“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”-Ecclesiastes 7:2
Death is a funny thing. It makes you think about your life. Loss seems to be coming in waves lately. Cancer, ALS, car accidents, and old age cast a shadow over our lives and death follows close behind. But in the final analysis, “Does it matter how we die?” Well, no…and yes.
The manner and time of my departure are nearly inconsequential in the arc of history (“nearly” is probably too generous). Like billions before me, one moment the breath of life will be in my nostrils and then it will dissipate. This will be the end of all mankind until Jesus returns with a shout and trumpet blast. For the rest of us, it is not a matter of if we will die, but of when and by what means.
My mind was at work on this dilemma this week and I am reminded of all my friends and family who have endured cancer treatments as they slowly passed. It is just the worst. Often there is actually a sense of relief when our loved ones die. What is gained by the pain, suffering, and mounting medical expenses? When I consider my own mortality, I am more and more eager to go now (Philippians 1:21-24). In one sense, it matters not how I die.
However, there is another way in which “how I die” is all that matters. When the bell tolls, “Am I in a right relationship to God?” will matter exponentially. I truly fear for those who are taught to “Accept Jesus as their personal Savior.” or “Let Jesus into their heart.” Neither of those phrases nor anything like them is taught in the word of God. No apostle ever tells a sinner to pray for forgiveness. There is no such incantation in Scripture. Would not our religious friends be better off teaching like the apostles, “the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.”-Acts 18:8. And “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.”-Acts 26:20.
Not only do these false teachings lack biblical accreditation, they demonstrate a misunderstanding of the proper relationship between God and man. We come to faith in God through faith in Jesus and his resurrection by the power of the Spirit. The belief Jesus is, “both Lord and Christ,”-Acts 2:26 teaches us we must, “Get right!” with God. To do that I must answer the question, “Is Jesus Christ my Lord?”
It is the sinner who must believe. It is the sinner who must turn to faith and obedience to God. It is the sinner who must submit to Jesus as Lord in baptism. Jesus is king and I must conform to become a citizen of the kingdom. That is what the Bible tells us we must do to die in peace and the full assurance of faith (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:36-38).
No one who has witnessed a loved one struggle for an extended period at death, wants to duplicate that pain. In that way, it does matter to me how I die in an earthly sense. I am not cavalier about pain and suffering. I pray for a painless exodus to the promised land.
But more importantly, “Am I faithfully serving the Son of God in the kingdom given to him by God the father?” That matters when I die! Amen, Lord come quickly!