Monday, August 15, 2016

Death Is Merely A Portal (Part 2 of 5)

We come now to that point in all our lives that none of us long for, the actual act of
dying. I’ve heard many people say they hope they die in their sleep and don’t have to suffer when they die. There’s nothing wrong in hoping for that, but it usually doesn’t happen that way. With that said, let us look at the process of death of which we call “dying.”

I am thankful, and I’m sure you are too, that God has seen fit to not allow us to see into the future. If we could see the day we die and how we die, we would accomplish nothing but worry in the present. However, that exception is not afforded many of us. Many people, via the sickness that takes their physical body to the grave for example, are well aware that they are dying and that their time is short. That isn’t all bad. Knowing that death is near, gives many the opportunity to ‘get right with God and to set their affairs in order.’ So from that stand point, knowing that death is near, may not be a bad thing.

Actually, from the moment we are born, our earthly body starts dying until death itself overtakes us. Everything on earth, and even the immediate heavens, is dying. First comes birth, then a very short life in relation to eternity, then death.

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)

(Thought I would throw in verse 28, which is a strong hint of the coming Rapture.)

I don’t mean for all this to sound morbid, but dying for the Christian should be an exciting and happy time. At that point, at the end of our life, we know that we are at the portal, ready to cross through and actually see and be with Jesus Christ forever, and also all our family and friends who have gone on before us and know Jesus as their Savior. Yes, it is scary and sad to leave behind those we love, but if they also know Jesus, we will see them again and be with them forever in Heaven. Listen to what the great Apostle Paul says not long before he died.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:21-23)

Maybe we’re thinking, “Paul was an exceptional person.” Yes he was, but he is no more loved by Jesus than you and me. Keep in mind that Paul was facing an ax that would remove his head, but he was not afraid. He wanted to stay only for the reason of ministering to the saints, but apart from that, he strongly desired to go be with Jesus instead.

Is walking up to that portal still scary? Consider this next verse from King David, a man after God’s own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts)

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalms 23:4)

As I’ve stated before, I believe with all my heart that the Lord God gives the dying Christian extra grace (comfort and peace) when our time comes to leave this world. It is called dying grace.

R. B. Thieme, Jr. had this to say about “dying grace:”

“Life hangs by a slender thread that can be snapped at any moment. Does that thought frighten you? Cause you dread and panic?

God never designed dying to be horrible or frightening for the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. To the contrary, God designed your dying moments to be the best, the sweetest part of living. In dying grace, He graciously supplies every need to make this a time of supreme happiness and tranquility as you anticipate meeting the Lord of Glory face-to-face.

Your dying moments are highly valuable to God. They are His final opportunity to honor His infallible Word in your soul. With Bible doctrine in your soul, you appreciate all the fantastic blessings of dying grace so that your dying moments are glorifying to God.”

Richard DeHaan stated in Our Daily Bread on January 23, 1996 concerning “dying grace:”

“Several years ago I read a pamphlet that quoted the dying words of various people who did not profess faith in Jesus Christ. The English atheist Thomas Hobbes said, “I am taking a fearful leap into the dark!” The French infidel Voltaire cried out, “I am abandoned by God and man; I shall go to hell!” Sir Francis Newport wailed in anguish, “Oh, eternity, eternity forever and forever! Oh, the unsufferable pangs of hell!”

What a sobering contrast to the last words of people who knew and loved Christ as their Lord and Savior. Dwight L. Moody said, “This is glorious! Earth recedes; heaven is opening; God is calling me!” Sir David Brewster declared, “I will see Jesus—see Him as He is. I have had the light for many years. Oh, how bright it is! I feel so safe, so satisfied!” And these words from a man being burned at the stake: “Blessed be the time that ever I was born for this day. We shall not lose our lives in this fire,” he said to his fellow martyrs, “but only change them for something better.”

