Questions about death - A humorous look at dying
1) What will people say of me after I die?
One day everybody dies and goes down in history. After you die, how will you then be known? What will people say of you? Some are known for their distinct accomplishments during their lifetime. Consider the following monikers: (George Washington): "The father of our country." (P.T. Barnham): "The Greatest showman on earth." (Thomas Edison): "Wizard of Menlo Park." (Elvis Presley): "The King.” There are some monikers we wouldn't want: (Jack Kevorkian, convicted murderer): "Doctor Death." (Theodore Kaczynski-serial killer): "Unabomber.” (Josef Mengele-Nazi war criminal): "Angel of Death.” Some names have also come to symbolize certain things. If you were to ask someone, "Who is the most evil, infamous person in history," they might say, "Hitler or (for women) Jezebel." Those names are still used today to epitomize evil as people often say, "He's another Hitler" or "She's a Jezebel." No wonder the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, wrote in Proverbs 22:1: "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favor rather than silver and gold." Is your name known as a “good name?”
Consider some of the many people in the Bible who had "a good name." The greatest and most honorable title that was ever given was given to our Lord Jesus himself: "King of Kings and Lord of Lords." But are a few others: (1 Chronicles 5:24-TLT): "These men had a great reputation as mighty warriors." (Psalm 45:9): speaks of "honorable women." (2 Samuel 14:2-TLT): speaks of "a woman . . . who had a reputation for great wisdom." Finally, (Hebrews 11:39-TLT) "All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith." Oh to have a good reputation because of our personal faith!
Actually, everyone in history from Bible characters to 21st century Americans already has a moniker and an eternal reputation. Everyone reading this today is either a "saint" or a "sinner" and is either "saved" or "lost." That is the most important thing anyone will ever be able to say about you: that you are "saved." If you are a sinner or lost (because of sin), come to the "King of Kings and Lord of Lords," repent of that sin, and receive Him as your personal Lord and Savior so that you eternally will be known as one of the "SAVED" BY HIS GRACE, BORN AGAIN Christians!
2) How will people eulogize me?
What kind of last statement do you want to express to the world? You either make it for yourself or others will make it for you. Some things about us will one day be "written in stone." Following , for example, are some rather humorous epitaphs taken from actual tombstones and grave markers: (From Ribbesford, England) "The children of Israel wanted bread and the Lord sent them manna. Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife and the Devil sent him Anna." (Bonnie Anderson): "I don't want to talk about it right now." (Mel Blanc-the voice for Bugs Bunny): "That's All Folks." (On a dentist's grave marker): "Stranger tread this ground with gravity. Dentist Brown is filling his last cavity." (At Boot Hill Cemetery, Tombstone, AZ) : "He was young, He was fair. But the Injuns raised his hair." (Jedediah Goodwin-Auctioneer): "Going. Going. Gone!!!" (John Yeast): "Pardon me For not rising." (From Uniontown, PA) "Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake. Stepped on the gas Instead of the brake." (Following, are from unknown locations): "Here lies Pa. Pa liked wimin. Ma caught Pa in with two swimmin. Here lies Pa;" "Here lies old Aunt Hannah Proctor who purged but didn't call the Doctor: She couldn't stay, She had to go. Praise God from whom all blessings flow;” (A widow trying to get free advertising): "Sacred To The Remains of Jonathan Thompson A Pious Christian and Affectionate Husband. His disconsolate widow Continues to carry on His grocery business at the old stand on Main Street: Cheapest and best prices in town." (On an atheist's tombstone): "All dressed up and no place to go."
Now, let's consider the contrast from a few thought provoking or sobering epitaphs . . . (Al Capone): "My Jesus Mercy." (Nichols, Mary Ann): “Victim of ‘Jack the Ripper.’” (Alexander the Great): "A tomb now suffices for him, for whom the world was not enough." (The following from Marin County, California says it simplest and best)” W.O. & H.H. Andrews, "With Christ which is far better." If you ordered your tombstone or grave marker today, what could you honestly say about yourself? Would you want to make a joke out of your death like some of those above? If others made the choice for you after your death, what would they likely have written about you? What would you like them to say about you if they spoke at your funeral service? And, what choices could you make now, if need be, to make your life the kind of life they would gladly say such good things about you?
I figure I have done over 300 funeral services. I always tried to say nice things about people. (Not wanting to lie or exaggerate, I sometimes had to be quite creative!) It was interesting to see the disparate difference from one person to the next. At one funeral, friends and relatives would comment about the descendants "love for sports" or the like. There was not much they could comment about their "good" character. At other services, people would tell one good thing after another about the person. What kind of comments do you think people would make about you?
It was also interesting how many attended the funeral services. Some were packed out. I attended a service where people were literally lining the walls. But, at one service, on the other hand, the funeral director and I were the only people who showed up! (This is getting depressing talking about death! We need a little dose of medicine.)
