“Oh Death”

Oh death
Oh death
Won't you spare me over til another year

Well what is this that I can't see
With ice cold hands taking hold of me
Well, I am death none can excel
I'll open the door to heaven or hell

Whoa death someone would pray
Could you wait to call me til another day
The children pray the preacher preached
Time and mercy is out of your reach

I'll fix your feet til you can't walk
I'll lock your jaw til you can't talk
I'll close your eyes so you can't see
This very hour come and go with me

In death I come to take the soul
Leave the body and leave it cold
To drop the flesh off of the frame
The earth and worms both have a claim

Oh death how you're treatin me
You close my eyes so I can't see
Well you're hurtin my body you make me cold
You run my life right out of my soul
Oh death please consider my age
Please don't take me at this stage
My wealth is all at your command
If you'll remove your icy hands

Oh the young the rich or poor
All alike to me you know
No wealth no land no silver or gold
Nothing satisfies me but your soul

Oh death
Oh death
Won't you spare me over til another year
Won't you spare me over til another year
Won't you spare me over til another year

-          Unknown, performed by Ralph Stanley



Death comes to us all.  For some, it sneaks up and takes us without notice.  For others, death gives warning in form of cancer or some other disease.  Sometimes we’re fine but death takes a person close to us.  However it happens, we all have some reminder of death throughout our lives.  We are mortal and some day will all die.  In some ways, those who have warning via a disease or loss of a close one are blessed because this often acts as a wake-up call and gives them time to think about their own mortality.  And death is something that we must think about and must be prepared to face.  There’s no escaping it and we have no control over it.


 First, let’s look at why we have death.


Genesis 2:16-17  The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;  (17)  but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."


And, of course, Adam disobeyed and ate from the tree.  This was a “sin” and as a result Adam died.  You might say “Hey! No fair”, but God laid down the rule, told Adam what the punishment would be, and Adam disobeyed.  The same can be said today- God has given us the rules, laid down the consequences of disobedience, and we fall to the same temptation that Adam did- the serpent whispering in our ear “Did God really say that?”  Adam didn’t physically die immediately, but he did die spiritually.  And since Adam was the founder of the human race, we all receive his sinful nature.  That is, we all naturally disobey God.  Lots of people will say “but I haven’t killed anyone!  I’m basically a pretty good person!”.  I’m sure you are!  You’re a pretty good person when it comes to relating to other people.  But, let’s see what the Bible says about this.


Matthew 22:35-40  One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,  (36)  "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"  (37)  And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'  (38)  "This is the great and foremost commandment.  (39)  "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'  (40)  "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."


From this, we can see that the greatest commandment- that is, “Commandment #1”- is “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind”.  If this is the greatest commandment, then what is the greatest transgression?  In other words, what is “Sin #1”? It’s not murder, or adultery, or covetousness.  No, it is simply NOT loving the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, and mind.  Which of us have followed this commandment?  Not I!  Nope, I have loved many, many things before I loved the Lord, my God.  Also from this verse, we all see that relationships between people are clearly #2, not #1.  “The second is like is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.  So, no matter how good you’ve been to other people or how moral you are or “good of a person” you think you are, the fact is that everyone, if they’re honest with themselves, has violated commandment #1.  And that’s before we even get to the 10 Commandments!  How many of those have we broken?


This disobedience is “sin”.  Sin is not a thing that occurs between people, it’s a thing that occurs between people and God.  As we saw above, our relationship with God is #1 and our relationship with other people is #2.  When people sin, the result is death.  This is fair.  God laid down the law and laid down the consequences.  Besides the illustration from Genesis, we have these passages:


Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…


Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned--


Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death…


There’s just no escaping it- sin results in death.  And, as we saw in Genesis, this death is not only physical (you don’t immediately die physically from your first sin, although the process begins), but this death is also (and you might say “more importantly”) spiritual.  After his sin, Adam was immediately removed from the Garden of Eden and thus from the presence of God.  He was separated from God.  As inheritors of his nature and guilty of our own sins, we also are separated from God.  I’ll show you!


Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God...


Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God…


The first verse says that- thru faith- we have peace with God.  When the Bible says “peace”, it’s serious!  It doesn’t mean “cease-fire”, it doesn’t mean “set aside our differences”, and it doesn’t mean “let’s not argue”- it means peace!  It means that the thought of firing doesn’t enter our minds, there are no differences to set aside, and we don’t argue because there’s nothing to argue about.  Well, if we have peace through our faith, then what did we have before we were justified by faith?  The second verse, a little further down in Romans, says, “if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God”.  This verse makes it clear that not only were we enemies prior, but afterwards, we are reconciled to God.  Why should we be reconciled?  Because we were separated from God, that’s why!  And why are we separated?  Because of our sin.  Once again, Genesis shows us that; Adam sinned and was removed from fellowship with God. 


What does all this have to do with “death”, you might be asking?  After all, even Christians die, right?  Yes, indeed they do.  I think most people will agree that people are not just flesh, though. There is a spirit, a personality, a soul to people.  Virtually all religions agree on this point (even when they agree on nothing else).  And virtually all agree that this soul is distinct from the flesh.  When you die, the flesh dies, but the spirit lives.  The Bible tells us that even when the soul is saved and reconciled with God, the flesh is still sinful, and that’s why the body dies.  So, yes, even those who are reconciled with God still die- as the song says, their “flesh drops from the frame and the earth and worms both have a claim”.  It’s the soul we’re concerned about.  The soul must be reconciled with God or separation will be eternal. 


Many people believe that God will simply forgive them and that all people go to “heaven” to be with God.  But the Bible doesn’t teach that at all. 


Hebrews 9:27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,


Luke 16:23  "In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.


Mark 9:43-44  "If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire


Matthew 10:28  "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.


These verses make clear that there is a hell.  Furthermore, the verse from Mark should make it clear that your disobedience will send you to hell because it is warning you to cast off that which makes you stumble or suffer the consequences.   The Hebrews verse warns us that there is no “second chance”- we don’t get purified in some intermediate state.  It says that it is appointed (an interesting word!) for men to die once and after this comes the judgment.  The very fact that the verse uses the word “judgment” indicates a separation of some sort.  What are they being judged of, and what is the result of this judgment?


Revelation 20:12-15 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.  (13) And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.  (14) Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  (15) And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.


Well, I don’t know about you, but personally, I want my name in that book of life!!  Notice very, very carefully here that although the dead were judged by their deeds, it was the fact that their name was written in the book of life that determined their fate.  In other words, it was their deeds that damned them, not their deeds that saved them!


If you’ve read this far, you should hopefully be thinking about some of these things. Perhaps you, yourself, are suffering from cancer or have recently had a heart attack, or have lost or nearly lost a loved one.  You have gotten a glimpse of the abyss and you are wondering about death.  I certainly hope that’s the case!  Don’t forget, we all die!  Frankly, I hope you are sweating and your stomach is churning itself in knots thinking about death and what happens afterwards.  Those things are good because they are indications that you understand the seriousness of death.  It’s all over at that moment.  No turning back.  Can’t stop the clock and say “Oh wait!!”  As the song says “Time and mercy is out of your reach”.  Nope, you’d better get ready NOW.  And this is why I called disease and physical problems a “blessing”- they give you time to think about your eventual fate.  You might get hit by a brick falling from a building and die instantly, having never thought about death and having never had the opportunity to consider your relationship with God.  But, no…God gives us plenty of opportunity to repent and seek His forgiveness, and we have no excuse for not so doing.


How then, can we die peacefully and in confidence that our souls will be with our Creator?  Well, not by our deeds, as we saw from the Revelation text above.  Our deeds condemn us!  Let’s go back and look at some of the verses we looked at earlier.


Remember this verse? 


Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death….


Here’s the rest of it:


Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


How about this one?  Remember it?


Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God…


Here’s the rest of it:


Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,


How about this one? 


Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God…


Here’s where it came from:


Romans 5:8-11 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  (9) Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  (10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  (11) And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.


There is a LOT in that passage.  I suggest that you read it very carefully and note things like this: in the phrase “while we were yet sinners”, the word “yet” implies something that is past and in fact, some modern translations say “while we were still sinners”.  Ahh….so something has changed!  Notice the word “justified” in the phrase “having been justified by His blood”.  In this use, “justified” is a legal term that means:

JUST'IFY, v.t. [L. justus, just,and facio, to make.]


2. In theology, to pardon and clear from guilt; to absolve or acquit from guilt and merited punishment, and to accept as righteous on account of the merits of the Savior, or by the application of Christ's atonement to the offender.


