EXPLORING CHRISTIANITY - LIFE AFTER DEATH

THE BIBLE
Can we trust a book written 2000 years ago?

EYEWITNESS
Did the writers of the New Testament get their picture of Jesus right?

GOD - MAN
Is Jesus really God?

RESURRECTION
Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

RELIGIONS
With so many religions, why Christianity?

SUFFERING
If there is a God, why is there so much suffering?

TRINITY
Understanding the Trinity.

SCIENCE
The complementary nature of Science & Christianity.

FORGIVENESS
What it is and why it matters?

GUIDANCE
How does God guide?

REPENTANCE
What it is and why you can't get to heaven without it.

BORN AGAIN
What does it mean to be converted and born again?

SAVING FAITH
The kind of faith that will get you to heaven

ASSURANCE
Can I know for sure that I am going to heaven?

TRUTH
What is truth and does it matter?

MORALITY
Does it matter how we live? A Christian view of morality.

THE CHURCH
God's vision for his family, the Church. A call to the churches of the new millennium.

PURPOSE
How can I find a great purpose for living?

IDENTITY
Who am I; Finding my true identity as a human being and as a child of God.

SELF-ESTEEM
How can I feel good about my self? The Christian basis for proper sel-esteem.

LIFE AFTER DEATHChristianity's Hope & Challenge.

THE CROSS
Why did Jesus Die? What the Bible says about the Cross.

Grace
The importance of grace in the New Testament.

 

Stories of Faith

History has provided us with thousands of stories of God’s people down the ages who have faced death with an unshakeable faith and a triumphant spirit. What follows are fifty such stories from the many I have gathered over the years. Though this may seem excessive, they are all stories worth telling and preserving for posterity. Though not proving the existence of life after death they certainly give us ample indications of the truth of the gospel. The power of the gospel often shines brightest at such times. More than that, such stories offer us lots of encouragement to so live our lives that when the end of our existence here comes upon us, and in whatever manner it comes, we may also be ready for our homecoming. The Bible associates concepts such as suffering, a bitter taste, bondage, fear, agony, emnity and corruption with death (Hebrews 2:9, 14, 15; Acts 2:24; 1 Corinthians 15:26, 53, 54). As these stories indicate, Jesus offers us an alternative.

Jesus calls us not only to live well, but also to die well. In fact, our death can even be an act of worship, offering up our lives to God in death as we have in life. Paul regarded it as such. In the Old Testament, when a sacrifice was made, a drink offering or libation of oil or wine might be poured over it. This completed the offering. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says, “Your faith in the Lord and your service are like a sacrifice offered to him. And my own blood may have to be poured out with the sacrifice. If this happens, I will be glad and rejoice with you” (2:17). Esther Popel, in October Prayer wrote:

CHANGE ME, oh God,

Into a tree in autumn.

And let my dying

Be a blaze of glory!

When Charles Simeon, the influential vicar of Trinity Church in Cambridge, was dying, someone bathed his eyes and asked if he was relieved. Opening them and looking up to heaven, he said, “Soon they will behold all the glorified saints and angels around the throne of my God and Saviour, who has loved me unto death, and given Himself for me; then I shall see Him whom, having not seen, I love; in whom, though now I see Him not, yet believing I rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” [1 Peter 1:8]. Then turning his eyes towards his friend, he added, “Of the reality of this I am as sure as if I were there this moment.”

Sometime later, though suffering much, he said, “My principles were not founded on fancies or enthusiasm; there is a reality in them, and I find them sufficient to support me in death.” [24]


The last words of Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher, were, “Oh, wifie, I have had such a blessed time with my Lord.”


When D. L. Moody, the American evangelist, was dying, his son was at his bedside and heard him say in slow and measured words, “Earth recedes: heaven opens before me.” His son’s impulse was to arouse him from what he thought was a dream. “No, this is no dream, Will,” he said. “It is beautiful!…If this is death, it is sweet!…God is calling me and I must go.”

Later he exclaimed, “This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! I have been looking forward to it for years.” Then his face lit up, and he said joyfully, “Dwight! Irene! I see the children’s faces!” referring to his two grandchildren, whom God had taken home within the past year. Again he said later, “This is my coronation day! It’s glorious!” [25]   


Frances Havergal, the well-known blind hymn-writer, died on 3 June, 1879. When her family could see the end was near, her sister Ellen recited Jesus I will Trust Thee, and Frances “clearly but faintly sang the whole verse, to her own tune Hermas. Then she was desperately sick again, and lay back murmuring, “There now it is all over! Blessed rest!”

“And now,” wrote Maria, “she looked up steadfastly as if she saw the Lord…for ten minutes we watched that almost visible meeting with her King, and her countenance was so glad, as if she were already talking to him. Then she tried to sing, but after one sweet high note, ‘He…’ her voice failed, and she passed away. Our precious sister was gone—satisfied, glorified—within the palace of her King!”