Proverbs 17:22: "A merry heart does good like a medicine."): "The old man had died. A wonderful funeral was in progress and the country preacher talked at length of the good traits of the decease: what an honest man he was; what a loving husband he had been; and the kind father he was. After listening at some length to the preacher describing him in the most glowing terms, the widow leaned over and whispered to one of her children, ‘Go up there and take a look in the coffin and make sure that's your pa!’"
How many attend your funeral; what is put on your grave marker; what eulogies are given at your memorial service: what you do today (while you are still alive!) will help determine these things. For some who died, at their final service, I had to be careful in my wording and say, "We sorrow not as those who have no hope. Through Christ we have the hope of meeting this loved one again." I couldn’t in all honesty, say, "They’re in heaven!" (and I certainly wasn't going to say they were "in hell!"). I could only leave the mourners with the hope that God in His grace had received their departed into heaven. Believe me when I say this: There is no sadder experience than to attend a funeral service for a person who probably was even at that very moment screaming in the flames of hell!
On the other hand, the funerals for a wonderful Christian, (even in an untimely death, and even in the midst of genuine sorrow at having to say goodbye), are nevertheless virtually always times of rejoicing. There is laughing and joyful singing. The room is always filled with hope and peace. And how happy I am to be able to truly say that the person was now, "absent from the body and present with the Lord." Will your funeral service by a time of great sorrow and fear? Will people wonder to themselves, "Are they in heaven or hell?" Or will they say goodbye one last time with the full assurance that they will meet you again in heaven?
You personally make the determination. Jesus said, "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3. If you have been "born again" then you can have the wonderful assurance that after death, you will indeed "see the kingdom of God." If you haven't been born again, invite Christ into your heart today and become a "born again" Christian. Then, when you die, preachers like me can joyfully announce or loved ones can write on your grave marker: "The LORD will record, When He registers the peoples: "This one was born (again) there." Psalm 87:6
3) What will be my last words?
Following are some humorous reported last words: (In response to an attending doctor who attempted to comfort him by saying, "General, I fear the angels are waiting for you, Ethan Allen, American Revolutionary general said), "Waiting are they? Waiting are they? Well--let 'em wait!” (Bing Crosby, singer/actor): “That was a great game of golf, fellers.” (Groucho Marx, comedian): “Die, my dear? Why, that's the last thing I'll do!” (When asked if he has any last requests before facing a firing squad, James W. Rodgers said), “Yes...A bullet-proof vest!”
Here are some words that you wouldn’t want to be your last: (Frank Sinatra): “I'm losing!” (James Thurber, humorist): “God bless... God d__n!” (Hanged for murder, Lavinia Fisher said): “If any of you have a message for the Devil, give it to me, for I am about to meet him!” (To her housekeeper, who had begun to pray aloud, actress Joan Crawford said): “D__n it . . . Don't you dare ask God to help me!” (Elizabeth I, Queen of England): “All my possessions for a moment of time.” (Edgar Allan Poe): “Lord help my poor soul!”
How much better it would be to be able to say last words that were good last words like the following: (John Wesley): “God is with us.” (Pastor D.L. Moody): “Is this death? This glory!” (Tammy Faye Messner [Bakker] ): “I'm in the hands of Jesus!” (Jesus Christ): “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:43). If you aren’t sure what your last words will be, at least get right with God (if you aren’t already) so that your last words will align themselves with the Word of God, by which you will be eternally judged! Then, you when you leave this world, you can (like Jesus) say, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
4) How do I want to die?
Death is life’s way of telling you, “You’re fired!” When you’re fired, how are you going to die? For some, death is an awful experience. I knew a man who was actually killed by a steam roller! Consider the following (unsubstantiated, but apparently factual) ways some have died: A poodle fell from a balcony in Buenos Aires in October 1988. It killed three people. One was struck on the head, the second run over by a bus while watching, the third witnessed the event and died from a heart attack.
Over 2500 left handed people a year are killed from using products made for right handed people! Since 1978, at least 37 people have died as a result of shaking vending machines, in an attempt to get free merchandise. More people are killed annually by donkeys than die in air crashes. 100 people choke to death on ballpoint pens every year. The infamous Black Plague in Europe was due in part to the fact that people believed those with cats were witches. So all the cats were rounded up, caged and burned, leaving the rats (with their disease causing parasites) to run free and multiply. Those harboring cats were many who survived. More people are killed each year by falling coconuts than sharks. Your statistical chance of being murdered is one in twenty thousand (unless you’re married to my wife!!!). From the 1850's to the 1880's, the most common reason for death among cowboys was being dragged by a horse while caught in the stirrups.
