There are several things about death that spark my editorial thoughts. One is that whether it's sudden or prolonged, it's still an unpleasant happening, isn't it? But, it's something that we have to face in some form or fashion and to understand as a fact of life.
Recently in the news was the tragedy down in the San Diego area where four motorcyclists were hit by an automobile and killed. Having, for many years, ridden motorcycles for work and pleasure, this event struck a little closer to home than other sudden deaths, if you know what I mean. One minute they're riding along enjoying the moment and suddenly their lives are snuffed out like a candle. We can't pray for their safety because it's too late for that. At this point we can hope and pray that they had made the proper preparations in their lives that their souls now rest in paradise.
In another example, I was watching a film taken in1906 of Market Street in San Francisco. It was interesting to see this early effort at film making, especially to see the old vehicles (horses and wagons and first automobiles) and the dress of the people. It was a crowded scene with thousands of people going about their daily lives. Sort of a microcosm of time seen in this brief little film. Why this film fits our topic here today is, it was taken one week prior to the famous earthquake and subsequent fire that destroyed the city and wherein thousands of people perished. I thought as I watched the film, they were going about their routine daily business and didn't realize that they only had a few days left to live.
One more little example showing the sometimes suddenness of death is something I happened to read a few weeks ago. It's the headline of the Tombstone (Arizona) Epitaph's (town newspaper) first edition following the famous "Gunfight at the OK Corral." It simply read: "THREE MEN HURLED INTO ETERNITY IN THE DURATION OF A MOMENT." Alive one minute, dead the next and residing in a condition that never ends and there is no possible way of changing it.
How many examples could be cited as representative of sudden death? Way more than we have time and space to mention here. Just think about the wars our country's citizens have died fighting in. Over 620,000 in the Civil War alone. And war just emphasizes how sudden and terrible death can come. Plus, emphasizes how sad an occasion it is.
You know, as sad as sudden death is, the one scenario of death that always touched me was, what I call, the "lonely death." I saw and investigated this type of death many times while working as a Homicide Detective. It was always sad to me when I had to respond to a location where someone had been found dead after several days of not being seen.
A particular location that stands out in my mind is some apartments that are no longer in existence, but were well-visited by our police department. We'd find someone who lived alone, in a small one-room apartment with very few amenities and no evidence of family or friends present. Here was a person who died alone without anyone to seemingly care about them. I didn't know them, but that didn't matter, I was still saddened by their death and the manner in which it arrived.
As briefly mentioned earlier, after the onset of death, after the spirit has left the mortal body, there's nothing that can be changed to effect the life hereafter. The soul's eternal resting place is fixed. I guess what strikes me as being so sad on many occasions of death is that, I have every reason to believe that the deceased did not make any preparations in life to meet God after life. Yes, physical death is sad enough, but eternal death is beyond my comprehension of sadness.
Let's go back to the Bible verse cited at the onset of this lesson. The one from Deut. 32:29. Take a few moments and read this chapter leading up to this verse and look at what God is saying here. We'll do this by defining some of the words of the verse. "They" are the Israelites, the people who God had saved from captivity in Egypt by great and wondrous things and who had followed Him for awhile.
That "they" would be "wise" and "understand" the condition they had gotten themselves into by going away from God and His precepts. That's what the word "this"in the verse means, IE: their current situation as being sinners. As being unsaved. That they would "consider their latter end!" And this is what we'll close our thoughts today with, the understanding of what's meant by the "latter end."
The Hebrew word used here that's translated "latter" in English means: "the last or the end, hence the future." It makes reference to time as "at the end." Interestingly enough, one of it's other meanings is "reward." I see it as interesting because God tells us in His Word that He bestows two "rewards." A "reward for the righteous" seen in Psalm 58:11 and, just a few verses further on from our starting scriptural reference, in Deut. 32:41 we see the other reward: "I will render vengeance to mine enemies and will reward them that hate me."
This is what we should be "wise" about and "understand." What God has done for our salvation from captivity. The captivity of sin. That the only time that we have as mortals to prepare our souls for the "latter end" is while we're still alive. While the "breath of the Almighty" is still within us. (Job 33:4) As shown us by the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:20-31), there is no way of changing our final destination once death has occurred.
Death can come suddenly and without warning. But really, it can't come "unexpectedly" because we know it's coming. We just don't know when. Wouldn't you say that it's better to "expect" it to come at any time? If you "think" it might be "wise" for you to get prepared, as far as God is concerned, keep in mind these words of David in Psalm 146:4...
"His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth;
in that very day his thoughts perish."