George Mueller, the orphanage builder and philanthropist, told of a Boston merchant, Mr Cobb, who declared on his deathbed:

It is a glorious thing to die. I have been active and busy in the world. I have enjoyed as much as anyone. God has prospered me. I have property enough, but how small and mean does this world appear on a sick-bed! Nothing can equal my enjoyment in the near view of heaven. My hope in Christ is worth infinitely more than all other things. The blood of Christ—the blood of Christ—none but Christ! Oh, how thankful I feel that God has provided a way that I, sinful as I am, may look forward with joy to another world, through his dear Son.


The converted slave trader, John Newton, who became a beloved minister of the gospel and encouraged Wilberforce in his fight against the slave trade, whispered as he lay dying, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Saviour.”


That irrepressible Cornish Christian, Billy Bray, came downstairs for the last time on Friday, 22 May 1868. To one of his old friends, who asked a few hours before his death if he had any fear of death, or of being lost, he said, “What! Me fear death! Me lost! Why, my Saviour conquered death. If I were to go down to hell, I would shout ‘Glory, glory to my blessed Jesus’ until I made the bottomless pit ring again, and the miserable old Satan would say, ‘Billy, Billy, this is no place for you: get you back.’ Then up to heaven I should go, shouting ‘Glory! Glory! Praise the Lord!’

A little later he said “Glory!” which was his last word. [26]


Christian missionary Geoffrey Bull was held captive by communists for three years at the time of the Chinese invasion of Tibet. He experienced constant interrogation and threat of execution. Later he wrote: “I pictured in my mind’s eye that last morning as I was led out to die. Should I preach, should I pray or should I sing? I decided I would sing. I went over in my mind some of the songs of Zion and then chose this great chorus, determined that by His grace these would be my last words before I saw Him face to face.

Some golden daybreak Jesus will come;
Some golden daybreak, battles all won,
He’ll shout the victory, break through the blue
Some golden daybreak for me, for you. [27]


A Greek named Aristides, in AD 125 wrote to a friend about the new religion called Christianity: “If any righteous man from among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they escort his body with songs and thanksgivings as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.


“Live in Christ, live in Christ,” said the dying Scottish Reformer, John Knox, “and you need not fear the death of the flesh.”


Those at the bedside of the influential New England preacher Jonathan Edwards, thought he had passed from the realms of consciousness. They began to lament the sad loss to the church, only to be stopped by a memorable final sentence: “Trust in God and you need not fear.”


Richard Williams, medical missionary to Patagonia, wrote as he lay huddled up in the hull of his little boat, dying of scurvy and starvation:

Should anything prevent my ever adding to this, let my beloved ones at home rest assured that I was happy, beyond all expression, the night I wrote these lines, and would not have exchanged situations with any man living. Let them also be assured that my hopes were full and blooming with immortality, that Heaven and Love and Christ, which mean one and the same divine thing, were my soul; that the hope of glory filled my whole heart with joy and gladness; and that to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. [28]


Allen Gardiner was the last of the survivors of the seven missionaries who perished of starvation on Terra del Fuego when their relief ship failed to arrive. His final diary entry read, “Great and marvellous are the loving kindnesses of my gracious God.”


Among my favourite stories of those who have faced martyrdom for their faith in Christ are some about the Scottish Covenanters who were executed between the restoration of Charles II and the accession of William III. I have include several of their stories as typical of saints down the ages who have given their lives for their faith. They are particularly relevant in this twenty-first century when, according to researcher David Barrett, something like 160,000 people are killed annually because of their Christian beliefs. These examples are taken from the book Fair Sunshine by Jock Purves.29

The day before Donald Cargill was executed in 1681, a friend took a written testimony from him in which he wrote:

This is the most joyful day that ever I saw in my pilgrimage on earth. My joy is now begun which I see shall never be interrupted…this day I am to seal with my blood all the truths that ever I preached…

At the foot of the scaffold he declared to the multitude that had gathered:

I am no more terrified at death, nor afraid of hell, because of sin, than if I had never sinned; for all my sins are freely pardoned and washed thoroughly away, through the precious blood and intercession of Jesus Christ…Be not discouraged at the way of Christ and the cause for which I lay down my life, and step into eternity, where my soul shall be as full of Him as it can desire to be.

As he climbed the ladder to the scaffold, he declared: “The Lord knows I go up this ladder with less fear, confusion or perturbation of mind, than ever I entered a pulpit to preach.”

