Preparing for Death
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©2004|
|Are you facing your own death? Has someone you know recently died? How can you respond to these situations as a Christian? Does the Bible give any guidelines? Does God give any comfort? Dr. Ankerberg explains.|
Preparing for Death
Dr. Erwin Lutzer(Transcribed from a television program. Edited for publication.)
Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret about myself. I don’t normally share this but I feel led to do so right now. I have often prayed to God that I will not die of a heart attack or in a car crash. Personally, I would like to be told that I have six months or a year. And it’s not because I’m so brave. When the moment comes, I am sure that I shall have the same fears as anyone else because it is quite a thing to face that curtain called death. But I really do believe that Christians who have the privilege—and notice, I’m calling it a privilege—the privilege of knowing that they are to die and in attesting to the peace of God, and the promises of God, and the providential care of God, bear a tremendous witness of the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I remember a young woman saying her father was a very godly man and she said, “You know, before Dad died, sometimes he spent more time already in heaven than he did on earth.” And understandably so. Because he already was in heaven.
I happen to have Canadian citizenship. I can get across the border without a hassle because I’m a citizen and I have a passport. Now, in the very same way, when I die, I don’t expect a big hassle at the border. I really don’t. Because I cleave to the righteousness of Christ. I believe that He is my Savior, He is my passport, and I’m going to die at the appointed time. And I believe that I will even die in the right way, whether it is a car crash or it is some disease that I will know about. Jesus died to glorify God.
Jesus died with a right commitment. His last words were “Into thy hands I commit my spirit.” “Father, this is your hour, this is your moment.” The princes of darkness were putting Him to death, but even that was God’s providential will. Jesus said, as recorded in the Book of Luke, speaking of those who came for Him, “This day, this hour of darkness is yours. I concede this to you.” But, of course, He is the One who outwitted them and in the end, solved the problem of death for us because He was raised powerfully from the dead; He is seated at the right hand of God the Father today; and He had committed Himself to God and to His will.”
Now, there are some people who believe that Jesus Christ went into hades after He died. I personally don’t believe that, but regardless of whether or not He did, we do know also that He went soon after that to heaven because He said to the thief on the cross, “Today you shall be with Me in paradise.”
You know, I’m sure that I speak for you when I say that it is wonderful indeed to know that we have a Guide who is qualified to take us to the other side.
One day I was in the city of Jerusalem and we were in this huge cave that actually exists under the city of Jerusalem, sometimes known as “Solomon’s Quarries.” We were with a guide who was leading us in these caves. We were afraid that we would get lost, but he said, “No. You won’t get lost because I’ve been here at least 40 times.”
Well, the fact is, he did get lost. And some of us are just very glad that we had a flashlight so that we could find our way through those tunnels and finally find the exit. I want you to know that when you put faith in Christ, you are trusting somebody who is entirely trustworthy and your life is in God’s hands.
Someone has said, “If you’re to be hung, you’ll never drown.” Now, that doesn’t mean that we can do foolish things, of course. What it does mean is that no believer dies unless God says the time has come. It’s like sitting in a concert; you’re enjoying the concert when suddenly, somebody comes in with a message that says, “You must leave the concert because you’re wanted at the information desk.” When God calls our name, I hope that you and I will be ready.
John Calvin was a very famous Reformer who lived in the city of Geneva. He had so many illnesses. One day I found a list of all the things that he had wrong with him physically, including headaches and back pains and… The list was so long, I thought that he should have died much sooner than he did! But he was experiencing all of this and he said on one occasion, “Thou, Lord, bruisest me, but I am abundantly satisfied since it is from thy hand.”
And I speak to you today, my friend, and you are suffering and you know your mother, your father, a relative is suffering. And you see them slowly dying of cancer or some other disease and you cry up and say, “How long, Oh Lord!?”
Listen to me carefully. If they are believers in Christ, it’s okay to say they are being bruised by God and soon a chariot will come to take them home.
I’ve often thought of the thief on the cross, the one to whom Christ said, “Today, you shall be with me in paradise.” Have you ever thought of the faith that he had? Here he is. Jesus is in the middle. He’s on one side; another thief is on the other. That thief is railing on Christ and saying, like some people say today, “If you’re the Son of God, then get us out of this mess!” But he says, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Now, what content did that thief have to believe? I mean, here he’s trusting a man who is in the same predicament as he is. Jesus has blood running from His hands and His feet and His side eventually, and it’s dripping to the ground and He is writhing there in agony just like the other two thieves are. But there was something about this dying man that made the thief on the cross say, “I believe in Him and believe He has the authority to save me.” William Cowpers, when writing about that man dying on the cross, said, “The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day, and there may I as vile as he, wash all my sins away.” What a Savior. What a Savior.