A believer should have no fear of physical death. One of the reasons Jesus went to the cross and died for us was to redeem us from the fear of death: “…that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death-that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14, 15)
A believer can shout for joy when he faces physical death. He has been redeemed from any power death had over him, and he is now going into eternity to be with God. He can say with the Apostle Paul, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”(1 Corinthians 15:55)
Imagine two shores that border a large body of water. A bridge connects the two shores, and the only way across the water is over the bridge. Picture a believer about to cross this bridge, as he prepares to leave one group of people and to join another group on the opposite shore.
Let’s go one step further. Imagine that a few members of the group from the opposite shore cross over the bridge to greet the believer. They then escort him to meet the rest of their group on the new shore. This is dying grace. The dying believer can see both shores and both groups of people at the same time.
As a Christian, you are no more alone in death than you were in life. Just as you have friends in life who must, for now, remain on this side and cannot go over with you into heaven, you also have friends in death who cannot remain on this side with you but will be there as you cross the divide into eternity.
In death, you leave one group of people behind to join another. For one brief moment you stand in the presence of both groups. Those in this natural life cannot see those in the spirit world, but the dying believer can see both groups.
As a pastor, I have been at the bedside of many dying Christians. I have seen unusual and blessed events which verify this unique gift of dying grace. It is a great testimony to Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
Believers who were dying have told me of the presence of angels at the edge of their bed or in the corners of the room. Although these angels were unseen by the rest of us, the one dying saw them as clearly as they saw us.
Not only do angels come over this bridge to receive a new resident into heaven, Jesus Himself also comes. It is marvelous to see a Christian about to leave this life conversing with Jesus as he would with someone physically present.
The Rich Man and Lazarus
Of course, all of this is found in Scripture. Let’s look at the story Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus: “And it came to pass, that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham ’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried.” (Luke 16:22)
The rich man was given a burial–and it was probably something to behold. He probably had the finest of coffins, the costliest of funerals, and the most beautiful spot in the cemetery. In contrast, we are not even told that Lazarus was buried, only that he died. History tells us that when a beggar died, his body was usually taken outside of town and thrown on a burning trash heap.
The two deaths, the funeral, and the trash heap were all that could be seen with man’s limited vision. Only the Holy Spirit could give us an account of the stories of these two men after their physical deaths. The rich man, an unbeliever, went into hell, but Lazarus went into the presence of the Lord.
Notice, when Lazarus died, he was carried into Abraham’s bosom by angels. When Jacob had a vision of the ladder joining heaven and earth, he saw angels “ascending and descending” (Genesis 28:12). Angels are God’s messengers between our world and His.
Jesus Meets the Believer in Death
The Word of God also verifies that Jesus meets the believer in death. When Stephen was stoned and about to die, he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father (Acts 7:55-56). Stephen saw clearly into both worlds, and Jesus was as clear to his eyes as those who were bringing about his death.
What a blessed privilege we have as believers! In death, we are escorted from time into eternity by the Lord Jesus and a company of angels.
But something else has happened again and again when I am at the bedside of a dying believer. Many also see Christian relatives and friends who have been dead for many years. This has happened on so many occasions that it could not just be a coincidence.
I am firmly convinced a person sees and thinks clearly in the moments just before their physical death. Even a person who has mental disorders or has been in a coma is very clear just before they die. That person is turning loose of the physical body which has held them captive for so long and is living and speaking from their spirit man. For a few moments before they slip over into eternity, they can communicate clearly with those remaining.
Often when a dying believer says they see a departed spouse, relative, or friend, those present explain it away as senility. They explain that the ones they are speaking to and speaking of have been dead for many years. Senility is the first answer our natural mind can find to explain what is happening. But I believe the Word of God gives another explanation.
When Abraham died, the Scriptures tell us he was “gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8). I would have expected it to say he was gathered to the Lord or to a company of angels. But instead, Abraham was met by a group of people he knew.
When David died, the Holy Spirit tells us he “slept with his fathers” (1 Kings 2:10). David joined a group of believers who were spiritual heroes before his time. As David slipped over into the realm of eternity, he was met by those he revered, whose lives he had studied.
Any Christian who is about to lose a loved one in the Lord should be filled with comfort, peace, and joy. Oh yes, in the natural they will be missed, but they are about to embark on a journey like they have never witnessed before. They are about to enjoy graduation day, about to receive dying grace.
Don’t weep for them, weep for yourself. You are the one who will need the special comfort and strength of the Holy Spirit, not the one who is dying. Only those on this side of the bridge need prayer. The one about to cross over is going to a place where John saw blessings he could hardly describe:
“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me,“Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” (Revelation 14:13)