Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 13, 1961
NUMBER 10, PAGE 9a,13c

Thinking About Death

C. D. Plum, Paden City, West Virginia

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." (Heb. 9:27)

What we have to do, we certainly ought to think about doing and we ought to think about, it before we do it. We have to die. From this there is no escape. Since we cannot escape the fact of death, why should we wish to escape the thought of death? But some people do think of death who are not ready to die. Sometimes they think about it when it is too late. Sometimes people think about death and yet never make any preparation for it. And still other people think about death, and seem to want to die as the righteous die, but their desire is overpowered because of their greed.

The prayer of Balaam must have been in harmony with his thoughts. He made this statement: "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." (Num. 23:10) But Balaam's desire seems never to have been realized. He refused to live in such a way as to let his prayer be answered. Balaam was wicked! Wicked because that for money and worldly honor he was willing to betray the people of God, even Israel. Balaam was slain in battle among the wicked. (Num. 31:8)

Many wicked people desire to be righteous at some "future" date. It is never be ready "now" with them. There always seems to be some more wild oats they wish to sow first. Or they think of their lives as still being good for many years yet. And, what's the hurry about it any way, they doubtless muse.

Many of these very people, when they come to the death bed are able to see the necessity of present action. On the death bed they "wish to die the death of the righteous." But how can one die the "death" of the righteous, unless one "lives" the life of the righteous? Can one live the wrong life to the very end, and then die the right life? But, do I hear some one say, "Suppose at the very end of their life they obey the gospel, would they not die the death of the righteous?" There is a possibility that circumstances alter cases. But all these matters are in the hands of God, and I am glad they are. He not only knows what is right, but will do right. But my duty as a preacher of the word is to point out the danger of delay. I must warn people that "God is not mocked." I must tell them that "We shall reap what we sow." (Gal. 6:7-8)

In this lesson of thinking about death, I think it is well to point out the way "sinners die," and also point out the way "righteous die." First we shall consider:

How Sinners Die

1. The man without the wedding garment. This was a sinner, doubtless, improperly clothed. If he were a religious man, his preparation to be a guest of the Lord was insufficient. He was a disobedient soul. Maybe he thought his preparation was sufficient. If so, he was mistaken. Of this man without the wedding garment Jesus spoke: "Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 23:13) Do you want to die like this sinner died?

2. Judas, the betrayer of Jesus. "And he (Judas) cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself." (Matt. 27:5) Again it is said of this sinner: "Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place." (Acts 1:25) Because of his wickedness, Judas, a chosen apostle of the Lord, died a horrible death. Do you want to die the death of the sinner?

3. The "one" talented one. This man in God's sight was a sinner. He was not a sinner because he only had "one talent," for that is all the Lord gave him. But he was a sinner because he didn't use the talent he had.

Notice what Jesus said of this one: "And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 25:30) If you are not using your talents to the glory of God this should be a needed warning. Do you want to die this way? But now let us turn our thoughts for a little while to:

How Righteous Die

1. Jesus, the sinless one, said, as he died: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:46) If we follow Jesus, we too, like him, may die in full assurance.

2. Let us behold the death of the righteous Stephen. As he died, he said, "I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:56) What a sight for a dying man! So, while they were killing Stephen with stones, he was saying: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (Acts 7:59) Isn't this a much better way to die than to die as the wicked die? Is it not wisdom to prepare to die like this?

3. Hear the confidence of Paul as he spoke just before his death. "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness." (2 Tim. 4:6-8)

Christians may die with the same assurance Paul died with. May these few thoughts help you to see wisdom in preparing to live with the Lord after this life is over.