“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” –Proverbs 1:7
There was a very popular rock and roll song from 1976 by the band Blue Oyster Cult called “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” In that song are the lyrics, “40,000 men and women everyday…Redefine happiness.” I’m not suggesting 40,000 men and women every day meet the reaper (even the writer of the song admits he guessed at the amount) but I can assure you that not everyone who does meet the reaper daily redefines happiness during that encounter. Writer Buck Dharma believed that we should not fear the inevitability of death. Of course he is absolutely correct if we have accepted God’s give of loving salvation. Everyone else, though, should be scared to death of the second death.
So, Dharma did guess at the number of men and women meeting the reaper every day. According to Ryan Heathco, the associate minister at my church, it’s actually 7,000 per day in the year 2012, not the 40,000 in 1976, who meet their maker daily. That number didn’t really register so astronomical to me when I considered that there are six billion people in the world. What was more startling was the next numerical bombshell Ryan dropped on us that Sunday.
Of the 7,000 who die per day, 3,500 (or 50 percent) profess not to know Jesus. The rolls of hell are being populated by 3,500 souls DAILY! Let’s think of that in some longer-term numbers. In one week’s time, 24,500 people will likely go to hell. That is roughly the enrollment of the University of Pennsylvania. In a 30-day month, 105,000 people will likely populate hell. That is roughly the population of Fargo, North Dakota. Or, think about this: Jackson, Mississippi is the only city in that state with a population of more than 105,000. In one year, 1 million, 277,500 thousand people will go to hell at that rate. At the end of 2011, only eight cities in America had populations greater than that amount!
Those numbers are a lot more startling. In fact, I was even surprised as I calculated them and did the research. Could you imagine visiting the University of Pennsylvania for a ball game on Saturday and waking up Sunday and every student was gone? Could you imagine visiting Fargo in June and when you returned in July no one was there? Could you imagine visiting family in Dallas, Texas for Christmas in 2011 and when you returned for the holiday in 2012, it was a ghost town? (Hopefully, members of your family wouldn’t be on hell’s rolls…or would that motivate you to be a greater witness?)
Or think of it this way, one out of every two people you see daily are probably on their way to hell! Half of the people you go to school with may go to hell. Half of the people you work with may go to hell. Half of the people you see at family reunions may be going to hell. That hits me right in the gut. Look right under you roof and think about that percentage. If you’re employed in a poor working environment, realize that environment is someone’s Heaven because hell is going to be a lot worse! Half of the people on earth are likely experiencing their Heaven right now.
Even worse, of the half that professes to know Jesus, some probably actually really don’t.
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” –John 5:24
There are two images of the “reaper.” There is the grim one that is most often associated with the reaper and he should be feared because if you die and meet him, your eternity has a grim outlook, indeed. The other reaper is the one that will be harvesting me. Like Solomon, I do fear him but because of the passage in John, I know my outlook is bright. He has the only power to send me to hell but through his grace and mercy, he saved me. Satan, the grim reaper, shows no such grace or mercy. Misery loves company and he’s roaming about earth trying to wreck as much misery and havoc as possible. He wants us to suffer with him in eternity and we shouldn’t want that for anyone. We should be the light that leads others out of the darkness.
As Christian disciples, we should not be leading lives that populate Hell.