In the 90’s, 37 jet airplane mechanics servicing engines were accidentally sucked into the engines and expelled from the rear in very small chunks. Ralph Nader says that in 1991, 300,000 Americans were killed in hospitals as a result of medical negligence. Two animal rights protesters were protesting at the cruelty of sending pigs to a slaughterhouse in Bonn. Suddenly the pigs, all two thousand of them, escaped through a broken fence and stampeded, trampling the two hapless protesters to death. You are more likely to be killed by a champagne cork than by a poisonous spider. Five hundred people per year die in the U.S. from bee stings. In 1983, a Mrs. Carson of Lake Kushaqua, N.Y., was laid out in her coffin, presumed dead of heart disease. As mourners watched, she suddenly sat up. Her daughter dropped dead of fright; killed by a heart attack. Lightning, on average, causes 93 deaths in U.S. annually A woman who made it her hobby to feed bears. They found her body half eaten by one!
There are sure a lot of ways to die, aren’t there? The Bible also records many different and often unusual ways to die. The whole population of the earth died by drowning, except for Noah and his family, during the great flood. King Ahab was killed by an arrow fired at random. A woman drove a stake through an evil man’s head while he was sleeping. Another man died by a woman dropping a stone on his head from the top of a tower. Judas committed suicide by hanging. King Agag was hacked to death with a sword by Samuel. Goliath was killed by one rock from a slingshot. Fire from heaven killed the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the priests of Baal. A bear mauled a large group of teenagers who made fun of Elijah. An unbelieving court attendant to the king was trampled by hungry people trying to get food. A lion killed a prophet who disobeyed God. Samson killed 1000 Philistines with the Jawbone of a Jackass. Soldiers who tried to throw the three Hebrew children into a fire were overcome by the fire and consumed. Lions killed the entire families of the conspirators against Daniel. Hebrews 11:36-37 mentions saints who were, “tortured, stoned, sawn in two.” The Bible doesn’t pull any punches about death (so neither should we!).
Obviously, we do not have absolute control over how we die. But, we can at least rule out certain types of death. For instance, it is more dangerous to check in to a hospital for treatment than it is to enter a war zone: so only use surgery as a last resort! Seatbelts reduce the risk of death by half, so use your seatbelt: genius! Don’t fly in small private planes (the odds of dying in a crash in one are 8 times as high as driving a similar distance in a car). And, no one has ever died on a Southwest jet from a crash (I fly SWA!). Watch your diet! Heart disease, cancer and sugar diabetes are all diet related diseases. So, eat better and exercise more and you greatly reduce your chance of premature death by three biggest killers of Americans.
You can’t do a lot about determining the manner by which you die. But, you can do much to determine how (emotionally and spiritually) you die! Hebrews 10:31: “It is a fearful (terrifying) thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” To die without the knowledge of Christ as your Savior is a horribly frightful thing indeed! Death is our enemy. Death is ugly. The Bible calls the grave “cruel.” Luke 16:19-31 describes a beggar dying and being “carried by the angels” to Paradise. On the other hand, it mentions a rich man dying and going to hell where he cries, “I am tormented in this flame.” No wonder death is a terrifying thing to an unsaved person!
But, a Christian can have the complete assurance of avoiding hell and that death is but an instant passageway into a far better place: “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8). When a Christian dies, he immediately leaves his body and his soul goes to be “with the Lord.” Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21-23: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Paul said he desired to, “depart and be with Christ, which is far better (than life itself!).” If you are not right with God and fear falling into His hands in judgment, get right with Him today!
5.) Who do I not want to come to my funeral?
A) People who are glad I died: When Jehoram became King of Israel, he had all his “competition” killed: his brothers and some other leaders. He married the wicked Jezebel’s daughter and encouraged idolatry in the country. When he died at 40 years of age, 2 Chron. 21:20 says that he “passed away to no one’s regret.” The NIRV says, “No one was sorry.” Imagine dying and nobody being sorry! (I want them to celebrate my passing, but I don’t want them to get THAT big a kick out it!). I talked to a man once who hated his dad so much, that when his dad died when he was only 16 years old, he was truly sorry . . . because as soon as he grew big enough, he’d been looking forward to beating the (expletive deleted) out of him! I heard a comedian suggest that if you want to go to a funeral and show your dislike for a person, sit in the service eating popcorn and coke! We want a tears to be shed at our funeral, but not tears from laughter!
B) Demons: In the movie “Ghost,” as evil people die, we see demons from hell rising from the inferno to drag their souls down to hell with them. There are a few Scriptures that hint at this possibility. Hell has “gates” and a place as serious as hell surely has someone opening and closing the gates to those who enter. Could it be demons? Heb. 2:15 says “The devil . . . has the power of death.” If the devil can kill people, I think it is at least remotely possible that he could also personally deliver them to hell. What a frightful specter!
