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VALIANT FOR THE TRUTH

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A SAFE AND HAPPY DEATH

May 6, 1999

 

May this study encourage you in the preparation for a safe and happy death. Happy is he who dies in the LORD! Prepare and encourage one another for our time here is short and our LONG HOME awaits us. (Ecc 12:5)

We are given an example in the psalms to pray for God to bring us to consider the shortness of our own life, that one day soon we must die, and that though we loath to think of it, God by the death of His beloved son has taken away the sting. May this study give you a little test of Heaven. That we could be more heavenly minded. Except we are heavenly minded we can be of no earthly good! I am reminded of those of whom I read in Foxe's Book of Martyrs. They loved not their lives unto death. They "played the man" and died a valiant Christian death for Jesus Christ their Lord and savior. Death is the doorway to Heaven -- may this study drive home this blessed truth!

From the following verse we are taught to pray for a serious regard to the shortness of life and a consideration that we must die. Pray that we will consider death: What it is; How near it is, And that it is continually working in us. [see Matthew Henry below]

Psa 39:4-5 LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.

"Lord, give me wisdom and grace to consider it (#De 32:29) and to improve what I know concerning it." [Matthew Henry's Commentary]

Not to Know the very day that I will die but to consider that I will die.

Deuteronomy 32:29 O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!

The living know that they shall die (#Ec 9:5), but few care for thinking of death; we have therefore need to pray that God by his grace would conquer that aversion which is in our corrupt hearts to the thoughts of death. [Matthew Henry's Commentary]

[Matthew Henry's Commentary]

"Lord, make me to consider, "

(1.) "What death is. It is my end, the end of my life, and all the employments and enjoyments of life. It is the end of all men, "

#Ec 7:2. It is a final period to our state of probation and preparation, and an awful entrance upon a state of recompence and retribution. To the wicked man it is the end of all joys; to a godly man it is the end of all griefs.

"Lord, give me to know my end, to be better acquainted with death, to make it more familiar to me

(#Job 17:14), and to be more affected with the greatness of the change. Lord, give me to consider what a serious thing it is to die."

(2.) "How near it is. Lord, give me to consider the measure of my days, that they are measured in the counsel of God"

(the end is a fixed end, so the word signifies; my days are determined, #Job 14:5)

Job 14:5 Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;

"and that the measure is but short: My days will soon be numbered and finished."

When we look upon death as a thing at a distance we are tempted to adjourn the necessary preparations for it; but, when we consider how short life is, we shall see ourselves concerned to do what our hand finds to do, not only with all our might, but with all possible expedition.

(3.) That it is continually working in us:

"Lord, give me to consider how frail I am, how scanty the stock of life is, and how faint the spirits which are as the oil to keep that lamp burning."

We find by daily experience that the earthly house of this tabernacle is moulding and going to decay:

"Lord, make us to consider this, that we may secure mansions in the house not made with hands."

AGAIN we have this prayer:

Psa 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

"Lord, teach us to number our days (#Ps 90:12); Lord, give us grace duly to consider how few they are, and how little a while we have to live in this world." [Matthew Henry's Commentary]

Three Things Matthew Henry makes note of concerning this prayer to the Lord: 1) The excellence of realising how short and uncertain life is and living in that realization, 2) That we must pray to overcome the flesh and consider the brevity of life, and 3) The purpose of this being to motivate us to godliness and holiness of life.

WE MUST LIVE IN THIS:

The rich man who thought to tear down his barns and build greater.

1. It is an excellent art rightly to number our days, so as not to be out in our calculation, as he was who counted upon many years to come when, that night, his soul was required of him. We must live under a constant apprehension of the shortness and uncertainty of life and the near approach of death and eternity. We must so number our days as to compare our work with them, and mind it accordingly with a double diligence, as those that have no time to trifle. [Luke 12:16 and following]

WE MUST PRAY FOR THIS:

2. Those that would learn this arithmetic must pray for divine instruction, must go to God, and beg of him to teach them by his Spirit, to put them upon considering and to give them a good understanding.

NUMBER our DAYS with a PURPOSE. The PURPOSE of GODLINESS and HOLINESS

3. We then number our days to good purpose when thereby our hearts are inclined and engaged to true wisdom, that is, to the practice of serious godliness. To be religious is to be wise; this is a thing to which it is necessary that we apply our hearts, and the matter requires and deserves a close application, to which frequent thoughts of the uncertainty of our continuance here, and the certainty of our removal hence, will very much contribute.

Rom 14:8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

NONE OF US LIVES TO HIMSELF - No true Christian is a self-seeker. To be so is contrary to the foundation of true christianity.

WE ARE not our OWN Masters.

Our Business is to PLEASE GOD.

WE die daily and that is not to ourselves - to make a name for ourselves - to be talked about and held in esteem for our daily dying.

