• W. Austin Gardner

Our Terminal Disease



As human beings, we have a terminal disease called mortality. The current death rate is 100 percent. Unless Christ returns soon, we’re all going to die. We don’t like to think about death; yet, worldwide, 3 people die every second, 180 every minute, and nearly 11,000 every hour. If the Bible is right about what happens to us after death, it means that more than 250,000 people every day go either to Heaven or Hell.


David said, "Lord, Make me to know mine end,

And the measure of my days, what it is;

That I may know how frail I am.

5 Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth;

And mine age is as nothing before thee:" (Psalm 39:4-5).


Picture a single breath escaping your mouth on a cold day and dissipating into the air. Such is the brevity of life here. The wise will consider what awaits us on the other side of this life that so quickly ends.


God uses suffering and impending death to unfasten us from this earth and to set our minds on what lies beyond. I’ve lost people close to me. (Actually, I haven’t lost them, because I know where they are—rather, I’ve lost contact with them.) I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people who’ve been diagnosed with terminal diseases. These people, and their loved ones, have a sudden and insatiable interest in the afterlife. Most people live unprepared for death. But those who are wise will go to a reliable source to investigate what’s on the other side. And if they discover that the choices they make during their brief stay in this world will matter in the world to come, they’ll want to adjust those choices accordingly.


Ancient merchants often wrote the words memento mori“think of death” —in large letters on the first page of their accounting books.10 Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, commissioned a servant to stand in his presence each day and say, “Philip, you will die.”


In contrast, France’s Louis XIV decreed that the word death not be uttered in his presence. Most of us are more like Louis than Philip, denying death and avoiding the thought of it except when it’s forced upon us. We live under the fear of death.


Jesus came to deliver us from the fear of death,


Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14-15).


In light of the coming resurrection of the dead, the apostle Paul asks, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).


What delivers us from the fear of death? What takes away death’s sting? Only a relationship with the person who died on our behalf, the one who has gone ahead to make a place for us to live with him. If we don’t know Jesus, we will fear death and its sting—and we should.


Randy Alcorn, Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2011).

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