Dear radio friends,
For the believing child of God, death is the time when our heavenly Father delivers us from this valley of tears and brings us into His presence with exceeding joy. God may bring that death in various ways. It may be after a long and eventful life when our body is worn and tired. It may come suddenly in what we call an accident. It may come for a young person or even a child. Death is in the hands of the eternal God. For the child of God, death is the time when God takes him through the door into His presence.
The child of God goes to heaven not because of any merit, any worth, or anything that he has done. The child of God goes to heaven solely on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, a righteousness that God has freely given, that God has imputed (in the words of Scripture), that is, reckoned to be our own. The only way to go to heaven is to be clothed in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, granted graciously by God as my own, and God giving me faith to embrace that great gift.
Yet death is a fearsome reality. We must all face it. As we face death there are two things that we must always keep before us. Jesus spoke of them in Matthew 22. There you will find that Jesus was confronted by the skeptical, unbelieving Sadducees who thought that they had Him on the horns of a dilemma concerning the after-life. Our Lord calmly answered them, and in the course of His words He said, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” The Sadducees of Jesus’ day were all mixed up concerning the after-life. In fact, they denied the entire idea of an after-life. But they were all mixed up because they were willingly ignorant, said Jesus, of two things. First, the content of the Scriptures. Second, the unlimited power of God. We confess both as children of God.
We confess, first of all, the truth of the Scriptures. Only through the Scriptures can we know what is beyond death. Only the Scriptures can comfort. And we believe the unlimited power of God. We read in Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” And the answer is, “No.” Is He able to teach us the reality of what happens in death? Yes. Is He greater than the grief that we experience in the death of our loved one? Yes. Is He able to give peace, such peace enabling you to say, “Have thine own way, Lord,” as you face the death of your loved one or your own death? The answer is, Yes. Yes, God is able to do exceeding abundantly, above all that we ask or think.
The passage of Scripture that I would like to consider specifically today with you is found in Psalm 31:5. There the believing child of God confidently entrusts his soul into the hand of God in death. We read, “Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.” As we read those words we recognize that it was the Spirit of Christ who was speaking through the psalmist David. Though David lived hundreds of years before Jesus, nevertheless, when he wrote those words it was the Spirit of Christ moving within him.
You remember that Jesus spoke those words on the cross — the seventh and last cross word of the Savior. We read in Luke 23:46, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” That was very significant. His words on the cross, His last words, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” these words rang of victory and they thrilled in tenderness. The Lord Jesus spoke there as the Lord of the church, as the Head of the elect, as the representative of all those whom the Father had granted to Him. And He speaks at the end of His awful suffering on the cross. Having now presented to God one full sacrifice for our sins, having laid down on the altar of God a perfect, spotless sacrifice of obedience and of love for us, Jesus confidently entrusted, gave over, His Spirit to the hands of God. At the moment of death, Jesus on the cross did not plead, He did not ask God to receive Him. Later on we read in the Scriptures, in the book of Acts, that the first martyr (Stephen) will pray, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, take it to heaven.” But Jesus does not speak so. Rather, He entrusts His Spirit into the hand of God. How does He do so? On the basis of this truth, that the doors of heaven and the Father’s house must open now to Him because He has made an offering for sin, an offering for the sin of all those whom He represented on the cross. As the Lord of the church, as the Head of the elect, He has removed sin, He has removed the debt and the penalty, He has removed that which separates us from God. And having removed it in His death on the cross, He may die in the confidence of committing His soul into the hands of God, in the confidence of the victory that God had given to Him.
The hand of God is God’s power to keep and to preserve. The hands of God are eternal security. And the hands of God are tender hands, expressive of His affection and love. Jesus Christ, at the moment of death, entrusted confidently His Spirit to His almighty Father, knowing that now He would leave this earth and go into the presence of God in eternal fellowship because He had made the one offering for sin — the sins of the people He represented on the cross.
