The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart” (Ecc. 7:2). He tells that on those days we are faced with grief over the loss of a loved one, it is better than celebration. The reason he says this is that each one of us lives with the constant reality that one day we must also die. In light of that reality, we are take it to heart, understanding there are things worse than death. It fills us with a sense of sobriety and yet at the same time, an awareness that something is incredibly broken. Death itself is a constant reminder to us that something is profoundly wrong in this world. For us to understand what is wrong—why death, and pain, and sadness are all part of the world we know so well, we must look once again to Scripture for the answers.
The very first words written for us in the Bible is that in the beginning, God created everything in existence, whether seen or unseen, and He called it all, “very good.” By this, Scripture testifies to the fact that God is Lord over all creation, but more than this, everything He created was fundamentally good. It was not broken; it was not distorted; there was no sickness, pain, or death—everything worked as it was supposed to. This good gift was given to the first created man and wife, Adam and Eve, and they enjoyed walking with God Himself in those days.
As the story continues, we find that God had given them one simple command: they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because if they did, they would surely die. But a Deceiver came, one we know by the name of Satan, and he tempted Eve by the fruit of the tree. She took the fruit and ate it, and then gave to her husband Adam, and he also took of the fruit and ate it. It was at the moment, through one man’s disobedience to His Creator, that sin and death entered into the world. In a word: all of Creation fell. It plummeted into darkness and became broken, twisted, and cursed. Adam and Eve would be cast out of the Garden and separated from the presence of God.
No longer would they walk with Him as they once did; life as they knew it had changed in an instant and it would never be the same. All of humanity would now suffer under the curse of three great enemies: sin, death, and Satan. This is ultimately why we now live in a broken world filled with broken people and we face the pain of death. This curse that we all suffer from is the explanation given for why we have a constant awareness that things are not the way they are supposed to be; that we deal with things like heartache, pain, and even death. Yet in the midst of this curse brought upon mankind through Adam, God gave the promise that One would come to defeat these three great enemies of sin, death, and Satan.
Throughout all of the Old Testament we see glimmers of hope where men rise who call upon the name of the Lord, yet they too are plagued by the curse of sin. They too come and go; they too live and die; they too cannot defeat sin, death, or Satan. But all the while God continues to reiterate His promise through various kings and prophets, that a Savior would come who would die for the sins of His people, and free them from that great enemy we call death.
Many generations pass as the people look for this Savior and as they wait, sin and its destructive power continues to wreak havoc. The people fall into rebellion, they reject the prophets, and they ultimately come to reject God Himself—but God, being ever faithful to His promise, tells them once again that this Savior will come and make all things right. Then, 400 years of silence. The prophets no longer prophecy, the people no longer hear from God, yet the promise remains for a Savior to come. All the while, God continues to speak through His promises of old, that the God of all creation indeed will come in the form of a babe, born of a virgin, to take away the sins of His people.
As we come to the New Testament, that 400 years of silence breaks. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is born. Finally, the time had come where God’s promise would be realized. God Himself took on human flesh and lived a perfect life in obedience to the Father—and yet the purpose of His life on earth was to die on behalf of His people. The purpose of His life was to die, innocent and spotless, so that the Father would accept the sacrifice of the Son in our place.
The penalty of sin was death, and mankind could not pay the price owed to God to be free from that penalty because it demanded perfect obedience, and none could be found to be perfectly obedient. Only God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ could obey perfectly, and therefore, only Christ could satisfy the wrath of God and defeat our three greatest enemies. Thus, He went to the cross, willingly, to die on our behalf, paying the full penalty for our sins. Yet more than this, Christ took our sins upon Himself, and in exchange, He gave us His righteousness so that we would become holy and blameless before the Father—that we would be adopted as sons and daughters of God. Yet Christ did not stay dead. Three days later, He rose from the grave, securing our redemption and destroying the power of sin, death, and Satan.
Therefore, the promise to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ and His work is that they will be saved; saved from the wrath of God, and saved from everlasting death—and that their great enemy in Satan has been utterly defeated. And yet even more miraculously, the final word did not end in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He promised that one day He would come again to judge the living and the dead, and on that great day, that He would utterly destroy sin, death, and Satan forevermore.
On that day, there will be no more weeping, no more pain, no more death—all of it will be swallowed up in victory as Christ redeems all of Creation from the effects of the fall. He will recreate the heavens and the earth, and we will know absolute freedom from the broken and distorted world we now live in. We will once again walk with our God and see Him face to face, and on that glorious day He will not only wipe away every tear from our eyes, but He promises that even our misery—even our mourning, will be turned to joy.
It is in light of this that I will close in the same way I opened this brief writing. It is better for us to go to the house of mourning than into the halls of feasting, because in the here and now, we still live between two great days: the day Christ first came so that He might die upon the cross, to the day He returns and puts a final end to sin, death, and Satan. As such, this is a day we must look with sobriety upon the reality of death. We must recognize our life is here today and gone tomorrow, yet ultimately, that we shall stand before our Creator and give an account for our life.
We must not delay or put it off as if we will be granted time to make this decision when death comes for us. We must, as the living, take this to heart and consider what it will look like when we die and stand before our Creator to give this account. The Scriptures promise us that there is no sin too great to be forgiven—that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Scripture likewise proclaims that you can be free from the consequences of sin and death and experience the grace and mercy of the Lord in a way that you have never experienced before. Yet the Scriptures likewise promise that outside of Christ, all that awaits us is eternal death. All that awaits us apart from the saving grace of Christ, is the wrath of God.
In light of this, I invite you today then to examine yourselves with sobriety and ask: where do I stand with all of this? Do I believe that Jesus Christ died on my behalf and took my sins upon Himself so that I might be free from the wrath to come, and do I believe that He was raised on the third day? Do I call Him my Lord and my Savior? Do I place my hope and my confidence in Christ and Christ alone—that on the basis of His work on the cross, I am forgiven and if I were to die today, I know I will spend eternity with Him? If this is your hope and confession, the Scriptures promise that though you may see death in this life, you will not face it in the one to come. Yet if this is not your hope, the Scriptures promise that the death you see in this life will pale in comparison to the everlasting death that waits for you beyond the grave.