Are You Prepared to Die?
Discussing Life and Death in Light of Eternity!
Think for a moment of the friends, family members, or fellow-workers you have known—but now they are gone. These dear ones have died. Think of the politicians, the Hollywood celebrities, the athletes, businessmen, and others who were in the public’s eye, but now they are no more. Some died through a tragic disease or illness, others perished through a tragic injury, and still others died though a drug overdose or alcoholism. They are all gone. Regardless of the heartache and tears, we can’t bring them back. We can’t see the familiar face of our family member, or hear their voice, or hug them. All are beyond our reach.
Recently I’ve come to think of the number of people I used to know but they have now departed. Bill died of terminal cancer, Becky died through an aneurism, Tom died in a tragic car wreck, Connie died by falling down the stairs, and Greg died from multiple physical causes. One by one, these and many others have been wrenched from us, with or without warning, and they no longer live on this earth.
We weep tears of sorrow, knowing that we’ll never see them again in this world and may never see them again—forever. We also weep out of regret and guilt, aware that we never urged these friends and family members to consider Christ Jesus as the only means of salvation. Either through embarrassment, ignorance, fear, or plain disobedience, we may never have given them the opportunity to “flee from the wrath [of God] to come” through God’s forgiveness in Christ (Matthew 3:7). Of course, in another sense, no one is innocent before God. He makes Himself known through nature, through conscience, through the Holy Spirit, and through the Scriptures (Luke 16:29-31).
Some of us have a forewarning that our time has come. You may remember that God told Hezekiah, king of Judah, “Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live” (2 Kings 20:1). Some people do have a terminal illness and use the services of a hospice, but probably many are snatched away from earthly life without warning or time to prepare.
Generally people go through life without giving much thought to their own approaching death, even when they know deep in their heart that this inevitably awaits them. How superficial we are. Maybe we just don’t want to face death since it is so uncomfortable to us. Yet there is a natural “fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15), something that the Bible calls “the terrors of death” (Psalm 55:4). Why is death “the king of terrors” (Job 18:14)? Everyone has an inner dread of the end of his or her life and what lies beyond. Yet most people push it far away and try not to think about it. Every cemetery, every funeral, every obituary notice, and every announcement of someone’s decease is a reminder, but somehow we are unwilling to face the cold, stark reality of our own mortality!
Let’s “get real” and face our own death realistically. We are not playing a game that will end and begin again. We are facing a cruel foe and every single one of us will be defeated by our physical death. We are utterly foolish if we refuse to face the truth that is right before us and try to block out our physical end from our consciousness. There is “a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:2) so we should think long and hard about this approaching fact!
Our future is so unknown and unknowable. But the part of wisdom is to face the future and be prepared for this “king of terrors.” The Word of God says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). We may think that we will live another ten, twenty, or even sixty years, but we are not guaranteed this number of years. “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). We are frail and our lives are unpredictable. The only rational response to our own mortality is to prepare now in light of the inevitability of our approaching death!
We don’t want to offer here a long treatise on our spiritual condition and our need for God’s rescue, but we do want to briefly examine some of the means by which we may prepare for the future.
Before we do directly deal with the ways we can face the future confidently, we need to briefly discuss what the Bible refers to as the “gospel” (meaning “the good news”). Have you ever wondered what this word means? Maybe you’ve passed it off as a religious term that has no real relevancy to you. But, in fact, it is very important for your life now and your eternal life! In fact, God tells us that the “gospel” is “the power of God for salvation,” meaning that the message of the gospel is good news since it tells us how we can escape the consequences of our sin and find eternal life with God. Wouldn’t you say that this has the greatest importance! Surely you want to learn how to escape eternal punishment and receive eternal life in absolute bliss!
As we approach a huge topic and condense it to a brief one, let’s make it clear that the problem of all humanity is sin. Call it what you want to (disobedience, transgression, lawlessness, etc.), the guilt of sin applies to you and to me. Sin is lawlessness or breaking God’s law (1 John 3:4). It is unrighteousness or failure to do right (1 John 5:17). It is even a failure to the right thing when we know we should do it (James 4:17). Thus, it includes sins of commission (what we do) and sins of omission (what we don’t do).
Wouldn’t you agree with God that we have all sinned? “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). None of us are perfectly right in all that we do and all that we don’t do: “There is none righteous, not even one” (3:10). So you and I and all humanity are guilty of sin before God. Solomon was right as he prayed to God: “There is no man who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46).
