"There shall be no more death."--Rev. 21:4
What a thrilling negative of Heaven is this! What a
multitude of believing souls, held in the bondage of the fear of death, will
bend over it with a deep and quickening pulse of joy and hope! The total
annihilation of death--that solemn crisis of our being which we all
so inevitably anticipate, yet so instinctively dread; which marks every
individual as its victim, transforms every home into mourning, and the world
itself into a vast cemetery; which severs the fondest ties, and extinguishes
the brightest hopes; nips the fairest buds, withers the loveliest flowers,
lays low the tall cedar and venerable oak--what heart does not exult at the
But what is death? Abstractedly considered, it is the
most calamitous and humiliating event of our history, filling the
mind with awe, the heart with grief, and the future with dread. Milton
portrays--as he only could--the supposed shock of Adam on his first sight of
death. "But have I now seen death? Is this the way I must return to
dust? O sight of horror, foul and ugly to behold, Horrid to think! how
horrible to feel!"
But what, negatively, is death? It is not, as some vainly
imagine, a deep sleep of the soul until the trumpet shall sound and
the dead shall be raised at the last Great Day. So far from this, in the
transit of the soul to the spirit-world, it undergoes not even a moment's
suspension of its consciousness. If ever its intelligence is wakeful, its
perception vivid, and its memory undimmed, it is at the very moment of its
unrobing of mortality, the body--like the useless scaffolding of the
edifice--falling in wreck and ruin from around it.
Still less is death the annihilation of the soul.
Annihilation is a word not found in God's natural or moral vocabulary.
Possessing no evidence of the annihilation of a single atom of matter,
what reason have we to suppose that He will annihilate a single spark of
mind? Is it conceivable that He should utterly destroy and entirely
efface that immaterial, uncompounded part of our being--the thinking
principle--which most assimilates us to His own nature? "The dust shall
return unto the earth as it was--and the spirit shall return unto God who
gave it"--and just as He gave it--pulsating with life, instinct
with intelligence, crowned with immortality.
But, positively, what is Death? There is no more true and
instructive point of light in which to view death than as a DIVINE
ARRANGEMENT, "It is appointed unto men once to die." Upon no
other hypothesis can we rationally account for death. Inquire of the
anatomist and he will tell you that, there exists no physiological reason
why men should not live to an interminable age; that, there is no natural
necessity why the human machine should for a moment stop, or stop forever.
Clearly, then, the dissolution of the body is the appointment of Him
"with whom are the issues of death."
This brings us to the originating CAUSE of death.
And to sin we must trace it. Sin--sin--SIN is the terrible,
prolific cause of all our woe. "SIN entered into the world, and DEATH by
sin." "The wages of SIN is DEATH." We die because we have sinned. Holy
beings never die. The unfallen angels taste not of death because they have
never sinned. Man fell; and in dying he died--the soul spiritually, the body
naturally. Such is death. In a few summary words--it is sin's great
conquest--Satan's chief-work--the brimming of sorrow--the triumph of
corruption--the fulfillment of the curse--the sentence of God for the
disobedience of man.
But our chief subject is the consideration of death as
entirely annihilated in Heaven. In the New Jerusalem-state of the
Church, death is known no more. Over the gate of the celestial city, within
which countless beings pass--once Death's victims, now Death's victors--is
written in letters of dazzling light and glory, "The last enemy enters not
here! There shall be no more death!"
But before we carry forward our thoughts to this sweet
attraction of Heaven, we should do injustice both to Jesus and our theme,
did we not pause and dwell for a while upon the present relation of
death to the believer in Christ. It is a remarkable fact that, death did not
smite Adam, the first sinner; nor Cain, the first murderer; but Abel, the
believing, and the righteous one. Thus, the first man that met death,
overcame death--and the first soul that left earth, went to Heaven. Such was
the foreshadowing of the gospel truth in the earliest age of the Church,
upon which we may now for a moment dwell. The gospel confers upon the
believer in Christ a present emancipation from the power and condemnation of
death, an intelligent and spiritual apprehension of which will tend much to
change essentially the whole aspect of the "king of terrors." Let us,
then, bend our thoughts in the first place to a consideration of death as
abolished by Christ in the present dispensation of the saints of God.
