edited from discussion questions in class over the summer
Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, Christians’ view on death should be different than that of the world. Christians should be renewing their mind so that their view of death will be that of scripture and not that of unbelievers. This is important because our view of death affects how we live our lives and respond to death in the world around us.
1. Our view of death affects our daily lives.
What we believe about what comes after death changes how we live. If here is all there is, then it doesn’t matter how we live. We have no reason to look out for anything or anyone beyond ourselves. But if there is eternity beyond our lives, then we must prepare to face either judgment or fullness of life with God. We need to be right with God. Living life in view of the hope of heaven also changes how we respond to trials, because we know something better is coming.
2. Our view of death affects how we respond to death in the world around us.
There are two facets to how a Christian should respond to death: sorrow and hope. Whether the deceased is a believer or an unbeliever, sorrow is proper. Death is a sign of the fall and the world no longer being good according to God’s original design. We also grieve what is lost in the earthly relationship. If responding to the death of an unbeliever, there is an added dimension of sorrow because there is no time left for them to repent and we know that separation from God is their end.
On the other hand, when a believer passes away, there is hope. Paul addresses this in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 when he tells the Thessalonians not to grieve as those who have no hope. If Jesus has been raised from the dead, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. This hope does not mean we do not grieve, but that we “comfort one another with these words” in our grief.
A biblical theology of death makes a difference not only in the life of the church and individual Christian, but our understanding of death and thus response to it is in sharp contrast with the world and can serve as a great witness. Thus it is important to consider death.
If we understand that there is life after this world, then we must prepare for our deaths in addition to having a proper theology of death. Here there are two parts to consider: the leaving and the arriving.
When we die, we leave this world. Thus, we need to be sure that as far as it depends on us, we are at peace with those around us and have been faithful to what God has called us to do. Also, we must also take care that our physical assets are in order and that preparations have been made for “estate” and children.
At our passing from this earth, we also arrive in our heavenly home (not intending to bring up any eschatological discussion in saying that. I don’t know exactly where the soul goes between death and the resurrection). Setting our gaze on our destination – being with our Father! – will ease the journey.
Thus, the best way to prepare for death is to live a life centered around the worship of God. If He is the center of our lives, it follows that our greatest hope and joy will be in being with Him and honoring Him, and that out of that will flow a life of fruitful, reconciled relationships.
Whenever I think of my death, I am reminded of lesser known verses of O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.
“My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.
Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.
My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!
Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.”
May our lives be centered on our Savior and Father, empowered by the Spirit, and when it comes time, may we die well, our eyes beholding Him and our hearts enfolding Him.