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A Grave View of the Grave

Years ago I read about a letter from Health and Human Services to a resident of Greenville County, South Carolina. The letter read: "Your food stamps will be stopped, effective March, 1992, because we received notice you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if your circumstances change." A sobering question: will our circumstances change after death? Long ago, in Job 14:14, Job asked a question that human beings just can't shake off, even in this modern age of science and technology —"If a man dies, shall he live again?" Human beings continue to be divided on the answer to that ultimate question. Naturalism, humanism, atheism, materialism and other "isms" insist the answer is an emphatic and unqualified "no." They preach that death is the end of the track. Their faith is that when death comes, the ride is over. We get off this life, and nothing remains but the grave where existence comes to a crashing and crushing end with no hope of ever living again. This philosophical view presupposes that there is no God and nothing supernatural, and that physical, material existence is all there is. Everything is reduced to a pile of material molecules and random arrangements that have no rhyme or reason behind them and no purpose or destiny up ahead. Where do these Godless philosophies lead, and where do they end? Without faith in God, the view is bleak indeed. All that is left is darkness and despair. Will Durant said, "Nothing is certain but defeat and death – a sleep from which it seems there is no awakening. and hope disappear and despair becomes the order of the day." Those who ask us to abandon faith ask us to give up much more. Andre Maurois asked, "Why are we here on this puny mud-heap spinning in space? I have not the slightest idea, and I am completely convinced that no one else has the least idea''(see Avon Malone: Gospel Advocate article — "The Challenge of Conviction", July, 2000; p 24). Leave God out, and these statements are an accurate summary of the futility and despair we are forced to embrace. Yet, this grave view of the grave did not originate with recent philosophers. Three thousand years ago, Solomon recognized and expressed the gloomy depths to which human reason forces us if we divorce our existence from faith in God. As he views life "under the sun" (that is, life without reference to God) in Ecclesiastes, he moans out loud: For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: ail are from the dust, and all return to dust" (3:19-20). How blunt — but how true. If there is no God and no heaven, death leaves man on the level of a mere animal: in the grave for good, make that forever.

What a grave view of the grave. Thank God the Gospel blows it away! Jesus Christ has "abolished death and brought life and immorality to light through the Gospel" (2 Timothy1:10). Faith in God gives us purpose, meaning, and hope in life — and even in death. That's an advantage over animals. To view the grave without God is grave indeed. To view it with Him becomes glorious. Which view is in you?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