Death Is Only The Beginning

With these words, the character of Imhotep (the reincarnated mummy) in the movie “The Mummy” sinks into the dark pit and is covered completely in a black, oily ooze never to return (until the upcoming sequel).  This phraseology is a common theme throughout the movie and its sequel, “The Mummy Returns.”  You may remember the first time our intrepid explorers, Rick, Evelyn and Jonathon, encounter this phrase, it is inscribed in the mummy’s sarcophagus.  Although I disagree with the snippet of theology presented in the movie concerning reincarnation, the overall theme, i.e. death is only the beginning, is not only correct but also thought provoking. 

“The only certain things in life are death and taxes.”  That saying is something that we grow up with from an early age.  You cannot predict the twists and turns of life except that you will pay taxes during your life and you will die.  In many societies, including the United States, you may very well pay taxes when you die.  Death is a fact of life and if you live long enough, you will experience the death of a friend, family member or acquaintance.  We cannot escape it although we seem to be bent on trying. 

Early in our history, explorers in North America were searching for the “fountain of youth.”  Today, we have discovered that fountain.  The fountain of youth is available in virtually the entire civilized world; it is contained in cologne, perfume, automobiles, clothing, soap, lotions, body sprays and exercise equipment.  The world of advertising promises us that we can erase our worry lines, tone our bodies and forestall the effects of aging (and therefore, death) if we will just use their products.  However, as we all know, this is not the case.

The issue of death is most often ignored by people who somehow seem to think that by failing to confront it, death can somehow be postponed.  A prime example of this attitude is the simple fact that most people do not plan for death; they do not make out a will or a right-to-die (living will) document until they are presented with the absolute necessity of doing so.  That necessity most often presents itself when you are admitted into a hospital.  The key questions that will be raised at that time are:

  • Do you have a living will or right-to-die document?
  • Are you an organ donor?
  • Do you have any special instructions such as a “DNR” (Do Not Resuscitate)?

The reason that hospital personnel ask these questions is simple - people die.  People die everyday, both expectedly and unexpectedly, and very often, they die in a hospital.  The common reactions to death range from apprehension to fear to terror.  The thought of death often produces a sense of loss and foreboding.

Throughout the world the concept of death is often fearful for the individual and is symbolized by horrid images.  In our society we envision death with depictions of an open grave, a tombstone and the angel of death, typically shown as a sinister dark figure clothed in a black robe, carrying a scythe and beckoning with a boney finger (commonly known as the “Grim Reaper”).  Death seeks us out.  It is unrelenting.  At best we can only temporarily avoid it and then it drags us down into the pit.   

The Bible addresses death on three separate levels:  physical, spiritual and eternal.  While the last two encapsulate the most important death issues to be encountered, the first issue, i.e. physical death, is the one that seems to capture our attention.  (For a discussion concerning the avoidance of spiritual/eternal death, please see the author’s previous article “I’m Not Good Enough???”). 

Our attention is drawn to police dramas and murder mysteries as shown on television and depicted in best-selling novels.  Three of the most famous and watched trials of the last one hundred years centered upon heinous murders committed in California.  Death surrounds us yet we shy away from the issue of death until it is unavoidable.

What is death? 

Death is commonly defined by what it is not.  It is not life.  It is the end of life or the cessation of bodily function, particularly brain function.  With technological advances, death, as measured by body function such as heart beat, can be postponed almost indefinitely.  It is now possible to sustain body functions even when one is “brain dead.” 

The issues of the definition of death and its actual occurrence have become hot button topics.  It now appears that the condition known as a “persistent vegetative state” is synonymous with death.  The question now posed is not “Is this person dead?” but rather “Is this person truly alive?” 

We speak in terms of viability and debate the beginnings of life along with the end of one’s existence.  Depending on the person’s opinion, we may even litigate over the birth of one who shouldn’t have been born (wrongful birth). Abortion will remain a topic of intense debate and disagreement in our country and many anticipate will be argued again before the highest court in our land.  The reason for these continued disagreements is that many still maintain, at least conceptually, that life is sacred and therefore subject to protection.  (As an example, consider the legal protections afforded death row inmates and the efforts undertaken in the Terry Schiavo case).  Consequently, the concept of death and when it occurs (or should be administered) is vital to our society.  It is a rallying cry for the masses; just look at the bumper stickers you encounter each day.

