Dying in Peace?

Dying in Peace?

Richard Hollerman

Most of us focus on the present time, the period of time that we are on earth. This would be the time between conception and birth, on the one hand, and our death, on the other hand. Yes, people may have a vague conception of what lies beyond death but they don’t dwell on this future very much at all.

Maybe in America people do give some consideration to what lies beyond the moment of death, but still this is a very nebulous concept with very little reality. Most seem to think that if they live a “good” life and don’t harm others, somehow God will permit them to enter heavenly bliss for all eternity.

We don’t want to dwell on the future life at this time, although this is an important theme that we must discuss sometime. But what about the final days and even moments before we die? Scripture says that the true, sincere, and obedient believer may have a sense of security in this life and then face death and the afterlife with strong confidence (cf. 2 Timothy 4:6-8). However, nearly every day I examine the obituary pages in our local newspaper and there we read something of the final days of a person’s life and how they die.

I hope that you will agree with me that most people are unprepared to meet God. They may assume that they are ready and have a vague conception of what awaits them, but very, very few have a realistic conception of what awaits them the moment after they breathe their last.

When we read the obituaries here in North-Central Texas (the heart of the so-called “Bible Belt”), we find some interesting things. This may not be the case in parts of the Far West (California, Oregon, and Washington), parts of the North-East (Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and others), and elsewhere. But generally here in the Bible Belt, we find that people have a view of the afterlife and the fact that they must prepare to meet God when they are on their deathbed.

But the brief question that we must ask as we notice these final words is whether they really are facing the future honestly, sincerely, and reasonably. Or have these dying people just picked up on certain ideas from their relatives, friends, or clergymen? Or maybe society in general has given them some idea of what lies ahead—whether that be right or wrong.

Just today, I noticed some 32 people listed who had recently died locally. Notice these comments: According to the newspaper, John “died peacefully” at a certain hospital. Pat “died . . . peacefully at home surrounded by family.” Billy “died . . . peacefully at his home.” Christa died “peacefully” and left this earth to reside in heaven with our Lord and Savior.” Ted “passed away peacefully at home.” Howard “passed away peacefully at home.” And Marcia “departed this life peacefully.”

You will notice that most of these emphasize that they died “peacefully” and often this occurred at home. This reminds me of Asaph’s comments about the “arrogant” and “wicked” (Psalm 73:3). He said that “there are no pains in their death. . . . They are not in trouble as other men” (vv. 4-5). It is safe to say that the way a person departs this life is not a sure indication of the deceased person’s spiritual condition.

We might all wish to leave this life with an attitude of “peace” and with a “peaceful” attitude. It is probably safe to say that this may be a departure that we would earnestly want. But is this the vital thing for these people or for us? Did all of the Biblical characters die in peace or were some of them put to death with much pain, anguish, and even torture? Much more importantly, a moment after they departed this earthly life, did they enter peace—real peace?

When Jesus departed from His apostles, He reassured them, “Peace I leave with you; My peace, I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). He bequeathed his disciples peace—His peace. Shortly after this, He said to His followers, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). On the very night when He was leaving His beloved disciples and He knew that they would be plunged into deep pain and anguish, He could give them “peace”!

In the other New Testament books, we find further reference to peace. For instance, one of the fruit of the Spirit was “peace” (Galatians 5:22). Further, Paul wrote, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13a). Especially notice Paul’s words at Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” He said that if they were to practice what  We can definitely say that Paul was oriented toward peace—God’s peace, the peace that can be ours through Christ Jesus!

From these and so many more scriptures, we can see that the Christian life is one of peace. But the one who does not know the Lord will not have genuine peace. If they have something akin to peace, it will be a false peace, a peace that may come from medication at the point of death, or peace that may come from false doctrine that some clergyman or relative has brought to the person. In this age of laxity, relativism, and pluralism, we assume that there will be some who have a form of “peace” at the point of death. But surely this calmness of spirit is not genuine peace—the peace that God gives through Christ to the person who has lived in faith, love, and obedience, and who has embraced true (not false) doctrine and is resting in Jesus and in His sweet presence.

When you read the obituaries in the newspaper, make sure that you read with your eyes open and your mind engaged. We believe that, sadly, most people are unprepared to meet God and find eternal peace and rest in Him through Christ Jesus. We think that you also will find the same thing yourself. We urge you to find true, genuine, and lasting peace that comes only from God through Christ. “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).

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