And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27—NIV)

The question of cheating death is tantalizing. We love the idea of second chances. Our society is accustomed to put things in provocative ways. When someone has been spared an untimely disaster we commonly hear expressions like, "I’ve dodged a bullet," or "My number must not have been up," or "I was lucky," or "I used up one of my nine lives." Each statement views the inevitability of death through mortal eyes sensing a charmed deliverance to live another day. Often there is a tone of foreboding awe as the person reviews the events to anyone who will listen and claims the experience has made him the wiser.

The idea of cheating death seems to animate death into some sort of stalking enemy who can be fooled, outrun, foiled, and maybe even bargained with. In every case the idea is conveyed that as death was about to close his cold grip his quarry was able to slip through his fingers like a whiff of air.

Human life, in all of its forms, is a precious gift from God. Since He gave it, He also ascribes its limits. God likens its duration to a mist, "you do not know what will happen tomorrow, for what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away." (James 4:14) The brevity of life is plainly evident as our years of life accumulate and grow "long in the tooth." Solomon puts the promise-filled beginning and the finality of the end of life in a matter of fact way when he states, "To everything there is as season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted." (Ecclesiastes 3:1–2) Actual death, the ending of life, as our text states, is unmistakably an appointed event in the plan of God.

The event of death in every one’s life is always a swift arrival. "Remember how short my time is," the psalmist says. The Scriptures often return to the theme of the shortness of life for the very reason that man ought not to forget that he is mortal (Job 7:6–7, 9:25–26, 14:1–2; Psalm 39:5, 11, 62:9, 90:5–6; James 1:10). Psalm 90:10 states, "The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away."

No, death is not an anthropomorphic phantom to be cheated. It is an appointment to be prepared for, taken into account, and to be reckoned, as sure as the setting sun. How did we come to this? Romans 6:23 states, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Without the covering of Christ, death brings you before God for the fearful reckoning day of judgment for sins you committed in life. However, for the one who has trusted in the Word of God promising salvation to those resting the care of their souls upon Christ, death brings you to a review day of rewards for service done for God. Your sins were judged and paid in full on the cross by the suffering Son of God. Romans 8:28–30 states, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, …whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified." No wonder the Scriptures say, "Blessed in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."

Listen to the difference between these two statements:

1) I was so lucky because I cheated death!

2) I wonder why God spared my life. He doesn’t owe me anything!

The first is simply a statement of shortsighted euphoria and unbelief; no Christian should only get that far in his musings. The second statement is much more to the point of thanksgiving to the Sovereign God of love and grace who keeps His children as the apple of His eye.

Do you live as though today may be the day of your appointment? What have you left undone that must be done, or done that must be undone, because "today is the day of salvation?" Trust and obey.