Dying Well

Dying Well

Over the years I have watched scores of people die. Some died shrieking in terror; seemingly driven to insanity. Others seemed to die with a smiling countenance. Some died well, others not so well. What made the difference?

Certainly it was’t a matter of age. And, both the wealthy and the poor died well or badly. Social status had nothing to do with how these people died. Nor did intellect or position, or race, or national origin, or gender.  What was it?

The Bible does offer a strong hint to this perplexing question. Thousands of years ago a prophet by the name of Balaam uttered a remarkable statement in a conversation he had with Balak, king of Moab, a nation hostile toward God’s people, Israel. His statement is recorded in NAU  Numbers 23:10 “…Let me die the death of the upright, And let my end be like his!”

This prompts at least two questions:

Who are upright people?

Directly, Balaam was showing his identity with God’s people Israel, the special recipients of God’s blessings. The covenant people. The ones from whom the savior was to come generations later.

However, this still begs the question, what does it mean to be upright? Simply put, an upright person ( יָשָׁר = yashar. ) is someone who is pleasing in the eyes of God. The term means straight or level (BDB 4259). Thus this person is all square with God. This is someone who has been made right with God and who lives like it! So, some translations render it “righteous”. 

We do have a problem, however. The Bible also says,NAU  Romans 3:10, … “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE”. Ouch!  Help!

But we also have the solution to this huge damming problem:  NAU  Romans 3:20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

In simple terms, we can not become righteous, that is get square with God or as this text says, “be justified in the sight of God”, by doing good things, or by keeping the ten commandments, or by loving other people, or by following the “golden rule”, or by giving money to charity, or by being “religious”, or by being “spiritual”, as is popular these days, or by being a good citizen or being an honest person, or whatever.  

Anyone who wants to be right with God can only do so by identifying with Jesus Christ, who is here described as the only one who can shield man from the wrath of the holy God (propitiation). He does this by means of his death on the cross. God can and does consider righteous those who “have faith in Jesus.” 

This is a very personal matter. It is between you and God. No friends or family members are in the room to bail you out.    

How do upright people die? 

Here are several observations regarding how people who are square with God die:

  1. Upright people die secure in God’s love for them. No matter what, here is what they know for certain,NAU  Romans 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  1. Upright people die in confident peace. The prospect of death does not jolt them. The great follower of Jesus named Paul almost shrugged his shoulders when the topic of his death came up,NAU  Romans 14:8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. 

  1. Upright people die spared of the ultimate suffering. They understand that troubles in life are temporary,NAU  Isaiah 57:1 The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; And devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil; 2 He enters into peace; They rest in their beds, Each one who walked in his upright way.

  1. Upright people die anticipating eternal existence in heaven, NAU  Revelation 21:4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

  1. Upright people die in everlasting safety. No maybe. No conditons. No purgatory. Paul bluntly says it like this, NAU  Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 

  1. Upright people die cherished by God himself,NAU  Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His godly ones. 

  1. Upright people die only to be welcomed home by Jesus Christ, himself, NAU  2 Corinthians 5:8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

Here is the deal. Death is inevitable; for you and me. NAU  Hebrews 9:27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” 

So, the question is a simple one, “how will we die”? Our day of death comes; surely it does! Will a fear of death hang over you like a black phobia? Or will you die well? 

We must get squared with God through Jesus Christ. Only He can rescue us. Beg him to save you today. We may not have tomorrow.