When A Christian Dies

Bible Book: Philippians  1 : 21-23
Subject: Death; Heaven; Life Beyond the Grave
[Editor's Note: This message by the late Michael Guido contains numerous points. One might find this message helpful, by expanding on some of the points, in creating a series of sermons on the subject of Christian death.]

An old man was taken seriously ill and the doctor rushed to his home. He examined him and said, "Uncle, it's only right that I tell you that you're dying." Smiling, the patient said, "Bless you, doctor, don't let that bother you. Why, that's what I've been living for. I'm ready to meet my Lord, and my death is precious to Him.

As some men see death, it means distress and disappointment; something they do not prize. But as the Lord see death, that is, the death of His saints, He sees that which is precious and prized. For it is written in Psalm 116:15, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."

I. Look At The Certainty

Everybody enters life by the door of birth and exits life by the door of death. The old must die and the young may die. The wise man said, "The living know that they will die"-(Ecclesiastes 9:5). And like David, in 1 Samuel 20:3, we must confess, "There is only a step between me and death." We are all dying. For eacg of us, should the Lord Jesus tarry much, death is certain. The Bible says, "Man is destined to die once." It is not fiction to say:

"The boast of hearldy, The pomp of power,

All that beauty, All that wealth e'er gave,

Await alike the inevitable hour, The paths of glory lead But to the grave."

"But," you may wonder, "why must we die?" Romans 5:12 answers, "Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned." Had there been no sin, there would have been no suffering or sorrow. Had there been no disobedience, there would have been no disease or death. If Adam had not sinned, Adam and his descendants would have had bodies that no power on earth could have destroyed.

Throughout the ages men and women have sought long and hard for some formula that would put away or postpone death. Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer and conqueror, with his companions sought diligently for the fountain whose waters could youth to old persons. But all they found was age and death. As long as we are living, the Lord will give us living grace. But when we are dying, He will give us dying grace. That is what led an eighty-two-year old Christian to say, "I'm going to live till I dies, and then I'm going to live forever!"

II. Look At The Compassion

The Lord cares for the Christian. He is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you. The Lord loves you. You cannot be loved more than He loves you. He loves you better than you love yourself. When anything touches you, it also touches Him. Zechariah 2:8 says, "Whoever touches you touch the apple of His eye." You can better understand the force of this verse when you realize that the eye is the most important of organs, which you use to find out what is going on in the world about you. Your eyes are marvelously sensitive. Even a very small grain of sand or a particle of dust causes pain. You cannot bear the eye to be touched. Thus you can understand how the Lord feels when anyone hurts you. "It would be better for him," says our Lord in Matthew 18:6, "to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." He sets a high value on you and your life. You are very dear to Him. He will not lightly allow your life to be destroyed.

III. Look At The Control

Nothing comes to a Christian by chance, only by Christ; nothing by luck, only by the Lord. There is a lot of evil at work in this world. What an army of evil ones are fighting against Christ and the Christians. But high above everything and everyone is the Lord, in undisturbed calm, the Master of every situation. And this Lord who is in absolute control of the universe, desires your good and nothing but your good. No one, not even the Devil, can touch a hair of your head without the Lord's permission, and then only for your good. Not all things are good in themselves. But the Lord will make all things work for your good. Nothing enters your life by accident, only by your almighty Lord. Romans 8:28 declares, "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him."

You have a work to do and a gift to share. The Lord is counting on you to do it. He wants to do through you what He has not planned to do through anyone else. Death cannot and will not come to you until your work is done.

Think of James and Peter. King Herod had James arrested. Then he commanded that he be killed with a sword, according to the 12th chapter of Acts. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he put Peter in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. He intended to have him put to death after the Passover. But the Lord sent an angel on the night before he was to be killed, and He helped Peter to escape from prison. Peter's work was not finished so his life was spared.

Think of Paul. He was stoned because he preached Christ, and he was left for dead. But he did not die. His work was not finished. The Lord raised him up and used him greatly to His glory.

