God's View of Death|
"Good riddance!” That seems to be general sentiment when a no-good, rotten, and evil man dies. The Bible even recognizes this in the latter part of Proverbs 11:10 – "…when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting.” No one sheds a tear for the death of a person who caused nothing but trouble and misery for others while seeking after his own gain. It is sad to think there are actually men like the Charles Dickens’ character Scrooge, who overheard others speaking of his own death, saying, "It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral, for upon my life I don’t know of anybody to go to it.”
On the other hand, many people will grieve over the death of a good and righteous person. When godly men like Jacob (Gen. 49:33-50:3) and Moses (Deut. 34:5-8) died, people wept many days for them. Consider the example of Dorcas, who was mourned by the widows and disciples who had benefited from her many good works (Acts 9:36-43). There is also the example of Lazarus, who was loved by Jesus and mourned by many when he died (John 11). So it is when beloved and godly people pass out of this life.
However, God’s views of death are quite different from man’s views. In fact, God’s views are exactly opposite of man’s views. Whereas men rejoice for the death of an evil man and mourn for the death of a righteous man, God does neither. Instead, God is displeased with the death of the wicked, and He counts the death of the righteous as a treasured event.
Let us consider the Scriptures. Regarding the death of the wicked, notice the words of God recorded in Ezekiel 33:11 –
"Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’”
God did not desire the death of His people Israel in their rebellious and sinful state, and He does not desire the death of sinners today. If God took pleasure in the death of the wicked, then he never would have sent His own Son to die in the place of the wicked. Instead, He would have killed us all while we were still unredeemed sinners. Yet God did send His Son to be our Redeemer because He desires to save every wicked soul from eternal condemnation. Notice 2Peter 3:9 – "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” God knows that death brings the end to a sinner’s opportunity for repentance, so He is grieved for the death of an unrepentant sinner.
Regarding the death of the righteous, notice Psalm 116:15 – "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones.” Whereas men grieve over the separation from their godly friends that occurs at death, God views death as the crowning moment of life for His saints. The apostle Paul described that crowning moment as he was anticipating his own death in 2Timothy 4:7-9 – "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” This is the reason God counts the death of His saints as a precious event, for it is the open door to their reward (Phil. 1:21).
Therefore, having considered God’s views of death, do we need to change the way we look at death? Because our role model is the Son of God Himself, certainly we should become more like Him in our attitudes about death. Of course, Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:33-38), but He was sympathizing with the other mourners (we should practice sympathy also – Rom. 12:15). Certainly, it is natural to grieve over the loss of a beloved, godly one, but we must not grieve as others who have no hope (1Thess. 4:13). While we may grieve for the separation we experience, let us also rejoice for the precious event of a child of God successfully finishing the course of life in Christ. As for the death of a wicked person, we should not be happy for the loss of an unrepentant soul. Although there may be joy for the cessation of an evil man’s wicked ways (Prov. 11:10 – see above), there should be no joy over his eternal condemnation. It is never right to desire the death of a wicked person, but instead our desire should be a patient, God-like wish for the wicked person to come to repentance. These are God’s views on death, and they should be ours as well.
Stacey E. Durham
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