SEPTEMBER 2, 2009. 5 A.M. YSR REDDY IS READY…
It was 5 A.M. in the morning on September 2, 2009. While others slept and snored, this medical doctor-turned-Chief Minister (of one of India’s most progressive states), Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy, planned. Planned for a surprise visit to Anupally in Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh, India, to launch a mass contact program with the people. Dr. YSR (as he was fondly called) was ready to leave Hyderabad for Chittoor. “I am planning surprise visits to villages to check on the implementation of drought relief measures,” he told the media minutes before he took off. Little did we know then, that those would be his last words to the press.
At 8:35 A.M., this man who believed in wasting no time had already taken off in the 11-year old, 4,218 kg heavy, Bell 430 Helicopter. Nobody knows what happened after that. But circumstantial evidence gives reason to believe that this could have happened: The weather turned bad; Pilot Group Captain S.K. Bhatia could not see the ground below (in Kurnool District) that well; it was then that he veered the chopper to the right. He deviated from the normal route at least by 18 kms; he was desperately trying to see the ground below, in the process letting the Helicopter drop altitude; What he did not perhaps realize was that the thickly forested Nallamala hills lay below; the highest peak of this closely located mountain range was 339 meters above sea level.
When finally the Pilot saw the Nallamala hills through the rumbling, dark monsoon clouds above them, he may have misjudged their height; the helicopter was already flying dangerously low at 300-400 m at one point – low enough for an SMS to be delivered by a mobile tower to the phone of A.S.C. Wesley, the Chief Security Officer of the Chief Minister who was also in helicopter; and before long, in split seconds, the Bell Chopper crashed onto one side of those hills after having journeyed just 55 minutes, with much of the fuel in its 935 litre capacity fuel tank, still left unused. And as it crashed, it exploded- the fuel it carried propelling a blazing fireball.
There was a faint possibility that Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy could have survived the crash like Palestine Leader Yasser Arafat did after his Russian-built-Antonov-24 transport plane crash-landed in April 1992 even though help arrived for him only after five long hours.
Unfortunately, that did not happen – the greatest search operation in Indian history driven by 11 helicopters and satellite images could locate the crash site only 24 hours later; the nearest human beings who could have helped him and the other four occupants (from the Chenchu Tribal Hamlet) upon hearing their heart-rending, blood-curdling cries, were at least 15 to 20 kms away; that none of those in that ill-fated Copter carried a BSNL mobile, the mobile that stood the best chance of working in such an interior area, snuffed out any possibility of an SOS call. Dr. Y. S. Raja Sekhar Reddy was suddenly gone. He abruptly lost his life. (Story reconstructed following the reading of reports found in The Week, September 13, 2009 and Frontline, September 25, 2009).
Was Dr. Reddy, ready for such a sudden exit? Was YSR ready to die? Here is a personal question: Are YOU, Sir, ready to die? What about you, Madam?
Death, let’s talk about it. Let’s be brave and talk about the grave without beating about the bush! It may not be pleasant to do that. But we must do it, nevertheless, for our good. And the Bible, I discovered, uncovers some facts about death – facts which we cannot just ignore. Let me share them with you:
1. DEATH IS SURE
SHERAWAT OR SHEKHAWAT – DEATH IS CERTAIN
Death, the Bible teaches is SURE. We read in the Bible, “Man is destined to die once and after that face judgment” (Heb 9:27). Death, according to the Bible, is each man’s destiny. You could sleep in an oxygen chamber, like Michael Jackson. But you still will have to die one day, like he did. You may be a Mallika Sherawat. You may be a Bharion Singh Shekawat. You will have to die one day.
In the 1990s the party of Atal Bihari Vajpayee had this creative punchline before the General Elections: “Ab Ki Baari Atal Bihari….” (It is now the turn of Atal Bihari to be Prime Minister…). He passed away in 2018. I told myself, “It is the ‘baari’ (turn) of everyone to die!”
