Years ago, I interviewed a young man from Burundi who told me something profound: “If I fear death as unbelievers do, I have nothing to offer unbelievers. Only when you are free from the fear of death are you really free.”
Though as believers we know that Heaven awaits us after death, many of us still wonder about or fear the moment of death. What will it be like? Will it be frightening to experience the soul’s departure from the body?
May we remember that Jesus came to deliver us, “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
I love Charles Spurgeon’s perspective:
Depend upon it, your dying hour will be the best hour you have ever known! Your last moment will be your richest moment, better than the day of your birth will be the day of your death. It shall be the beginning of heaven, the rising of a sun that shall go no more down forever!
There’s evidence that at the moment of death, the believer will be ushered into Heaven by angels (Luke 16:22). Different angels are assigned to different people (Matthew 18:10), so perhaps our escorts into Heaven will be angels who have served us while we were on earth (Hebrews 1:14).
Most importantly, the Lord Himself will be with us during our deaths. He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Nothing, not even death, can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). God promises that all who know Him will experience acceptance into His holy, loving, and gracious arms.
Erwin Lutzer describes death and God’s presence with us this way in his book One Minute After You Die:
Death is not the end of the road; it is only a bend in the road. The road winds only through those paths through which Christ Himself has gone. This Travel Agent does not expect us to discover the trail for ourselves. Often we say that Christ will meet us on the other side. That is true, of course, but misleading. Let us never forget that He walks with us on this side of the curtain and then guides us through the opening. We will meet Him there, because we have met Him here.
Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (emphasis added). Nancy Guthrie writes in her One Year Book of Hope about this verse:
For more answers to questions about eternity, see Randy's book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Heaven as well as his comprehensive book Heaven.
There is no doubt that a shadow is a dark place to be. But when the Lord is our shepherd, we no longer have to fear the dark places that death takes us. In the shadows we reach out to find him beside us, and the fear of the unknown fades. When he gently uses his rod of correction to prod us in the right direction and his staff of compassion to draw us close, we find comfort.
When we are in the fold of God, death is impotent to destroy us. It is depleted of its evil power. The valley where we encounter death is transformed into a place of peaceful comfort; it is in this valley that we are more aware of God’s presence than ever before.