And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60)
Today I want to look at the kind of death Christians are afforded, as opposed to the unsaved. Tomorrow I’ll look at what Stephen cried out, the mater of pleading to the Judge for a reduced charge.
Death is the final frontier for unsaved people. That is the very edge of the precipice of knowledge which the unsaved person can tread. Beyond death, they do not know. And in the not knowing, they fear. What happens after death? Is there life? Do we blink out of existence? Death is the final frontier, and to the unsaved, ti’s one from which no one ever returns. There is no hope.
William Shakespeare’s character Hamlet said,
Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
To grunt and sweat under a weary life;
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
It surely puzzles the will. The world has spit up millions of poems, stories, essays, and books musing on the undiscovered country, and all are in vain, they’re only wind.
Yet that undiscovered country is one the born-again person knows well, from His word and through prayer, we are familiar with the other side. When, as Hamlet opined, ‘we shuffle off this mortal coil’ we know that we know that we know what lies ahead: glory, peace, perfection, and Light.
Some were blessed with glimpses of it on this side of the mortal coil. Stephen, when in the throes of preaching God’s word to the Pharisees, was seen to have the countenance of an angel, because he saw the Lord standing beside the father. Paul said he had been afforded a glimpse of glory so inexpressible and beautiful he had no words to describe it. Moses, upon having been with God atop Mt. Zion, still permeated with His glory when he descended the mountain, his face shining so brightly the people were afraid.
When the unsaved attempt to gaze into the beyond they only see darkness, question marks, and unwelcoming shadows and gloomy fear, behind which their perception stalls.
The saved person has had their heart regenerated, eyes opened, and mind illuminated to the scriptures, knows what comes after death. Life! The peace one feels now that one is no longer at enmity with the Savior permeates all of a born-again person’s life, even into and through death. Barnes’ Notes says of the Acts scripture above:
how peaceful and calm is a death like that of Stephen, when compared with the alarms and anguish of a sinner! One moment of such peace in that trying time is better than all the pleasures and honors which the world can bestow;and to obtain such peace then, the dying sinner would be willing to give all the wealth of the Indies, and all the crowns of the earth. So may I die and so may all my readers – enabled, like this dying martyr, to commit my departing spirit to the sure keeping of the great Redeemer! When we take a parting view of the world; when our eyes shall be turned for the last time to take a look of friends and relatives; when the darkness of death shall begin to come around us, then may we be enabled to cast the eye of faith to the heavens, and say, “Lord Jesus, receive our spirits.” Thus, may we fall asleep, peaceful in death, in the hope of the resurrection of the just.
What a blessing the Lord has given us, His imparted knowledge of what comes next. Even better, we have the assurance of His presence and love throughout eternity. No cold darkness for us! No gate of hell with sign affixed, as Dante mused,
“Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate”, or “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Instead we may hear, as the servant in the parable heard,
‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:23).
Hamlet soliloquized upon contemplation of his suicide, ‘ to sleep, perchance to dream.’ No, friend, we have the assurance of life beyond life, love, light, activity, and a reality so real this present mortal coil will become the dream instead.
Beyond this mortal coil, we will live where righteousness dwells. Pray to thank the Lord for His many manifold blessings.