Child of God, even if physical pain and heartache are a part of our closing days, the heavenly Father will give us dying grace. When we pass through that dark valley, we need not fear. The Great Shepherd will be with us.
Thy rod and staff shall cheer me
In death's dark vale and shade,
For Thou wilt then be near me—
I shall not be afraid.  —Ewing”

Dr. Ralph “Yankee” Arnold in his poem “Dying Grace” stated beautifully God’s provision for the dying Christian.

“Rest assured, that the God of all Grace
will, grant to you and I, at the precise moment it is needed,
the grace to face death, the last great enemy of man.

Today I face the shadow of death,
who seeks my soul, to steal my breath.

Shall I be afraid of the dark unknown?
Shall I fear the grave, the corpse, the tomb?

When the deep cold chill creeps over my soul,
Will I shrink in fear, be numb, or bold?

To what shall I cling, to whom shall I trust?
My hope is all gone, my death is a must.

Lord, I believe you died for my sins,
Rose from the dead, and is coming again.

But Lord, if I die, before that glad day,
Is to be present with you, when I pass away.

I’ll not doubt in the dark, truth revealed in the light,
Believing new grace will brighten my night.

There’s another world in which to sing,
I’ll set my affections on heavenly things.

There are love ones in heaven waiting for me,
To get there from here, death set me free.

Where are you death, I’m waiting for you.
You kill only the old, for I live anew.

Rush upon me, Do your worst,
Plant your sting, commence your curse.

These tears that I shed, and the pain that I feel,
I’m suffering for Christ, My glory is sealed.

In a few moments, Just a brief minute in time,
I’ll step from earth’s sorrows, to glory divine.

Lord, help me face death, that others may see,
Christ only, always, living in me.

Glory, Hallelujah, I’m moments away,
Of entering Heaven’s Eternal Day.

Those who truly fear God need not fear death.”

How could I, or you, believe otherwise? That is exactly what this verse (Psalm 23:4) is telling us. When we are walking toward that portal, we are in the “valley of the shadow of death.” But listen to the rest of it, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” For the Christian, when we are in the agonizing throes of dying, Jesus is walking with us, right up to the portal of death and beyond. We have nothing to fear.

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

In this verse, just prior to his death, Moses is giving his last words to Joshua, the priests and the nation of Israel, telling them to go into the land that God has given them and the Lord will be with them.

Is the God of Moses and our God the same? Yes! He is the same God, and he will go before us and will not forsake us in our journey to Heaven any more than He would forsake them in their journey to the Promised Land. Is not Heaven our Promised Land? Then, “Do not fear or be dismayed.”

It is said that when we die we die alone, but that is not true for a child of God. Whether we die in a hospital, in a car wreck, on the battle field, where ever, we will not be alone, if we are His child.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Isaiah 41:10-13)

In this passage God is talking to Israel who He calls His servant, Jacob who He has chosen, the seed of Abraham, His friend (verse 8). Israel had been unfaithful, but she still belonged to God, and even then He would not forsake her.

As with Israel so also the Church, He will not forsake us. We may not have lived up to the standard of righteousness that we should have, but He is still faithful. We may advance toward that portal thinking, “O Lord, I have failed you in so many ways and so many times, how could you want me now?” Thank God our security in Him does not depend on us. HE saves and HE keeps and HE upholds us with the righteousness of HIS right hand. We are saved by the grace of God and we are kept by the grace of God. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10)

If He loved us enough to reconcile us when we were his enemy, won’t He love us even more as His child? Death is not the end for us, but the beginning, and His life made it possible.

“But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:55-60)

Stephen was a follower of Christ who was stoned by those who hated what he said. Minutes before he died he saw, “the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God,” and with his last breathe he asked for the forgiveness of his persecutors. He had no fear of dying. Even when the stones were being showered against his body, he went in peace to be with the Lord.

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:16-17)

As we approach the portal of death there is nothing for the Christian to fear from the spirit world. I’m referring to Satan and all of his fallen angels. We can rest assured that the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, has His ‘mark’ upon us and will transfer us safely into Heaven. All who belong to Christ are sealed with a guarantee by God.

“And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

Next time we’ll see what the Bible says about death.

Grant Phillips
Pre-Rapture Commentary: