• 19 February 2024

Chapter 20 – Death of Death

We opened this book by thinking about three intruders: fear, suffering and death. One of them, death, is inescapable. Death is the last enemy and it is a terrible one. But we have hope, for we have one who has conquered death, ‘Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him’ (Rom. 6:9).

What a glorious truth. And there is more, for Christ has dominion over death, ‘I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades’ (Rev. 1:18). To have the keys to something is to own it. Yes, the Lord owns death and hell. And what will He do with it? He will destroy it.

The prophet Isaiah declares, ‘On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces’ (Is. 25:7–8). This is going to happen, ‘Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire’ (Rev. 20:14).

So the end is sure but, in the meantime, how do we face the last enemy? Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a famous Welsh preacher of the last century and he said this, ‘We all have to die – that is a fact, it is common sense. But where does Christianity come in? The Christian is not afraid of death because he has the assurance that he will not be left alone.’ Then Lloyd-Jones focused on the parable of Dives and Lazarus and the verse ‘the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side’ (Lk. 16:22). The angels, he said, came:

I believe in the ministry of angels and think of it more and more. Death is not parting only, but more, it is meeting, and though it is an experience we have never passed through we have the assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and that at death we will meet with Him.

He spoke of an old man. Lloyd-Jones was visiting him on his deathbed, and the man was at the extremity of life and suddenly he threw up his arms and his face shone, and he was already meeting the Lord before he had gone. Lloyd-Jones added:

We are going to be with Christ … Our greatest trouble is that we really don’t believe the Bible … exactly what it says – exceeding great and precious promises. We think we know it, but we do not really appropriate this and actually believe it is true. Here we have no continuing city. Our light affliction is but for a moment. We have to take these statements literally. They are facts, they are not merely ideas.

Each one of us must die and the River Jordan – the biblical picture of death – is a hard, hard river to cross. We shall find it deeper or shallower as we believe in the King of the place. But what glory awaits us on the other side! John Bunyan reveals a wonderful insight into this trail in his book Pilgrim’s Progress when Mr Steadfast says:

I see myself now at the end of my Journey, my toilsome days are ended. I am going now to see that Head that once was crowned with thorns, and that face that was spit upon for me. I have formerly lived by hearsay and faith, but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with him in whose company I delight myself. I have loved to hear my Lord spoken of; and wherever I have seen the print of his shoe on the earth, there I have coveted to set my foot too. His name to me has been a civet-box; yea sweeter than all perfume. His voice to me has been most sweet; and his countenance I have more desired than they that have most desired the light of the sun. His Word I did use to gather for my food, and for antidotes against my faintings. He has held me, and hath kept me from mine iniquities; yea, my steps hath he strengthened in his Way … Glorious it was to see how the open region was filled with horses and chariots, with trumpeters and pipers … to welcome the pilgrims as they went up, and followed one another in at the Beautiful Gate of the City.

Dear friend, see you in the City. The Lord will never leave us alone on our journey home. If we are His, he will bring us safely to the other side and we will see Him face to face and He will wipe away every tear.

In the meantime let us love to see the print of His shoe and to hear His voice and the sound of His name!

*This chapter was originally published in amended form as a blog post: http://jsjmarshall.blogspot.com/2020/04/dr-martyn-lloyd-jones-on-preparing-for.html?m=1

Excerpt from Hope in the face of suffering – 20 devotions for tough times by Jeremy Marshall

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