- Death is usually inconvenient
An elderly friend or relative who has been sick for some time and whose death has been expected soon can actually pass away while we are off on holiday. And we can wrongly assume that our own death is due but then live long thereafter. When David reckoned, ‘I am only a step away from death’ while on the run from King Saul (1 Samuel 20:3), he was still to commence his lengthy reign of forty years as Israel’s king (2 Samuel 5:4).
- Their death is often unsettling
Even when you knew that the loved one would die soon, their actual departure can still disturb you emotionally deeply. My mother’s death brought her relief after decades of pain from rheumatoid arthritis. At her funeral, as we sang her favourite hymn, ‘Face to Face With Christ My Saviour’, I choked up with a touch of jealousy to think that she now saw him face to face but I would have to wait – as it has turned out – nearly four decades more, and still counting!
That shortest Bible verse, ‘Jesus wept,’ relates to the pain of Lazarus’s mourning sisters, even though he knew he was about to restore him to life – but life in turbulent times. Our Lord also sweated great drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane at the prospect of his own imminent, horrendous final hours of natural life. Death is indeed ‘the last enemy’ (1 Corinthians 15:26).
- Death is definitely inevitable . . . but by no means the end
‘[E]ach person is appointed to die . . . and after that comes judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27).
- Can a death-bed conversion be valid?
Both ‘the revolutionaries who were crucified with [Jesus] ridiculed him’ (Matthew 27:44), but one repented and rebuked the other, saying, ‘“We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise”’ (Luke 23:39-43).
- Resurrection will precede judgment
Jesus foretold that ‘the time is coming when all the dead . . . will hear the voice of God’s Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good [namely, ‘believing in God’s only Son’, John 3:16-21] will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment’ (John 5:25-29). Paul added that believers will rise with ‘immortal bodies’ (1 Corinthians 15:51-55). At his return ‘the Lord Jesus Christ . . . will change our weak mortal bodies into glorious bodies like his own’ (Philippians 3:20-21), capable of appearing to and vanishing from natural vision, and of crossing the molecular dynamics of “solid” walls!