What is the result of this universal guilt? The Bible puts it this way: “You were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). We are spiritually “dead” because of our sins! “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). We are not only spiritually dead, but we are even separated from God because of our unforgiven sins (Isaiah 59:2). If we remain in this condition of guilt, we will be eternally separated from God. Jesus, the righteous and just Judge on the great Day of Judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10), will say, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).
The Bible plainly declares that no one who is guilty of unforgiven sin “will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21). Another way to put this is that if we die with unforgiven sin on our heavenly record, we will be cast into eternal fire, otherwise known as “hell” (see Revelation 20:11-15; 21:8). Wouldn’t you admit that you have sinned—multiple times. If we were only to commit three sins a day, this would be about 1,000 sins in a year and 10,000 sins in ten years! Yes, we are definitely guilty before a Holy God. (In reality, we have sinned many more times than three times in a day!)
Wouldn’t you say that this coming doom is of utmost importance to you and me? It is the most important problem we could ever face. It is absolutely catastrophic—but, sadly, most people overlook it and are unwilling to admit the depth of their sin and guilt. This doesn’t just apply to a few million people on earth—but to almost the whole population of the world! If a person remains in his sins, and if he doesn’t know God or obey the good news of Christ, he “will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
Where does this leave us? It leaves us without any human, earthly hope (Ephesians 2:12). But the Bible also declares that God—our eternal and infinite Creator and Lord—is amazingly loving and merciful. Instead of forcing us to remain in our hopeless condition, He made a way out of this predicament! The Bible announces, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). What did He do? Simply stated, “While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Further, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8). Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood to pay the penalty for our sins, thus we can be “saved from the wrath of God through Him” (v. 9b).
Since “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), you and I deserve to remain in spiritual death and there face the dreadful “second death” at the judgment (Revelation 20:11-15; 21:8). But Christ Jesus, the sinless Son of God, the one who was fully God and man, was qualified to pay the price of our own sin that that we need not experience it ourselves—providing we are willing to appropriate His substitutionary death! Indeed this is “good news” to us guilty and condemned sinnes!
But not only did Christ die for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3) and give Himself up for those sins (Galatians 2:20), but also “Christ has been raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22). He died for our sins on the cross, then rose from the dead to new life. Although many world religions reject the idea of a “resurrection of the body,” the Lord Jesus was bodily raised from the dead (cf. Luke 24:5, 36-43). He showed Himself to be the “living One” who is “alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:17-18).
Thus we read, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). It is true that your sin gave you a “death” sentence, but it is also true that through Christ and His suffering and death on the cross, he is able to give you eternal life! The “sting of death” has been removed and we now have “the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
Does all of this come automatically and unconditionally? Not at all. God doesn’t force us to accept His free gift of eternal life in Christ, but He does offer it to us if we are willing to accept it. We now need to discover how we receive this free gift of salvation. Basically, we must receive this wonderful gift of eternal life by faith in God and faith in Christ Jesus (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus said, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36; cf. vv. 14-18). When we place our faith, trust, or reliance in God through Christ and His saving death, we are exercising the very basic means of approaching God. While all of the world religions emphasize works in their efforts to save themselves, the follower of Jesus knows that we are saved by faith, but this faith does manifest itself in active deeds and obedience.
Further, this genuine faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death must be joined with a sincere turning away from sin. The key is “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). When we repent, we “turn” to God from idols to serve a living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). In repentance, we turn from false idols (Revelation 9:20) as well as overt acts of sin (v. 21). Repentance is a change of heart and mind that results in a change of life and behavior. God doesn’t want “any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Have you been willing to do this?
Before we go on from here, we need to mention baptism, a commonly overlooked or minimized subject in our age. Many readers may think of a church ritual, an ecclesiastical formality that means very little, but I assure you that Biblical baptism means very, very much!
For instance, instead of “baptizing” little babies, Jesus wants only those who believe in Him and repent of their sins to be baptized. The Bible says, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Can a little infant repent of his sins? Obviously not. A child doesn’t have the capacity to experience a change of heart. Besides, a baby isn’t guilty of personal sin that would require repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Furthermore, a tiny baby can’t understand the basis of the gospel, thus he is incapable of saving faith in Christ. We express our genuine faith in Jesus Christ when we are baptized into Him (see Acts 8:12; 18:8; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12).
