The Day You Die

Title: The Day You Die

Bible Book: Selected Passages

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: Death; Eternity


I want to speak with you this morning on what might seem to some folks an unpleasant subject - but it’s one that we all need to consider. Sometimes a person will say, in reference to a sermon, “That message didn’t apply to me.” But l can say to you, without any question whatsoever, that this sermon today applies to every last one of us, regardless of our age, circumstances, or station in life. My subject this morning is, “The Day You Die.” I want to say three things about the day you die.

First, I want to emphasize something that is obvious to all of us, yet we need to remind ourselves of it on a regular basis, and that is...


In Psalm 89:48 the inspired writer asks, “What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?”--and the clearly implied answer is that no such man lives.

There were only two people in all of history who did not die, Enoch and Elijah. Genesis 5:24 says, “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” Someone has characterized what happened like this: One day Enoch and God were walking along together, and as the day drew to a close God said, “Enoch, we’re closer to my house than to yours, so just come on home with me.” The writer of Hebrews 11:5 says that “by faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death.” 2 Kings 2:11 says in regard to Elijah and Elisha, “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”

But those were God-ordained exceptions to the rule, and exceptions do not invalidate the rule - especially since God himself made the rule. If Jesus delays his coming, every last one of us is going to die. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Someone has spoken of death as “the ultimate statistic” - and I might add, it’s an “equal opportunity” statistic.

Once when I announced to a congregation that my subject for the morning was, “The Day You Die,” one man in the congregation looked at me with alarm - and afterwards he told me why. He said, “At first I thought you said, ‘TODAY You Die’!” Well, obviously I don’t know the day that any of us will die. The only one who knows when we’ll die is the one who has control over it--the Sovereign God of the universe. The author of Psalm 31:15 prayed, “My times are in thy hand” - and so are my times, and yours.

Some people live a long time, but some die young. I have preached the funerals of babies, old people, and folks of various ages in between. One of the saddest funerals I ever preached was for a little freckle-faced boy who was a member of the R.A. group that I led at the time. He was such a great kid, was much loved, and seemed to have such a bright future. But, to use the words of Jeremiah 15:9, his “sun is gone down while it was yet day.” Life is so uncertain. Every day people of various ages die from accidents - in the home, at work, at play, or while traveling. Every day people die as the result of violence. Every day people die of heart attacks, strokes, and various other ailments, some of which strike suddenly and without warning.

One source that I consulted stated that, from all causes combined, every day 6,887 people die in America. That means that from the time this worship service began at 11:00 a.m. until it ends at 12:00 noon, 287 people will have died somewhere in America. None of us knows when our time will come. It could be that before next Sunday someone in this very congregation will have gone out into eternity. I certainly hope not, but it could happen - it could be you, or it could be me. This could be the last sermon that I ever preach; I don’t expect it to be, and I don’t have any premonition to that effect, but it could be - and it could be the last sermon that someone in this congregation will ever hear. What David said to his friend Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:3 is true of all of us: “ the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.” Every last one of us lives just one heartbeat away from eternity. My dad used to say, “Son, I count every day a bonus.” One morning my sister called and said, “Daddy is gone.” His bonus days had run out - as they will for each of us.

Now, consider with me...


A. Numerous things will take place the day you die.

A medical doctor will pronounce officially that your body is no longer alive. Loved ones and friends will weep. A funeral home will be contacted to come and get the body to prepare it for burial. If you die in a hospital, your personal belongings will be gathered up and given to your family. Either there at the hospital or at your home people will come by to offer their condolences to your loved ones. Your family will begin to think of arrangements for your funeral.

