Rev. William Jay (1769-1853) said, “Reflections on death can never be unseasonable while we are in a dying world … and are conscious that we ourselves are dying creatures.” I do the shut-in ministry in my church and as such I get to make friends and hang out regularly with dear saints in the twilight of their years. I hope and pray it is as edifying to them as it is to me. Consequently, I’ve been blessed with more opportunity than most to reflect on death real time and up close. One of those dear friends, Fred, recently entered hospice care. In all the time that I have known him he was always the most jovial soul. He laughed when he said “Hello!” They made him as comfortable as medicine allows and he was not laughing, but he had periods of blessed lucidity. A few days prior to his last he told me, serenely as it is possible for a dying man to communicate, that he was looking forward to meeting his Lord and Savior and his beloved wife. Generally speaking, men will tell you they are not afraid to die, but few will say it, as he did, when they are on the threshold of eternity. The first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism beautifully explains the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit that makes such a beautiful dying witness possible: 

Q. 1. What is Thy only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own, [1] but belong with body and soul, both in life and death, [2] to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. [3] He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, [4] and has set me free from all the power of the devil. [5] He also preserves me in such a way [6] that without the will of my heavenly father not a hair can fall from my head; [7] indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. [8] Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life [9] and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him. [10]

As Christians we are called to live by grace Coram Deo—with an awareness that all we do or say or think is before the face of God. Fred clearly spent his last days that way. It is the second greatest blessing a soul can receive. The greatest blessing he received at 5:45 a.m. last Friday, one second after the last beat of his big heart. His ageless blood-bought soul, freed from his aged pain-wracked body, is now praising God in paradise!

In the agony of his crucifixion, Jesus said to a man next to him on a cross, “Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Confirm the truth of the above against God’s inerrant Word. Here are the proof texts for the Heidelberg Catechism answer #1: [1] 1 Cor. 6:19-20; [2] Rom. 14:7-9; [3] 1 Cor 3:23. Tit.2:14; [4] 1 Pet. 1:18-19, 1 John 1:7, 1 John2:2; [5] John 8:34-36, Heb. 1: 14-15, 1 John 3:8; [6]  John 6 39-40, John 10:27-30, 2 Thess. 3:3, 1 Pet. 1:5; [7] Matt. 10:29-31, Luke 21:16-18; [8] Rom. 8:28; [9] Rom. 8:15-16, 2 Cor. 1: 21-22, 2 Cor. 5:5, Eph. 1:13-14; [10] Rom 8:14.

See you in church.

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