As briefly touched on above, there is also the issue of reincarnation or past lives.  Some religions take the position that you continually evolve until you reach a higher plane of consciousness; there is a continuing progression throughout the ages allowing each person the opportunity to grow.  However, the Bible is quite specific when addressing this issue.

27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 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. Heb 9:27-28 (NKJV)

There is no reincarnation; there are no second chances once you die.  When you expire, you can no longer call a “do over” or claim “King’s X.”  There is no crossing of your fingers or claiming you were just kidding.  Your life is what you make of it, here and now.  You cannot and will not be prayed out of your predicament if you have failed to make final, adequate preparation for eternity.

If God is really a loving God, why do we have to experience death?

This is sort of like the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  It would seem that death is the ultimate in bad things and if God really loves us, why do we have to die?  We have all heard someone proclaim:

  1. that a certain person didn’t deserve to die especially when there were others in this world who were much more deserving;
  2. that someone “went” before their time; or,
  3. that “only the good die young.” 

The implication is, of course, that it was unfair for the person in question to die. Is that really true?  Is death unfair?  How did we arrive at this point?  Was death really God’s plan all along? 

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus 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 to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. Rom. 5:12-15 (NKJV)

15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. James 1:15-16 (NKJV)


Death exists because of sin.  It was not God’s original plan for man to die.  It entered the world through Adam and original sin and spread throughout mankind because we all sin.  This concept is seen throughout other scriptures. 

 17 For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. Rom. 5:16-19 (NKJV)

Death takes on a very negative connotation; it is a time of loss, a time of regret and a time of mourning and sorrow.  However, that perspective may be incorrect, at least for the believer in Jesus Christ.




What does the Bible say about death? 


21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 6:20-23 (NKJV)

21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 1 Cor. 15:21-22 (NKJV)


15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. Ps 116:15 (NKJV)

The idea of death, while abhorrent to man, is certainly not to God.  Sin and its aftermath leads to physical death, but for the believer in Jesus Christ, that is not the end.  The death of the believer is merely a release and transition into another life where that death is viewed as precious by God because we are then with Him.  Death for the believer is not the ultimate penalty.  The ultimate unbearable penalty would be eternal life in a sinful, corruptible state.  God, through His grace, allows us to die in order to take on incorruption.

Death is the enemy but it is not an enemy that is unconquerable.  Death itself will be destroyed.

26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 1 Cor. 15:25-26 (NKJV)


54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." 


55 "O Death, where is your sting?

O Hades, where is your victory?" 


56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:54-57 (NKJV)

14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. Rev. 20:14 (NKJV)

As for the attitude of the believer in Christ, the testimony of the apostle Paul as contained in the Word of God should be sufficient.  He felt the tug of eternity and yet realized that his time and purpose on earth had not yet been completed.

21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Phil. 1:21-23 (NKJV)


However, the end for the unbeliever is quite different and should be feared.

15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Rev 20:15 (NKJV)

8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." Rev 21:8 (NKJV)


In these increasingly dark times, death is becoming more and more common.  We are plagued by the images of death through war, famine, pestilence, accident and suicide.  Many of us have actually confronted death, more than once, in our lifetimes and do not understand why we are still here.  The answer, of course, is God’s grace and purpose. 

If the Rapture comes (and many think that it will), many people will no longer inhabit the earth.  They will be attending a magnificent wedding feast with Jesus Christ as members of the body of believers.  They will not see death.

On the other hand, the end times, particularly the Tribulation Period following the Rapture of God’s people, will present a time in history that has never been seen before and will never be experienced again.  People will die in numbers beyond our comprehension and will then pass from this existence into another.  The questions will be:  What was your decision?  Did you prepare for the end of your earthly existence?

I once heard an ad slogan for a security company that was very appropriate for this discussion topic.  That slogan was:  “Better a year to early than a day too late.”  Good advice.  You might want to take it.

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