As Hugh Mackail climbed the ladder of the scaffold, he called out, “I care no more to go up this ladder, and over it, than if I were going home to my father’s house.”  Rung by rung he called aloud, “Every step is a degree nearer heaven.” Sitting at the top of the ladder he took out his pocket Bible, and, after addressing the crowds, he read from the last chapter of it. Standing up, the napkin was put over his face; but, lifting it, he declared:

Now I begin my intercourse with God, which shall never be broken off. Farewell, father and mother, friends and relations; farewell, the world and all its delights; farewell meat and drink; farewell, sun moon and stars. Welcome, God and Father; welcome, sweet Lord Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant; welcome, blessed Spirit of grace, and God of all consolation; welcome glory; welcome eternal life; welcome death. O Lord, into your hands I commit my spirit; for you have redeemed my soul, O Lord God of truth.

Archibald Campbell, ninth earl of Argyle, wrote to his daughter-in-law, Lady Sophia Lindsay, on the day of his execution:

What shall I say in this great day of the Lord, wherein in the midst of a cloud, I have found a fair sunshine? I can wish no more for you, but that the Lord may comfort you, and shine upon you as he does upon me, and give you that same sense of his love in staying in the world, as I have in going out of it.

On the morning of his execution, James Guthrie, asked how he was, replied, “Very well. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Before the scaffold Guthrie, who had been offered a bishopric and refused it, declared to the great crowd:

I take God to record upon my soul, I would not exchange this scaffold with the palace and mitre of the greatest prelate in Britain. Blessed be God who has shown mercy to me such a wretch, and has revealed His Son in me, and made me a minister of the everlasting Gospel…Jesus Christ is my Life and my Light, my Righteousness, my strength, and my Salvation and all my desire! O Him, I do with all the strength of my soul commend to you. Bless Him, O my soul, from henceforth even forever. Lord, now let your servant depart in peace for my eyes have seen your salvation.

As James Renwick’s mother and young sisters gathered with him in prison for his final meal and a time of worship, he gave thanks in these words:

O Lord, you have brought me within two hours of eternity, and this is no matter of terror to me, more than if I were to lie down in a bed of roses…O how can I contain this, to be within two hours of the crown of glory.

John Dick wrote to his father during his last hours before his execution: “This night has been one of the pleasantest nights I have had in my lifetime…” Among his last words from the scaffold were:

I am come here this day, and would not change my lot with the greatest in the world. I lay down my life willingly and cheerfully for Christ and His cause, and I heartily forgive all my enemies. I forgive all them who gave me my sentence…and I forgive him who is behind me [the executioner]…Now blessed be the Lord, here is the sacrifice and free-will offering. Farewell all friends.

Colonel Rumbold’s death was a cruel one, but he died saying that if every one of his grey hairs was a life, he would give them all for the Lord Jesus Christ.

James Boig wrote to his brother the day before his execution:

Now I have no time to enlarge, else I would give you a more particular account of God’s goodness and dealing with me; but let this suffice, that I am once fairly on the way, and within view of Immanuel’s Land, and in hopes to be received an inhabitant there within the space of twenty-six hours at most. I have no more spare time. Grace, mercy and peace be with you. Amen. Welcome, cross; welcome, gallows; welcome Christ; welcome, heaven and everlasting happiness.

The merchant, John Wodrow, wrote to his wife from prison on his dying day:

O, my heart, come and see, I beseech you! I thought that I had known something of my dearest Lord before. But never was it so with me as since I came within the walls of this prison. He is without all comparison! O love, love Him! O taste and see! And that shall solve the question best.

Archibald Alison declared at the scaffold:

What think ye of Heaven and Glory that is at the back of the Cross? The hope of this makes me look upon pale death as a lovely messenger to me. I bless the Lord for my lot this day…Friends, give our Lord credit; He is aye good, but O! He is good in a day of trial, and He will be sweet company through the ages of Eternity.


Almost the last thing the great preacher F. B. Meyer did, was to send a postcard in a shaky hand to Lindsay Glegg with the words, “I have raced you to heaven. I am just off—see you there. Love, F. B. Meyer.”The story is told that he asked his doctor how much longer he had to live. The doctor replied, “Just a few more hours, say till four o’clock.” At this Dr Meyer went to sleep and woke later in the afternoon. His first question was, “What is the time, nurse?” “Six o’clock,” she replied. “Tut, tut,” said Meyer, “this will never do. I ought to have gone two hours ago.” 30


Dr Cicely Saunders, a world authority on the care of the dying and founder of the hospice movement, told of a woman called Louie who had had a grim life. She was born with such brittle bones that she had spent all her life in bed. Far from complaining, her sufferings had only deepened her faith in God. On one occasion Dr Saunders, when talking with her about the Christian faith and its relevance to the plight Louie was in, spoke of meeting the Lord at death. “And when it has really happened, what’s the first thing that you will say to him?” she asked. Louie’s reply was instantaneous, “Oh! I’ll say, ‘I know you.’”