B. But death will not be the end of you

Death will not be the end of you, although some people think otherwise. I have a preacher friend named Sonny Tucker, who is a retired U.S. Army Colonel. Being on fire for God, he witnessed to his fellow soldiers whenever he got an opportunity. At Fort Benning, Georgia, Just before he retired from the military, he was witnessing to a particular Army Sergeant who apparently was either an atheist or an agnostic. When Sonny shared the gospel with him, that Sergeant said, “Colonel, when I die they’re going to put me in a box, lower that box into a hole, throw dirt on that box, and that’s all there is.” Sonny tried to help him see his need of the Lord, but his mind and heart were closed. Thirty days from that day, Sonny got a call from a fellow officer, who told him that that Sergeant, who was in his 30s and seemed to be in great shape, had suddenly dropped dead from a massive heart attack. The doctor who examined him said that he must have been dead before he hit the ground. Even now, when he tells about it, Sonny says, “I can just hear that dirt being piled on his coffin.”

But that Sergeant was so very wrong. Even physical science rebukes the skeptic who claims that there is no life after death. The late Dr. Werner Von Braun, regarded as the father of space science, wrote an article expressing his strong belief in the immortality of man. He said that science has proven that matter is never annihilated - it only changes form. He went on to say that if God causes even the most lowly parts of the physical universe to continue to exist in some other form, it is unreasonable to think that he would allow man, his crowning creation, to cease to exist. He made it clear in that article that he wasn’t referring simply to the physical elements of man’s body, but rather was referring to man’s life.

Job, the beleaguered old patriarch, once cried out in the midst of his suffering, in Job 14:14, “If a man die, shall he live again?” Then, in that same verse, he answered his own question: “all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” All the rest of the Bible confirms what Job understood - that death is not a blind alley, but the gateway into the life beyond.

1. Here, according to the Word of God, is what will happen the day you die:

At the instant of death your soul, or spirit - for the most part, those two terms are used interchangeably in the Bible - will leave your body. Your soul is the essential you - that thinks, plans, aspires, hopes, believes, understands, loves, relates. The very moment you die, your soul will go immediately to heaven or hell, depending on whether or not you became a Christian during this earthly life, and your soul will live forever in that place of final abode.

Writing to believers, the apostle Paul wrote, in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Do you see what Paul was saying? For the believer, to be absent from this physical body - in other words, to die - is automatically and instantaneously to be with the Lord. In Luke 23:43 Jesus said to the repentant thief who was dying next to him, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” - and “paradise” is simply another term for “heaven.”

In Luke 16 Jesus told about a poor man who went to heaven - his name was Lazarus - and a rich man who went to hell, and here’s what Jesus said in Luke 16:22-24:

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.”

Notice that the rich man died, and in that very same sentence we read that “in hell he lifted up his eyes being in torments.” It is clear that he went to hell at the instant of death - that is, his soul did. And the soul clearly has sensibilities. The souls of believers in heaven experience joy and blessing, while the souls of lost people in hell experience anguish and suffering.

2. Then, at some future time, the bodies of the dead will be resurrected - the bodies of believers first, and later the bodies of lost people. In Daniel 12:2 we read: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus said, in John 5:28-29: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

The reference to “they that have done good” must be understood in the context of all else that Jesus taught. It undoubtedly refers to those who, as a result of being saved by the mercy of God, have lived clean, honorable lives - for that is the mark of a true convert. Jesus said, in Matthew 7:20, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” In Ephesians 2:8-10 we read:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Our Lord’s reference to “those that have done evil” is clearly a description of those who have not trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and whose works are therefore evil in the sight of God, regardless of how upright and moral they might appear to the eyes of man. The ultimate evil is to reject the Son of God, and one’s rejection of Jesus taints and contaminates every facet of his life.

Since the Bible teaches that the soul, which lives forever, goes immediately to heaven or hell at the instant of death, and since one day our bodies will raised from the “sleep” of death - that all adds up to this: once resurrected, our bodies will be reunited with our souls, so that from that point on the whole person - body and soul - will live forever in that place of final abode to which the soul went at the instant of death - and the Bible teaches that the resurrection bodies of believers will have perfect health; there will be no defect or infirmity whatsoever.

