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DEATH AND JUDGMENT – OR LIFE IN CHRIST!

by Mr. John Samuel Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, June 18, 2017

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).


Your life will not last forever. This is not new information to you. You are aware of this fact as a reality of life. You are aware of death, but the importance of its truth is lost on you. You know you will die, and you care about this, but you will do nothing about it: at least, not today. You imagine that there is still a great deal of living left to do before you get around to beginning the process of dying. You still have to graduate from college. You still have to fall in love. You still have to have a family. You still have so many good times left. You have no plans to die any time soon. Because of this, your death is quarantined to the abstract: to someday. But, you will die. You know this. You care about this. But you will do nothing about it. The Bible says,

“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Maybe you will die in your sleep. Maybe you will die in suffering. However the circumstance, your life silently protests against death. You fight against it. You do not want to think about death. There is still so much left for you to do. So you consider the likely outcomes of your life in your mind. You cast your thoughts past tomorrow and into the days which should follow, and you feel quite safe. You imagine that death is too far away to be considered. Because death seems so far away, you postpone the thought of it. Most of the time, you actually believe your life will last forever.

Even now you may be comforting yourself at the promising answer you return with as your mind darts through the corners of your life to calculate the likelihood of your death. Yet, your calculation must forever be changing, as with each moment that passes by, the probability of your death increases. You do not take death seriously, and in doing so, you are unprepared for your death. In your negligence, death silently inches closer and closer. You do not bother to look or to prepare, and so death will catch you by surprise. You will slip from this life, and death will take you, and lead you, and bring you into the judgment of God.

“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

I. First, you will die.

The Bible says,

“All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Ecclesiastes 3:20).

You cannot escape death. You cannot beat death. This is a curse of the fall of man into sin. Because of sin, your life must be lived with an expiration date. Even though it is a guaranteed reality of life, it is not real to you. You believe that every day will be filled with the same opportunities as the days which have come before.

You live under the illusion of great hope and promise. It is your practice and pattern to live as if you will never die. Because of this, you live without urgency, or direction, or purpose. You are living incidentally, and so your life will pass you by as if in a dream, and then you will die. You will die and death will not wait for your permission. Death will not wait for you to be ready. While He was on earth, Jesus spoke of a man, who had many plans for his life, but none for his death.

“And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself saying…Soul, thou has much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee” (Luke 12:16-17b, 19-20).

“It is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27).

The moment of your death will be terrible. No matter when your death comes, it will be too soon for you. Your life will begin to fade into death. Your strength will begin to leave you. It is already happening right now. Your strength, your energy, your abilities, are perishable. This will never get better, but only increasingly worse.

Someday, there will come a moment, when you will have to face death. You will have gotten weaker and sicker and more tired, until finally, you will realize that the bed on which you are resting will be the bed that you will die on. You’ll feel death tugging on your spirit. You will be medicated, but you’ll still be in so much pain. Finally, you’ll barely be able to breathe. With each breath, you’ll lose a little bit more strength, so that the next breath will be harder, and then harder, and then impossible. You will almost be able to predict your last breath on the horizon of your life, and it will terrify you. You’ll know you can’t do it forever, but for this time, for this breath – you can. After each breath, all that you will want is to breathe again, one more time, so you can live, just a little more.

You’ll breathe in and the air will fill your body, and then death will force it from you. There will be an uncertain pause, in which you will fight with everything that you have to draw the life back into your lungs. Your life is withering to its end. You will open your eyes. You’ll look around the room, almost as if to check to see if you are still alive. You’ll just want to live, a little bit longer. You’ll try so hard. And then you’ll die.

“It is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27).

And death is not the end. After death comes something much worse. How could you have lived your life and not have prepared for death? How could you have been so distracted by the shine and taste of the world to forget about death? How could you have lived for so many years, and through so many chances to trust Christ, and forgotten that it would all come to an end? You forgot to pay attention. You forgot to be prepared. You forgot to take your soul seriously. You thought you would always have another day, another year, another chance, until suddenly, you no longer did. You lost your soul. You lost it all. Death took everything from you. And now, you must be presented before a Just and Holy God as you really are. You will be presented as you truly are: as sinful, and selfish, and unforgiven. You were not ready. You will die, and then, you must be judged.

“It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

II. Second, you will be judged.

If you should die without Christ, you will stand before God at the Last Judgment. The Bible says,

“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them” (Revelation 20:11).

You managed to avoid the reality of God in your life. You avoided God because you did not want Him to interfere with your life. You did not want to be ruled by God. You were the secret enemy of God. You avoided God by missing church. You avoided God by forgetting the sermons and the counseling. You avoided God by living your life in such a way as to distract yourself from the withering work of the Holy Spirit. You avoided God by rejecting Christ. You avoided God for an entire lifetime. But in death, you will not be able to avoid God. There will be no place to hide. The mountains will not cover you. Lies will not hide you. Nobody will be there to defend you. All of reality will be peeled back to its core, revealing you and all of your sin to God. The Bible says,

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12)

Everyone who has ever lived will be there. You will tremble and tears will stream from your eyes. The movement of time itself will be suspended. You will have nothing to measure the passing moments with, except by each step that you take which moves you ever closer in line, until at last it is your turn. You will stand before God, as your name is looked up by God where it should be listed in the Book of Life, but it is not there. You were not covered by the Blood of Christ, and so you must be judged. You will shamefully relive your life, a sin at a time. Your sins will be recounted in perfect detail by the record of God. All of your thoughts, and actions, and desires will be presented as the eerlasting and ultimate case against your soul. You will have no one there to defend you. The anticipation of the moment will grow worse and worse, until finally, your last sin is read, and judgment is pronounced. The Bible says,

“And whosever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire”
         (Revelation 20:15).

