Death in Paris

Bible Book: Hebrews  9 : 27-28
Subject: Death; Eternal Life; Salvation; Terrorism
Introduction

Hebrews 9:27-28 reads, "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (NKJV)

There is a time to die, but it seems to shock us when we see it happen. Over 125 people were shot to death in restaurants, in a theater where a rock band was performing and in other locations on Friday night, November 13, 2015 in Paris, France. The carnage came to light quickly due to the instant means of communication we possess today. Terrorists struck around 10:00 PM in at least six different locations around the city, throwing people into panic and the emergency response personnel into a frenzy. Those who died in Paris that night had no idea that they were going out that evening to meet death. As the news was beamed by satellite to television stations all over the world, shock set in among people everywhere. Bodies were carried upon stretchers, while other wounded people lay on the streets with citizens trying to comfort them. It was absolute turmoil.

The appointment with death had taken place at the most unlikely place and at the most unlikely time for those who were victims of the terrorist attacks, but then death has a way of coming when it is least expected. As we mourn for those who died and pray for the relatives and friends left behind, we must face the reality that can happen anywhere, anytime, to anyone. In fact, we are told in the Bible that each of us has an appointment with death.

Watching this ought to remind all of us of the basic truth that everyone has a time to die. Most of us would like to choose our way of dying – like passing away peacefully during sleep. Woody Allen said, “I don’t mind dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” That pretty well sums up how most of us feel.

Actually, death is much more prevalent than most of us realize. We don’t think about it much until a horrible, hateful thing like that which happened in Paris occurs. Terrorist attacks happen, car accidents take place, and heart attacks occur – death is real. It doesn’t seem real to us until some tragedy occurs or till someone we love passes into eternity.

It is interesting to note that several organizations around the world track births and deaths. Every one of them agree that more than 100 people die every minute around the world. That is almost two people dying every second. In the thirty seconds that you’ve been hearing (reading) this message, more than fifty people have died somewhere in the world.

In two hours of fever pitch terror in Pairs, about one hundred people died. Indeed, it was a horrible scene to be sure. Bullets, explosions, blood, and death seemed to be everywhere. While those people in Paris were dying, over that two hour period, approximately 12,000 people were dying somewhere elsewhere in the world. That means one-hundred times as many people were dying somewhere other than in Paris that night. Multiply the scene in Paris by 100 or 125 and you might get close to the actual number of people who died between 10:00 PM and midnight on Friday, November 13, 2015 somewhere in the world.

Why am I talking about this? I’m sharing this because we seldom think seriously about death unless there is an airline crash, a terrorist attack, or until it is personal. Actually, death is real, constant and serious every second, every day, everywhere in the world! The dim lights in funeral homes, the beautiful caskets and sweet smelling flowers cannot cover up the awfulness of death. Is there nothing that can be done about this problem?

Death is not a pleasant subject but it is a necessary one. Death has come to billions and it will come to billions more. Occasionally it is the very young who die, but then it may come to the very old. Death may come while one is eating breakfast, at work, while at play or exercise. Death may come in the night time or in the middle of the day. Death can even come while you are at church. While I was pastoring at the First Baptist Church, Cherryville, North Carolina, a number of years ago, a disturbance was observed and shortly afterward a man was taken from the balcony of the church in an ambulance. He was dead before they got him to the hospital. He died before the invitation could be given in that Sunday morning service. You can die in church … and you can die in Paris, France. In one place or another, you will die!

Maybe you heard about the preacher who woke up one day to read his obituary in the morning paper. Somehow the newspaper had gotten him mixed up with another minister who had died. The preacher thought he had better quickly get word to his congregation that all was well. He phoned the chairman of deacons and asked if he had seen the morning paper. The deacon said that he had. The preacher asked, “Did you see that it is reported that I died?” The chairman of deacons said, “Yes, I did.” Then there was a pause and the deacon asked, “By the way, preacher, where are you calling from?”

The greater question regarding death is where do we go when we die? Is there anything beyond this world? Did those who died in Paris on Friday evening continue on somewhere else? These are important questions that I want us to consider this morning.

I. The Truth about Death

Where and when did all this human dying begin? Science takes the witness stand and testifies that humans are nothing but highly developed animals and we all die like dogs and cats die. We humans, they say, are merely the top of the “survival of the fittest” chain and we control a lot of issues related to life and death, but die we do – we die because we are mammals – simply animals.

