The Grim Reaper

There’s far less crying during the wake that precedes a funeral, at least in the cases I’ve experienced. I guess it’s at the funeral that the finality of death really sinks in, but even at the wake you know the person has exited this life. That wasn’t always the case before modern medical knowledge, when the wake was a time to allow the person in the coffin to wake up if he or she was merely unconscious. There’s no telling how many people were buried alive before this precaution. Just imagine waking up in a buried coffin and knowing you’ll soon be dead. As terrible as that would be, would you at least be assured that Heaven awaited you? Maybe you would be pleading with God to forgive you of your past, but if you ignored Him up until then, I doubt He would be listening. It’s not much different when people live in sin their whole lives and then ask for forgiveness when they know they’ll soon die for another reason.

People who purposely delay repentance until their lives are almost over are repenting out of necessity and not sincerity. And many who repent only after being diagnosed with a deadly disease would go back to living in sin if they found out the diagnosis was false. For others the diagnosis could be a wake-up call that brings about a real change of heart. No one is guaranteed a warning of imminent death, however, so it’s very foolish to play games with God by promising to repent at a later time. It shames me that I’ve done it myself and sometimes I feel guilty to be alive when so many others who didn’t play games with God ended up dying apart from Him. I had continually put off repentance, foolishly risking my soul for some temporary fun. Everyone’s fate is sealed upon death (Heb. 9:27), a time the Bible specifically warns could come at any time (James 4:13, 14). Death is inevitable. The first human and the first animals were formed from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7, 19), and to the ground bodies will return (Gen. 3:19). The cells that living creatures are made of are in turn made of the same kinds of atoms dirt is made of. Your body is subject to decomposition. Your soul, on the other hand, will be preserved.

Whether it’s for Heaven or Hell, all of the dead will be resurrected (Dan. 12:2; John 5:29). Heaven should be especially appealing to people who pay big money for a slim chance of resurrection in a body that will die again. I’m referring to cryonics, the practice of freezing dead bodies in liquid nitrogen in case there is ever a scientific breakthrough capable of reviving them. The first body wasn’t preserved this way until January 12, 1967, so despite the rumor you may have heard, Walt Disney’s body wasn’t one of them. He was cremated after his death in 1966, and cremation is something that raises a question. How does God resurrect a body that has been converted to ashes? (This question doesn’t consider the bodies that would be resurrected as skeletons.) Obviously it won’t be the same body, and even in this present life we don’t have the same bodies we used to. New cells continually replace old cells, and dead skin cells the body sheds make up most of the dust in the typical home. There will be no dust in Heaven, where residents will have immortal, incorruptible bodies in place of their old bodies (I Cor. 15:51-53). The bodies of Christians are likened to grains of wheat that must die to be revived (I Cor. 15:35-38) so that what was “sown in corruption [can be] raised in incorruption.” (I Cor. 15:42).

In the last days there will be two harvests carried out by two reapers each having a sickle (Rev. 14:14-20). The first harvest will be joyful (vv. 14-16); the second will be grim (vv. 17-20). In a parable Jesus gave of these figurative harvests, He described an enemy sowing tares among the wheat in a field that the reapers are told to let grow together until they can be separated (Matt. 13:24-30). Explaining the parable, He said the reapers are angels separating the righteous (wheat) from the wicked (tares) at the end of the world (Matt. 13:36-43). The legend of the Grim Reaper, the harvester of souls, is similar enough to what the Bible says about the last days that I wondered if the legend had its origin in Scripture. So I did some research and learned no one knows for certain how death came to be personified in this way. There are numerous myths and legends to choose from to form a theory, but I’m still going to use the Grim Reaper as an analogy for the end of the world. He’s the one who will escort unsaved souls to Hell a thousand years after the resurrection of righteous souls (Rev. 20:4, 5), and “blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:6). So if you’re right with God, you won’t be part of the second resurrection, and there’s no need to fear the Reaper.

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