The great event in Christ's life was His death.
This was the goal towards which He pressed, and for which He was so often in
a strait until it was reached. He never for a moment lost sight of the
decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem, toward which His face
seemed ever to turn. Calvary, with its physical phenomena--the
trembling earth, the veiled sun, the darkened skies, the split rocks, the
opening graves, the streaming blood, the bodily torture, the cry of woe; the
Cross, with its more marvelous moral phenomena--the
soul-sorrow, the mental darkness, the penitent thief, the shout of
victory--all, all were vividly before Him every step He trod.
Embarked as a voluntary sacrifice in the great work of the salvation of His
elect, He never lost sight for a moment of Gethsemane or of Calvary--the
one, the anticipated scene of His unknown sorrow, the other, of His
Listen to His touching language--"I have meat to eat
that you know not of. My food is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to
finish His work." "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I
straitened until it be accomplished!" This crisis He ever expected, and
never sought to evade. From it there was no avenue, and in His heart no
desire--to escape. Die He, or His church must die. But no! This could not
be. He must die. Blessed truth, coming from the taunting lips of His
foes--"He saved others; HIMSELF He cannot save"--He could not,
because He would not, save Himself. Had He willed it, He could have
wrenched every nail which fastened Him to the tree; but the cords
of love which bound Him to His Church, He could not break! O the
willingness, O the eagerness of Christ to suffer and die to save lost
sinners! "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto
My reader, is your soul guilt-burdened, and
sin-distressed? Are you debating the question whether Christ is able
to save so great a sinner; or, if able, whether He is willing? Turn
your believing eye to the cross; behold Him bleeding and dying upon the
tree; and listen to His words--"Look unto Me, all you ends of the earth,
and be saved; for I am God, and there is no other!" (Isa. 45:22)
Trusting not in your own righteousness--every shred of which is
defiled by sin--the whole garment a mass of filthy rags, (Isa. 64:6)-- a
'cobweb' (Isa. 59:4-6) a 'fig-leaf' (Gen. 3:7)--the covering 'too narrow'
for a sinner to wrap himself in--trust only in Jesus, who has merit enough,
and love enough, and grace enough to 'save' even you 'to the uttermost'
extent of sin, and from the lowest depth of guilt.
The present spiritual immunity of the believer from
death, turns upon the wonderful declaration of the Apostle--"who
(Christ) has abolished death." Death is here spoken of as ABOLISHED.
In what manner has Christ thus "abolished" death in the experience of His
saints? In the first place, by repealing the law of death. Death is
the natural and just penalty of a law broken. Now if a law be repealed, it
is no longer in force, and consequently exists no longer in its pains and
penalties. Christ, the Law-Giver, became, on behalf of His Church, the
Law-Fulfiller. He was "born of a woman, made under the law, that He might
redeem those who were under the law." His perfect obedience to the law
relieves His people forever from its obligation, and, consequently, from its
death-penalty. Christ has thus 'abolished death,' by abolishing the law of
death on behalf of His Church.
Again, He has abolished death, not only by repealing the
law of death, but by His own actual and penal death. He could only
abrogate the law by dying. The majesty of the law must be upheld, and
its righteousness vindicated, either in the persons of its subjects, or in
that of a substitute. Christ, as the Surety and Mediator of His people, died
in their stead and for their sins, thus honoring the law, and emancipating
them from it as a penal enactment. Consequently, the whole character of
death is changed as it regards all who believe in Jesus, and thus avail
themselves of the benefits of His passion and death.
They must die; but oh, how transformed and
modified the entire nature and aspect of their death! It ceases to be
death. Losing its repulsiveness and terror, as it has lost its
condemnation and sting, the departure of a saint of God becomes the very
poetry of death--a falling asleep in Jesus. What a beautiful and soothing
image! "And he fell ASLEEP." "Those who are ASLEEP." "Them also which
SLEEP in Jesus will GOD bring with Him."
