Death is a fact of life; having lived and given time, now we all must die! The Apostle Paul said that “death worketh in us” and that “our outward man perisheth” (2 Cor. 4:10-18). All men give a great deal of time and discussion to the subject of death and yet it remains veiled in mystery. We have all witnessed, or read about, some tragic death and pondered its mystery. For me, I have always questioned: “Did they know Christ as their Savior?” “Why did this happen”?
In this life, God gives to every person good gifts. God is the world’s greatest giver (Jas. 1:17). He is an especially generous giver to all those who believe Him, giving salvation to all that “call upon the name of the Lord” (Rom. 10:12-13; 6:23; 2 Cor. 8:9; 9:15). God says to us through the death of a loved one: “In this life you gain many things and you lose many things. In this life you have loved ones and you lose loved ones. I gave you the loved ones and I have taken them away, but I am still here!” This is one of the reasons why Paul said to the believers who remains, “that we sorrow not as those who have no hope,” and that we are to “comfort one another with these words.” God is still here and will bring those who are dead in Christ with Him (1Thess. 4:13-18).
CONFIDENCE FOR THOSE WHO DIE
Paul must have solved some of this mystery that surrounds death because he was able to exhibit the same preparedness for dying as he did for living and serving (Rom. 1:15; 1 Cor. 9:16-18, cf., Acts 21:13; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). This is surely the reason why Paul could say that to “depart and be with Christ” was “far better” than living (Phil. 1:20-23).
Paul was ready because he knew: (1) that life is fragile and fleeting (2 Tim. 1:14; Jas. 4:13-15; 1 Pet. 1:14). Like David, he could say, “there is but a step between me and death” (1 Sam. 20:3). Our life hangs by a very thin thread (Eccl. 12:6). (2) That the issues of life and death are in God’s hands. Job understood this when he lost seven sons and three daughters in one day. He said, “The Lord giveth and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job. 1:21, cf., Mt. 6:25-30). (3) That God’s warnings must be heeded, or pay the consequences. The warning of the Prophet Amos to the sinful nation of Israel, “to prepare to meet thy God” (Amos 4:12), is a warning to all men of all dispensations that “God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption” (Gal. 6:7-8, cf., 2 Thess. 1:5-10). The message is clear that unless a man makes preparation to be properly adjusted to a holy God, this will surely be a fearful day of reckoning (Rom. 2:5-10; Heb. 10:27-31). (4) That he had made the only decision that could prepare him for death. That decision was to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31).
It only stands to reason that if a person is spiritually prepared to die, that when it comes time for death, they will face death differently than the person who has made no preparation. It is encouraging to note that when it was “time for his departure,” the Apostle Paul had no regrets having “fought a good fight, finished his course and kept the faith.” He exhibits great confidence that God will give him a “crown of righteousness” in the not-too-distant future (2 Tim. 4:6-8). In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul describes himself as a runner consumed with only one ambition and that is to win the prize for which God had called him heavenward. And in 2 Corinthians 15:55-57, Paul thanks God for victory over the sting of death. Death is not a defeat for the believer; it is the final victory. Those who die and go to Heaven can laugh and shout: “I Won! I Won! I won through Jesus Christ my Lord!”
God sees something about the death of the believer that is hidden to us, at least we do not see it clearly (Rom. 8:18; 1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 5:7). Whatever that something is, God says that it is “precious in His sight” (Ps. 116:15). The Lord Jesus Christ is said to have “Abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). Furthermore, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the mighty conqueror, encourages our hearts by declaring: “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen; and have the keys of Hell and death” (Rev. 1:18).
The believer, through the Word of God, accumulates more and more confidence about the true nature of death. His worst fears are found to be foundationless as he grows in grace and draws closer and closer to what the Bible calls his “long home” (Eccl. 12:5). The believer even discovers that his death is redefined as nothing more than a harmless “sleep” (Jn. 11:11-14; 1 Thess. 4:13-14).
COMFORT FOR THOSE WHO REMAIN
Death for the believer means …
(1) That there will never be any more condemnation for them (Rom. 8:1). According to Hebrews 9:27, man is faced with two appointments: death and judgment. Romans 8:1 tells us that the appointment with judgment has been cancelled. It is true that believers will yet face a judgment for rewards (2 Cor. 5:10), but never will our salvation again be in jeopardy because the Lord Jesus Christ was judged and condemned in our place (Rom. 4:23-25; Gal. 3:13; Col. 2:13-14).
(2) (2) That they will immediately be ushered into the presence of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8; 1 Thess. 4:17). The key word to help us appreciate this is the word “home.” Who is afraid to go home? Paul says he’s at “home” in the body but would rather, willingly be “at home with the Lord.” The believer is perfectly correct in referring to the death of a saint as a “home going.”
(3) That they will never again know any more pain, sorrow, tears or death because “the former things are passed away” (Rom. 8:18-23; Rev. 21:4). How wonderfully comforting this promise must be for those who must daily suffer from emotional, mental and physical pain.
(4) That we receive our eternal inheritance (Rom. 8:17; Col. 1:2; I Pet. 1:4). Death does not destroy our inheritance. While we are here on this earth, all of our treasures are subject to corruption (Mt. 6:20). These things are “seen as temporal,” but thank God, there are unseen treasures that are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). The death of Christ and our identification with Him is assurance of an eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15). The Holy Spirit is our down payment on this inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14).
(5) That they will have a new home. We have already pointed out that wherever the Lord is, according to Paul, that is home. We are convinced that while Revelation 21 and 22 describes the eternal glories of the New Heaven and the New Earth, I believe that the new, eternal home for the Body of Christ in the heavenlies is beyond description – not even described in the Bible! When that “man” of 2 Corinthians 12:1-5 was “caught up into paradise,” he heard and saw things that could not be described. Paul said, “of such a one will I glory.” Oh, how beautiful our heavenly home must be! Perfect! Prepared by God and can’t be improved upon!
(6) That they await a glorious resurrection. Paul says that he will be glad to trade in his old “earthly tabernacle” for a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1-3). It will be a glorified, resurrected body “fashioned like unto His glorious body according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil. 3:21).
(7) That they will be a part of a family reunion. The great, wonderful Body of Christ Family will be “caught up together,” a reunion in the air (1 Thess. 4:17)! The songwriter has correctly written:
“There’s going to be meeting in the air,
In the sweet, sweet bye and bye.
I will meet you, meet you, meet you there,
In that home beyond the sky.
Such singing you will hear never heard by mortal ear,
Twill be glorious I do declare!
For God’s own Son will be the leading One
At that meeting in the air.”
Praise God! Dear Friend, do you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? If not, why not take your place before Him as a sinner? Sit in the sinner’s seat. Acknowledge your need for a Savior. Cast aside all other confidences and put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross for your salvation. Tell Christ that you now believe on Him. Do it today!