When we die actually it is not to ourselves. We will soon not just be rid of this flesh but will be with CHRIST.

WE live to Glorify HIM.

 

MATTHEW HENRY's COMMENTARY

If we would know what way we walk in, we must enquire what end we walk towards. First, Not to self. We have learned to deny ourselves; this was our first lesson: None of us liveth to himself. This is a thing in which all the people of God are one, however they differ in other things; though some are weak and others are strong, yet both agree in this, not to live to themselves. Not one that hath given up his name to Christ is allowedly a self-seeker; it is contrary to the foundation of true Christianity. We neither live to ourselves nor die to ourselves. We are not our own masters, nor our own proprietors--we are not at our own disposal. The business of our lives is not to please ourselves, but to please God. The business of our deaths, to which we are every day exposed and delivered, is not to make ourselves talked of; we run not such hazards out of vain-glory, while we are dying daily. When we come to die actually, neither is that to ourselves; it is not barely that we would be unclothed, and eased of the burden of the flesh, but it is to the Lord, that we may depart and be with Christ, may be present with the Lord. Secondly, But to the Lord (#Ro 14:8), to the Lord Christ, to whom all power and judgment are committed, and in whose name we are taught, as Christians, to do every thing we do (#Col 3:17), with an eye to the will of Christ as our rule, to the glory of Christ as our end, #Php 1:21. Christ is the gain we aim at, living and dying. We live to glorify him in all the actions and affairs of life; we die, whether a natural or a violent death, to glorify him, and to go to be glorified with him. Christ is the centre, in which all the lines of life and death do meet. This is true Christianity, which makes Christ all in all. So that, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's, devoted to him, depending on him, designed and designing for him. Though some Christians are weak and others strong, --though of different sizes, capacities, apprehensions, and practices, in minor things, yet they are all the Lord's--all eying, and serving, and approving themselves to Christ, and are accordingly owned and accepted of him. [Matthew Henry's Commentary]

SEEKING A CITY:

Heb 13:14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

Col 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Read Rom 8:6 Spiritually Minded.

I. He explains this duty (#Col 3:2): Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. Observe, To seek heavenly things is to set our affections upon them, to love them and let our desires be towards them. Upon the wings of affection the heart soars upwards, and is carried forth towards spiritual and divine objects. We must acquaint ourselves with them, esteem them above all other things, and lay out ourselves in preparation for the enjoyment of them. David gave this proof of his loving the house of God, that he diligently sought after it, and prepared for it, #Ps 27:4. This is to be spiritually minded (#Ro 8:6), and to seek and desire a better country, that is, a heavenly, #Heb 11:14,16. Things on earth are here set in opposition to things above. We must not dote upon them, nor expect too much from them, that we may set our affections on heaven; for heaven and earth are contrary one to the other, and a supreme regard to both is inconsistent; and the prevalence of our affection to one will proportionably weaken and abate our affection to the other. [Matthew Henry's Commentary]

WE are JUST PASSING THROUGH - Strangers Here.

1Pe 1:17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:

SOJOURNING: Here, we who belong to HIM, are not settled as in our own place, but only passing through.

We belong in a heavenly country, another city whose builder and maker is God.

A TIME: HERE only for a TIME. A little while.

pass the time of your sojourning here in fear; the people of God in this world are "sojourners", as all their fathers were; they are not natives of the place in, which they are; though they are in the world, they are not of it; they were natives of it by their first birth, but by their second they are born again from above, and so, belong to another place; they are of another country, even an heavenly one; are citizens of another city, a city which, has foundations, whose builder and maker is God, their citizenship is in heaven; and there is their Father's house, which is not made with hands, and is eternal; and there lies their estate, their inheritance; and though they dwell here below, neither their settlement nor their satisfaction are here; they reckon themselves not at home while they are on earth, and are strangers in it, to the men of the world, and they to them; with whom they have not, or at least ought not to have, any fellowship. It is indeed but for a "time", that they are sojourners, not an eternity; which time is fixed, and is very short, and will be quickly gone; it is but a little while, and Christ wilt come and take them home to his Father's house, where they shall be for ever with him; for it is only here on earth that they are pilgrims and strangers: and while they are so they should spend their time "in fear"; not of men nor of devils, nor of death and judgment, hell and eternal damnation; for such a fear is not consistent with the love of God shed abroad in the heart, and is the effect of the law, and not encouraged by the Gospel; is in natural men, yea, in devils themselves; but in the fear of God, and which springs from the grace of God, and is increased by it; is consistent with the strongest acts of faith, and with the greatest expressions of spiritual joy; is opposite to pride and self-confidence, and includes the whole worship of God, external and internal, and a religious conversation, in humility and lowliness of mind. [John Gill's Commentary]

