistent with resurrection are simply confused—about both buried (or entombed) bodies and about resurrection bodies. With very, very few exceptions, buried bodies eventually decay, rot, even liquify." - Roger Oleson
This past Sunday, I spoke in a small church in northeast Wisconsin. Knowing of the love that many in that congregation have for Bible prophecy, I shared that Dr. Jimmy DeYoung had been announced as the featured speaker for this fall’s IFCA Wisconsin Regional meetings in October.
I did not realize until that evening that—by the time I gave that announcement—Dr. DeYoung was already experiencing that which the Apostle Paul described in Phil. 1:21:
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.1
And, as Paul also wrote in 2 Cor. 5:8:
We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
I first learned of Dr. DeYoung in the 1990s, when he became a regular part of the Day of Discovery television program from Our Daily Bread Ministries (formerly RBC Ministries). Those episodes were filmed in Israel and the Middle East, and I learned much from watching as I prepared for church on Sunday mornings.
Dr. DeYoung’s influence continued to grow steadily on Christian radio and television. He was often found on The John Ankerberg Show, and his own Prophecy Today ministry attracted a growing audience to various programs.
The most prominent reality at a funeral is also at the same time the most difficult subject to discuss. That reality, of course, is the subject of death. As one man has noted, “Death is the one experience that will be shared in common by every person …. Every moment we live, the sand in the hourglass of our existence continues to flow, bringing our final end ever near.”1 And yet, despite the “commonness” of death, most people prefer not to talk about it. There seems to be a kind of natural aversion to death. If we had our choice, we’d much rather celebrate the birth of a new child or the wedding of a close friend. If we had our way, there would be no funerals, no sad and uncomfortable occasions associated with the passing of a loved one.
Yet, we cannot escape reality. Death confronts us on the front page of the newspaper. It shakes us when we have to bury a family member or friend. Finally the day comes when death knocks at our own door. Indeed, the moment you and I were born into the world, we began our lifelong journey to the grave. And so, we can’t avoid the reality of death. With this inescapable reality in view, I’d like briefly to address the meaning of death. Specifically, what is death? And why must we die?
Webster’s Dictionary defines “death” simply as the cessation of life. Thus, to understand “death,” we must first understand “life.” Webster’s offers two primary definitions: