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Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
April 28, 2011

What happens when you die?

Is your iPad tracking you? According to today’s New York Times, the answer is yes and no. Steve Jobs told an interviewer yesterday that technology in the iPhone and iPad does calculate the device’s location with regard to Wi-Fi hot spots and cell towers, which can be as much as 100 miles away from the user. He assures us that the company has never used the information to track people, and promises to fix the mistake in a free software update in the next few weeks.

Your technology may not know where you are this morning, but the God of the universe does. One day you’ll meet him: “It is appointed until all men once to die, and then the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). How does this work? What happens when you die?

Thank you for your great response to our interactive discussions of faith and culture questions. God invites us to “reason together” (Isaiah 1:18); the Hebrew word means literally “argue it out.” We are called to love God with “all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Dealing with the hardest questions people ask about the Christian faith is my passion.

In our most recent discussion, we have been asking what happened to Jesus when he died. A companion question was asked by a reader yesterday: “Dr. Denison, what is your view as to what happens to Christians at death? Luke 23:43 says the thief will be with Jesus today in paradise. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 indicates that believers will ‘sleep’ until Christ’s return. Most Christians believe that they will go immediately to heaven upon death, but that is not consistent with Paul’s teaching.”

What a relevant subject. Let’s organize our issue into three questions. First, will you die? Can you escape it? Is there any way out? W.C. Fields on his deathbed was seen thumbing through a Bible. Someone asked why. His answer: “Looking for loopholes.” But he didn’t find any. The death rate is still 100%.

In fact, you and I are one day closer to death and eternity than we have ever been. Death comes for us all. Neither wisdom nor wealth can prevent it: “All can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others” (Psalm 49:10). We all face the same end, unless Jesus returns first: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

On a tombstone in Sevenoaks, Kent, England is found these words: “Grim death took me without any warning. I was well at night, and dead in the morning.” It can happen that way for any of us.

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