Thus has Christ "abolished death" in the experience of
all His saints. Bearing their sins, He extracted the sting of death,
which is sin--sin unatoned, sin unpardoned. Where sin is cancelled--atoned
for by Christ's death, and washed away by His blood--the 'last enemy' may
launch his dart, but--it is stingless! Thus, dying for us, Christ has so
repealed the penalty of the law, that the whole character of death is
changed--it being no more a penal curse, but, as we have shown, a soft and
holy slumber. "Destroying him that had the power of death, that is, the
devil," "Christ has delivered them who through fear of death were all
their lifetime subject to bondage." Such is the believer's present
relation to death. And oh, how blessed! Through it we must pass--but
what a shadow! The "king of terrors" must claim us as his
subjects--but how broken his scepter! The "last enemy" must be met--but how
conquered the foe, how pointless his dart! We must die, but it is only to
languish into life; for, "blessed are the dead who die in the
But in Heaven "there shall be no more death." This
will be literally the case. There will be no more natural death. The
present dissolution of the body is essential to the perfect freedom and
exaltation of the soul. Thus, the death of the believer becomes a covenant
mercy, a sweet and holy privilege. It unbars his jail, and the prisoner is
free; it opens the cage, and the bird wings its flight, singing as it soars,
But the resurrection or spiritual body of the saints will
be free from all the seeds of death. No sin will be there; and this
will involve the absence of all the dread effects of sin--the inroad
of infirmity, the wasting of sickness, the torture of pain, the throes, and
convulsions, and sweat of death. O sweet attraction of Heaven! "The
bitterness of death is passed," and we die no more forever!
The life we now derive from our union with Christ,
possesses the germ of "everlasting life." What did Christ Himself say?
"He that believes on the Son HAS everlasting life." (John 3:36) Faith in
Christ puts us in possession of a present salvation; the believer is
now saved--as entirely pardoned, as completely justified, and as
fully adopted as he will be when he enters into glory. The spiritual life of
the quickened soul on earth is the first pulse of the everlasting life in
heaven. Grace below is the dawn of glory above. The believer has a foretaste
of heaven, and possesses, though not to the same degree, yet in the same
nature, the joys, happiness, and privileges of the "spirits of just men
Who, with any scriptural reason, will dare question the
certain and final salvation of each "vessel of mercy, before-prepared unto
glory?" What an impeachment of every perfection of Jehovah to deny it! What
dishonor done to the Savior--what disowning of the Spirit, to doubt it for a
moment! But if we are grafted into Christ by the Holy Spirit, through a
living faith, who shall separate us from His love? "Shall tribulation, or
distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No,
in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us."
Listen to the assertion of Christ Himself, concerning the present safety
and final salvation of His own elect. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know
them, and they follow Me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall
never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father,
who gave them to Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them
out of My Father's hand."
Let these decisive answers scatter to the winds every
doubt and fear, and strengthen your confidence in Christ. Your grace may be
weak, your faith slender, your love faint, your spiritual life feeble;
nevertheless, "He who has begun a good work in you, will perform it until
the day of Jesus Christ." It shall never be said of Jesus--"This man
began to build, and was not able to finish." Hell shall never possess an
heir of Heaven, nor Satan exult that he was stronger than Jesus. Hidden with
Christ in God, He must perish, before your spiritual life can, thus
indissolubly bound up with His. "He that seeks my life seeks your life,"
said King David unto Abiathar. "Because I live, you shall live also,"
said David's Prototype to His disciples.
