“It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb 9:27) . This is a sobering verse that encourages us to examine whether or not we are prepared to die. In our study of Genesis, we read that “Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people” (Gen 25:8). Death is unavoidable, so we must be prepared. How do we know we are ready? In this sermon, let us consider this very important point.
- Phase 1: Life before Death. This is the phase you are currently in. You enter this phase at birth and leave this phase when you die. You are here because God wants you here. The Bible teaches us that we (and all things) were created by God for His own glory. God gave us life so that we can live for Him. In this life we are embodied souls given life, breath, and being (Acts 17). We are in the age of grace. We either live our life in the pursuit of selfish ambition or we surrender our lives to Jesus in faith. Christians are ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20) in this age fulfilling the great commandment and great commission. We must refuse to be distracted by the things of this world (1 John 1). We have good work to do (Eph 2:10) and we will do it until we die. Non-Christians must repent in this phase of life because death shuts the door on salvation.
- Transition: Death. Death is the transition from phase 1 to phase 2. Death is a natural occurrence. When a person’s body ceases to function, their body and soul become separated. Death occurs because of sin (Gen 3) and death is an enemy (1 Cor 15:26). Death removes us from this world and separates us from our loved ones on this earth. Death is unavoidable and every person is moving towards bodily death. Death puts an end to the age of grace and what you believed about Jesus determines what happens to you next.
- Phase 2: Life after Death. This phase begins immediately after death. When a person dies their body is buried (or cremated) and their soul enters into a temporary place where they await resurrection and the final judgment (Luke 16). There are only two destinations for those who die and every single person who has died is in one of two places:
- Paradise: The souls of the righteous are brought into Paradise/Heaven where they enjoy the blessedness of Christ’s presence (Luke 23:43, 2 Cor 5:8). This is a place of joy that far exceeds any descriptions. Those who die in faith wait here in comfort with Jesus until His return to earth.
- Hell: The souls of the unrighteous enter into torment (Luke 16:22) because of their rebellion against God. Those who are here await the final judgment of God. While belief in this state is terrible to consider, Christians must believe the Biblical witness that God is good and will not let the wicked go unpunished (Prov 11:21).
- Transition: Resurrection. Resurrection is the transition from phase 2 to phase 3. The day of Resurrection is the day Jesus returns to Earth. (1 Thess 4, 2 Thess 1-2, 1 Cor 15) and involves the temporary/physical body being changed into an eternal body. Every person will experience resurrection (Daniel 12:2, John 5:28). Resurrection, based on 1 Corinthians 15, will occur in the following ways:
- Resurrection of the Living. Those who are alive when Christ returns will be changed instantly. The perishable body will be removed and an imperishable body will be granted. Paul wrote that “we will not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Cor 15:51-52).
- Resurrection of the Dead. Those who have died will have their bodies restored and their soul reunited with the resurrected body. Paul wrote that “the dead will be raised imperishable” (1 Cor 15:52).
- Phase 3: Life after Life after Death. This is the final phase. Daniel 12:2 says, “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus told His disciples: “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28). After the resurrection, the final judgment will occur. The current heavens and earth will be “dissolved” (2 Peter 3:11). Christians will be ushered into the everlasting kingdom of God and the wicked will be cast into the lake of fire.
- New Heavens and New Earth. The Apostle Peter wrote “according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). Revelation 21 tells us that in this new heaven and new earth God Himself will dwell with man and “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…I am making all things new” (Rev 21:4-5). There are no words that can describe the joy of this place.
- Lake of Fire. In stark contrast to the above, the wicked are judged and “thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15). Just as words cannot describe the blessedness of the new heavens and new earth, words cannot describe the terror of the torment of the lake of fire. Jesus described it as a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 8:12 & 25:30).
In closing, you must be prepared for death because death is coming soon. Some people prepare by trying to be a good person. They believe that if their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds, then they will be accepted by God. The problem with this view is that it is unbiblical. The Bible tells us that we must be born again (John 3). Only Jesus can give us a new birth into a living hope (1 Peter 1). The only way to properly prepare is to place your faith in Jesus and be saved from you sin. Are you ready to die? If not, get ready.
 This phrase has recently been popularized by N.T. Wright.