Psa 73:24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

Compare this HOPE with Paul's 2 Timothy 4:18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Afterwards - Heaven:

#Ps 73:24. This completes the happiness of the saints, so that they have no reason to envy the worldly prosperity of sinners. [Matthew Henry's Commentary]

Psa 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

The saints of God are mortal and dying; nay, there are those that desire their death, and labour all they can to hasten it, and sometimes prevail to be the death of them; but it is precious in the sight of the Lord; their life is so (#2Ki 1:13); their blood is so, #Ps 72:14. God often wonderfully prevents the death of his saints when there is but a step between them and it; he takes special care about their death, to order it for the best in all the circumstances of it; and whoever kills them, how light soever they may make of it, they shall be made to pay dearly for it when inquisition is made for the blood of the saints, #Mt 23:35. Though no man lays it to heart when the righteous perish, God will make it to appear that he lays it to heart. This should make us willing to die, to die for Christ, if we are called to it, that our death shall be registered in heaven; and let that be precious to us which is so to God. [Matthew Henry's Commentary]

Pro 14:32 The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.

He dies in Christ, in the faith of him, and in hope of eternal life by him; and to die his death is very desirable: he has a hope of interest in the blessings of grace and glory; which is a good hope through grace; is wrought in him at regeneration; and is founded on that righteousness from whence he is denominated righteous, even the righteousness of Christ; and is of singular use and advantage to him in life: and this grace he exercises at death; it carries him through the valley of death, and above the fears of it; he hopes, though he dies, he shall rise again; and he hopes to be in heaven and happiness, immediately upon his dissolution, and to all eternity; he hopes to see God, be with Christ, angels and good men, for evermore. [John Gill's Commentary]

Ecc 7:1 A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

Going OUT is better than coming IN. Dying is better than being Born. In earth there is joy when a child is born and sorrow when a death occurs. But for the believer the day of our death is better than the day of our birth.

II. That, all things considered, our going out of the world is a great kindness to us than our coming into the world was: The day of death is preferable to the birth-day; though, as to others, there was joy when a child was born into the world, and where there is death there is lamentation, yet, as to ourselves, if we have lived so as to merit a good name, the day of our death, which will put a period to our cares, and toils, and sorrows, and remove us to rest, and joy, and eternal satisfaction, is better than the day of our birth, which ushered us into a world of so much sin and trouble, vanity and vexation. We were born to uncertainty, but a good man does not die at uncertainty. The day of our birth clogged our souls with the burden of the flesh, but the day of our death will set them at liberty from that burden. [Matthew Henry's Commentary]

Consider LUKE 16:22 and LUKE 23:43 for the truth of the above axiom.

Luk 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried

Luk 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise

THE STING IS GONE!

1Cor 15: 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The sting of death is sin; but Christ, by dying, has taken out this sting. He has made atonement for sin; he has obtained remission of it. It may hiss therefore, but it cannot hurt. The strength of sin is the law; but the curse of the law is removed by our Redeemer's becoming a curse for us. So that sin is deprived of its strength and sting, through Christ, that is, by his incarnation, suffering, and death. Death may seize a believer, but cannot sting him, cannot hold him in his power. [Matthew Henry's Commentary]

2Cor 5:1-8 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. 5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. 6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

NOTE THE FOLLOWING TEN POINTS:

1. What Heaven is: A house and dwelling place built by God, our LONG HOME, eternal and not decaying but everlasting.

2. When we shall be in Heaven: immediately after death.

3. The body but a tent: called a tabernacle it will return to the dust.

4. When the body is done then we have a HOUSE not made with HANDS.

5. We GROAN: 1) a groan of SORROW, burdened with sin, O' Wretched man that I am. 2) a groan of LONGING and DESIRE. A desire to be clothed upon and to be with our God. A groan of desire to that city and life which is to come.

6. Death Strips us of the clothing of the flesh.

7. God clothes us with beautiful garments of praise, robes of righteousness and glory!

8. Earnest of the SPIRIT: Also there is the earnest of the SPIRIT. A foretaste of HEAVEN to come is ours by the HOLY GHOST which is given to us. We have heaven begun in our HEARTS today.

9. HERE we are ABSENT from the LORD - TO be absent from the BODY is to be with the LORD.

10. Here we WALK by FAITH THEN by SIGHT.

11. BORN FROM ABOVE we LONG TO BE THERE.

Seriously consider Matthew Henry below:

MATTHEW HENRY'S COMMENTARY

(1.) What heaven is in the eye and hope of a believer. He looks upon it as a house, or habitation, a dwelling-place, a resting-place, a hiding-place, our Father's house, where there are many mansions, and our everlasting home. It is a house in the heavens, in that high and holy place which as far excels all the palaces of this earth as the heavens are high above the earth. It is a building of God, whose builder and maker is God, and therefore is worthy of its author; the happiness of the future state is what God hath prepared for those that love him. It is eternal in the heavens, everlasting habitations, not like the earthly tabernacles, the poor cottages of clay in which our souls now dwell, which are mouldering and decaying, and whose foundations are in the dust.

