POST OVERVIEW. Thoughts on the contrast between the death of a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and the death of one who does not know Christ.
This morning seemed like every other morning. I had early coffee at Starbucks with a friend, then talked to another friend on the phone, and finally had a fairly long phone conversation with my brother. So, the morning was proceeding as Fridays do. But this Friday was different. This Friday, a dear saint, a member of our church went home to be with Jesus. Edye was 93 years old and had been a member of Oakhurst Baptist Church since the 1950’s. She was in church almost every Sunday and it was always encouraging for me to see her singing all the words to every song. I enjoyed being able to hear about her trust in the Lord developed over a lifetime of walking with Him, so I tried to talk to her almost every Sunday. I will miss her and will look forward to seeing her again in heaven.
As I think about life and death and the human condition, I again marvel at the wonder of Christ’s salvation. For the natural man is lost and in darkness and has a natural terror of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). While all of God’s creatures die, man is the only creature who is aware that he will surely die. And why does man die? Man dies because man sins. Ever since Adam sinned in the garden, man has been born guilty and bent toward sin and this sin has two immense consequences.
TWO CONSEQUENCES OF SIN
First, man’s own sinfulness is registered deep in his soul so that man is aware of his sin and guilt in his subconscious. He may vigorously ignore and deny his sin and declare his innocence with his mouth, but the guilt within remains, like a deep undressed wound, festering and growing more foul. The conscience will continue to convict regardless of how loudly the voice denies. So, the first consequence of sin is that the natural man feels within him a deep sense of guilt and shame.
But while the first consequence of sin is, indeed, miserable, the second is far more serious and threatening. The Bible declares that a man’s sin brings him under God’s wrath and condemnation. The Scripture testifies that God will pour out His wrath on our ungodliness and unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). When Ezekiel declares, “The soul that sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4), the prophet is speaking of eternal death, of a destination in the lake of fire as a result of God’s judgment of our sin. Our sin separates us from God and hides His face from us (Isaiah 59:1-2) so that we forfeit His mercy and receive instead His displeasure and judgment. It is from this second consequence of sin, from God’s wrath and judgment, that we must be saved.
WHY ARE SOME NOT MISERABLE AND AFRAID?
Now we return to the wonder of Christ’s salvation. For while the natural man is miserable because of his deep, subconscious sense of guilt and shame for his sin and is, at the same time, terrified at the thought of his own death because he is subconsciously aware of God’s wrath and judgment, Edye, our recently deceased sister, evidenced neither of these in her life. Instead, she talked easily of her inevitable physical death and had no fear of that event whatsoever. Edye’s health was slowly fading as she journeyed through her low 90’s, but her joy was undiminished and she was optimistic about life and the future. She smiled and laughed easily and enjoyed being around her church family. How do we make sense of this paradox? Why is it that, when Edye was obviously so close to death, she continued to live with joy and not terror?
There is a one-word answer to this question: Jesus. Edye had met the Lord Jesus Christ and had long ago trusted Him for salvation and had walked with Him for more than six decades. When she trusted Christ, He had taken away her sin and had thus taken away her guilt and shame. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Edye’s Savior had given her forgiveness for all her sins and so she had peace with God through Jesus (Romans 5:1).
Edye believed that Jesus accomplished the work He was given to do (John 17:4), that He had faithfully lived a sinless life and had willingly given up His life as an atoning sacrifice on the cross. When He died, all the work of redemption was fully accomplished. Thus, Jesus could cry out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). By faith Edye trusted Christ for her salvation and thus her guilt was taken away.
Edye entered the hospital on Thursday afternoon and by Friday morning she had entered eternity. But for her there was no last minute struggle for a few more heartbeats, a few more breaths. When it was time for her to go to be with her Lord, Edye simply yielded her spirit and died. Why? Because she had accomplished her works the Lord had given her to do (Eph. 2:10) and there was nothing left for her to do. She had fought the good fight and finished the race (2 Tim. 4:7), and now the reward was hers (4:8). Christ had bought her with His blood and she had lived for Him and so now Edye joins the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1). Yes, Edye will be missed, but we who believe in Jesus will see her again in heaven.
BUT FOR THE UNBELIEVER THERE IS NO PEACE
One final thought should be mentioned. For the believer, for the one who has trusted Christ as Lord and Savior, the end of this life presents no terror. It is a known fact that all must face death, but Christ has taken away from His disciples any fear. He has given me works to do and He determines when my work is done. He has risen from the dead and so I know that I will be raised with a glorified body on the last day. I know that the Lord delights in me, so I look forward to seeing Him face to face and receiving my crown of reward from Him. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), so I joyfully anticipate the day of my death. Work done, works accomplished, faith kept, I enter into the joy of my Master. On that day, I will be able to commit my spirit into His hands.
But for the unbeliever, death holds great dread. There is no peace with God, so there is no reason to assume that you are going to “a better place.” Without a God-given purpose for your life, there can be no end to your labors, because you can never know if you have done enough. Since you do not know what awaits beyond the grave, there is a desperate desire for life to continue, even when life has lost all purpose and pleasure. So is the prospect of death for the one without Christ.
But there is still time to embrace Christ. As long as you have breath, you can bow the knee to Jesus and receive His salvation. “Behold, today is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). The Lord is mighty to save. “For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Right now you can do what Edye did sixty years ago. Repent, and believe in Jesus.
SDG rmb 12/02/2022 #595