C. The day you die, you will leave a legacy.

Concerning righteous Abel, in Hebrews 11:4 we read that “he being dead yet speaketh.” You will also continue to speak by means of the example and influence that you leave behind. What kind of legacy will you leave in regard to your relationship to Christ, to his church, and in regard to the impact that you have made for him? What will your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors remember about you? I hope they will remember that you put our Lord first in your life, and were a positive witness for him. I witnessed to a particular young woman about trusting the Lord and getting in church, and she said, “My daddy didn’t believe in all of that, and neither do I.” What a chilling legacy for a man to leave.

D. You'll leave all earthly possessions behind

Another thing that will happen the day you die is that you’ll leave all of your earthly possessions behind. In 1 Timothy 6:7 we read: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” What a sad thing that some folks neglect God, family, and church in order to pile up wealth that they really don’t need, and which they’re only going to leave behind, anyway.

E. You'll leave all opportunity behind

Furthermore, you’ll leave all opportunity behind. Right now you have all kinds of opportunities - to say things that ought to be said, to do things that ought to be done, to make changes that ought to be made, to ask for forgiveness from those you have offended - but the day you die those opportunities will end forever. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”

Now, think with me about...


There are many things that a thoughtful person ought to do to prepare for the day of his death. He ought to have pre-arrangements made for his funeral. He ought to have all of his legal and financial affairs in order - and that includes having a will. In addition, he should also have a “living will” - that is, a written statement as to whether or not he would want artificial life support in a time of extremity. He ought to be sure that he has spent time with his family, and has expressed his love for them.

Most important of all, you need to be sure that you’ve made proper spiritual preparation--and that includes two things:

A. Be certain you are saved

First, be certain that you’re saved - and the only way to receive God’s gift of salvation is by meeting two unalterable, non-negotiable conditions: repent of your sins, and commit yourself in faith to Jesus Christ, the crucified, risen, living, coming again Son of God. In Acts 17:30-31 Paul declared:

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

John 1:12 says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”

B. Be sure that you are honoring the Lord

But preparing for the day you die involves more that just being sure that you’re saved, as foundational as that is - it also involves being sure that you’re honoring the Lord in your daily life by clean living and faithful service, so that when you enter into heaven you’ll receive the reward that God wants you to have. A believer ought always to be in the process of growing spiritually.

I’m thinking of a certain man who was saved, but got off the track and for years was an unproductive Christian. He was stricken with a fatal disease, and as he lay dying he was greatly agitated as he thought of how miserably he had failed his Lord. One of his friends who was standing by said, “You’re not afraid to die, are you?” He replied, “No, I’m not afraid to die, but I’m ashamed to die.”

A man who had been a mountain guide in the Alps died, and they put this inscription on his tombstone: “He died climbing.” Every believer ought to die climbing - that is, climbing to higher spiritual ground.

The apostle Paul said, in 2 Timothy 4:8-9, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

The time to make preparation for dying is now, because none of us know how much time we have remaining. Proverbs 27:1 says, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”

Let me ask you a question - and of course I’ll ask it of myself as well: What if today should be your last day to live on this earth? It could be. I sincerely hope it is not, and I don’t expect it to be - but it could be, and it might be, for any of us. Do you need to get some things right in your life before you die? Do you need to get right with God, or with some other people? The logical time to set things right is now, this very moment. Hebrews 4:7 says, “Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “...behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

If you’ve never done so, I urge you to repent of your sins and by faith to receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, and to do it now. If you’re a Christian but have gotten off-track in your daily walk or in your relationship to your church, I urge you to confess your waywardness and make a new start this very hour. If you need to go to someone and ask that person’s forgiveness and renew your fellowship with that individual, I encourage you to do it right now while you still have opportunity.

One prominent leader, as he anticipated his death, said, “My bags are packed. I am ready to leave.” What about you?

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