The spiritual exercises of your soul, however trying,
supply no arguments against its final and eternal safety. Your increasing
self-acquaintance, and consequent feeling that you are growing more sinful
rather than more holy--that you are going backward and not forward in the
divine life--the growing sensitiveness of the conscience to the slightest
touch and taint of sin--are scriptural evidences and most sure indices of
the reality of your religion, of the advance of your soul in
its higher life. Doubt not, then, O believer in Jesus! your final and
eternal salvation. The dimmest sight of Jesus is a life-look; the
stealthiest touch of His robe, is soul-healing; the feeblest spark of love
to Him is a pledge of Heaven; and the faintest breathing after holiness is a
jet of the 'living water,' welled in the soul, and 'springing up into
Take these, the lowest marks of grace in the regenerate--glory
is the goal towards which they aspire, and in which they will ultimately be
absorbed. Not one of the sheep given by the Father to the Son shall perish;
not a sinner redeemed by His blood shall be lost; not a child adopted by His
grace shall be absent; not a jewel excavated from nature's mine by His grace
shall be missing in that day when the Shepherd shall gather together His
flock, and the Father shall bring home His family, and the Savior shall
cluster around Him His redeemed--in that day when the King of Zion shall
appear, His diadem studded, and His breastplate blazing, with the precious
stones of His especial and particular treasure.--"They shall be Mine,
says the Lord, in that day when I make up My jewels"--(margin) "my
peculiar treasure." Oh, yes; all the ship's company shall reach the shore of
Heaven at last; though with "some on boards, and some on broken pieces of
the ship, it shall come to pass, that all shall escape safe to land."
"Oh! could it ever come to pass
That Christ's own sheep might fall away,
My feeble, fickle soul, alas!
Would fall a thousand times a day:
But Jesus' love is firm and free,
Through time and to eternity.
"On this sure promise I depend,
In humble hope and strong desire
That He will love me to the end,
And keep in every flood and fire:
Will for me work, and in me too,
And guide and guard, and bring me through.
"No other stay have I beside;
If Christ can change, then I must fall:
Until then, I look to be supplied
With grace, with life, with love, with all.
Rich souls may glory in their store;
But I--that Jesus saves the poor!"
O blissful thought of the glorified saints!--I am no more
to die! I have crossed Jordan's cold flood--I have passed the dark
valley--I have fought my last fight--I have overcome my last enemy--my bonds
are loosed, and I am free! O Death! you yourself are dead, and I live
forever!--once your trembling, humiliated victim, now your triumphant
glorified victor, trampling you beneath my feet! "There shall be no more
The absence of death in Heaven will be the cessation
of all painful apprehension with regard to the departure of those we love.
With what anxiety we often watch the slow, insidious progress of disease
in those whose life is essential to our happiness--yes, which seems a
necessary condition of our very existence! Oh! it is painful, it is
agonizing, to mark the advance of the "last enemy," "like a resolute
murderer steady to his purpose;" approaching near and yet more near with
soft, but most sure, foot-fall--and our hearts die within us. But this
bitter trial is not without its sweet alleviations; this dark cloud not
unillumined with some bright sunshine. Is the sick one, one whom Jesus
loves? Is the departing soul dying in the Lord? Listen to the language
breathing from that couch--
"I'm fading slowly, slowly as the day
Fades into even, and the quiet night;
But, with the body's sinking and decay,
The spirit gathers new and holy light;
A brief, brief time, and I shall be at rest,
Forever sheltered in the Savior's breast."
But this will be done away in Heaven. The quick eye of
love will detect no symptom of disease; the clinging heart will feel no
apprehension of death. Gazing on the deathless forms of the glorified
spirits, now clad in resurrection-robes, no fearful forebodings will haunt
the mind that sickness will imperil or the grave hide from us the treasure
of our heart; for "there shall be no more death." The bud bursting
into flower--the blooming flower opening into beauty--the olive branches
adorning our table--the graceful vine entwining our home--the venerable oak
spreading its benignant and graceful shadow over all--will then defy the
nipping frost, the withering blast, the sweeping scythe and the felling axe
of death. Rachel shall no more weep for her children refusing to be
comforted, because they are not. No more shall "the desire of our eyes," the
wife of youth's wedded love, be removed with a stroke; no more will the
heart be made desolate with a widow's lonely anguish; nor the white-haired
father go forth uttering his wail of anguish, and weeping as he goes--"O my
son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for you, O
Absalom, my son, my son!" With the utter abolition of death, these mournful
and terrible results will entirely and forever have passed away.
