Talked to a guy today, he told me that his dad had died of pneumococcal infection in his early 40s. His dad had faith when he passed away but the son didn’t. I talked to a woman earlier in the week whom I had bought my family car from a few months ago. She informed me that her healthy 56 year old husband had died from complications in a routine operation just two weeks ago. I was reassured to hear that this woman’s husband had recently professed faith and started attending church. Death has been in my radar through these and many other experiences in recent days and months. Death is real. Death is certain. Timing is the only variable. You are going to die. I am going to die. When?
As I was pondering this fact I wanted to remind myself of the only comfort that really matters when you die. It’s the answer to this question: where will I spend eternity?Hell and Heaven are both equally impossible to really comprehend. Eternal joy and peace or eternal pain and torment. These are ultimate realities but often a long way from our daily experience. We often get a mingled taste of pleasant and unpleasant experiences and occasionally (in our middle class – western society) make forays into the extreme highs and extreme lows. Jesus was very certain about these realities. We are all going to experience one or the other and according to our sinful actions and intentions God says we only deserve Hell. Apart from some sort of intervention we are on the path to eternal pain and torment. Jesus has experienced both heaven and hell. Let’s hear what He says about death and the after life.
35 For whoever finds me[Jesus] finds life,
And obtains favour from the LORD;
36 But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul;
All those who hate me love death.
2 Timothy 1:9-10
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord …. , 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.[b] 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.
4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
To finish this I want to consider the story of raising Lazarus and the amazing promise Jesus makes to all who believe in him regarding resurrection and eternal life. It is self explanatory.
17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles[a] away. 19 And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” 28 And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” 29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was[b] in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.”[c]
32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?”
They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”
35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”
37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”
40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” 45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did.
So what then? What is the essential comfort a believer has when faced with the final reality of death? What is my comfort? What could be your comfort? The Heidelberg Catechism starts where I want to finish.
1. Lord’s Day
Question 1. What is my only comfort in life and death?
Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, (a) am not my own, (b) but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; (c) who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, (d) and delivered me from all the power of the devil; (e) and so preserves me (f) that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; (g) yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, (h) and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, (i) and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him. (j)
Question 2. How many things are necessary for you to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, may live and die happily?
Answer: Three; (a) the first, how great my sins and miseries are; (b) the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; (c) the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance. (d)
To check out the scripture proofs for these amazing statements of faith visit The Centre for Reformed Theology and Apologetics.
I pray that you will be given the grace to live and die happy. Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on him while He is near. You won’t be disappointed.