Summary: The church has been struck by an illness called ‘worldliness’ and the church appears to be dead. This has often caused the world to give the church up for dead.
1. In the late 1800s, the city of Pikeville, Kentucky was shaken with an unknown disease, and the most tragic case of all was that of Octavia Smith Hatcher. After her infant son Jacob passed away in January 1891, Octavia went into a bedridden depression where she gradually became very ill and slipped into a coma. On May 2 of the same year, she was pronounced dead of unknown causes while still in her bed.
Embalming was not yet a practice, and Octavia was buried very quickly in the local cemetery due to the sweltering heat. Barely a week after her burial, many of the townspeople had been stricken with the same debilitating illness and fallen into a comatose state. The difference? After a time, the townspeople began to wake up. Octavia’s husband began to fear the worst and worried that he had prematurely buried his wife while she was still breathing. He procured an exhumation of her grave only to find that his worst fears were in fact true. The lining on the inside of the coffin had been scratched and torn to pieces. Octavia’s nails were bloodied and broken, and her face was contorted with horrific fear. She had died in the ground after being buried alive.
Octavia was reburied and her husband erected a lifelike monument over her grave site. The monument still stands today. It was later speculated that the mysterious illness had been caused by a Tsetse fly, an African insect that can cause a disease known as sleeping sickness.
2. In July 1893, a farmer named Charles Boger and his wife were living in Whitehaven, Pennsylvania when Mrs. Boger suddenly died of unknown causes. Doctors confirmed her death, and she was promptly buried. That should have been the end of the story, but sometime after her death, a friend told Charles that his wife had suffered from hysteria before Charles had met her, and it was possible that she hadn’t actually been dead. The very thought of Mrs. Boger having been buried alive haunted Charles until he became hysterical.
Unable to live with the thought of his wife dying in her casket, he employed friends to help him exhume her body for confirmation. What he found was shocking. Mrs. Boger’s body was turned over. Her shroud and robes were shredded to pieces and the glass of her coffin lid was broken all over her body. Her skin was bloodied and scratched, while her fingers were missing entirely. It was presumed that she chewed them off while attempting to escape. Nobody knows what happened to Charles Boger after the discovery.
3. Some of the most horrifying tales of premature burial are horrifying because the victim miraculously survived the ordeal. Such is the case of Angelo Hays. In 1937, Angelo was a free-spirited 19-year-old boy residing in St. Quentin de Chalais, France. One day, Angelo was riding his motorcycle around the village when he was suddenly thrown from his bike and tossed headfirst into a brick wall. Without hesitation, Angelo was declared dead by doctors and was promptly buried three days after his accident. In the nearby town of Bordeaux, an insurance company became suspicious after realizing that Angelo’s father had recently insured his son’s life for 200,000 francs, and an inspector was sent to investigate the claim.
The inspector had Angelo’s body exhumed just two days after he had been buried to confirm the cause of death, only to find a surprising answer. Angelo wasn’t actually dead! When the doctor removed the death shroud, he found Angelo’s body warm and his heart barely beating. He was immediately taken to a hospital, where he endured several operations and extensive rehabilitation before making a full recovery. As it happens, he had only been in a state of unconsciousness due to his severe head injury. Angelo went on to invent a security coffin with all the bells and whistles to ensure survival of a premature burial. He toured with his invention and became somewhat of a celebrity in France.
Sadly, many times in the past people were often buried alive due to the fact they appeared as if they were dead. Many of the appearances were due to an illness that struck the victim. The church is not too much different. The church has been struck by an illness called ‘worldliness’ and the church appears to be dead. This has often caused the world to give the church up for dead.
There are many Christians who are trying to claw their way out of the casket that they have been buried in, and are getting weary of it. That would be one reason the Bible tells us in Matthew 24:13, "He that endures to the end, the same will be saved."
In the last days, we are warned to "take heed to yourselves" and "watch . . . and pray always” in Luke 21:34-36. A large part of the church is lulled into worldliness because they are concerned with secular pursuits that satisfy the flesh.