But not only is baptism an expression of faith and repentance (hence, excluding babies), it is only for mature people (see Acts 8:12). Further, baptism has an important meaning: It expresses a death to sin and a burial of our past life (see Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12-13), and God gives us forgiveness (Acts 2:38; Colossians 2:12-13), washing away of sins (Acts 22:16), a relationship with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19), and salvation itself (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). Wouldn’t you say that this is very important!
One final point baptism’s meaning is the false idea that baptism can be a sprinkling of water, a pouring of water, or a dipping into water! Actually, the Greek word for baptism means an immersion or dipping into water, and this is why people wanting to be baptized in Bible times, were led into the water to be baptized, then were led out of the water (see Acts 8:35-39; cf. Matthew 3:13-16). In other words, baptism requires “much water” (John 3:23) for the person is lowered into the water and raised from the water, expressing a death, burial, and resurrection with Christ (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12).
If you have followed this reasoning, you can see how a person actually is saved from the terrible guilt of sin and the spiritual death that will drag us down to destruction, and how he comes to Jesus Christ to receive eternal life and salvation through Him (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9).
This now leads us to ask how we can be sure that we are in Christ and will remain in His life in the future. Thus we need to discuss what the Bible reveals about our life in Christ and how this prepares us to physically die and go to be with God eternally. Here are some vital points that we need to know.
Ask yourself these questions and think through your answers:
- Do I know God? That is, do I really know God—as a person, as my Creator, as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). Remember too that when Christ comes back in judgment, He will render retribution or punishment to those who “do not know God” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). Thus it is very important that you can honestly say that you have an intimate knowledge and relationship with God!
- Have you placed your faith in God? Our faith must be in God as our Creator, God as our Savior, and God as our King! Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him [God] who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). Notice, we “believe” in God who sent Jesus. God so loved that He gave His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Remember too that the Lord Jesus said, “Believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1).
- Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God? This is the fundamental theme of the New Testament. We read, “Whoever believes in Him [Jesus the Son] shall not perish, but have eternal life. . . . He who believes in Him is not judged” (John 3:16, 18). We must believe in Christ and His good news of salvation in order to be saved from death and hell (Mark 16:16). We not only are to believe that Jesus lived, that He was born of a virgin, that He lived a sinless life, that He was creator of the universe, but we must also place our trust or reliance in Him as Savior and Lord. Have you been willing to do this?
- Do I know Jesus Christ? We mean do you know Jesus personally and not merely know about Him? It is important to know facts about Him as a historical person and even as one who suffered and died for your sins. But do you know Him beyond this—intimately and savingly? As we noticed above, eternal life is for those who “know” Christ Jesus (John 17:3). Large numbers of people who profess Christianity can’t honestly say that they “know Jesus”!
- Have you been saved, forgiven, and born again? We become very personal here—but it is critical for your good. Christ plainly said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). He went on to explain, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (v. 5). In other words, you need to be converted or brought into God’s kingdom.
This “new birth” experience is crucial! As Peter wrote, “God “according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Please don’t be deceived or confused! Multiple millions of people would acknowledge that they have been “born again” but they mean by this a variety of different false ideas—including Hindu or “New Age” ideas of renewal as well as sacramental Catholicism and Protestantism with their infant baptism. We need to be saved as described in God’s holy Word! This salvation experience involves forgiveness (Acts 26:18), washing away of sins (Acts 22:16), redemption from sin through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7), and union with Christ in His body (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27; 1 Corinthians 12:13).
- Have you truly repented of sin? We’ve mentioned repentance earliet, but it bears repeating. Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). We must genuinely repent of all our sins, transgressions, and lawlessness, of thought and word and deed if we hope to be received by God. Scripture says, “Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19). Faith and repentance are complementary terms for Scripture refers to “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21)
At one time, I considered myself a “good” person. I had no idea that God wanted me to repent of all my sins! Graciously, the Lord opened my eyes to this spiritual need while I still had the time (Acts 26:18). Won’t you also be willing to humbly repent of your sins and come to Christ?
