by Steven Chan
12 December 2010
This past week, we mourned the passing of our beloved Sis Jasmine Kuek, the 39 year old wife of our bro Ong Eng Siong, brother of bro Ong Eng Boon. She succumbed to soft tissue sarcomas, a rare cancer: apparently less than 1% of all new cancer cases in the USA. She leaves behind her two young children and her husband. We continue to pray for the family that they may be comforted during this very painful time. Though having put on Christ only recently, on 26th Oct, 2010, her faith in the Lord was strong as she embraced the comfort of the Scriptures and the hope offered by our Lord in the gospel, the good news for mankind.
As we reflect on her passing at a relatively young age, we are reminded of what the Bible has to say on the subject of death and the life hereafter. In Heb 9:26-28, the Bible declares: “now, once at the end of the ages, He (i.e. Christ) has appeared to put
away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men
to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”
The Bible says that “it is appointed for men to die once”. This is an appointment that no man can escape with the exception of two men in the Old Testament (i.e. Enoch – Heb 11:5 & Elijah – 2 Kings 2:11) and those who are alive at the time when Christ comes again I Thess 4:17). For the majority of us, we will have to face our appointment with death eventually.
So, what does the Bible say about Christians facing death? Death is not the end for Christians. In Heb 2:14, the Bible says: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil”. Christ took the form of man (Phil 2:5-11) and died on the cross that through His resurrection from the dead, He demonstrated His power in overcoming death and offers all of us the hope of the resurrection (Acts 2:24; ) 2 Tim 1:10: “Our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” 1 Peter 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” As the apostle Paul said in Acts 24:15: “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” For Christians, there is the hope of the resurrection when Christ comes again ( I Cor 15:50-58).
Does it matter that one accepts the offer of the gospel just a couple of days or months or a short while before death? It is important to understand that our salvation is not based on how much we have done for God in this life; the only requirement is whether we have obeyed the gospel by believing in Jesus as the Son of God (Heb 5:9), having repented from our past sins, confessed Jesus as Lord of our lives, buried with Him in baptism for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38) and then continuing to live by faith in Him in the remaining days of our lives (Rev 2:10; Rom 1:17). The Bible tells us that we are saved by God’s grace and not because of the good works that we do; our salvation is a GIFT from God: Eph 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The teaching of Jesus in Matt 20 affirms that it does not matter whether one started working for the Lord very early or late – God will still grant us the same promise of eternal life (2 Tim 4:8). The thief on the cross who only requested for God’s favour while hanging on the cross was assured by Jesus that he would be with Him in paradise: “And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
When one prepares to face the transition of death into the next phase of life, it is comforting to remember the following assurances from God’s Word as recorded in Psalms 23: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Our Lord said that at the death of Lazarus, he “was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.”(Luke 16:22).
We have the assurance from God’s Word that we will not walk alone through the valley of the shadow of death; God’s angels will carry us to Abraham’s bosom. Oh what great comfort this promise should bring to all of us! In that place, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4-5). Jesus assures us: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:1-6)
All of us will meet again at the coming of our Lord: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”(1 Thess 4:13-18)