WHETHER IN INDIA OR INDIANA – DEATH IS SURE TO VISIT YOU
Death, as Joshua, put it, “was the way of all the earth” (Josh 23:14). People, rich and poor, male and female, young and old, die. Death is a universal leveller of people. You may live in India or Indiana (in the United States). But you will have to die one day. You could try and avoid death like King Ahab did. He went to a battle in disguise, fully armoured, head to foot. But an enemy’s arrow, an arrow which was not really shot at him, hit him in the joints between his armour and he was gone (I Kings 22)! The man who boasted that he would return safely from the battle was dead.
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT YOUR OWN DEATH?
Does the thought that you will have to die one day, ever occur to you? Are you far too busy with your life, that you haven’t given a single thought at all about death – your death? You may be a Life Insurance Company agent. You may have spoken several times over about the possible death of your potential clients. But what about your own death – have you pondered purposefully about it?! You may be a medical doctor. You may have saved several patients from death and warned some about it. But what about your own death? Have you stopped to think deeply about it?!
2. DEATH CAN BE SUDDEN
STONE BENCHES IN MY COLLEGE IN ALLAHABAD
Death, the Bible also teaches, can be SUDDEN. When I was a B. Tech. Student in Allahabad Agricultural Institute, I came across several stone benches in that sprawling campus. Many of those benches were dedicated to students who died while they were still in the Campus! Yes, death can come to us, without any notice whatsoever.
It came that way for Y. S. Rajashekar Reddy. It also came that way for Osama Bin Laden.
WHEN NAVY SEALS HELICOPTERS HOVERED OVER BIN LADEN’S HOUSE…
After the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks, he was the most wanted terrorist in the world. We are talking about Osama Bin Laden here. For over 10 years, he eluded capture by hiding brilliantly. He probably believed that he would never ever be caught. Otherwise, he would not dared to stay in a huge $1 million house, eight times the size of a normal house with walls 12 feet to 18 feet high, within 40 kms from the Pakistan captital, in an affluent suburb called Abbottabad. They were led to this house, which had no internet connection, by following one of the trusted couriers that Osama used. That particular night, 1 May, 2011, he went to sleep with his youngest wife. “I have escaped capture by the United States all these days, months, years. Tonight will be like every other night. I will sleep soundly with my youngest wife and wake up next morning so that I can continue to lead my organization in its struggle against the US!” Once the raiders reached their target, things started to go awry almost immediately, officials briefed on the operation said. Officials described just how the SEAL raiders loudly ditched a foundering helicopter right outside bin Laden’s door, ruining the plan for a surprise assault. That forced them to abandon plans to run a “squeeze play” on bin Laden — simultaneously entering the house stealthily from the roof and the ground floor. Instead, they stormed into the ground floor and began a floor-by-floor search of the house, blowing up doors, working up to the top level where they had assumed bin Laden — if he was in the house — would be. They were right. The raiders came face-to-face with bin Laden in a hallway outside his bedroom, and three of the Americans stormed in after him after having killed two occupants of the compound enroute. Going by certain reports, Osama tried to use one woman there as a human shield to escape the gun shots fired by US Navy SEALS. In the intense fire-fight that followed, the 54-year-old Osama was killed. The operation lasted for 38 minutes. President Obama watched the entire operation real time (though it must be said that there was a black out of about 20 minutes). [News gathered from multiple reports of this event found in online articles]
THE RICH MAN JESUS REFERRED TO & YOU!