Lazarus was sick. His sisters sent word to our Lord, "The one You love is sick." Yet He stayed where He was two more days. Then He said to His disciples, "Let us go back to Judea." "But Rabbi," they said in the 11th chapter of John, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone You, and yet You are going back there?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day?" What is the significance? There are twelve hours in a day. Nothing can shorten or lengthen the day. Those twelve hours will be played out no matter what takes place. Just so, your day will not end before the Lord wishes it to end. The time He has allotted for your life is just enough time to do the work He wants you to do.

The Lord who kept the brothers of Joseph from killing him, who preserved the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, and brought Daniel out of the loin's den, will preserve your life so that you can do your work. Death comes to a Christian only when his work is done. You will have enough time to do your work, but not any time to spare.

IV. Look At The Concern

The Bible says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." The word "precious" means costly, as a precious stone; or dear, as a loved one; or glorious, as the moon walking in brightness.

It does not say, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." The death of an unsaved person is not precious, it is pathetic. It is not something that is glorious , it is grievous. It is not something that is honorable, it is horrible. He does not go to the thrill of heaven but to the torture of hell; not to the happiness of heaven, but to the horror of hell. No, it is not the death of a sinner that is precious in the sight of the Lord, but the death of a saint. How much better it is to be saved than to be unsaved.

It does not say, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of 'some' saints." This Bible verse does not refer only to a famous few, or to just superior saints, or to just prominent preachers, or to just miracle-working missionaries, or to just spectacular singers. Oh, no. It takes in the insignificant as well as the significant; the unknown as well as the well-known; the poor as well as the rich; the unskilled as well as the skilled. If you have been born again you are a saint, and your death will be precious to the Lord.

There was layman who loved the Lord. One day he gave his testimony. His hearers were angry. They gnashed their at him, and then they covered their ears. Then, yelling at the top of their voices, they rushed at him. Then they dragged him out of the city and stoned him. His death was too important to be ignored by the Lord. Acts 7:55 says, "Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." He saw what few Christians have ever seen, that his death was precious to the Lord.

V. Look At The Cancellation

Saint Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:10, "Christ Jesus has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light." The Lord Jesus died for our sins. When He died, He destroyed death. It does not mean that He did away with death, but that He made it harmless. He deprived death of it's strength and sting. One day a bee stung a farmer. Immediately he shouted, "Praise the Lord!" "Why?" asked a friend. "Because," he explained, "a bee has only one sting. When it stung me, it left its sting in me. Now it cannot sting my wife or my daughter. It cannot sting another person." Death has but one sting. It stung Christ when He died for our sins. Now it cannot sting the Christian.
VI. Look At The Change

The apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:23, "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far." The word "depart" is an interesting word. It has four exciting pictures. It is a word that signifies pulling up the anchor, loosening the mooring ropes, and setting sail. Death to a Christian is a setting sail, not a shipwreck. It's going from a place that is hazardous to a place that is a heaven. Here we experience typhoons and tempests, but there we will experience safety and security. Well might we pray:

"Jesus, Saviour, pilot me Over life's tempestuous sea;

Unknown waves before me roll, Hiding rocks and treacherous shoal;

Chart and compass come from Thee, Jesus, Saviour, pilot me.

When at last I near the shore, And the fearful breakers roar

'twixt me and the peaceful rest, Then, while leaning on Thy breast,

May I hear Thee say to me, "Fear not, I will pilot thee."

The word "depart" signifies freeing someone from chains. He we are tied by transgression, fettered by fears, secured by sickness, bound by brokenheartedness. But death is the liberator of those whom freedom can not release; the physician of those whome medicine can not cure; the comforter of those whom time can not console. Death to a Christian is what health is to a sick man. What home is to a wanderer, what liberty is to a prisoner.

The word "depart" signifies the solution of all our problems. Oftentimes we wonder why the pain and poverty, the sickness and sorrow, the tragedies and trials. In heaven we will see how the Lord made them work for our good, for there we will have a solution to all our life's problems. James McGranahan wrote:

"Not now, but in the coming years, It will be in the Better Land,

We'll read the meaning of our tears, And there, sometime, we'll understand.

