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Thoughts on Death and Dying

Category Articles
Date February 4, 2004

The Bible is the only book in the world that speaks authoritatively on this subject and it has a lot to say about death and dying. Before writing these thoughts I looked up every verse in the Bible that mentions death or dying—it was a profitable exercise.

I began to write these thoughts about death and dying on my 84th birthday and I can say with Isaac, “…I am old my eyes are dim and I do not know the day of my death” (Genesis 27:1–4, 35:28, 28:10).

Christianity is not only about life and living, but about death and dying. Sin, life, death, resurrection are key words in the Christian faith; therefore, it is proper and wise to think about it, to talk about it and plan for it. (Not morbid introspection).

According to the local paper (News Press) dated September 13, 2002 the life expectancy is 76.9 years. If that is true, my time is over due. I do not know the time, the place or how I will die, but I know I must die and the time is unalterably fixed by Him who is all wise in planning, all-powerful in performing. He is my loving heavenly Father and He does all things well. Job asked the question, “Are not my days few?” (Job 10:20). Like Isaac, I do not know the day but I know it is near. Thus it is wise to think soberly and seriously about my departure. I have sure signs that I will soon be crossing that river that has no bridge; my weak body and trembling hands, my shuffling feet, my dim eyes and 84 years are all messengers of death.

It is wise to think soberly and seriously about my departure from this world, this is one reason that the Bible teaches us to number our days and put our house in order because I will soon pass from the land of the dying to the land of the living. Death and dying is a very relevant subject. It is not wise to consider the subject of death without considering the cause of death—SIN. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is DEATH but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It is not wise to consider the subject of death and dying without considering the resurrection, which gives comfort and hope for the Christian in the hour of death and sorrow.

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up, if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:13–23).

“because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, (2 Corinthians 1:9–10).

Death is the most serious and momentous event that we will ever experience; therefore, it deserves our undivided attention and prayerful consideration. I will point out some passages I found to be very helpful and assuring.

The Bible teaches us:

Deuteronomy 4:32:29…….To consider our latter end.

Genesis 3:19–24…………..Death is inflicted as punishment.

Genesis 27:2……………….That we do not know the day of our death.

1 Samuel 15:32…………….The Bible speaks of the bitterness of death.

Job 1:21……………………Death is universal.

Job 19:25, 26…………….After my flesh is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God. When the time of my departure comes He will watch over my death bed and smooth the pillow of death. Death is the end of dying. I will never die again.

Psalm 48:13, 14……………The Bible teaches us to tell future generations that God will be our guide even to death.

Psalm 116:15………………That the death of the saints is precious in the sight of the Lord.

Psalm 116:8……………….A promise for dying. God will deliver my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.

Proverbs 14:12; 16:25……..Some ways may seem right but the end are the ways of death.

Ecclesiastes 3:2…………..There is a time to die but death is not left to chance. It is determined by a loving heavenly Father; therefore, I will not fear.

Ecclesiastes 7:1……………The day of our death is better than the day of our birth.

Song of Solomon 8:6………Love is as strong as death.

Isaiah 38:1…………………Get your house in order.

Ezekiel 33:17………………I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn. Turn from your evil ways! For why should you die?

1 Samuel 15:32……………There is a bitterness in death but it will pass.

Luke 20:36………………Death is excluded from heaven.

John 21:19………………..Death can glorify God.

Romans 6:9……………….Death no longer has dominion over us.

2 Timothy 1:10……………Our Lord abolished death and brought life and immortality and light through the Gospel.

Hebrews 11:19……………God is able to raise the dead.

The last book of the Bible has a lot to say about death:

Revelation 1:18………….Jesus said, “I am he who was dead and behold I am alive forevermore and I have the keys of hell and death.”

Revelation 20:14…………Death and hell will be cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:4…………..NO MORE death—what a promise!

Revelation 2:11…………..True believers will not be hurt by the second death. (cf. Rev. 20:6, 14).

Revelation 20:12…………The dead will be judged according to their works.

Revelation 14:13…………Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.

Revelation 21:8…………..But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the abominable, murderers, sexually immoral and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone which is the second death.

Summary

The Bible teaches:

Death is an enemy.
Death is an enemy to be destroyed.
Death is an appointment we must all keep *Hebrews 9:27).
Death is our last journey.
Death is the end of dying—we will never die again.

Random Thoughts on Death and Dying

The day of my death will be the day of all my cures. There are some things that will never be cured until the Great Physician comes–then the blind will see for the first time, I will no longer need my hearing-aids, all the ills of old age will be cured. Death will be the beginning of my best days. Death will be the eternal freedom from sin and all the remainder of sin.

At death I will experience for the first time perfect and glorious holiness. The work of sanctification will be complete. The hell of this world is all the hell I will endure and it is all the heaven unbelievers will ever enjoy.

