Can You Change Your Appointment with Death?

On Sunday I will begin a three week series of sermons entitled “The Afterdeath.” What does the Bible teach about death? What does a person experience after they die? What will eternity be like? In preparation for this series I will be submitting a some posts to help us all begin thinking about the upcoming sermons.

One thing is certain, no one survives life. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:26 - 27, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

Most people interpret this verse to mean that all of us have an appointed moment for our death; like 3:00 on a Thursday afternoon. The Greek word interpreted “appointment” does carry the idea of destiny. But can our appointment with death be changed like an appointment with your dentist? Can you procrastinate death? Can you actually be late for your own funeral? When it is your time to go, do you really have to go?

The Bible seems to indicate in wisdom literature and law that there is a longevity of life that can be enjoyed by those who obey God (Deut. 6:2, Proverbs 4:10). On the flip side, the life of the fool can be short. Does this mean we can lengthen or shorten our lives depending on our actions, or do we have an appointment with death that no matter the circumstance must be kept?

Johanna Ganthaler was late for Air France 447 on May 31, 2009. The flight crashed into the Atlantic four hours after takeoff killing all 228 people on board. The week following the crash Ms. Ganthaler died in a car accident in Austria. There is no doubt; life and death are strange and inescapable.

The gospels indicate that with Jesus there was a sense of His impending death but also a sense of time (John 7:6). There were several times in which angry crowds tried to kill Jesus, but because it was not His time, they could not (Luke 4:20-30). Only when His time had fully come did He lay down His life. You and I do not have that much control over the length of our life, but we know that God will not allow death to overcome someone before their time. There are many examples in the Bible, namely Acts, when the servants of God should have been killed but their lives were miraculously preserved.

If you jump off of a 100 story building today at 3:00 p.m. you will die. If you put it off until tomorrow at 3:30 p.m., then you will die tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. Suicide is the taking of one’s own life, it is foolish, and it is the ultimate act of hubris. At the same time we know that people can hasten death by smoking after their diagnosis of lung cancer, refusing to take a prescribed medication, or refusing chemo-therapy after the doctor has said with treatment, they may be able to live three more months. At the same time a person can miss a crashing plane and next week be the driver of a crashing car.

There are many ethical dilemmas with death and its timing. The focus of Hebrews 9:26-27 is not so much on the timing of death, but upon its certainty. Death is inescapable. Everyone dies once. Jesus died His one death as an offering for the sins of many. The focus of life should not be so much on changing our appointment, but on being faithful unto death. Many of us are doing great on exercise and lowering cholesterol, but are failing in faithfulness. Unfaithful people with low cholesterol will die; after this the judgment.

No one survives life. We cannot change death. However, in Christ we have hope in judgment, eternal life. Would you receive God’s gift of eternal life in His Son Jesus Christ today? Repent of your sin, receive salvation in Jesus Christ. Spend the rest of your days eagerly waiting for Him.


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