We'll catch the broken thread again, And we'll finish was we here began;

Heaven will the mysteries explain. And then, ah, then, we'll understand.

Then trust in God thro' all thy days; Fear not, for He doth hold thy hand;

Though dark the way, still sing and praise; Sometime, somewhere, we'll understand."

The word "depart" signifies striking camp, the loosening of the tent ropes, pulling up the tent pins, and going home. Look at it like this. There, at the front, is a soldier. All about him is mud and blood. Around him and above him is the enemy , belching forth death. Presently an officer comes to him. "Son," he says, "there's a plane ready and waiting to take you home!" In a flash, he is out of the hole. In double quick time he strikes camp and heads for home. Oh, this world at its best is a miserable fox hole.

The Devil is mad after our ruin. He and his demons are out to destroy us. But presently the Spirit of God summons the believer home to heaven. Angels come, and they carry the Christian home to Father, where there are no trials and tears, no sickness and suffering, no disappointments and despair. No wonder Paul said, "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far." Well did Isaac Watts write:

There is a land of pure delight, Where saints immortal reign; Infinite day excludes the night, And pleasure banish pain.

VII. Look At The Colonization

The apostle wrote in 2 Peter 1:13-15, "I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things." The word "departure" means a going out. It takes us back to the Old Testament where we see the people of God going out of Egypt into the promised land. It was a going out of bondage into liberty, a going out of want into wealth, a going out of despair into delight.

In this passage Peter calls his body a "tent." At its best the body is a frail and feeble dwelling place for the spirit and soul of a saint. However, like the people of God in Egypt, we are pursued by ruthless foes: the world, the flesh and the Devil. Anxiety and age, disease and despair, sickness and sorrow follow hard after us. Then there comes our departure or our exodus. Angels will carry us out of earth's humiliation to heaven's honors, out of the earth's poverty to heaven's plenty, out of earth's despair to heaven's delight, out of earth's gory place to heaven's glory place. And there we will fellowship with the Saviour and the saints of all ages.

"They will meet, smile and greet us, Those we've loved who've gone before;

We shall find them at the portals, Find our beautiful immortals When we reach the radiant shore."

VIII. Listen To The Call

The last invitation in the Bible is found in Revelation 22:17. Pleading it says, "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come! And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." Heaven is described "as a bride" in the Bible, and heaven is calling you to come to the Saviour and be saved. Then you will become a saint, and death to you will be gain.

An infidel joined the Texas Rangers many years ago just to get away from it all. Then the war between the states broke out and he was mustered into the Confederate Army. He went from battle to battle and returned home a cripple on crutches and deeply in debt. His father, a pious preacher, died of a broken heart because he would not become a Christian. His mother, a Christlike Christian, begged him to attend just one more church service, even though he said he would never go to church. He yielded to her tearful invitation and went to one more service. The sermon did not stir him, and he got up to leave still unsaved. But suddenly several old women who loved the Lord stood around the piano and started to sing:

"O land of rest for thee I sigh, When will the moment come

When shall lay my armor by And dwell in peace at home."

Said B.H. Carroll, "The singing made a wonderful impression on me. Its tones were as soft as the rustling of an angel's wings. Suddenly there flashed upon my mind, like a light from heaven, this Scripture: 'Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' I did not see Jesus with my eyes, but I seemed to see Him standing before me, looking tenderly and pleadingly. He seemed to rebuke me for having gone to all other sources for rest but the right One. And now He was inviting me to come to Him. In a moment I went to Him, casting myself unreservedly and for all time at His feet. In a moment rest came, indescribable and unspeakable, and it has remained."

You want this rest, don't you? Then come to the Lord Jesus now. Ask Him to come into your heart. He promises, "I will come in." Then you will be able to say with the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live as Christ and to dies is gain." And it will be said of your home-going: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."

All Scriptures are quoted from the New International Version Bible.