I pray that the Lord will help me to grow old gracefully and graciously. My grandson, Jonathan, asked me how he should pray for me. My answer was this, “Pray that I will witness a good confession and honor God in my dying as I have tried to do in my living.”

A great promise for the Christian in dying is Isaiah 43:2, 3,

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place.

I have escaped many diseases and operations but the arrow of death will reach its goal. All the doctors cannot keep me from death. I must die. How I die, when I die, where I die is uncertain. Only my heavenly Father has the answers to these questions. The Poet put it correctly,

Plagues and death around me fly,
Till He pleases I cannot die.
Not a single arrow can hit
Till the God of love sees fit.

There will be no jokes about death when I am lying cold and stiff in my coffin. He who can laugh at death is a fool and is stark mad, death is not funny, not a subject for laughter. It is true at death I must say farewell to all my earthly possessions. My home, my money, my family, my friends on my book shelves, John Bunyan, John Calvin, John Owen, John Flavel, John Murray, John Brown, John C. Ryle, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J. I. Packer and more. All these men who I have lived with for many years but I hope to meet them in the next world.

To say farewell at the grave is not a pleasant thought but sometimes I have opposite feeling, I do not wish to tarry in this veil of tears any longer; I must remember the Scripture that says, “the day of my death is better than the day of my birth.” I must also remember that death will bring me to my homeland. In this world I am in exile.

Two extremes to be avoided: One, to be too worldly which is one side of a slippery slope; and to be too heavenly minded is the other side of that slippery slope. Lord, help me to avoid the two extremes, help me not to allow my conscience to be bound more than the Word of God allows; help me to safely plant my feet to avoid both sides of that slippery slope.

At 84 I think much more about death than I did in my younger days. I should not fear the final terror because my Savior passed through a horrible death and He ever lives to help me as I leave this world. He promised to prepare a place for me, “…I go to prepare a place for you…” (John 14:2, 3).

Death is an appointment to meet my Savior, my Mediator, my Priest, my Teacher, my King and my Lord. Then I will know what the great Apostle meant when he said, “To die is gain.” “Absent from the body present with the Lord”—what a promise! Then I will know what Isaiah meant when he said, “Even to old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made and I will bear; even I will carry and will deliver you” (Isaiah 46:4).

Death is the last message I will give to my dear unconverted friends. I would like to give that last message in the form of a momentous question. It is a question that concerns everyone who was ever born. The question is, “How shall I do in the hour of death? Have you thought as to how you will meet the final conflict?” All must answer because all must die (Hebrews 9:27). Death is an appointment that you will keep and be sure of this as death leaves you judgment finds you. Back to my question, “How will you meet the grim reaper?”

Oh, my dear friend, God created you for His own glory; and He will not fail of that one end of your creation, whether it be secured by His vengeance or by His grace, by His justice or His mercy, by lifting you to heaven or sinking you to hell. Thank God there is hope for you. Fall in penitence at the Savior’s feet and grasp in faith the Savior’s sacrifice.

Poem

Whither can a sinner flee?
Who, oh who, will rescue me?
Dreading my deserved sentence,
Weeping tears of deep repentance!
Yawning grave! I fear to die,
Such burdens on my conscience lie!

Hark! I hear my Saviour say,
‘I can take thy guilt away;
I have bled that men might live,
Full salvation I can give:
I will help thee, soul distress’d,
Come unto me—I’ll give thee rest!’

Almighty Lord! I know thy voice,
In thee believing I rejoice,
My Prophet, Priest, and King!
Now I can sing of joys on high,
‘O grave, where is thy victory?
O death, where is thy sting?’

I close these thoughts with a personal testimony and my death-song written by Robert Murray M’Cheyne. I commit my soul into the hands of the only Savior of poor lost sinners and I being such, cast myself on his mercy and rest on His promise to present my soul spotless before the throne of my heavenly Father, as His purchased possession. I hope in His promise, not as a profitable servant, but as a pardoned sinner—a debtor to mercy alone.

Jehovah Tsidkenu—“The Lord Our Righteousness”

I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.

I oft read with pleasure to soothe or engage,
Isaiah’s wild measure and John’s simple page;
But e’en when they picture the blood-sprinkled tree,
Jehovah Tsidkenu seemed nothing to me.

Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,
I wept when the waters went over His soul;
Yet thought not that my sins had nailed to the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu ‘twas nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me. I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety in self could I see—
Jehovah Tsideknu, my Saviour must be.

My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;
My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life-giving and free—
Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.

Jehovah Tsidkenu! My treasure and boast,
Jehovah Tsidkenu! I ne’er can be lost;
In thee I shall conquer by flood and by field—
My cable, my anchor, my breastplate and shield!

Even treading the valley, the shadow of death,
This “watchword” shall rally my faltering breath;
For while from life’s fever my God sets me free,
Jehovah Tsidkenu my death-song shall be.

My prayer: Lord, assure me that you will be with me for my last journey, and at the end of this veil of tears, I shall enter Immanuel’s land.

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