This question comes from a man who is facing the last days of his life due to cancer. As I visited him at home while he was waiting for the Hospice nurse to arrive, he told me that he had been having some feelings of anxiety in anticipation about the end of life. I knew that he professed to be a Christian, but he hadn’t attended church since the funeral his wife who died of a heart attack twenty-two years ago and doubts about life after death were consuming his mind as he lay bedridden. I assured him that he could trust what the Bible teaches about life and death. I assured him that if he confessed with his mouth that Jesus was Lord and believed in his heart that Christ was raised from the dead, that he would receive the gift of eternal life (Rom. 10:9). I read the next verse to him which says: “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame.” And then I read “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:11, 13).
As he was thinking I began to share the following—I have added some additional details for the reader’s benefit:
Death may be defined as the termination of life brought about by the entrance of sin into the world. As such, death is the final outcome of living in a fallen world. It is the final enemy that all mankind must face. Death will mark for us the last staging-post before the grand climax of salvation. One of the certainties of life is that all of us must die unless Christ returns first. Scripture teaches that “death” is the “last enemy to be destroyed” (1 Cor. 15:26), meaning that death is the last aspect of the fallen world to be removed. But it will be removed when Jesus returns to judge sin once and for all and then He will “reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:25). So, it is that this separation of body and soul through bodily death, is both sin’s fruit and God’s judgment (Gen. 2:17; 3:19, 22; Rom. 5:12-21; 8:10; 1 Cor. 15:21). If you are not in Christ, death is a terrifying reality of life (Heb. 2:15). In and of itself, death is ugly, destructive thing—it is “the last enemy.” If Christ is your Savior, then “to live is Christ and to die is gain” for your “desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil. 1:21-23). Remember, God is sovereign over life and death—the timing of both is as He has appointed.
After explaining the above, I read to him John 3:16 and he began to weep. So, I asked him if he would like to pray before I left, and he said that he did not know what to pray. I asked if he was prepared to come before God? He didn’t answer. So, I read to him John 14:6 – “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” I said, “Will you receive Christ for the forgiveness of sin and confess Him as Lord, believing that He was raided from the dead for your eternal life?” He said yes! He asked God to forgive his anger against Him and thanked God for sending Jesus to die for his sin. We prayed together, praising God for His mercy and the grace of salvation. Four days later, he joined his wife before the face of Christ in Heaven!
Here Are Three Facts of Death:
- Death is consequence of sin: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12-13).
- Death is inevitable for all: “The wages of sin is death,” man came from the ground and to the ground he will return. It is “appointed to man to die once and after that comes judgment” (Rom. 6:23; Gen. 3:19; Psa. 90:3; Heb. 9:27).
- God is sovereign over death—the timing is as He has planned: God is omniscience—He knows the beginning and the ends (Psa. 147:5; Isa. 46:10; Heb. 9:27).
How are Christians to view death?
- As Christians we are not to view our own deaths with fear since Jesus died to “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:15). We are “free” (Rom. 6:17-18, 8:15).
- Since Christians are “in Christ” (being united with Him through salvation) we are to view our own death with joy, knowing that after death we will be with Christ—”away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).
- For Christians the terror of physical death is not to consume us, though the unpleasantness of dying remains. We know that Christ has gone before us to prepare a place for us (Jn. 14:2-3) and we should thus, view their own forthcoming death as an appointment in Jesus’ calendar, which He will faithfully keep.
- At death a Christian’s soul goes immediately into God’s presence (there is no such place as “purgatory”). Their bodies remain apart (buried, cremated, or where their life ended), but their souls go into the presence of their Creator (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23). Since the souls of Christians are eternally secure in the presence of God, there is no need to pray for them once they are dead.
- The sorrow that is felt at the death of a Christian is not a hopeless sorrow since we know that a believer has gone to be with the Lord. Christians do not “grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).
- God sees the death of a believer as “precious” in His sight (Psa. 116:15). He rejoices along with all the angels when His children come home.