- Have you truly been baptized? As we’ve discussed earlier, this is not a meaningless ritual or churchly rite, as some people think. It is a very significant, non-optional act of faith. We are to be baptized as an expression of repentance (Acts 2:38) and faith (Acts 8:12; 8:8) and utter commitment to following Jesus and obeying Him (Matthew 28:19-20). It signifies a death to sin, a burial of the old person, and a resurrection to new life as a new person in Christ (Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:11-13). It is for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), the washing away of sins (Acts 22:16), salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21), and being added to Christ’s spiritual body or believing community (1 Corinthians 12:13; Acts 2:41-47).
- Do you now live for Jesus? When you rise to walk a new life (Romans 6:4), you become a totally new creature in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is why we can say, “For to me, to live in Christ” (Philippians 1:21). We can even say that Christ Himself is “our life” (Colossians 3:4). Henceforth, we take to heart this verse: “He [Christ] died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Nearly everyone around you is fundamentally living for himself, but few people consciously, deliberately, sincerely, are living for Jesus Himself! Can we see that true “Christianity” is far different from the dry, lifeless “churchianity” that most people know!
- Do you consistently obey Jesus Christ and God the Father, as revealed in His Word? Sadly, this is a neglected subject to vast numbers of people who claim to be Christians. If someone claims to love Jesus but then disobeys Him, his claim is an empty and hypocritical one! Jesus declared, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). He didn’t say that you may or might choose to obey Christ’s will; but our Lord said, “you will keep My commandments”!
This obedience is not optional: it is absolutely essential. “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17; cf. Hebrews 10:36; Matthew 7:21-23). Nearly everyone around you is fundamentally living for himself, but few people consciously, deliberately, sincerely, are living for Jesus Himself! Can we see that true “Christianity” is far different from the dry, lifeless “churchianity” that most people know!
- Do you love God and the Lord Jesus with all of your heart? We know that Jesus explained that the “greatest” or “foremost” command is love for God: “You shall love the LORD your GOD with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). We must not remain in a state of lovelessness! “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22). How many of us truly have a burning, passionate, whole-hearted love for God, our Creator and Father?
- Do you love others as you love yourself? After giving the command to love God with all of our being, Jesus gave the second greatest command: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Do we love other people like this? We especially are to love our brothers and sisters in God’s family! Jesus gave the hallmark of true discipleship: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). We are even to love our enemies and do good for them! (Luke 6:27-28, 34). The only way to live eternally is to have this authentic, unselfish love for other people.
- After coming to Christ, do you humbly and honestly confess your sins to God? These sins committed after initial salvation need to be admitted in prayer to the Father: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Do you want to be forgiven of any sins you commit after coming to Christ and being immersed into Him? Then you need to repent of them and honestly confess them to the Father!
- Do you humbly confess your sins against other people to them? This may be difficult, awkward, and embarrassing—but we must humbly seek forgiveness from others whom we offend! This is the way you receive forgiveness of your sins against all others. Jesus said that we shouldn’t even worship the Lord without confessing and reconciling with one we have offended or sinned against (Matthew 5:23-24).
- Do you forgive other people who sin against you? Unforgiveness is a terrible sin that must be repented of! “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4). Jesus says that we must never withhold forgiveness or He will refuse to forgive us: “If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Paul added that we are to humbly forgive “each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Colossians 3:13; cf. Ephesians 4:32). Remember, if anyone sins against you and seeks your forgiveness, be willing to forgive him or her (Luke17:3-4). Don’t pridefully insist on either inner bitterness and resentment or unforgiveness.
- Have you taken your place with other brothers and sisters in the family of God? We know that in this age of apostasy, worldliness, and spiritual confusion, it is difficult to find Scriptural, loving, intimate, wholesome, and precious unity and fellowship with other genuine believers who are walking in truth, love and righteousness (cf. 3 John 1-4). Yet this must be our earnest desire and goal!
Scripture directs, “We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5). Again, “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27). Read all of Romans 12 to see how we are to relate to other brothers and sisters in God’s household (and also see Acts 2:41-47).
- Have you separated yourself from all sinful and evil relationships? Paul wrote, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 7:14-18). Also, have you separated yourself from other brothers and sisters who are walking in known, unrepentant sin and apostasy? “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people. . . . Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Corinthians 5:9, 13b; cf. vv. 1-13). We also read: “Keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6; cf. vv. 6-15). It is difficult to have enough love to exclude certain people, but God may use this drastic action to wake the brother or sister up to their sin and spiritual need (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15; 2 Corinthians 2:4-9).
