By Pastor Glenn Pease
Paul Aurandt records this fascinating paradox of history. In September of 1776 Alexander Hamilton was a captain in the army. The British has his division trapped in lower Manhattan. They had only two choices it seemed: To fight and die, or to surrender and be hanged. With those options, it was no surprise that the order was to fight to the death. They awaited the British attack. Suddenly there was the sound of horses hoofs, but of a lone rider. It was a Revolutionary soldier. He was a young major who had discovered an escape route. Hamilton and his men followed him immediately, and after an 8 mile march in a driving rain they were exhausted, but they were alive, thanks to the young major.
Alexander Hamilton survived the Revolutionary War, and became a great leader of our nation. He became the first Secretary of the Treasury, and devised a federal fiscal system that paid off the war debt. He established a National Bank, and set the stage for our nation's westward expansion. He determined that the Capital of the U.S. would be in Washington D. C., and he helped prevent two wars with France and England. There is no telling how much more he may have accomplished had he not been gunned down in a duel at age 49. Aaron Burr was the man who cut his life short, but the paradox is, Aaron Burr was also the man who made it possible for him to become famous, for Burr, who took his life, was also that young army major who saved him earlier. He was both his savior and executioner.
This amazing paradox of being both a deliverer and destroyer fits perfectly the role of Jesus in each of our lives. Jesus died for all men, and, therefore, he is the Savior of all men. No person needs to die for their own sin, for Jesus paid it all. Every person can claim him as Savior, and be free from condemnation and judgment. Yet, on the other hand, every man is free to ignore and reject what Jesus has done for them. In this case, they will have to pay for their own sin, and face judgment, and Jesus is the judge. He will judge all who do not accept Him as Savior. So, even though He died for a man, and is his Savior, if the man does not accept that role of Jesus, then he must face Him as judge. Jesus is already your Savior, for He has already made it possible for you to be forgiven and accepted into the family of God. But if you do not take that gift, He will be your judge and destroyer.
The dividing line that determines which He will be to you for eternity is death. It is appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment. It is not death that determines your destiny, but it is death that ends your choices as to your destiny. You determine if Jesus will be your Savior or you judge, but which choice you have made is locked in at death. This means that one of the most important aspects of our lives is death. It is hard to think of anything that will have a greater impact on us than our dying. It is more important than taxes. We say there are two things that are inevitable, death and taxes, but some people escape taxes, but nobody escapes death. Death is so popular everybody's is doing it. That is what the Bible is saying-
I. DEATH IS CERTAIN.
It is appointed onto man once to die, and that is one appointment everybody keeps. There are about 37 thousand cemeteries in the U. S. alone, but there is no point of moving to a country with less, for in most countries in the world you will meet death even sooner than here. Edgar Allen Poe told some gruesome stories. One is called the Masque Of Red Death. A terrible plague was devastating the country. The victims of this strange disease would bleed from all their pours and then quickly die.
Prince Prospera is determined to outwit this Red Death, and so, with a thousand of his friends, he retired to his secluded castle, and when the gates were shut they were welded fast so none could enter or leave. There were provisions for a lengthy stay, and so the people lived in luxury for many days trying to forget the suffering world outside. But one night, during a masquerade ball, a figure appeared with a mask like the Red Death. The guest were terrified. Orders were given to seize the intruder, and when the mask was torn from his face there was no face. It was the Red Death, and one by one they guests began to drop and die.
Poe was portraying the truth that there is no escape. Men have tried everything to escape death, and all they have done is develop a few delaying tactics that hold back death for a few years, but never has man been able to stop the march of this inevitable conqueror. Life is like a game of chess. The king, queen, bishops and knights, and the lowly pawns are all there, but one by one each goes off the board back into the box. High and low alike are equal in death, for death removes all from the board of life. It is not a pleasant thought, and that is why we seldom think of it. You may escape an accident or a disease, but you cannot escape death, and that is why we fear it. Shakespeare said,
"The weariest and most loathed worldly life that age, ache, poverty, and imprisonment can lay on nature, is a paradise to what we fear of death."