But let us take a more SPIRITUAL view of this
negative image of glory. There will be no more deadness of the Divine
life of our soul. No truth is more certain than the deathless nature of
the life of God in the soul of the regenerate. That life is as
indestructible and imperishable as the Divine Source from whence it
emanates. But, undoubted as is this fact, it is equally true that it
may--through unmortified principle of sin, unwatchfulness of Christian walk,
the restraining of prayer, the power of the world, the encroachments of the
creature, the idolatry of self, the neglect of the means of grace--sink to a
very low ebb. Spiritual torpor may steal over it, weakening its pulse,
checking its growth, congealing its warm ascending aspirations after God,
and Christ, and holiness, and heaven; thus diffusing over it the chill and
insensibility of death, extorting the mournful lamentation--"O my leanness!
My leanness! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" But, oh,
blessed thought! there will be no coldness nor lukewarmness nor deadness of
the soul in heaven! Praise to God will not then, as it often does now,
freeze into icicles upon our lips. Love to Christ will not then, as it often
does now, prove fickle, and frigid, and false. Oh! it is a blessed and holy
thought, that there will be no ebb, no fluctuation, no chill, in the life of
the glorified soul. Winter's frost and summer's heat, the congealing and the
drought, will then give place to a spring of perennial bloom, and to a
summer of eternal sunshine. Unbelief annihilated--carnality
destroyed--selfishness effaced--sin will find no fuel for its flame, and
death no material for its working. Oh, the rapturous prospect of inheriting
"everlasting life!" subjected to the influence of no moral
atmosphere--changeful, unkind, and fatal. This assurance of life, never
impaired--of love, never chilled--of zeal, never drooping, of service, never
tiring--of song, never ceasing--entirely revolutionizes and transforms our
present condition of lamentation and sorrow, imparting dignity to lowliness,
wealth to poverty, joy to grief, health to sickness, hope to despair--and
converts our every deformity and unloveliness into a moral grace and beauty
which angels might admire, but in vain may imitate.
Nor must we fail to enumerate, as an illustration of this
negative of Heaven, the absence of all persecution, suffering, and death,
the record of which supplies so large and so dark a chapter of the annals of
God's Church. The history of the Church of Christ is the history of
PERSECUTION--its most instructive and thrilling chapter that which records
the faith and patience and sufferings of the "noble army of martyrs." It is
to be feared that the martyrology of the Christian Church is but
imperfectly studied. And yet, where does there exist, in the volume of her
history, a more touching, illuminated, and impressive chapter than the
annals of those who for the truth's sake, and for Christ's sake, loved not
their lives unto the death? Nor has this part of her history yet closed. The
certain and speedy coming of Antichrist, as the signs of the times
unmistakably indicate, will be the advent of such a fiery persecution as she
has never yet known. The Apostle thus foretells his coming--"Then shall
that Wicked one be revealed, even him whose coming is after the working of
Satan with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all
deceivableness of unrighteousness in those who perish." (2 Thes. 2:7-10)
The fearful persecutions consequent upon the reign of
this Antichrist, are thus clearly foretold by our Lord--"There shall be
great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this
time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days be shortened, there
should no flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake those days shall be
shortened." Already, to the spiritual and studious eye, the cloud,
though no larger than a man's hand, is gathering over the horizon. The rapid
increase, wide-spread diffusion, and menacing attitude of error and
superstition--dogmatic and ceremonial--are indices of the approaching storm
too significant to misinterpret, and too visible to overlook. Never was
there such a union of a credulity that believes everything, with a
scepticism that believes nothing, as at the present day. Infidelity and
superstition are confederate--Pilate and Herod made friends--in impugning
the integrity of Divine Revelation--and in setting up a worldly, popish
ritual in the place of that pure, divine worship of God without which none
can worship Him in spirit and in truth. The bitterness, the threatening and
separation exhibited by those thus abandoned to a "strong delusion that
they should believe a lie," clearly indicates, not the lack of the will,
but of the power, to rekindle the flames of fierce persecution--more fierce
and devouring than have in any age made havoc of God's Church. But, O sweet
thought! In Heaven the absence of death will be the absence of all deadly
persecution of the saints. The last spark will die, the last shaft will be
thrown, the last accusation will be made--for there shall be no more death.
