Every person should attend a funeral at least once a year.
Going to a wedding reminds you that the marriage bond is sacred. Going to a funeral reminds you that life is a vapor, that one day yours will be gone. When it is announced in church that someone has died, I try to remember that one day someone will make that announcement about me.
Even Christians commonly say, “She passed away,” which neatly avoids using the “D-word.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but I prefer to look this enemy in the face and name it. Death is the great reality towards which all of us are moving, but we live knowing that Christ has conquered it.
Face the Ultimate Reality of Death
Our culture has devised many ways to keep us from thinking seriously about death. People make a spoof of it at Halloween. Hollywood sentimentalizes it with weepy movies, and the card companies follow suit with empty slogans.
Some time ago, I came across a message by Martyn Lloyd-Jones on John 8. The year was 1960, and the whole world was in fear at the prospect of nuclear holocaust. This was just before the Cuban missile crisis. There were many marches in major cities around the world on the theme of “banning the bomb” and so forth.
Lloyd-Jones made this observation: Here are thousands of people on the streets protesting about the danger of death coming through a nuclear bomb. They’re concerned about this mode of death: “We cannot have people dying through a bomb.”¹
The point is well made, but here’s the problem: Many of the people who were rightly and passionately concerned about the mode of death seemed to give little thought to the unavoidable reality of death itself. They’re worried about how people might die, but they had nothing to say about the reality that all of us eventually will die.
People die in many ways—some die in war or through an act of violence. Some die through an illness, a heart attack or cancer, and others die from old age. Some die early in life, while others live a long time. These things are important, but they’re not the ultimate things.
However I die, and whenever it happens, when I close my eyes I will awaken in a world of light, love, peace and joy—in the presence of Jesus. Here’s what matters most: Whatever the mode of death and whatever its timing, every person dies in one of two ways: in their sins, or in the Lord.
Follow the Light from Heaven
Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Imagine we’re all in a dark tunnel. One man has a light, and he is coming toward us, walking through the tunnel. If we walk with him, we walk in his light. But if we refuse to follow him, his light will get further and further away from us, and eventually we will be left in darkness.
That is true in this life, and of course, it is true in the world to come. Beyond this world, there is a place where Christ is. Because Christ is there, it is a world of light and love and peace and joy. But beyond this world, there is also a place where Christ is not. Because Christ is not there, it is a world of darkness and hate and turmoil and misery.
There is nothing more tragic than this—to die in your sins. How can I make sure this does not happen to me? I know I will die. How can I be sure I will not die in my sins?
How to Be Sure You Won’t Die in Your Sins
“You will die in your sin.” (John 8:21)
Unbelief toward Jesus Christ is the one sin that leaves you taking all your other sins into your death with you. Unless you believe…you will die in your sins. Turn that round and you have the hope of the gospel. Unbelief toward Christ leaves you to die in your sins; but if you believe that Jesus is the Christ, you will not die in your sins.
Why is this believing so important? Because faith is the bond of a living union in which you give yourself to Christ and Christ gives himself to you. Christ becomes your Savior and your friend. Christ becomes your Lord and master, and when you belong to him, his home is yours.
There’s more: Jesus lived a sinless life. He is the only person who has ever done that, or ever could do that. He lived and died without sin. The Bible tells us that “he bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). “The Lord has laid on [Jesus] the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Here is the marvelous thing that is true for every person who has faith in Jesus Christ: Christ carried your sins into his death, so you won’t carry them into yours. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, embrace him, receive him, follow him, and you will not die in your sins. You will die in the Lord!
As the Bible says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” (Revelation 14:13).