- Do you have an earnest and passionate desire for the Word of God? We should want to search the Scriptures daily to determine the will of God and the truth of God (Acts 17:11). We should have the attitude manifested by Jesus when He said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
We should also have the attitude expressed by the psalmist: “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (119:97). “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (v. 103). “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (v. 105). This means that we won’t just have a Bible lying on a shelf at home; we will make the Scriptures our delight, our source of truth, our means of light and life!
- Are you determined to forsake all worldliness and live separate for the Lord? We read, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2a). We also read, “Keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27b). We are also warned: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?” (4:4).
Another powerful warning that should sink to our hearts is found in 1 John 2:15-17. Notice: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing way, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” We should commit this to memory for it is so powerful for our life. I recall that when I first learned of this neglected Biblical truth, I was in shock! How had the church conveniently overlooked or avoided it? But there was this basic command and truth before my very eyes! How about you?
- Are you deliberately and earnestly seeking to turn away from all of the “deeds of the flesh” found in Scripture? These sins and lifestyle issues are very common in the world and we must fight against them with all of our heart, by the Spirit of God. You will notice many of these sin lists in Scripture, such as Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:3-7; Colossians 3:5-7; 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Unless we repent of these and turn away from them, we cannot enter the kingdom of God!
- Are you earnestly seeking to grow in the spiritual qualities of Christlikeness or the “fruit of the Spirit” mentioned in Scripture? You will find lists of these virtues at places like: Galatians 5:22-24; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; James 3:17; 1 Peter 3:8; Colossians 3:12-17. These spiritual fruit demonstrate that the Spirit of God is at work in your heart and life and that you are growing in the ways of Jesus. Let’s remember that they are not optional but essential to our personal character and to eternal life (2 Peter 1:5-11).
- Do you consistently seek to follow the Lord in practical ways through life? For example, do you determine to live for Jesus on the job? Many (even most) kinds of employment require one to compromise the ways of God, thus the sincere follower of Jesus must either avoid this kind of work or must resign from these kinds of jobs if they are presently employed. The Christian uses his money and possessions responsibly (Luke 16:9-13), uses his time well (Ephesians 5:15-16), refuses to use bad language (Ephesians 4:31), and uses only good language (Ephesians 4:29). The sincere believer knows that His love and faith is reflected in the way he drives his car (Romans 13:1-6), the way he chooses his clothes (1 Timothy 2:9-10), the choices of food he makes (1 Corinthians 10:31), and how he uses his house for God’s glory.
- Do you purpose to make all of your relationships reflect the will of Christ and the glory of God? For instance, are you a loving and responsible husband (Ephesians 5:25-33; 1 Peter 3:7)? Are you a loving, quiet, and submissive wife (Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1-6)? Are you a son or daughter who honors and obey your parents (Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20)? Are you an exemplary and responsible father or mother (Ephesians 6:4)? Are you an honorable and devoted employee (Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Peter 2:18-20)? Are you a loving and kind employer or manager (Colossians 4:1; Ephesians 6:9). There are numerous other relationships that the Christian has and in each of them, the believer will seek to do the Lord’s will and manifest godly character.
- Do you have a rich prayer life, filled with worship of God, in Christ’s name, in the Holy Spirit? If you know god, surely you will want to communicate with Him who is your very life! Scripture encourages us: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18; cf. Jude 20). The Lord Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). We “worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). We should pray and worship every day—and multiple times each day!
- Do you sincerely determine to be involved in good deeds? Sometimes we hear and read that Christians are not to depend on their good deeds for salvation. It is true that salvation is “not as a result of works” (Ephesians 2:9), it is likewise true that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (v. 10). In other words, we are to be actively involved in good deeds, but are not to depend on them as the ground or foundation of our acceptance by God.
We need to be aware that faith is “perfected” by a person’s works (James 2:22), and “faith without works is useless” (v. 20). So critical is this matter of good deeds that we read, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (v. 24). Notice the importance of working for God (doing good deeds) in the letter of Paul to Titus: 1:16; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14. Since “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), we know that we cannot be saved without them!
The Critical Nature of Preparation
If there are about seven or eight billion people on earth today, we know that there are millions who die each day. Many of these die without the confidence that they are going to a better place. They just don’t know what to expect the moment after they die. Others are basing their confidence at the point of death with the conviction that they belong to the “right” religion, whether that be Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, or others. But this is an altogether vain confidence since we know that logically most of these religions can’t be right! Nearly all are wrong!