It is a significant and interesting declaration touching
the existence of this negative character of the New Jerusalem that, upon the
glorified spirits the SECOND DEATH will have no power. The absence of
this terrible doom is thus graphically described--"Blessed and holy is he
that has part in the first resurrection; on such the second death has no
power but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign
with Him a thousand years." The "second death" will be a more terrible
infliction of divine wrath than any that preceded it. But from this, all who
share in the privilege and blessedness of the "First Resurrection" will be
saved. Let it be--with the apostle--our aim to "know the power of Christ's
resurrection" in our souls, and then, "if by any means we might attain unto
the 'first resurrection' of the saints, for us the second death will be
There are, in reality, three deaths to which men are
exposed--death moral, death natural, death eternal. Delivered by Christ from
the power of the first, and from the condemnation of the second,
we shall escape the bitter pangs and horrors of the third. But
what, my reader, if we know nothing of having "passed from death unto life?"
What, if we have not become "new creatures in Christ Jesus?" What, if we
have not washed in His blood, and robed in His righteousness? What, if we
live in our sins, and die in our sins, and stand before the bar of God with
all their guilt upon us? Oh, then, upon us the "second death" will exert its
tremendous, unmitigated, eternal power, and we shall, with all who do
wickedly and die in rejection of Christ, "dwell with the devouring fire,
with everlasting burnings," "where the worm" of an accusing conscience
"dies not, and the fire" of divine wrath "is not quenched."
We know not what ETERNAL DEATH is--but we know some
things respecting it. It is far away from heaven--those blissful plains
where eternal joy dwells. It is far from hope--'hope that here comes to
all.' It is the abode of all the abandoned and profane and vile--the
collected guilt and wickedness of this world. It is a place where no
sanctuary opens its doors and invites to heaven--where no Sabbath returns to
bless the soul--where no message of mercy comes to the sinful and the sad.
It is a world unblessed, like this, with the work of redemption. On no
second Calvary is there a Redeemer offered for sin; and from no tomb does He
rise to life to bless the sufferers with the offer, and to furnish the
pledge of heaven. No Spirit strives there to reclaim the lost, and on no
zephyr is the message of mercy borne, whispering peace. No God meets the
desponding there with promises and hopes, and from no eye is the tear of
remorse ever wiped away. There is no such Friend as Jesus; no word of mercy;
no day-star of hope, no father, mother, daughter, pastor, angel to
sympathize; no one to breathe for the lost the prayer for pardon; no great
Intercessor to bear the cry for mercy up to the Throne of God.
It is death--lingering, long, interminable death--the
dying sorrow prolonged from age to age; onward--onward toward eternity--ever
lingering, never-ending! Lamb of God! Savior of sinners! I fly to You! put
me in a cleft of the Rock--hide me in Your pierced side--shelter me beneath
Your shadowing cross--wash me in Your blood, and invest me with Your
righteousness. Bending from Your Throne in glory, throw around me the arms
of Your love, and let me hear Your voice calling me Your child! Then, Lord
Jesus! the first death will have for me no sting, and the second death no
A few DEDUCTIONS from this subject will close the
In anticipation of our departure out of this world,
let its deal more closely with a living Christ than with a coming death.
It is indeed a terrible event of our being--a solemn thing even to die in
the Lord. But faith in Christ can raise us superior to the natural dread and
moral fear of death, enabling us to contemplate our last end with dignity
and composure, yes even with longing and hope. O precious truth! Jesus died
and rose again, that we may "not see death." And when death comes, Jesus
will come with it--yes, will come before it, anticipating its deadly
shaft by the succourings of His grace, by the manifestations of His
presence, and by the unveilings of the blessedness, glory, and song into
which the departing soul is about to enter.
