Moderator's Comments - Posted 2 March 2015
That there is an element of fear as we face imminent death is natural, after all, none of us are experienced at dying, we only die once. It seems so permanent and separating from all that we love.
Fear can only be quelled by love. John says that as we face judgement, “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear and fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18).”
Human love usually displaces fear, a parent’s minor fears are easily set aside by love for their child who is in imminent danger.
Knowing and trusting God’s love will always displace our fear, but fear is also fed by ignorance.
The Christian facing death has two common questions, I will deal with the first in this column, the second question in the next column.
The first question is, at the point of death, when I leave all that is familiar, what will be my conscious experience? The secularist believes there will be no consciousness beyond death. The believer knows that the factual resurrection of Jesus is the proof that there is life beyond the grave. Since I am “in Christ”, by faith, his experience of death will be mine.
I do not believe in purgatory, a stopping off point beyond death to clean oneself up for heaven, neither do I believe in soul sleep, that the believer lapses into unconsciousness until the return of Christ. The Bible says that at the point of death, the Lord Jesus himself ushers the believer into the conscious nearer presence of God himself (Psalm 23:4).
The Lord Jesus prayed that we would be with him (John 17:24). He has ascended to heaven (Acts 1:11, Hebrews 9:24).
At death the soul of the believer joins him there, 2 Corinthians 5:8 “absent from the body…. present with the Lord.” For Paul to depart meant, “to be with Christ”, (Philippians 1:23), “which is better by far”.
Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43) and the writer of Hebrews says, the “church of the first born” is assembled in the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22).
“There everlasting spring abides
And never withering flowers:
Death, like a narrow sea, divides
This heavenly land from ours.
O could we make our doubts remove –
Those gloomy doubts that rise –
And see the Canaan that we love,
With unbeclouded eyes.”
We are to encourage one another and keep reminding each other of our great hope, those who have fallen asleep in Christ, are with him and God will bring them with Jesus when he returns (1 Thessalonians 4:13 -16).
In Romans 5, one fruit of justification is that we have the hope of the glory of God (verse 2). That hope will not be disappointed because God’s love is proven in his gift of the Holy Spirit to us (verse 5) and the death of Jesus for us, when we were at our most unattractive(verses 6 – 8).
Paul, the apostle of hope, wants us to know that if God does the comparative greater, by reconciling us when we were his enemies, now he will do the comparative lesser, and save us, as we are now his sons (verses 9 – 11). This is our hope which sustains us in the Christian life, “hope inspires endurance” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
There is no greater privilege in ministry than to be at the death bed of Christ’s people and to assure them:
No eye has seen,
No ear has heard
No mind has conceived
What God has prepared for those who love Him! (Isaiah 64:4, 1 Corinthians 2:9)
Absent from the body, present with the Lord.