The rich man that Jesus spoke about also thought that he could go to sleep and wake up like he normally would every morning whistling, taking it cool. This Rich Man told himself one day, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ (Luke 12:19). His focus was on goods, when it should have been God. And God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ (Luke 12:20). (If the finite US Navy SEALS could search out and capture Osama, there is no hiding that is effectively possible from an all-knowing and all-powerful God!) The rich man was talking about “many years” when God’s plan was to allow the taking away of his life that same night! Jesus also pointed out that the Rich man was not rich in his relationship with God (who was in the flesh in the person of Jesus – Luke 12:21) and therefore this Rich Man was unprepared for eternity if sudden death had come knocking. After a person’s death, there will no more opportunities given him to be saved – this is what the Bible teaches (See Hebrews 9:27). Do you still foolishly tell yourself, “I could take many more years before I finally decide to come to Christ. In the meantime, I choose to enjoy the pleasures of the world, soak-in the short-term pleasures of sin. Later on, when it’s convenient, I will repent and trust Jesus as my Savior!”? Why fool yourself? Come to Christ, now! Come in repentance! The rich man was called a ‘fool’ by Jesus for not preparing for the countless years he would spend in eternity, while he was too concerned about his few years on earth (60 or 70). On the other hand, there were five virgins who were prepared for the coming of the Bridegroom (as evidenced by their filling their lamps with oil) were called “wise” by the same Jesus (Mt 25:4)! Are you foolish and unprepared? For eternity? Or wise and prepared? For eternity?
BIBLE CHARACTER WHO GOT KILLED IN A CAR CRASH!
David’s son, the handsome and winsome Absalom would tell you that that death can come suddenly. He was Bible’s answer to John Abraham, this Absalom. He “unexpectedly” met his father’s men (II Sam 18:9 NLT). He raced away from them on his “car” and consequently died in a crash – you can see it that way, because the mule he rode on was the car of those days! His long locks got locked onto a low-lying branch even as he sped away and was found by Joab who brutally killed him! He died when he was thinking of unseating his father from the throne. Death was the last thing on his mind! He was dreaming of life as the king when he was killed suddenly! He was perhaps dreaming of sitting on the throne of his dad, just minutes before he was found hanging as a dead body suspended between heaven and earth without a seat!
WHAT SORT OF CD WILL BE IN YOUR IN YOUR DVD PLAYER
If you were to die suddenly, would you be ready to face death? What will people catch you doing busily, if you were to die, suddenly? Would it be something that pleases Jesus? There were some young folk who had meat that they sinfully desired, in between their teeth when they died suddenly (Psa 78:30-31). What CD would be left in your DVD player, if you were to die suddenly, without being able to pull it out? What websites would you have left open, if you were to die suddenly, without being able to close them? Would envy, bitterness, pride, remain in your heart, if it were to stop beating, suddenly? Would you be left with the regret of missed evangelism opportunities, if you were to die, instantly and suddenly?!
4. DEATH IS JUST A STEP
Death, the Bible goes on to further teach, is just a STEP. Death may mean a “stop” for your heart-beat. But it is certainly not a stop for your life. Even after you die, you will go on living – either in eternal heaven or eternal hell – according to the Only Person who died and rose again from the dead, Jesus. Yes, Jesus, saw death as just a STEP into eternity. You will come to this conclusion when you read Mathew 25:46. Jesus agreed with the Old Testament teaching that God has placed eternity in every person’s hearts (Eccl 3:11). When we die, our relatives may carry our dead bodies. But there is someone else who carries us too, when we die, Jesus taught. He talked about a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores: after he died, “angels” carried him. By mentioning this, Jesus was teaching that after you die, you continue to exist. The real you, which is your soul goes on living forever (Luke 16:22). If you were to die, now, where would you go – eternal heaven or ever-burning hell? The Bible talks about a day of accounting after we die – are you ready for that (Heb 9:27)? We must give a personal account of our lives to the God who made us, after we die; the Bible declares (Rom 14:12).
5. DEATH IS A STOP (IN A SENSE)
WHY WEEPING & GNASHING OF TEETH IN HELL
After you die, all your chances for salvation would be stopped. This is the teaching of the Bible. There would be no second chances what so ever. After death, there would be judgment (Heb 9:27). No more chances to sit in gospel meetings would be offered. No more chances to repent would be given. In fact, after one goes to hell, there is no way, one could crossover from hell to heaven. This is what Abraham tells the rich man who went to hell (Luke 16:26). Once a person reaches hell, he would stay put there, forever (Psa 49:11). Jesus often spoke about “weeping” and “gnashing of teeth” in Hell. If you went to well, you would weep. Why? You would weep for the many chances you blew away to repent and believe on Jesus – the only way to escape hell. If you went to hell, you will gnash your teeth. Why? You would be angry with yourself for having deliberately missed golden opportunities to believe in Jesus as your Savior. So, we must not forget, in that sense, death means an absolute stoppage of all chances for salvation.