There are two things you can do about death. You can flee it, or you can face it. Those who flee never get away, but they feel better trying. They called a graveyard a memorial garden, and they beautify the funeral with flowers, music, and shiny brass and velvet, but all the camouflage does not fool anyone for very long. Tons of poetry and acres of flowers cannot stop the stench of death, and all men know they are confronted by a foe against which they have no defense. The second way of dealing with it is to face it. That is the Easter way. Face it, not with the flimsy weapon of your own flesh, but with the weapon of faith in Jesus Christ, the only man who ever fought with death face to face and came out a winner. Because Jesus gained victory over death, there is a second point we need to look at. Yes it is true that death is certain, but the good news is-
II. DEATH IS CONQUERABLE.
There is a way to outwit death, and that is by following the only one who ever entered the kingdom of death, and stole the keys. Jesus said that He has the keys of death and hell. A lot of people have died and come back to tell of it. I have read a number of them, but not one ever said just trust in me and follow me, and when you die I will get you through. Nobody in all of history has ever said what Jesus said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life, he who lives and believes in Me shall never die." That is, they will never be held by death, and be kept separated from God. In Christ you do not die when you leave the body, for you go to heaven into His presence, and that is not death, but life at its best.
Now you may not believe what Jesus said, but you have to face these facts. He is the only one in all of history who conquered death, and claimed to be able to do it for all who trust in Him. You have the choice: You either trust Jesus to be your deliverer, or you try it on your own. If you choose to face death in your own power, I cannot wish you good luck, for the Bible and history say you are sunk and lost, for no man can face this final foe and win on his own. It is like trying to put out a forest fire with a tooth pick. But if you choose to face death with faith in Jesus Christ, I can say, "God bless you," and I can rejoice with you, for you have chosen the Easter way. This is the way of life; the only way known to overcome death and live forever.
A student once asked a professor, "When is the best time to repent?" The professor said, "The day before you die." The student replied, "But how can you know when you will die?" The professor said, "You can't, and so the best time to repent is always now." Today is the day of salvation. The only way to be absolutely sure you will outwit death is to trust Christ as your Savior now. If you wait, you take a chance, and you may end up knowing Him as your judge.
People spend a lifetime preparing to live and retire, but they don't spend a minute preparing to die, so they can face the judgment with a Savior who can gain eternal life for them. How can men be so foolish? This is like putting your hand into a pot of molten metal to save your stick of chewing gum. This is like diving into a hot furnace to retrieve a napkin. Nobody is that foolish, to lose their hand or their life for a mere triviality. Yet men will cling to that which will soon pass away, and let their eternal soul be lost forever because they will not receive Jesus as their Savior.
Living is uncertain, and nobody knows how long they will live, but dying is certain. All of us can be sure of that, but we don't know when. It is appointed unto men once to die and after that the judgment. Living is so much more fun and enjoyable when you know you are ready for the day of judgment, because you have one who is your Savior, and who died for your sins and took your judgment. This story is told of the terrible days of the blitz in London. A father holding his small son's hand ran from a building that had been hit by a bomb. There was a shell hole, and the father jumped in and held up his arm for the boy to follow. The boy looked into the dark hole and said, "I can't see you." The father could see his son, however, for he was outlined against the night sky. He said to his anxious boy, "But I can see you, so jump." By faith he did just that. Faith is not seeing, but believing you are seen. It is a jump, but a jump into the hands of one who loves you, and gave His life to save you.
Douglas Kenny was a funny guy all his life. In high school he was the guy who would raise his hand in math class and ask the teacher, "Would you explain that again for those of me who don't understand?" He graduated from high school, and joined the staff of the satire magazine The Harvard Lampoon. He graduated from Harvard, and went on to found the popular National Lampoon Magazine. He sold his interest in that for one million dollars, and got into movies. He wrote the script for the box office sensation, Animal House. This spun off into TV series, and another film, Caddyshack. He was rich and famous, and successful in Hollywood at 34.
But as we well know, money and success does not lead to happiness in the lives of those who have no eternal hope. One day Doug's body was found at the bottom of a cliff in Hawaii. No one knows if he jumped and committed suicide, or if he was pushed. At 34 he was dead, because death pursues all, the rich and famous, as well as the poor and unknown. There is no escape from death in riches, fame, or success. If you want to be an over comer, and conquer this final foe, it is possible for those who know they cannot do it in their own power, and so turn to the only one who can, and put their trust in Jesus as their Savior.