Message of Billy Graham: A Wonderful Hope
One of the bonuses of being a Christian is the wonderful hope that extends beyond the grave into the glory of God’s tomorrow. I have talked to doctors and nurses who have held the hands of dying people, and they say there is as much difference between the death of a Christian and of a non- Christian as there is between Heaven and hell. The death of the righteous is not to be feared- it is not to be shunned. It is the shadowed threshold to the palace of God. No wonder Balaam said, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!” ( Numbers 23:10) Let’s notice some of the statements in the Bible about the death of a Christian, as distinguished from the death of a sinner who refuses or neglects to believe in Jesus Christ.
First, to the Christian, death is said in the Bible to be a coronation. The picture here is that of a regal prince who, after his struggles and conquests in an alien land, comes to his native country and court to be crowned and honoured for his deeds. The Bible says we are pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land. This world is not our home; our citizenship is in Heaven. To those who are faithful, Christ will give a crown of life. Paul said, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8) When D.L. Moody was dying, he looked up to Heaven and said, “Earth is receding; Heaven is opening. This is my coronation day.” Yes, death is the Christian’s coronation, the end of conflict and the beginning of glory and triumph in Heaven.
Second, the Bible speaks of the death of a Christian as a rest from labour. The Bible says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…..they may rest from their labours.”(Revelation 14:13) It is as if the Lord of the harvest says to the weary labourer, “You have been faithful in your task, come and sit in the sheltered porch of my palace and rest from your labours-enter now into the joy of your Lord.”
Third, the Bible speaks of death as a departure. When Paul approached the valley of the shadow of death, he did not shudder with fear; rather, he announced with a note of triumph, “The time of my departure is at hand.” (2 Timothy4:6) The word departure literally means “to pull up anchor and to set sail.” Everything that happens prior to death is a preparation for the journey. Death marks the beginning, not the end. It is a solemn, dramatic step in our journey to God. Believers know, as did Paul, that “He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day”(2 Timothy 1:12) The Christian says “goodbye”, but only until the day breaks and the shadows flee.
Fourth, the Bible speaks of the death of a Christian as a transition. Paul wrote,” For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)
Death to the Christian is the exchanging of a tent for a building. Here we are as pilgrims or refugees, living in a frail flimsy home- subject to disease, pain and peril. But at death, we exchange this crumbling disintegrating tent for a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. The wandering wayfarers come to their own at death and are given the title to a mansion that will never deteriorate or crumble.