"Then, O believer! grapple with death and you shall get
the first fall; but you shall rise again, and come off victorious at the
last. You must go down to the grave; but though it be your long home,
it shall not be your everlasting home. You will not hear the voice of
your friends there; but you will hear the voice of Christ there. You may be
carried there with mourning; but you shall come up with rejoicing.
Your friends indeed will leave you, but your God will not. What God said
to Jacob concerning his going down into Egypt, He says to you--Fear not
to go down; I will go down with you; and I will surely bring you up again.
O solid comfort! O glorious hope! wherefore comfort yourselves and one
another with these words." (Boston)
"Death, the old Serpent's son!
You had a sting once like your father,
That carried hell and ever-burning fire.
But those black days are done;
Your foolish spite buried your sting,
In the profound and wide
Wound of a Savior's side.
And now you are become a tame and harmless thing--
A thing we dare not fear,
Since we hear
That our triumphant God, to punish thee,
For the affront you did Him on the tree,
Has snatched the keys of hell out of your hand,
And made you stand,
A porter at the gate of Life, your mortal enemy.
O You who are that gate, command that he
May, when we die,
And there fly,
Let us into the courts of heaven through Thee."
But when we contemplate death as the believer's door
from earth to heaven, his passage out of grace into glory, bitter and
devouring as is this foe, we can exclaim, with truth yet more significantly
than Samson, "Out of the eater came forth meat, out of the strong came
Could we catch the voice of the glorified one, over whose
grave we rain our warm tears of grief, would not its utterances be like
these?--"Would you know WHERE I am? I am at home in my Father's house, in
the mansion prepared for me there. I am where I want to be, where I have
long and often desired to be--no longer on a stormy sea, but in a safe and
quiet harbor. My working time is done, I am resting; my sowing time is done,
I am reaping; my joy is as the time of harvest. Would you know HOW it is
with me? I am made perfect in holiness; grace is swallowed up in glory; the
top-stone of the building is brought forth. Would you know WHAT I am doing?
I see God; I see Him as He is, not as through a glass, darkly, but face to
face; and the sight is transforming; it makes me like Him. I am in the sweet
employment of my blessed Redeemer, my Head and Husband, whom my soul loved,
and for whose sake I was willing to part with it all. I am here bathing
myself at the spring-head of heavenly pleasures and joys unutterable; and,
therefore, weep not for me. I am here keeping a perpetual Sabbath; what that
is, judge by your short Sabbaths. I am here singing hallelujahs incessantly
to Him who sits upon the throne; and rest not day or night from praising
Him. Would you know what COMPANY I have? Blessed company, better than the
best on earth--here are holy angels and the spirits of just men made
perfect. I am seated with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of
God, with blessed Paul and Peter, and James and John, and all the saints;
and here I meet with many of my old acquaintance that I fasted and prayed
with, who got here before me. And lastly, would you consider how LONG this
to is continue? It is a garland that never withers; a crown of glory that
fades not away; after millions of millions of ages it will be as fresh as it
is now; and, therefore, weep not for me." (Matthew Henry)
At length the door is opened, and, free from pain and
With joy and gladness on his head, the pilgrim enters in;
The Master bids him welcome, and on the Father's breast,
By loving arms enfolded, the weary is at rest.
The pilgrim staff is left behind--behind the sword, the shield;
The armor, dimmed and dented, on many a hard-fought field;
His now the shining palace, the garden of delight,
The psalm, the robe, the diadem, the glory ever bright.
The blessed angels round him, 'mid heaven's hallowed calm,
With harp and voice are lifting up the triumph of their psalm:
"All glory to the Holy One, the infinite I Am,
Whose grace redeems the fallen! Salvation to the Lamb!"