The Bible tells a different story. In Genesis we are told that man is a special creature, made in the image of God. The creation of mankind was an act of love, and the humans God created were made to have fellowship with Him and with each other in love and harmony. Death was never mentioned as part of the plan – well, almost never mentioned. God did tell Adam and Eve that they were free to eat from all the trees that were in the Garden of Eden, but they were not to partake of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Well, like a child in a candy store, Adam and Eve reached for the very thing they were denied. God had warned Adam and Eve that death was going to be the result if they ate of that forbidden fruit. “Who cares,” they must have said, or at least thought to themselves. “Death,” what is that to us. You see, Adam and Eve had never seen death and had no idea what it really was. It turned out that death was a lot worse than they could have imagined.

Death for humans is actually two-fold. First, because we are sinners (violators of God’s Law), death involves a spiritual dimension. Being a sinner means that we are separated from the original relationship God intended for man to have with Himself. It is referred to as spiritual death. God is pure and cannot have fellowship with that which is sinful, thus man is separated from a relationship with God. Also, sin involves physical death – the kind of death we are all familiar with and try our best to avoid.

Through Adam, death has passed to all of us. We are born in sin and it is part of our nature. The birth of death started with the first bite of the fruit God told Adam and Eve not to eat. You might think that sounds a bit harsh – death for eating the wrong fruit! Think whatever you wish to think, but this is not your world. God created everything and it belongs to Him. He gave Adam and Eve clear warning and they disregarded it. We have all done the same thing. You know there are things you are not to do, yet you do them anyway. It is called rebellious sin. We are sinners by birth and sinners by choice. We have sinned because we couldn’t help it and sinned because we didn’t want to help it. Some of it we tripped into and most of it we leaped into. There is none righteous, the Bible says, no not one!

Some years ago a family brought their young daughter to talk to me about being saved. She was asking questions and they were not sure she was old enough to understand the complex nature of making a decision to trust Christ as Savior and Lord. She was a sweet little girl who sat with her hands in her lap and looked around at my office as if she might be in the outer hallway of heaven. I asked, “Honey, do you know what sin is?” She shook her head in the affirmative. I asked her to explain to me what it is and she did a reasonable job, for a child at least, in describing sin. I asked if she had committed sin and she dropped her eyes and said, “Yes.” I asked if her mom had committed sin, and she said, “Yes.” I continued by asking about her father and, again, she agreed that he had indeed committed sin. The, for some reason unknown to me, I asked if she thought I had ever committed sin. She opened her eyes widely, and shaking her head she said, “No, I know you haven’t committed any sins.” I wanted to fall down laughing but I knew that was not an appropriate response for this little child, so I simply said, “Honey, I am a sinner. I may be a worse sinner than your dad and your mom. You see, everyone has committed sin, with the exception of one person and that person is Jesus Christ.” I went to explain to her a few more things related to the subject but ending by praying with her. I talked to her parents alone and told them that she likely needed to be a bit more mature before making such an important decision, but that they should teach her to confess her sins to God and to always trust Him as the only one who can grant her full forgiveness. By the way, she later made a decision for Christ – about three years after our conversation in my office.

II. The Triumph over Death

You see, there is something called a “blessed” death. You can die in peace and know that beyond the grave that there is a wonderful future in the presence of God. That is the truth! Revelation 14:13a states, “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord…”

There are those who claim to be alive today and to have already conquered death. You have surely heard some of them, or read about them while waiting in the grocery check-out lines. There are those who claim to have lived on earth or other planets hundreds or thousands of years ago. When they tell of their so-called prior lives, it is always a story of having been a queen or king, or perhaps as great warrior prince. Have you ever noticed that those who claim to be reincarnated never say, “I lived 2,000 years ago and I was a thief and a murderer!” No, you will never hear that. People who make such claims are frauds, delusional or outright liars seeking attention from the public.

There is only one way to experience victory over death and that is through Jesus Christ. Note in Revelation 14 that the triumph over death is only for those who are “in Christ Jesus.” Jesus conquered death when He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday almost 2,000 years ago. He promised the same victory to all those who are willing to turn from sin and trust Him as Lord and Savior.

I could not help but wonder, as I watched the news Friday evening, about the conditions of the souls of those who were killed. Were they ready to meet God? In the end, that is the most important question in life. Every person who went out to eat that night, or went to the soccer game, or to the concert hall, got themselves ready. The bathed, dressed, and checked to be sure they looked right before leaving their home or apartment. They checked to see that they had cash or a credit card. They made sure they had transportation and checked with friends to determine where they would meet. But, did they check to be sure that they were ready to die? That is not something most people think about when going out for the evening. It is, however, the most important preparation to be made in life.