And still others do have some kind of inner assurance that they will go to a better place, where sorrows and pain, disease and illness, will be in the past and God or “god” will usher them into a place of bliss for all eternity. However, since you have read the foregoing pages, you know that in almost all of these cases, such people have a futile and empty hope for they actually are unprepared to meet God. Heaven has been called “a prepared place for a prepared people”!
As we have noticed, all people are under sin (Romans 3:9), and this sin will bring spiritual death (Romans 6:23), separation from Christ (Ephesians 2:12), exclusion from “the life of God’ (Ephesians 4:17-19), and the eternal wrath of God (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9) in the lake of fire or hell (Revelation 14:10-11; 21:8).
While nearly everyone longs to leave the negatives of this present life, with its physical and emotional distress, and enter upon eternal life in God’s presence in a place of blessing, joy, and peace, very few will actually experience this everlasting blessing! This grieves our heart but deep down surely most of us know the truth of what we point out here. If the vast majority of people are deceived about the future and vainly think that they are right with God and prepared to meet Him, only a small remnant of people are truly prepared!
Each day I peruse the obituaries which, in a city this size, can include between 20 and 70 deceased people. In many of these statements, we read comments as the following: John “went to be with the Lord,” or Becky “entered her eternal reward,” or Thomas “was joined to his Heavenly Father,” or Sally “went to heaven to meet God.” Many of them even express a hope that they will go to a place of reunion with parents, a spouse, or other family members.
It breaks my heart to read such statements, for I continue reading the obituaries and nearly all of them reveal that these people were part of false religions, or lived their life without a regard for God, or were steeped in worldly activities and pastimes. So utterly sad and unfulfilling! This is one reason why a discussion like this is needed! You and I—all of us—need to examine ourselves and prepare! Paul wrote, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5a). Have you been willing to do this?
Be willing to read this present discussion again and then “test yourselves” to see if you are in the faith! Examine yourselves! Ask whether you actually have been born of God, reconciled to Him, redeemed from sin, and are now walking in the Light (1 John 1:7). Please don’t compose an obituary that is deceptive or an outright lie! “Prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:12).
Are You Really Prepared to Die?
As we apply the foregoing principles and instructions, we will be able to face death with confidence and peace. As we follow the teachings of Scripture in this way, we will know that we are not just “whistling in the dark” and wishing for a way to enter heaven. God’s Word is clear about such elements as trusting God, loving Jesus and the Father, reading God’s Word, and praying to the Lord. Also remember the importance of loving God, submitted to His word, and keeping ourselves from all sin and worldliness.
As we are actively involved with the teachings of Scripture (as we have seen), we can face death with a new confidence and a Scriptural assurance. Peter says that God “has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter 1:4). He then goes over the various fruit of the Spirit that we need to add to our lives (vv. 5-7).
After this discussion, the apostle writes, “If these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8). What about those who don’t add such qualities to their life? “He who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins” (v. 9). And how will our growth in personal spiritual qualities affect us? “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things [these spiritual qualities], you will never stumble” (v. 10). And what will be the result of this change of heart and character? “. . . for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (v. 11). Let this be your future—and mine!
The interested reader should also read Romans 8, especially verses 31-39. Paul writes, “For in all these things [adversities, trials, persecutions, etc.] we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (v. 37). We can be a conqueror in death itself when we trust in God through the crucified and risen Savior! Furthermore, Paul encourages us by expounding on the coming resurrection that can be ours through Christ’s own victorious resurrection. He concludes his discussion with these exultant words: “. . . Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).
No one is prepared to die if he is living in sin! No one is prepared to leave this earthly life if his heart is wedded to material things (1 Timothy 6:9-10), if he is compromising with false teachings (Romans 16:17-18), if he is indulging in the world (James 4:4), if he doesn’t have love for God, for fellow-believers, and for all people (cf. 1 John4:7-5:3; 1 Corinthians 16:22), and if he is living a self-indulgent, apathetic, lukewarm life that is contaminated by unspiritual forces (cf. Revelation 3:15-16).
God wants us to have confidence as we come to the end of our earthly journey and launch into the eternal future. Let us heed the encouraging words of our Lord, given a few hours before He was apprehended and killed: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).
May God our Father comfort and encourage us now and at the moment of our death! Remember the words of our Savior: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25-26). Are you willing to place your faith in Christ and live in Him? There’s no other way!