Another son of Adam's race, through Jesus' loving might,
Has crossed the waste, has reached the goal, has vanquished in the fight;
Hail, brother, hail! we welcome you! join in our sweet accord;
Lift up the burden of our song--Salvation to the Lord!
And now from out the glory, the living cloud of light,
The old familiar faces come beaming on his sight;
The early lost, the ever loved, the friends of long ago,
Companions of his conflicts and pilgrimage below.
They parted here in weakness, and suffering, and gloom;
They meet amid the freshness of heaven's immortal bloom;
Henceforth, in ever-enduring bliss to wander hand in hand,
Beside the living waters of the still and sinless land.
Oh, who can tell the rapture of those to whom 'tis given
Thus to renew the bonds of earth amid the bliss of heaven?
Thrice blessed be His Holy Name, who, for our fallen race,
Has purchased by His bitter pains such plenitude of grace.
In what way the spirits of the glorified are
permitted--if at all--to minister to the saints on earth, is an inquiry
often urged, but never satisfactorily answered. We have no "Thus says the
Lord"--no revealed data--to guide us to a scriptural and rational
conclusion in the matter. That they are employed in a service in Heaven, we
think is perfectly clear; for we are told--"They SERVE Him day and night
in His temple;" but that that service extends to earth we think it would
be difficult to show, since it is hard to suppose that a spirit, not created
like an angel's, could act but by and through material organs. Would not,
too, a supposed service of the blessed saints on earth interfere with the
authorised and revealed ministry of angels? But whether the spirits of just
men made perfect are sent on embassies of mercy and grace to us or not--and
it is not clear that they are--this much we do know, they are not
unconscious of, nor indifferent to, the progress of Christ's kingdom and
truth in the world; "they serve Him." Their sensibilities are all
awake, and their powers all developed, and their time all employed in a way,
doubtless, congenial with their nature, befitting their position, and
glorifying to God. Let us be satisfied with the revealed ministry of angels,
and, above and beyond all, with the higher ministry and presence of Christ,
the Lord of angels, in the fulfillment of His precious and assuring promise,
"Lo! I am with you aways!"
Does the dying eye of a saint of God, poised upon the
wing for eternity, come upon this page? Departing one! fear not the
foe--shrink not from dying--dread not the grave; Christ stands between you
and death. Think of what awaits you! In a few moments of time, the world of
glory and holiness, of love and song will burst upon you--and the first
object that will meet your eye, fix your gaze, and ravish your heart
will be--the glorified form of JESUS, bending upon you the most ineffable
smile, and receiving you with the most loving welcome.
"That blessed interview, how sweet!
To fall transported at His feet,
Raised in His arms to view His face,
Through the full beamings of His grace!"
There are awaiting you millions of cherubim and seraphim,
with harps all tuned to celebrate your arrival--the arches of heaven
resounding with their song. Lining the heavenly shore in advance,
outnumbering and outshining the angel choir, will be the glorified spirits
of patriarchs and prophets, of apostles and martyrs, prepared to receive
their sister spirit home. In front of all will be the loved ones you lost,
but now will have found, the first to hail your advent to that blissful
world, where, clasped in their embrace, death will sunder you no more
forever! O the joyous meeting! O the loving welcome! O the sweet communion!
O the heavenly banquet, and the "new," the ravishing, the never-ending
"song," the HALLELUJAH CHORUS of the skies! Departing one! fix your eye only
upon JESUS--and you "shall not see death."
"There is no death! O blessed Lord are holding
Our last worst enemy in endless chains;
And with Your powerful arm of love enfolding,
My soul fears not his terrors nor his pains.
The dreaded foe has lost his power to sting,
Not death can harm one sheltered by Your wing.
"What though death pierce my flesh?
Your own he wounded, Wounded for me!
Then blessed, blessed pain!
For in my ears, Your glorious word has sounded,
'The dead in Christ shall life eternal gain.'
"With You, dear Lord, I do not fear to die,
'Tis but ascending in You up on high;
To live, to reign with You, to leave You never
To see You, hear You, praise and love forever."
"O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your