And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
Revelation 14:13 (ESV)
Christians have the least to fear from death. Instead, we have the greatest reasons for hope, the dearest comforts, and the most to gain by our death: life eternal in glory with God! This doesn’t mean that death is something we are careless about. We don’t look forward to the end of life, the end of a long and fruitful marriage, or separation (even temporarily) from our children and loved ones. Death is still an enemy: the final enemy Christ will defeat (1 Cor. 15:25-26). It doesn’t hold the terror and finality it did before we were redeemed by Christ, but it still can cause us discomfort and fear. We can overcome much of our anxieties by calling to mind all the good that God accomplishes in the death of his saints. Then we may face this enemy with the boldness of a lion. Consider these gracious truths:
God is glorified in the testimony of dying saints.
What a blessing to behold the courage of dying Christians, who face the grave knowing it cannot hold them for long. They know the trumpet will sound, the clouds will part, and the King of Glory will call them forth. What is there to fear when death has no lasting hold? Dying saints who are eager to meet their master are a testimony of God’s goodness and the sweet fellowship of knowing Christ. Their faith held firmly until the end is a sweet song of praise to God in the world. It remains after they pass. It is also a testimony against those who leave this world longing after their idols, which cannot comfort or save. Christ is greater! How many Christians are encouraged by the testimony of such saints? Pray they may be encouraged by your testimony as well.
Death provides a gospel opportunity.
Consider how many unbelievers are stirred to faith at the funeral of Christian men and women? They hear of their lives. They hear that such Christians died with faith, hope, peace, and even (can it be?) joy! How is it possible that they had such peace when I have so much anxiety?, they may ask. God loves to use the death of his saints to call in even more of his elect to faith. Many martyrs have done more for the kingdom of God in their dying than in their living. What a wonder of God’s grace and wisdom! Pray that your death would serve to further the gospel and bring many to faith!
God is near to his saints in the very moments of death.
We would do well to remember the precious promise of Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” God is with his saints in every good and evil they face. Why would death be any different? He is present with dying mercies, holding your hand, ready in his perfect timing to bring you into his presence. Treasure this sweet blessing, as the unbeliever dies with God as his enemy. He is not prepared to meet the Lord and will not find mercy when he does. The worst is yet to come for him. Christian, you face death with God as your friend, with full healing waiting at his command when the appointed time for you has come. No saint faces death alone.
God uses death to transfer from this world to glory.
The Christian’s three great enemies are the world, the flesh, and the devil (Eph. 2:1-3). God uses your death to overcome all three. First, the world: when your moment comes, you will find yourself in paradise (Luke 23:43), removed from this world. When you first believed, you were made a citizen of heaven even while living here on earth (Col. 1:13; Phil. 3:20-21). The more you matured in Christ, the more you saw this world you once cherished as home for the broken, cursed, ruined kingdom that it is. Because of God’s sustaining mercies and common grace it is being upheld and preserved, but awaits judgment. There is still good here, but there is also great evil and darkness. Death separates you from this world, and it brings you to the paradise of heaven. No evil, rebellion, or vileness can enter those gates. Your best, most joyful and pleasant day on earth will be nothing compared to the pleasures of heaven.
God uses dying to put the flesh to death
The second enemy God will conquer upon your death is the flesh. Throughout your life you have lived with a divided heart. On your best days you have sinned against God more than even you were aware. The sin nature that invaded the human race since the fall in the garden has constantly drawn you into sin and away from God. It has filled you with shame, fueled your every addiction, drawn you to idol after idol, sapped your life of peace, clouded your thinking, hardened your heart, broken your relationships, aged your body, and kept you from serving God with a pure conscience. It was a festering wound that could not be healed, subdued, or ignored. But at your death it will reign no more within you. Sin as its consequence had caused you to die, but God, in his great mercy in Christ, will put sin to death when you die. The day you die you will never have a sinful impulse again, while those who go to the grave apart from Christ will go on sinning forever.
At your death, God brings sanctification to completion
The other side of this mercy is that when you enter glory, in that very hour you will be made perfect. You will be with Christ in holiness, fully qualified to dwell with God. All the angels of heaven will marvel at the work of grace in you. They never fell into rebellion, so they have a righteousness of their own. But you and all those whom Christ has justified by his blood have the very righteousness of God. All your thoughts will be pure, God-centered, God-glorifying, God-exalting, God-delighting. There will be a sense of peace unlike any you have ever come even close to experiencing. God has made an unbreakable bond between holiness and happiness. When you experience the fullness of holiness, you will finally experience fullness of joy.
At your death, God removes you forever from Satan’s reach
The third great enemy of your soul is Satan, the prince of this world (Eph. 2:2; 1 Jn. 5:19). He has accused and tempted. He would have destroyed you had he not been bound under the authority of Christ. He waged war against you. He set traps for you, some of which successfully caused you to stumble. Yet at the moment of death you are forever freed from his lies, his flaming arrows, and his temptations. You will be out of his reach. You will see him again, when you join the King of Heaven at his coming. You will witness as the Lord Christ sends him into the Lake of fire.
Christian, there is so much God accomplishes for good in death. Why should you fear? Remind yourself of these things so that you may live and die with faith and hope, giving glory to God in it all. If you are not a believer, consider that you have nothing to gain in death and everything to lose. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Trust in Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life, and all the blessings above will be yours as well.