Our People Die Well
“If we knew as much about heaven as God does, we would clap our hands every time a Christian dies.”
– George MacDonald
I was struck some time ago by John Wesley’s remark, “Our people die well.”
Charles Wesley wrote his brother, John, and related that a doctor had told him, “Most people die for fear of dying, but I never met with such people as yours. None of them are afraid of death, but are calm, and patient, and resigned to the last.” The early Methodists actually made note that so many of their people faced death with faith and peace. Many of these testimonies were published in an early Methodist magazine that John Wesley himself edited for some time.
My mother related to me that her grandmother (a godly Methodist woman) often told Bible stories to the family and to neighborhood children. As she approached the point of death, my mother and others observed her speaking to the people who were physically in the room at one moment, and then, “seeing into the other realm,” she spoke to loved ones who had preceded her in death. This happened off-and-on, and eventually she breathed her last and slipped peacefully into the presence of God. She left her earthly family and joined her heavenly family. This powerfully impressed my mother with the reality of Heaven.
The Bible portrays physical death as more of a transition than a termination. There is an element of termination in the sense that the physical body ceases functioning, but the Bible describes man as more than just a body, or outward man; the Bible also describes an inward man. Man is a spiritual being, yet man resides in a body. When the body stops functioning, the spirit of man simply transitions to a new location.
For the person who trusts in Jesus Christ, that new location is a wonderful place called heaven. Heaven is not a dream. It is not a figment of someone’s imagination. Heaven is not a metaphysical abstraction or a theological conception. Jesus did not say, “Our Father which art in a state of mind…” He said, “Our Father which art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). Heaven is a real place!
The Bible says that “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, NKJV). Death is inevitable, but we need not fear death. Jesus provided forgiveness, acceptance, and eternal life to everyone who places their faith in him. The author of Hebrews explains:
Since all his “children” have flesh and blood, so Jesus became human to fully identify with us. He did this, so that he could experience death and annihilate the effects of the intimidating accuser who holds against us the power of death. By embracing death Jesus sets free those who live their entire lives in bondage to the tormenting dread of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15 TPT)
The Message Version renders it that Jesus, through his mighty resurrection, “freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.” Freed from the fear of death!
We preachers tend to preach often that we are “saved by faith” (Ephesians 2:8), that we “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7), and that we “live by faith”(Romans 1:17). That is great, but have we emphasized enough the message of Hebrews 11:13? “These all died in faith…”
Not only can God give us a tremendous sense of peace about our eternal well-being, but we can also find encouragement by considering what certain believers have said as they approached death, perhaps even when they were on their death beds:
“Our God is the God from whom cometh salvation: God is the Lord by whom we escape death.”
– Martin Luther
“Live in Christ, live in Christ, and the flesh need not fear death.”
– John Knox
“The best of all is, God is with us. Farewell! Farewell!”
– John Wesley
“I shall be satisfied with thy likeness! Satisfied! Satisfied! O my dearest Jesus, I come.”
– Charles Wesley
“All is well, and the seed of God reigns over all, and over death itself.”
– George Fox
“I now feel so weaned from earth, my affections so much in Heaven, that I can leave you all without regret, yet I do not love you less, but God more.”
– William Wilberforce
“Earth recedes, heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go. This is my coronation day. It is glorious.”
– D. L. Moody
“Dying is sweet work! Sweet work! My heavenly Father, I am looking up to my dear Jesus, my God, my portion, my all in all. Glory, Glory, Home, Home!”
– Samuel Medley
“It is a great mercy to me that I have no manner or fear or dread of death.”
– Isaac Watts
“I know I am dying, but my deathbed is a bed of roses. I have no thorns planted upon my dying pillow. Heaven is already begun!”
– John Pawson
“The waters are rising and so am I. I can’t go under for I am going over.”
– Evangeline Booth
“Far from a world of grief and sin, with God eternally shut in. God is faithful. God is faithful.”
– John Kershaw
“I shall soon be with Him. Victory, Victory, Victory forever.”
– William Gadsby
“My heart is resting sweetly with Jesus, and my hand is in His.”
– Howard Crosby
“This is the end of earth. I am content.”
– John Quincy Adams
There are other great statements that can encourage us and build our faith about having God’s peace concerning the transition we will all eventually face.
“Here in this world, He bids us come; There in the next, He shall bid us welcome.”
– John Donne
“The moment we take our last breath on earth, we take our first breath in heaven,”
– Billy Graham
“We have suffered bereavement after bereavement, but we are going to the land of the immortal where graves do not exist.”
– Charles Spurgeon
Remember that the Bible never presents life and death as a win-lose proposition. Through Jesus Christ, we win when we live, and we win when we die.
“To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NKJV).
“To be absent from the body [is] to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 NKJV).
“If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8 NKJV).