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Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15 KJV
The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die. NLT
The Lord is not indifferent to the manner of the death of his faithful people. They may die without much fanfare here on earth; but in heaven, that’s another story! We will have to await our own death and entrance into heaven to fully know what fanfare awaits us there.
God does not guarantee an abundant exit from this world. Some of His choicest servants have died ignominious deaths. However we should not think that God is not touched with by our suffering in this life. Jesus is our Great High Priest according to Hebrews 4.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. [ESV]
The old KJV renders verse 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus Christ the God-Man experienced every emotion we experience. God is not capricious in His dealings with us. Dr. R. C. Sproul used that word one day in class. A country boy said, “Why are you talking about that car?” We all had a laugh. The student was talking about the the Chevrolet Caprice. What he was really saying was, “I do not understand what capricious means.” Dr. Sproul explained, “Capricious means that behavior is determined by chance or impulse or whim.” By saying that God has emotions does not mean He experiences them the way we often do—acting out of a whim. Humans often relate to others depending upon how they feel at the time. God is not so capricious. He acts out of His plan that He has settled before the world began. The death of human beings fit into His comprehensive plan though we are incapable of reading God’s mind. (see Romans 11:33-36)
I have witnessed a number of people die in my lifetime. The first death I remember was that of my Great-Grandfather–Rich Dowell. My father had arranged for the family to go to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus on February 20, 1960; I was 7 years old (the Greenville Memorial Auditorium had only been open for two years). My Gr. Grandfather had carried my bother Mike (aged 4 years) up the stairs in his arms. We took our seats in the second balcony area on the left side, good seats in which to view the show. Suddenly my Gr. Grandfather began gasping for air and reaching for his throat. We kids around him thought he was acting, after all we were at the circus and he frequently put on a fun-filled show for us kids. A policeman saw him and knew he was not acting. He scooped Gr. Granddaddy into his arms and took him away. We were told to sit still and enjoy the show and that Gr. Grandaddy was sick. My father went with him to the ambulance waiting outside and off they flew to old Greenville General Hospital. My Gr. Grandfather had died in his seat at the circus, and I had seen it happen. That memory is indelibly engraved on my mind.
This story came to mind when my wife of 46 years died, May 12, 2022. We were all gathered around her as she passed into the presence of God without any earthly fanfare.
The New Living Translation [LT] translates II Peter 1:11 this way—And God will open wide the gates of heaven for you to enter into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The old King James is difficult to comprehend for 21st Century people, but I grew up on it. “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Note, we are not promised an abundant exit from this world to heaven, but an abundant reception into heaven! (Far Above Rubies: The Life of Bethan Llloyd-Jones, pg. 204).
I can think of only one person in the Old Testament that had a grand exit from earth—Elijah. II Kings 2:11-14.
11 As [Elijah and Elisha] were walking along, talking, suddenly a chariot of fire, drawn by horses of fire, appeared and drove between them, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariot of Israel and the charioteers!” As they disappeared from sight he tore his robe. 13-14 Then he picked up Elijah’s cloak and returned to the bank of the Jordan River, and struck the water with it. “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” he cried out. And the water parted and Elisha went across! 15 When the young prophets of Jericho saw what had happened, they exclaimed, “The spirit of Elijah rests upon Elisha!” And they went to meet him and greeted him respectfully.
Why did Elisha say, “My Father! My Father!”? “Elisha probably meant something more than to show respect. He regarded himself as Elijah’s specially adopted son, and hence had claimed the “double portion” of the firstborn.” (Pulpit Commentary.)
Elijah’s chariot in the whirlwind by Gustave Dore; public domain.
What a dramatic exit from earth!
Yet such a great New Testament figure as the Apostle Paul had an ignominious death.
The Beheading of Saint Paul by Enrique Simonet, 1887
He was beheaded by a Roman Soldier.
It doesn’t matter where we die, but it is crucial where we go after we die (Far Above Rubies: The Life of Bethan Llloyd-Jones, pg. 204).