Now so also it is for the believer in Jesus Christ at the moment of death, for those who, by the grace of God, believe in Jesus, for those who are joined to Jesus Christ by the almighty power of God’s love and grace, for those who are now made alive from their sin and made alive in Jesus Christ. They also may die in the confidence that God will take their spirit into His fellowship, for their sin has been washed away.
The body of our loved one in the Lord Jesus Christ is placed in a casket. After that, it is laid in the cold earth. That will also happen to us. But the soul of our departed loved one in Christ is not in that casket. It does not float in the air. We ask, Where is the soul of my loved one, of my wife (mother, father, child) in Christ? The answer of Scripture is, with Christ. Being always confident, says the apostle, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord, willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. The child of God, at death, goes home to be present with the Lord and does so on the basis of what Jesus did on the cross — only on that basis. No other basis is possible, nothing else can open heaven’s doors, only the blood that Jesus once shed on the cross. Only on that basis, but surely on that basis. The Savior who has conquered our sin and death comes for us at the moment of death. Slowly the child of God stops breathing. Perhaps our body has gone through the ravages of cancer and is brought down to nothing. Nevertheless, the spirit of the child of God is taken up to be with Christ and now is found in the company described in Hebrews 12:23, “The spirit of just men made perfect.” We are brought into the hands of God, secure, preserved, into the tender hands of God where we enjoy the eternal love and affection of our heavenly Father.
Treasure this in your heart, child of God. Do not have vague views of what happens in death. Believe by faith that we shall be entrusted by Christ into the hands of our heavenly Father at the moment of death.
But we ask the question, How? And we have to go back to what we have been saying. How is this possible? The psalmist says, “Thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.” That supplies the reason for the first statement of Psalm 31:5, “Into thine hand I commit my spirit.” How is that possible? “Thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.” How the Scriptures love to speak to us of the wonder of the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. God has redeemed us, and therefore even death becomes our servant.
Understand, once again, that one goes to heaven, not on the basis of any work that he has done or could do, nor on the basis of the work of any other mere human being. There is one merit for eternal salvation: the redemption that Jesus accomplished on the cross. There is no other. One does not go to heaven because she has been a good wife, or because he has been a good husband. She does not go to heaven because she has been a loving, caring mother; or he a loving father. Is it important to be that? Of course it is. Is that the reason one goes to heaven? Never! All basing of hope in heaven upon human work and human merit is a delusion, an utter delusion. You do not go to heaven because you have been the decent, nice guy who lives next door. One goes to heaven only on the basis of the work of the Lord Jesus. The Bible says ( Rom. 3), “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The Bible says ( Ps. 49), “For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceases from man that he ever do that.” How do we go to heaven? This is how: “Thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.”
All basing of hope in heaven upon human work
and human merit is a delusion.
The word “redemption” in the Bible means to purchase, or to buy back, or to take out of debt. This is the truth of the gospel. God has given His Son, Jesus Christ, in our flesh in order that Christ might buy us back, might redeem the soul of His servants. On the cross a price was paid to secure our release from the wages of sin. God gave His Son in the place of His chosen ones, the place of His elect. Christ ( Gal. 3) has redeemed us from the curse of the law. How? By being made a curse for us. I Peter 1, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold” — you do not buy your way into heaven with silver and gold. No, says the apostle, “but with the precious blood of Christ.” Thou hast redeemed me, says the psalmist. God out of sheer mercy and out of power has given Christ upon the cross, and through that has redeemed us out of our death and sin.
Now we must make that personal. The Holy Spirit works in my heart a true and living faith whereby I confess that Christ has become my substitute and has paid the price for my redemption. God plunged His dear Son into the awful abyss of the hell that I deserved for my sin, in order that I might be redeemed and become His purchased possession. That is our confidence — the cross of Jesus Christ. There is no other confidence. All other confidence of men is nothing but delusion and vanity. But this confidence shall never make ashamed. In this confidence we may die. And in this confidence we live.
Because Christ has redeemed us, death becomes a sacred transaction. At the moment of our death, Jesus Christ comes to take something He purchased, something He purchased at a precious price. He comes to take the soul that He has purchased with His blood, the soul that the Father committed to His care and keeping. He comes to take that soul into the fellowship of the living God.
