A couple of weeks ago I was speaking to a lady in a craft store (no, I wasn’t shopping there, my wife was). She was about my age and we began talking about the difficulties of getting old. After a few “complaints,” she uttered, “Well, it beats the alternative.” This past Sunday, I was preaching from Ecclesiastes 12 where Solomon lists the consequences of aging. The list includes a decreasing zest for life (v. 2), shakiness of hands, loss of muscular strength, loss of teeth, cataracts (v. 3), loss of hearing, loss of sleep, loss of previously satisfying things (v. 4), increasing fears, increasing gray hairs, difficulty of mobility, loss of desire for marital intimacy, loss of friends due to death (v. 5), nervous system problems, gastro-intestinal problems, heart problems and dementia (v. 6). At this moment, I am just a few days before my 65th birthday and all I can say is that I understand what Solomon is talking about.
However, not wanting to let an opportunity pass by, I responded, “Not according to the Apostle Paul.” Actually, we were both correct, but the veracity of our statements depended upon to whom our statements pertained. For the unsaved person, the worst experience of life is infinitely better than their experience after death. For the saved person, their experience after death is infinitely better than anything in life. The Apostle makes two statements in his letter to the Philippians affirming this. First, he states that, “to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Two verses later he says that his desire to depart and to be with the Lord is “far better” than living. Awaiting the believer in Jesus Christ after death is a glorified body that is not subject to any of the above ailments, a place where gold is nothing more than paving material, a society where there is no crime or war, and most of all, the personal presence of the One who has loved them more than anyone else ever has or could.
For the person who rejects the gracious invitation to come to Christ and be saved, all the above ailments of aging are trivial compared to what they will experience. Cut off from the love, grace and mercy that they rejected in life, they will experience all the righteous judgment of God that their sin deserves. The fires of hell are literal. The indestructability of the soul and its ability to suffer real pain is literal.
Some will ask how a loving God could inflict such evil, but that is the wrong question to ask. The real question is how a person who rejects the love of God demonstrated on the cross of Calvary could be so insensitive to the love of God. If God universally judged sinners (and that would be all of us) without providing some means of redemption, He would be an unloving God. But if He also ignored sin and didn’t require man to be redeemed, he would be unjust. God is perfectly and infinitely loving and just. Eternal damnation is not a failure of God. It is a failure of man for which there are no participation trophies.
Yes, aging and its difficulties can be better than the alternative, but it doesn’t need to be. Man can still live if he doesn’t run as fast as he once did or if he forgets why he came into a room, but man cannot live eternally without Jesus Christ as Savior.