People Who Died in 2012: What Can We Learn?

At the end of every year the media remind us of the celebrities and famous people who have died during the past 12 months. The Bible tells us what death should teach us.

The evening news I was watching had a pictorial of notable deaths in 2012. These people were diverse, both in their backgrounds and in their deaths.

Some were actors, like Andy Griffith—forever known as the iconic sheriff of Mayberry. Others were singers, like Whitney Houston, with a blessed voice few could match.

Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” truly was a giant leap for mankind when he became the first man on the moon.

Others on their list were world leaders, authors, musicians, athletes and war heroes. And some were students and teachers.

One person who didn’t make the list was particularly notable to me. He was my dad. And there may be loved ones on your list as well.

Many of those died from diseases. Some died in tragic accidents. Some were murdered. And others, like my dad, died from cancer.

Why they died

The Bible tells us that “it is appointed for men to die once” (Hebrews 9:27).

Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, died Aug. 25, 2012.

Neil Armstrong, the first man on
the moon, died Aug. 25, 2012.

No matter what we do to extend our lives, we will all finally die. Whether one is rich or poor, famous or forgotten, death shows no partiality. One day, you and I—just like those this year—will die.

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). These words, and the deaths of those this year, should make us stop and ponder the purpose of life.

If there is a God, why did He make us?

And if God gave us life, why does He let us die?

When death entered the world

When God created human beings, His intention was—and still is—for us to live forever in His family. But it was our first parents’ choice that brought death into the world.

After creating Adam and Eve, God placed them in the Garden of Eden. There were many trees in that garden, but two are specifically mentioned—the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:8-9).

God told them they could eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God told them if they ate of that tree, they would die (verses 16-17).

Sometime after God instructed them, Satan came in the form of a serpent and lied to Eve. He told her that she would not die if she ate of that tree. Rather, he said, eating of that fruit would make her like God, knowing the difference between good and evil (Genesis 3:1-5).

Eve believed Satan’s lie, and thereby rejected God. Adam also ate of the fruit (verse 6).

So by eating the forbidden fruit, our first parents brought death into the world.

Yes, death entered the world some 6,000 years ago and continues today because mankind has rejected God and embraced Satan.

The tree of life

But what was the tree of life in the Garden of Eden? What if Adam and Eve had chosen to eat from it instead?

The tree of life, in principle, is a thread throughout the Bible. It is symbolic of eternal life, specifically in God’s Kingdom. God wanted Adam and Eve to eat from that tree, as that would have led them to eternal life, not death as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil did.

But once our first parents ate of the forbidden fruit, God temporarily cut them—and their descendants—off from the tree of life (verse 24).

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is also symbolic. By eating from it, Adam and Eve showed God they would decide for themselves what is right and wrong. Their choice declared they did not need Him.

This is why there is good and evil in the world today. Even though we think we are smart enough to know the difference between good and evil, we really don’t without God.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25).

The forbidden fruit looked good to Eve, but it resulted in death.

How many of those who died prematurely this year lived harmful lifestyles they thought would not hurt them?

Death does not have to be permanent

The good news is that God still wants mankind to have eternal life, including all those who died in 2012 (2 Peter 3:9). Unfortunately, mankind has to first learn the hard way that life without God ultimately brings death.

This is what God wants us to learn from death.

In His time, God will offer all of mankind the tree of life. Then most will be quick to listen to God because they experienced life—and death—without Him.

Interestingly, the Bible begins and ends with the tree of life. And in between, the incredible purpose of life is explained in great detail.

In the pages of the Bible we learn that death does not have to be permanent. All those who died, including my dad and your loved ones, will live again. Everyone will have a full chance to partake of the tree of life. And all the tears and heartbreaks will end after God offers everyone eternal life in His Kingdom.

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

You can find out more about God’s purpose for mankind on this website, especially in the sections on “What Is the Meaning of Life?” and “Is There Life After Death?” These articles will show you in the pages of your Bible where you can find real hope about a real future, when death will be a thing of the past.

About the Author

Tim Groves

Tim Groves

Tim Groves attends the Jefferson, Georgia, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, where he serves as a deacon. 

He has been married to his wife, Teresa, for over 30 years. Together, they have two daughters and two sons and live in South Carolina. They moved there from Ohio in 1997 to flee the cold northern winters and allow him to do the things he really enjoys, like roaming though automobile junkyards looking for hidden treasures from times long past.

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