Because Christ has redeemed us,
death becomes a sacred transaction.
That answers a question, too, does it not? The question that we so often have in death is: “Why does God take our loved one? Why does God take me now?” Now, do not misunderstand. There are times that we might pray for our aged loved one to be delivered from his sufferings. But there are other times that God comes and He takes His child who, we would say, is greatly needed by us. Or, perhaps a young one or even a little infant. And we ask the question, Why? We do not ask that question irreverently, demanding that God explain the ins and the outs of His providence to us. But, nevertheless, from our perspective, without challenging God, we do ask the question: “Lord, does Thy Word give us any light? Why?” I hear the answer in the word “redemption,” do you not? You must never conceive the cross of Jesus Christ in a mere cold, formal way, as a distant act that God performed. You must hear in the word “redemption” the word “ownership, love, something precious.” Through the redemption that is in Christ, the child of God belongs to God. He is owned by God. The relationship of the child of God now is with Christ and, therefore, is with God. A Christian is not somebody who has added religion to his life, given part of his life over to the service of God, has this facet about his life that he simply goes to church and other people do not. Oh, no. The Christian does not belong to himself, but belongs to Him who has loved him and gave Himself for him. We are bound now to Him, we are His purchased possession. And, therefore, God comes for us because He wants His possession with Him.
May not the Lord do with His own as seemeth good to Him? May not the Lord take His little child? May not the Lord take a son or daughter? May not the Lord take a husband or wife, even in their prime? Brother in the Lord Jesus Christ who has lost your wife, when your wife said on your marriage day, “I do,” and she lived with you as your wife and became the mother of your children, remember that ownership was not transferred from Christ to you at that moment. Remember that. Remember that your husband, your wife, your child in Christ is not yours either. You are a steward to care for them. But they are not yours. God does not give up ownership to us. The child of God remains always the purchased possession of Jesus Christ. And therefore, we may read in the Scriptures, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
The child of God remains always
the purchased possession of Jesus Christ.
So often we fail to appreciate this, I fear. Let us listen to our Savior praying in John 17: “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am.” Christ is the Bridegroom. We are the bride. He has purchased the souls of His servants. Why has He done that? So that they can be with Him. Does not the Bridegroom yearn for the wedding day? Does not the Lord Jesus Christ yearn for that time when we might be brought into full fellowship with Him and rejoice in the wonder of the His redeeming love?
Yet, how often are we not found with cross purposes in our hearts and we find ourselves praying, “Father, I will that my loved one in Christ be with me on the earth where I am” — while Jesus is praying perfectly as our Intercessor at the same time, “Father, I will that My purchased one be with Me where I am to behold My glory which Thou hast given to me.”
That is why God takes the child of God. And by faith we, who are called yet in this life to wait for Him, by faith we let them go. And we say, “Lord, it was time.” Whether that is the aged grandfather or whether that is the little infant, the stillborn child, the six-year-old or twelve or eighteen-year-old, or the husband in the prime of his duties and responsibilities. We say, “Lord, it was time for them to be with Thee. Thy purposes in their life on earth were complete. And since they were Thine, it was time for them to be ushered into Thy presence and to fall before Thy throne with everlasting joy.”
Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit. Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. Is that your confession today? God speaks. Death is a reality. Your life is only a passing shadow. Where are you going to find anything in all of this world to comfort you? There is only one rock, there is only one truth (not many). That is the truth of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Get it straight. Life is not about money, not about beauty, not about sex or power or possessions. Life is found only in God in Jesus Christ.
But then, do not be afraid at death’s door. Do not tremble. He will give you grace. He says to you, “I will not leave you or forsake you.”
May this word of God comfort our hearts. And responding to this word of God, shall we not praise Him who has given us the victory over sin and death? Shall we not recite the words of the Scriptures: “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, we thank Thee for Thy word, the word of truth, the word of contradiction, the word which assures us that in Jesus Christ we shall live and never die. Bless it to our hearts through Jesus’ name, Amen.