(2.) When it is expected this happiness shall be enjoyed--immediately after death, so soon as our house of this earthly tabernacle is dissolved. Note,

[1.] That the body, this earthly house, is but a tabernacle, that must be dissolved shortly; the nails or pins will be drawn, and the cords be loosed, and then the body will return to dust as it was.

[2.] When this comes to pass, then comes the house not made with hands. The spirit returns to God who gave it; and such as have walked with God here shall dwell with God for ever.

2. The believer's earnest desire after this future blessedness, which is expressed by this word, stenazomen we groan, which denotes,

(1.) A groaning of sorrow under a heavy load; so believers groan under the burden of life: In this we groan earnestly, #2Co 5:2. We that are in this tabernacle groan, being burdened, #2Co 5:4. The body of flesh is a heavy burden, the calamities of life are a heavy load. But believers groan because burdened with a body of sin, and the many corruptions that are still remaining and raging in them. This makes them complain, O wretched man that I am! #Ro 7:24.

(2.) There is a groaning of desire after the happiness of another life; and thus believers groan: Earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven (#2Co 5:2), to obtain a blessed immortality, that mortality might be swallowed up of life (#2Co 5:4), that being found clothed, we may not be naked (#2Co 5:3), that, if it were the will of God, we might not sleep, but be changed; for it is not desirable in itself to be unclothed. Death considered merely as a separation of soul and body is not to be desired, but rather dreaded; but, considered as a passage to glory, the believer is willing rather to die than live, to be absent from the body, that he may be present with the Lord (#2Co 5:1), to leave this body that he may go to Christ, and to put off these rags of mortality that he may put on the robes of glory. Note,

[1.] Death will strip us of the clothing of flesh, and all the comforts of life, as well as put an end to all our troubles here below. Naked we came into this world, and naked shall we go out of it. But,

[2.] Gracious souls are not found naked in the other world; no, they are clothed with garments of praise, with robes of righteousness and glory. They shall be delivered out of all their troubles, and shall have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, #Re 7:14.

3. The believer's assurance of his interest in this future blessedness, on a double account:--

(1.) From the experience of the grace of God, in preparing and making him meet for this blessedness. He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God, #2Co 5:5. Note, All who are designed for heaven hereafter are wrought or prepared for heaven while they are here; the stones of that spiritual building and temple above are squared and fashioned here below. And he that hath wrought us for this is God, because nothing less than a divine power can make a soul partaker of a divine nature; no hand less than the hand of God can work us for this thing. A great deal is to be done to prepare our souls for heaven, and that preparation of the heart is from the Lord.

(2.) The earnest of the Spirit gave them this assurance: for an earnest is part of payment, and secures the full payment. The present graces and comforts of the Spirit are earnests of everlasting grace and comfort.

II. The apostle deduces an inference for the comfort of believers in their present state and condition in this world, #2Co 5:6-8. Here observe,

1. What their present state or condition is: they are absent from the Lord (#2Co 5:6); they are pilgrims and strangers in this world; they do but sojourn here in their earthly home, or in this tabernacle; and though God is with us here, by his Spirit, and in his ordinances, yet we are not with him as we hope to be: we cannot see his face while we live: For we walk by faith, not by sight, #2Co 5:7. We have not the vision and fruition of God, as of an object that is present with us, and as we hope for hereafter, when we shall see as we are seen. Note, Faith is for this world, and sight is reserved for the other world: and it is our duty, and will be our interest, to walk by faith, till we come to live by sight.

2. How comfortable and courageous we ought to be in all the troubles of life, and in the hour of death: Therefore we are, or ought to be, always confident (#2Co 5:6), and again (#2Co 5:8), We are confident, and willing rather to be absent from the body. True Christians, if they duly considered the prospect faith gives them of another world, and the good reasons of their hope of blessedness after death, would be comforted under the troubles of life, and supported in the hour of death: they should take courage, when they are encountering the last enemy, and be willing rather to die than live, when it is the will of God that they should put off this tabernacle. Note, As those who are born from above long to be there, so it is but being absent from the body, and we shall very soon be present with the Lord--but to die, and be with Christ--but to close our eyes to all things in this world, and we shall open them in a world of glory. Faith will be turned into sight.

WHAT more can we say: TO LIVE is CHRIST and TO DIE is GAIN.

Phil 1:20-21 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

 

COMFORT INDEED:

Psa 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

sdandersen@juno.com

 

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