WHEN SUREST RAINA DROPPED YOUSUF PATHAN
Yousuf Pathan, was dropped twice in the final, on his way to his match-winning fifty in the first ever Indian Premier League tourney (2008). When Suresh Raina dropped him (he was only on 13), it could be said that he dropped the IPL Cup! Later it was the same Suresh Raina who ran him out with a superb direct hit when he attempted to steal a run. But that dismissal came far too late. Yousuf had already made 56 runs and the Rajasthan Royals were sniffing victory by then. When you reject the offer that Jesus gives you of salvation, peace, joy, purpose in life, you are dropping something far more costly than what Suresh Raina dropped in the IPL Cup Final! You are perhaps saying that you would come to Christ when you are old. You want to enjoy the pleasures of the planet now. It may be too late to do that – just how it became too late for Suresh Raina to have run out Yousuf Pathan. The reason? You could die at any moment, and after death, no one would get an opportunity to trust in Jesus and be saved, according to the Bible (Heb 9:27). In that sense, death is a stop.
5. AFTER DEATH WE CAN SMILE
DEATH, AS GAIN!
Death, the Bible tells us, can be an occasion to SMILE. Yes, death can be an occasion for a beaming smile for some folks. It is quite true that for folks without a daily living relationship with Jesus, death can become an unbearably hopeless and a super sad event (I Thess 4:13). But it is also true that death can be an occasion to look forward to with a smile, for folks who love Jesus and are ready to face Jesus when He returns to this planet the second time as the Judge of all the earth. I am talking about folks like Paul who saw death as a ‘gain’ and an experience ‘better’ than the present life (Phil 1:21-23). Life with Christ is an endless hope while life without Christ is a hopeless end. All our diseases will be fully would be fully gone then – the Bible teaches (Rom. 8:21).
ELIZABETH TAYLOR’S FEAR
You may have a gnawing fear of death, deep down within – a fear that never goes away. Elizabeth Taylor, the American actress had guards search under her bed night after night, because she was so very scared of being killed while sleeping. You may not be Liz Taylor. You may not be a rich and famous person like her. But nevertheless, if there is one thing you fear on this earth, it is death! But I have good news for you: Jesus Christ came to this world to free those who struggle, all their lives, with the nagging fear of death, the Bible records (Heb. 2:14-15).
The price Jesus had to pay to earn that freedom for us was His death (Heb 2:14-15). After He rose again from the dead, He taunted death, by asking the question, “Where O Death is your victory? Where O Death is your sting?” (I Cor 15:55).
WHEN SECOND DEATH’S POWER IS MADE NULL
Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years – this is what we read in the Bible in Revelation 20:6. If I were to put that verse in my words, keeping the whole message of the Bible, I would do it this way: “If you have a living daily relationship with Jesus, the first one to raise from the death and get into a glorified body, then, hell (called ‘second death’ in the Bible) has no power over you! You will rule with Jesus forever and forever (thousand is symbolic way of saying ‘forever’ or ‘eternal’ – See Daniel 7:14 and II Peter 1:11)!”
If Jesus is in your life, you too can smile at death, when or whenever it comes knocking, however suddenly or crudely. And what is more – your life on this earth, till the second you die, becomes full of meaning and joy (John 10:10; I Peter 1:8). And after you die, eternity with God will bacon you.
(Dr. Duke Jeyaraj is the founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission, the G4 Mission. This is a reader supported Indian ministry to presentday people. Find out more at http://www.dukev.org).