That horrible moment defies description. But it will be a moment that you earned. You will be cast on the order of God into eternal punishment. You will plunge into suffering in its greatest manifestation. It did not need to be this way. You had chances. You heard the Gospel. You had special attention and prayers. But you declined. You resisted. You minimized the reality of death, and judgment, and Hell.

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:27-28).

III. Third, it did not need to be this way.

It did not need to be this way. God did not create you with your death and judgment in His mind. He wanted something better for you. God did not want you to die in anxious anguish and be judged forever in Hell. For the early Methodists, it was not this way. It was said of those Methodists that they “died well.” John Wesley was the founder of the Methodists. He was one of the greatest evangelists of all time. John Wesley is one of Dr. Hymers’ heroes. Dr. Hymers and Mrs. Hymers visited the room where Mr. Wesley died. John Wesley did not die in fear of death or judgment; bur rather, he “died well.” Listen to a description of how he died.

Wesley called for a pen and ink, but he could not write. His strength had left him. A girl said “Let me write for you sir, tell me what you want to say.” Mr. Wesley said, “Nothing, but that God is with us.” An hour later, he broke out singing with renewed strength, that astonished all who were present there. He sang,

“I will praise my Maker while I’ve breath,
  And when my voice is lost in death,
  Praise shall employ my nobler powers;
  My days of praise shall ne’er be past,
  While life, and thought, and being last,
  Or immortality endures.”

Mr. Wesley knew he was dying, but he was not afraid. When he got into his chair, his countenance was seen to be changed and ready for death. He sang to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, until his voice failed him. After gasping for breath he said, “Now I am through, let us all go.” They laid him on his bed from which he rose no more. After sleeping a little, he called asked that those who were with him to pray and praise. They all knelt down, and the presence of God filled the room. The room was filled with God’s presence.

Then with his remaining strength, Wesley cried out, “The best of all, is God with us.” Lifting up his dying arms in victory, and raising his feeble voice with a holy triumph, again he repeated, “The best of all, is God with us.” And then he cried, “The Lord is with us, The God of Jacob is our refuge!” And he attempted to repeat a Psalm again, but he could only say, “I’ll praise. I’ll praise.” Without a lingering groan, the man of God gathered up his feet to God, in the presence of his brethren! John Wesley died praising God! John Wesley went up, straight into Heaven. His soul ascended up, out of the sick bed, directly into the presence of Jesus, who met him with open arms.

That is the way to die. Not to die surrounded by uncertainty and trembling, but with the emboldened peace of a child of God saved by grace. That is the way to die – to die in triumph – and not in judgment, and not in fear. That is the way all of us should want to die – reaching out to Christ who comes to us as He draws us into the blazing light of God’s presence. Those who are in Christ shall not go into the fiery darkness. Christ will catch us immediately into His glowing love. There will be no cause for fear, for Christ has conquered death. The Bible says,

“[Salvation] is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (II Timothy 1:10).

That is the way you should pass from this life. Therefore entrust your eternal soul into the love, forgiveness, and salvation of Christ. This life was not meant to be lived and finished as a tragedy, but in triumph. Jesus Christ Himself rose up and slew death in the victory of His resurrection. Death cannot threaten to separate us from the love of Christ, for we are eternally His. As Death whispers hopelessness in the believer’s ear, our response is to dauntlessly look past death with a longing gaze to the Promised Land – to the Promised Land of Heaven itself! Because of Christ, we look past death with glistening eyes into the gentle shores of eternity. Our hearts look past the shutter of death, into the boundless hope of Christ. That is the way it should be. That is the way to die well. That is the way to live for Christ and die in Him. Death is nothing but the start of the best days of our lives. We are bound for the Promised Land! The “Promised Land” is Heaven! I am bound for Heaven!

“I am bound for the Promised Land.
Oh who will come and go with me,
I am bound for the Promised Land.”

Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sin! Jesus poured out His precious Blood to wash all your sins away! Jesus ascended back to Heaven, where He is praying for you now! Trust Jesus, and He will save you from your sins. Only trust Him. Only trust Him. Only trust Him now. He will save you, He will save you! He will save you now! Dr. Hymers, please come and close this service.


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(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Noah Song: Revelation 20:11-15.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Is My Name Written There?” (by Mary A. Kidder, 1820-1915).


THE OUTLINE OF

DEATH AND JUDGMENT – OR LIFE IN CHRIST!

by Mr. John Samuel Cagan

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

I.    First, you will die, Ecclesiastes 3:20; Luke 12:16-17b, 19-20.

II.   Second, you will be judged, Revelation 20:11, 12, 15;
Hebrews 9:27-28.

III.  Third, it did not need to be this way, II Timothy 1:10.