We see that we are “pardoned and cleared from guilt” “by His blood”.  And, what do you know?  That’s exactly what the actual definition of the word “justify” means, straight out of the dictionary!  Note what we are saved from: “we shall be saved from the wrath of God….”.  Read the rest of that passage very carefully!!


One last thing…. although the song credits “death”, it is really God who is in control of your destiny.  We saw above where it is “appointed” to man to die.  When the Bible uses language like that, it’s serious.  All the associations and implications that we would use in the word “appointment” are there- a time, a place, a date, a reason…God has appointed all those things.  Your death is as good as in His Day-Timer.  Your death is not an accident or a surprise to God.  Let’s look at some evidence:


Job 12:9-10  "Who among all these does not know That the hand of the LORD has done this,  (10) In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?


Job 34:14-15  "If He should determine to do so, If He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath,  (15) All flesh would perish together, And man would return to dust.


Isaiah 42:5 Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it,


Daniel 5:23 but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified.


Ecclesiastes 9:12 Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them.


Let’s sum up to this point:


1)       Every person dies.  This is a fact, no matter what you believe about the reasons behind or because of death.

2)       Death is a result of sin

3)       Every person sins as a result of the sin nature inherited from Adam.

4)       Sin separates us from God

5)       To be separated from God is to be either in hell or on our way there.

6)       We cannot be reconciled to God through our own deeds.  Quite the opposite- our deeds condemn us

7)       We are reconciled to God through the justification provided by Jesus Christ.

8)       We are already damned by our own disobedience but if we do not accept this justification, we can rightly be doubly condemned, if there is such a thing.  Once for our own sins against God, and secondly for rejecting Christ.  See (6) again.

9)       Every person dies and they know not their time. 


Don’t think that if you accept Christ’s atonement sacrifice and are reconciled with God, to no longer be enemies with Him and to be saved from His wrath, that life and death will be easy.   No one ever said it would be easy. In fact, it will probably be harder.


Romans 5:3-6 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;  (4)  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;  (5)  and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.


Romans 8:22-25 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.  (23) And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.  (24) For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?  (25) But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.


Romans 8:35-39 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  (36) Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED."  (37) But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  (38) For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  (39) nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.



Once again, perhaps you’re reading this because you or a loved one are suffering from cancer, or have had a heart attack, or suffer from diabetes, or any one of a million things.  We can (and will) pray for healing but the simple fact is that you and everyone else are still going to die.  You may be healed for another 5 years or another 10, 20, 30 years.  You might be “spared over for another year”, but you are still going to face death, perhaps sooner, perhaps later.  Far more importantly than being healed for a relatively short period of time is that your soul is prepared for eternity.  Let me quote another song!


“Get Right With God”

I would risk the serpent's bite
I would dance around with seven
I would kiss the diamond back
If I knew it would get me to heaven

'Cause I want to get right with God
Yes, you know you got to get right with God

I would burn the soles of my feet
Burn the palms of both my hands
If I could learn and be complete
If I could walk righteously again

I would sleep on a bed of nails
'Till my back was torn and bleeding
In the deep darkness of Hell
The Damascus of my meeting

I asked God about his plan
To save us all from Satan's slaughter
If I give up one of my lambs
Will you take me as one of your daughters?

- Lucinda Williams

Here’s a popular artist proclaiming something that we all know- you’ve got to get right with God.  Ms. Williams is certainly on the right track there.  But, you don’t have to risk the serpent’s bite or sleep on nails or any other kind of works.  You can’t earn favor this way.  In fact, God scorns your attempts!

Isaiah 64:6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Isaiah says our righteous acts are as filthy garments!   The apostle Paul says:

Romans 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

So, you can’t earn your forgiveness from God.   But Christ can and did. We are justified by His righteous acts, not ours.

Romans 5:8-11 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  (9) Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  (10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  (11) And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

You might ask “How is it that Christ’s deeds are applied to me?  I didn’t do it, He did!”.  Good question.  If you recall, Adam’s sin was transferred to your nature and that is why human nature is to rebel against God.  In the same way, Christ’s righteous nature is imputed to you.  Back to Romans for some more of this passage! 

Romans 5:12-19 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned--  (13) for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.  (14) Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.  (15) But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.  (16) The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.  (17) For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.  (18) So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.  (19) For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

Get right with God?  Accept Christ’s sacrifice for you.  Done.


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