Category Archives: Death

“The last hours of Christian men and women” by Charles Spurgeon

“There is one more operation of God’s Word about which I can speak with very great comfort to my own self, and that is the operation of the Word in the completion of the Christian character, and in the display of it in the last hours of Christian men and women.

I have come down many times from the sick chamber of those members of this church who are now in the upper house, and I have done so with faith confirmed and joy increased.

Those beloved ones have given me more strength and assurance than I ever derived from the study of the ablest works in my library.

They were sometimes very poor, but I remember well the glory of the little room wherein they were disrobing for the beatific vision. Their heavenly serenity, varied with bursts of triumphant joy, has driven all my fears away.

Some have been wasted with disease and racked with pain till it seemed impossible that an original thought could have come from them, and yet their speech has been fresh and new, an inspired utterance far excelling poetry.

They only spoke of what they were seeing, of what they were enjoying, for the jewelled gates were set open to them, and they peered within and then turned round and told us a little of what they saw.

It has been a glorious thing to find none of them trembling, none confounded, none wavering.

No dying man has looked me in the face and said, ‘Sir, you did not preach a religion which a man can die with. You taught me doctrines which are not substantial enough for the dying hour.’

No, I feel even now their death grips, as they have clasped my hand and told me of their overflowing joy.

They have said to me, ‘Bless the Lord that ever I stepped into the Tabernacle to hear of justification by faith, of the divine substitution, of atonement made by blood, and of a faithful God who casts not away His people!’

Such expressions I have heard from those upon the borders of Immanuel’s land. These are our seals and the tokens that Christ has spoken by us.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Proof of Our Ministry,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Volume 30 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1884), 30: 369–370.

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“The great Conqueror” by John Collett Ryland

“Farewell, thou dear old man! We leave thee in possession of death till the resurrection day: but we will bear witness against thee, oh king of terrors, at the mouth of this dungeon; thou shalt not always have possession of this dead body; it shall be demanded of thee by the great Conqueror, and at that moment thou shalt resign thy prisoner.

O ye ministers of Christ, ye people of God, ye surrounding spectators, prepare, prepare to meet this old servant of Christ, at that day, at that hour, when this whole place shall be all nothing, but life and death shall be swallowed up in victory.”

–John Collett Ryland, cited by Peter Naylor in “John Collett Ryland,” The British Particular Baptists, 1638-1910, Volume 1, Ed. Michael A. G. Haykin (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press, 1998), 1: 191. Ryland preached this sermon at the funeral and interment of Andrew Gifford on July 2, 1784.

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“Longing for the endless feast to come” by Matthew McCullough

“Until we’re honest about the pervasive, painful presence of loss throughout our lives, we won’t be drawn in by Jesus and His promise of eternal life. We need to see with the eyes of the heart that we have nothing unless we have Jesus. Everything else is passing away.

Earlier in the chapter, I raised what seems to me a common objection to the Christian focus on eternal life. Sometimes talk of eternal life seems like a distraction from the challenges and opportunities and obligations of this life.

At best it sounds abstract and otherworldly. At worst it seems escapist, like some sort of excuse to ignore problems of the present. Or, perhaps, a consolation for those too old or sick to have anything left to live for.

I hope by this point it’s clear that this objection is dangerously shortsighted and ironically off the mark. If eternal life sounds otherworldly to you, then you’re the one not paying close enough attention to this world and its concerns.

Jesus focuses on eternal life because He is more attuned to what life is like in this world than those who settle for less. In this world everyone loses everything.

Eternal life only seems like a distraction from what you really want or need if you pretend you’re not dying. That’s why the objection is shortsighted.

But the objection is also ironic. Jesus’s promise of eternal life is actually the thing that enables true and resilient joy in our experience of good things that don’t last.

When talk of eternal life seems like a distraction, it’s because we’ve failed to appreciate the tremendous challenge of loss to any joy we might experience in the present. We’ve failed to honestly confront the questions raised earlier in this chapter.

How can we enjoy what we hay, when we know we’re eventually going to lose it?

When we’ve learned to feel the weight of this question, we’re prepared to see the true and wonderful relevance of Jesus’s promise for living now. Jesus’s language of eternal life, so far from an otherworldly or ascetic distraction from the goodness of this life turns out to be exactly what we need to make the most of our time under the sun.

Jesus’s death and resurrection, and His promise that He will give life to us too if we believe in Him, reframe how we experience the transient things of this life. The way to fully taste the sweetness of eternal life is not to pull back from enjoying the good things of this life, but to leverage these good and passing pleasures into longing for the endless feast to come.

Loving this life and all its goodness, knowing with truth and honesty that we’re going to lose everything, can actually deepen our love for the life to come.

Jesus’s promise of triumph over death, a resurrection to eternal life, is an invitation to fully enjoy the beauty of life in this world, no matter how fleeting. In other words, the way to deal with the painful problem of loss is not to pull back from loving the transient things, but to press further in.

To love them freely for what they are: precious gifts of a Father who loves you, foretastes of glory divine.”

–Matthew McCullough, Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 141-142.

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“He drank the cup of suffering to the last drop” by Herman Bavinck

“The state of death in which Christ entered when He died was as essentially a part of His humiliation as His spiritual suffering on the cross. In both together He completed His perfect obedience.

He drank the cup of suffering to the last drop and tasted death in all its bitterness in order to completely deliver us from the fear of death and death itself.

Thus He destroyed him who had the power of death and by a single offering perfected for all time those who are sanctified (Hebrews 10:14).”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, Volume 3, Ed. John Bolt and trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 417.

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“Sickbeds and deathbeds” by Herman Bavinck

“The satisfaction of the human heart and conscience are the seal and crown of religion. A religion that has no consolation to offer in time of mourning and sorrow, in life and in death, cannot be the true religion.

From other sciences, from logic, mathematics, physics, etc., we do not expect comfort for the guilty conscience and the saddened heart. But a religion that has nothing to say at sickbeds and deathbeds, that cannot fortify the doubting ones, nor raise up those who are bowed down, is not worthy of the name.

The contrast often made between truth and consolation does not belong in religion. A truth that contains no comfort, which does not connect with the religious-ethical life of human beings, ceases by that token to be a religious truth.

Just as medical science in all its specialties is oriented to the healing of the sick, so in religion people have a right to look for peace and salvation.”

–Herman Bavinck, Ed. John Bolt and Trans. John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 552.

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“God is a friend you cannot lose” by Thomas Watson

“Are you mourning someone close to you? Look up to heaven and draw comfort from there; your best kindred are above.

‘When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up,’ (Psalm 27:10).

God will be with you in the hour of death: ‘though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me,’ (Psalm 23:4).

Other friends you cannot keep. God is a friend you cannot lose.

He will be your guide in life, your hope in death, and your reward after death.”

–Thomas Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture Drawn with a Scripture-Pencil (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2003), 121.

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“Studied, pondered, and prayed over” by J.C. Ryle

“If we are to use the Bible as our Lord did, we must know it well, and be acquainted with its contents. We must read it diligently, humbly, perseveringly, prayerfully, or we shall never find its texts coming to our aid in the time of need.

To use the sword of the Spirit effectually, we must be familiar with it, and have it often in our hands. There is no royal road to the knowledge of the Bible. It does not come to man by intuition.

The book must be studied, pondered, prayed over, searched into, and not left always lying on a shelf, or carelessly looked at now and then. It is the students of the Bible, and they only, who will find it a weapon ready to hand in the day of battle.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Mark (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1857/2012), 31. Ryle is commenting on Mark 2:23-28.

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