6) Who I do want to come to my funeral:
A) People who will publically acknowledge that my life deeply impacted theirs. When I was a teenager, my goal was to be Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. I had been going to a church that taught that the White Race was God’s true chosen people; that Jews should be killed (as they were the seed of Satan); and that blacks should be shipped back to Africa. I was also taught that because I was white: no matter what I did; no matter how bad my sins were; I would still go to heaven. (You can read more about my testimony at www.evangelistdeawarford.org). During my last year of high school, my Uncle Marvin Williams, who was a godly man and a preacher of the gospel, said to me, “Dea, the Bible says you can ‘believe a lie and be damned.’” (Quoting from II Thessalonians 2:10-12). When he told me that verse, it scared me! I thought, “What if I am believing a lie? I don’t want to go to hell for it.” So, I started reading the New Testament every day, honestly looking for the truth. I would also pray, “God, reveal to me the truth!”
As I read the Bible with an open mind, I began to realize that the Bible didn’t teach segregation; it taught salvation. I soon thereafter invited Christ into my life at a youth camp. God called me to preach the gospel and I renounced my KKK beliefs! (Friend, are you incidentally “believing a lie.” Just because you were taught something by a certain church or because it was your parent’s belief, doesn’t mean it is the truth. Discover the truth for yourself!). Over three decades later, I was in another state preaching when they held my Uncle Marvin’s funeral. I had pre-taped a personal testimony which they played for the memorial service. In that tape, I told how my uncle had been used of God to help me escape my racist career plans and to find Christ instead. He greatly impacted my life and I made a public acknowledgement of this for his funeral. How many will be able to testify, after your death, that you truly impacted their life? Start impacting them now! Especially help people escape “believing a lie” that might damn their soul!
B) Angels: Another evidence that demons may carry the soul of a sinner to hell is the fact that the Scriptures reveal that angels carried a righteous man named Lazarus to Paradise (Luke 16:22). When you die, you certainly don’t want demons to control your destiny, do you? Instead, imagine the joy of closing your eyes in death and then opening them just in time to see heavenly angels coming your way to assist you, guide you and welcome you into your eternal home. What a thrilling thought! This thought has encouraged people for many decades. Even mistreated slaves used to sing, “I looked over Jordan, And WHAT did I see, Comin' for to carry me home, A band of angels comin' after me. Comin' for to carry me home.” Where is your eternal home? If it is heaven, you can joyfully sing the above chorus. If not, or if you are not sure that heaven is your eternal home, consider this Biblical promise: “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:12, 13
The Lord wants you to “know that you have eternal life.” This assurance, though, can come to you only if you have the Son in your life. You may believe in Him and pray to Him. But, is He truly “in” your life: living through you; controlling and guiding you? If not, receive Him into your heart today. Make sure that He, your personal Lord and Savior, is the first one at your funeral!
6) What preparations have I made for after my death?
Edvard Munch said, “From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.” If flowers growing from your rotting corpse is your only contribution to the time beyond you, you have prepared very poorly for your death!
The pharaohs built themselves huge burial tombs of stone called the pyramids. Once a pharaoh died, his subjects began a long and intricate process of preserving his body, called mummification. By using the correct chemicals, may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:12, 13). The Lord wants you to “know that you have eternal life.” This assurance, though, can come to you only if you have the Son in your life. You may believe in Him and pray to Him. But, is He truly “in” your life: living through you; controlling and guiding you? If not, receive Him into your heart today. Make sure that He, your personal Lord and Savior, is the first one at your funeral! There is a question I encourage people to ask themselves to help them to determine this: Where and when were you born in America (What city and state and what date?). Everyone knows the answer to that question. Now, here is a more important question: Where and when were you born again? If you can’t say a definitive place and day, where and when you were born again, then you probably haven’t had that experience! Yet Jesus said, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” If you have not had a born again experience, by Jesus’ own words, you will not “see” the kingdom of God. Then, you might ask,
7) How do I prepare for death and become “born again?”
a) Repent of your sins: Make a quality decision to give up any sins that stand between you and God. Name your outstanding sins and ask the Lord to forgive you: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves . . . If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).
b) Come to Christ: and call on Him in prayer to save you: “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13). Like a drowning man would call out to a lifeguard to “save him,” so we too need to call out to Christ to save us from drowning in our sins!
c) Believe for a transformation: of your heart and life (because you are born again) and begin taking proper steps to “live” the Christian life. Born again Christians get baptized in water, attend church regularly, pray for guidance, study the Bible, and make preparing for death (both their’s and other’s around them) life’s highest priority!
If you made this decision for Christ, email today to: Warford7@hotmail.com or call 1-918-576-4680 and request helpful Christian literature, or sign up to receive a free daily email teaching like this newsletter. Resolve forever the above 7 questions about your death! See you in heaven!