Differing Views on Death
Almost all of us think about death at one time or another.
I believe that our worldview greatly affects how we view
our own death and the deaths of others, and that, as
a whole, non-believers view death much differently than
While an unsaved person may be in denial, or view death
similar to the drawing above, most Christians view death as
our friend. This is not to say that most Christians
look forward to the act of dying (or the death of a loved
one), but that we realize that our physical death is just
the beginning of our real life in our real home (heaven).
Paul probably stated our dilemma best in his letter to the
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be
ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as
always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or
by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful
labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am
torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ,
which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you
that I remain in the body. (Php 1:20-24)
We know we can't go to heaven in our present body (1Co
15:50), so death rescues us from the endless existence
of our sinful state.
A Non-Believer's View on Life and Death
The following is an excerpt from an unbeliever, W.O. Saunders, as he
writes about the life of an agnostic in the American
Magazine (November, 1930):
I would like to introduce you to one of the
lonesomest and unhappiest individuals on earth, I am
talking about the man who does not believe in God. I
can introduce you to such a man because I myself am one,
and in introducing myself, you shall have an introduction
to the agnostic or skeptic in your own neighborhood, for
he is everywhere in the land. You will be surprised
to know that the agnostic envies your faith in God, your
settled belief in a heaven after life, and your blessed
assurance that you will meet your loved ones in an
afterlife where there will be neither sadness or pain.
He would give anything to be able to embrace that faith
and be comforted by it, but for him, there is only
the grave and persistence of matter. After the
grave, all he can see is the disintegration of protoplasm
of which my body and personality are composed, but
in this materialistic view, I find neither ecstasy nor
The agnostic may face life with a smile and
heroic attitude, putting on a brave front, but he is
not happy. He stands in awe and reverence before the
vastness and majesty of the universe, know not whence he
came or why. He is appalled at the infinitude of
time and space, humiliated by the infinite smallness of
himself, aware of his own frailty, weakness and brevity.
He too carries a cross. For him, this earth is
but a tricky raft adrift in the unfathomable waters of
eternity with no horizon in site. His heart aches
for every precious life upon the raft... drifting,
drifting, drifting, whither no one knows.
Hopelessness of Non-Believers
Someone once said "I've seen enough people die to know that
there is a remarkable difference between an evangelical
Christian and anyone else". What follows
are some last words of a few unbelievers:
Voltaire (French philosopher, died 1778): Voltaire
once said of Jesus Christ, "Curse the wretch. In 20 years,
Christianity will be no more. I will single handedly
destroy what it took 12 apostles to build." The
physician Trochim, attending Voltaire at his death, said
that he cried out in desperation, "O Christ, O Jesus Christ,
have mercy on me. I am abandoned by God and man.
I shall go to Hell!" The physician recalled "The death
of this infidel was a scene of horror that lay beyond the
power of all exaggeration. A nurse who was present is
reported to have said "I would not want to see another
atheist die, even for all the wealth in Europe."
David Hume (Atheist and historian): Hume died in awful
despair in 1776, crying out "I am in the flames!"
Thomas Paine (author of The Age of Reason, which
expressed his disbelief in Christ and attacked the
scriptures): Upon his death in 1809, he said "I would
give worlds, if I had them, if the Age of Reason had never
been published. O Lord, help me! Christ, help me! Stay with
me! It is hell to be left alone!"
Sir Francis Newport (Earl of Bradford) To the fellow
infidels gathered around his deathbed, he said "You need not
tell me there is no God for I know there is one, and that I
am in His presence! You need not tell me there is no hell. I
feel myself already slipping. Wretches, cease your idle talk
about there being hope for me! I know I am lost forever! Oh,
that fire! Oh, the insufferable pangs of hell!"
Mohandas Gandhi (Hindu spiritual leader): For
years, Ghandi taught about how Hinduism filled his soul and
gave him peace, but shortly before his death, he
wrote, "My days are numbered. I am not likely to live
very long, perhaps a year or a little more. For the first
time in fifty years I find myself in the slough of despond.
All about me is darkness; I am praying for light."
Words from a
Before we get to some quotes from believers, the following
famous words were spoken by a grieving skeptic, Robert Ingersoll at his
brothers grave on June 2, 1879:
Christian Views on Death
Life is a narrow vale between the cold and
barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in the
vale to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud... and
the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From
the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no
But in the light of death, Hope sees a star and,
listening, Love can hear the rustling of a wing. He
who sleeps here when dying, mistaking the approach of
death for the return of health, whispered with his latest
breath. "I am better now".
Let us believe, in spite of doubts and fears, that
these dear words are true of all the countless dead.
Hope lights a candle instead of cursing the darkness.
One of my heroes of the faith, the great pastor D James
Kennedy, recently left his earthly body and went home to the Lord. In a sermon
offered a few years ago, he spoke these words:
Now, I know that someday I am going to come
to what some people will say is the end of this life. They
will probably put me in a box and roll me right down here
in front of the church, and some people will gather
around, and a few people will cry. But I have told them
not to do that because I don't want them to cry. I want
them to begin the service with the Doxology and end with
the Hallelujah chorus, because I am not going to be there,
and I am not going to be dead. I will be more alive than I
have ever been in my life, and I will be looking down upon
you poor people who are still in the land of dying and
have not yet joined me in the land of the living. And I
will be alive forevermore, in greater health and vitality
and joy than ever I or
anyone has known before.
Now let's contrast the hopelessness of non-believers with
the assuredness of the last words from a few Christians.
Dwight L. Moody, the evangelist, died gloriously: "This is
my coronation day. If this is death, it is sweet!"
A.J. Gordon (minister and author): The founder of
Gordon College in Massachusetts became suddenly ill with
influenza and bronchitis and on February 2, 1895, was asked
to say a few words by those gathered around his bed.
He was extremely weak, but gathered up the energy to say
"Victory!", and then he died.
August Toplady (minister and hymn writer): Just before
he died, this author of Rock of Ages said "Oh what
delights. Who can fathom the joy of Heaven. No
mortal man can live after the glories which God has
manifested to my soul this day." As he drifted off,
his final words were "All is Light."
John Huss, (reformer and martyr): When asked by the
Duke of Bavaria to recant in order to avoid being burned at
the stake, Huss replied "What I taught with my lips, I seal
with my blood."
The Apostle Paul: "I am already being poured out like a
drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I
have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have
kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of
righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will
award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all
who have longed for his appearing." (2Tim 4:6-8)
Jesus Christ: "Father, into thy hands I commend my
And finally, the following prayer from Martin Luther in
1546, when he noticed that his hour had come:
O my heavenly Father, One God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, God of all comfort, I thank You that
You have revealed to me your dear Son, Jesus Christ, in
whom I believe, whom I have preached and confessed, and
whom I have loved and praised. I implore you, my
Lord Jesus Christ, let my little soul be commended to you.
O heavenly Father, although I must leave this body and be
snatched away from this life, I am, nevertheless, certain
that I will remain with you eternally and that no one will
tear me out of your hands.
(And then he said three times): Into your Hands I
commend my spirit. You have redeemed me, my faithful
God. My hope for eternal life is found in this: "For
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son
so that all who believe in Him will not be lost but have
He then folded his hands and gave up his spirit to Christ
with a peaceful expression on his face.
When the perishable has been clothed with the
imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the
saying that is written will come true: "Death has been
swallowed up in victory."
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your
sting?" (1Cor 15:54-55)
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