There is no reincarnation after death. A person doesn’t come back to this life after death. You cannot return as a frog or a car salesman once you die. It is appointed unto you to die on this earth only once, and after that there is a judgment. A business man who had a long ordeal with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) died and his family found instructions for them to cremate his body and send the ashes to the IRS. With the ashes they were to send a note that read, “Now you have it all!” Actually, even in that case, the IRS did not have it all. You see, you go on after this life. Your soul lives beyond the grave. If you trust Christ as your Lord and Savior, as the forgiver of all you sin, you have a blessed, triumphant death. You go to be with Christ.

Jesus said, in John 14:1-6, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. I go to prepare a place for you, if it were not so I would have told you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to be where I am. Thomas said, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered him saying, I and the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me.” (NKJV)

Jesus is the way to eternal victory. No terrorist can steal that from you. No failure of your body’s organs can take that from you. No plane crash can rob you of that promise – the promise of being with Jesus in eternity. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Death without Jesus is the worst thing that can happen to anyone.

III. The Test after Death

A student either loves or hates a test. If he or she is ready for an exam, it is a moment of excitement and joy. On the other hand, if unprepared for a test, the student suddenly is gripped with fear and dread. No test on this earth can compare to the test that will take place when you die. “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment!” Ah, there is the rub! We must be prepared to die.

I had two bothers in one of my pastorates who operated a funeral home. They were wonderful men who took their jobs seriously and treated the deceased like family. One of them talked with me one day about going to collect the bodies of those who had died. He said, “Preacher, I know you are going to think this is strange, but I swear that those who died as Christians had a different expression on their faces than those who died without Christ.” I asked him to explain what he meant. He went to tell me that those who died in the Lord, almost invariably had a pleasant, peaceful expression in death. He noted that those who died after a life of sinful rebellion, almost always had a dreadful look of fear sealed on their faces in death. What an amazing observation. I believe it is possible that he was correct. Without Jesus, death is nothing more than facing a great test without preparation. Failure in this test means separation from God forever.

In this life, it rains on the just and the unjust. We all have blessings and sorrows. When this life is over, however, there is a separation between those who are blessed and those who are facing the agony of life without God’s warming sun. There will be a test! The only answer that grants one victory in that great exam is this: “What did you do with Jesus?” The question after the exam will be: “What will Jesus do with you?”

We cannot tell simply by looking at a person who is and who is not a Christian. We are told that some will be in heaven that we did not think were prepared and some will not be there that we thought for sure were ready. But, you can know in your own heart if you are ready to meet God in the great exam. Right now, in this room, everyone knows if you have trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you have any doubt, you ought to settle it right now. Simply turn to Him in believing faith. To do that, you must admit that you are a sinner and that Jesus alone is Lord. You must believe that He died for you at Calvary and that He rose from the dead! Turn from your self and your sin, and trust the Lord who loved you enough to die in your place.

Our text for today clearly tells us that Christ was offered up once to bear the sins of many. It might have said “all” instead of “many,” but then all will not trust Him - but you can! You can trust Him today. You can be among the “many.”

Conclusion

That terrible night of Friday the thirteenth in Paris will be remembered for years to come; however, what will not be remembered by many are the thousands who died around the world that same night during those same two hours. Every second, one or two people slip out of this life to face the final exam. We note well those who die in unusual circumstances, or in large numbers at one time, but thousands are dying right now, while we are in this worship service. We will face death just like they are facing death. Are we ready?

In Revelation 1:18 we read these words from Jesus, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hell and of Death. (NKJV)” That is the One I trust. I gave Him my life long ago and He has the keys to deliver me into His presence forever.

Paul put it like this in Colossians 3:1-3, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (NKJV)” Yes! When we trust Christ as our Savior, our life is “hidden” in Him. Death cannot take that from us.

Early in the years of my ministry as a pastor, I stood by the bed of a woman who was dying of cancer. She was not an old woman but her face was pale and weak. I was heartbroken to see her slipping away in death and tears began to slip from my eyes and cross the cheeks of my face. This dying woman reached up and put her hand on my hand, which was resting on the hospital bed rail. She patted my hand and said, “Now, now, preacher, don’t cry. It’s alright – I know where I’m going. You don’t need to be upset. You have work to do for the Lord, so don’t let this upset you.” After praying with her, I stepped out of the room and sat down in a chair in the waiting room and wept. I was amazed that this dying woman was not worried about her death but was worried about me and the ministry she knew I was to continue. You see, her life was hidden in Christ. She had peace. She died a few hours later - but she wasn't really dead - she was at home with Christ. Her lie was hidden in the Savior.

Do you have that peace? If not, come to Jesus today. Paris is not the only place where death sends people out to face the final exam. You can be ready - you can trust Jesus to give you joy in this life and an eternity with Him in a place where death cannot enter. Come to Him now!