When the prominent Anglican clergyman David Watson was dying of cancer, he wrote:

The words “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again” should not be mumbled, but shouted with ringing confidence. It’s the greatest good news that we could ever know on this earth. Whatever may happen, the best is yet to be.


John Paton, pioneer missionary to the New Hebrides, tells in his autobiography how he was challenged by an elderly gentleman who complained that he would be eaten by cannibals:

At last I replied, “Mr Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honouring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” The old gentleman, raising his hands in a deprecating attitude, left the room exclaiming, “After that I have nothing more to say!”


When the brilliant scientist Michael Faraday was dying, someone asked him, “Sir, what are your speculations now?”

Speculation? I have none, thank God. I am not resting my dying soul on guess-work, but on the finished work of Christ. “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that Day” [2 Timothy 1:12].


A Methodist bishop tells how, as a young minister, he was called to the bedside of an elderly woman who was approaching the end of life. He tried to comfort her and muttered something about how sorry he was that she was going to die, when she interrupted him, “God bless you, young man. There’s nothing to be scared about. I’m just going to cross over Jordan in a few hours, and my Father owns the land on both sides of the river.”


When Joseph Addison lay dying, he sent for his stepson, Lord Warwick, a young man who had lived a rebellious life. When he arrived, Addison said to him: “I have sent for you, son, that you may see in what peace a Christian can die.”


Billy Graham told in Decision magazine how Dr W. E. Sangster, England’s great Methodist preacher, wrote to him when he was dying of muscular atrophy:

Billy, all my life I have preached that Jesus Christ is adequate for every crisis. I have but a few days to live, and oh, Billy, Christ is indeed adequate in the hour of death. Tell everyone it is true. Tell them for me that God is wonderfully near his children when they come to the end of life’s road.


On the morning of his death, the Scottish Covenanter Robert Bruce came down to breakfast with his family. Suddenly he called out, “Hold, daughter, hold. My Master is calling me.” He asked for a Bible to be brought and opened at Romans, chapter eight. As his sight was failing, he quoted much of the last part of the chapter till he came to the last two verses, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39). He asked that his finger be placed on those words and said, “God be with you, my children. I have breakfasted with you, and shall sup with my Lord Jesus this night. I die believing these words.” [31]


When the saintly H. S. Laird was dying, his young minister son went to his bedside and asked, “Dad, how do you feel about the whole experience?” He turned his face towards his son and replied, “Son, I feel like a little boy on Christmas Eve.”


After a bad night, the Russian writer Dostoevsky said to his wife, “I must die today. Light a candle, Anya, and give me the gospel.” She handed him a battered New Testament. It had been the only book permitted him during the first three of his four years in a Siberian prison three decades before.

The dying man called his little son, Fyodor, and his daughter, Lyubov, to his side and asked that the parable of the prodigal son be read to them. Anna read the passage from Luke 15, and then Dostoevsky said to them:

 “Children, never forget what you have just heard here. Preserve an unbounded faith in the Lord and never despair of his forgiveness. I love you dearly, but my love is nothing in comparison to the Lord’s infinite love for all men whom he has created.

If ever it should happen that in the course of your life you commit an offence, you must not lose hope in the Lord. You are his children. Humble yourselves before him, as your Father; beg him for forgiveness, and he will rejoice at your repentance, as he rejoiced at the return of the prodigal son.”

That evening he died and his daughter, Aimee, wrote:

I have been present at many deathbeds, but none was so radiant as that of my father. He saw without fear the end approaching. His was a truly Christian death. He was ready to appear before his Eternal Father, hoping that to recompense him for all that he had suffered in this life, God would give him another great work to do, another great task to accomplish.


In his autobiography Then Sings My Soul, American gospel singer George Beverly Shea tells how, when his father fell asleep for the last time, he had a notebook on his lap in which were these words, the last he had written: “Life has been wonderful, the promises of God precious, the eternal hope glorious.”


When he knew that he had only a few hours to live, Mr Gammon, a missionary in New Guinea, said, “I’ll sail in the morning…When I go, set the clock going at Home Sweet Home.” (The clock belonged to his colleague’s wife and played that tune).


Dr Leslie Weatherhead wrote about how, in his pastoral ministry, he sat with a dying man who was conscious to the end. “He gripped my hand and I must have gripped his more tightly than I thought I was doing, for he said, ’Don’t hold me back. I can see through the gates. It’s marvellous.’”


Just before being executed by the Nazis for his faith, Hermann Lange wrote to his parents. The death he had faced for so many months was now imminent. He said, “I am first in a joyous mood. And second filled with great anticipation.” His joy came from “faith in Christ who has preceded us in death. In Him I have put my faith and precisely today I have faith in him more firmly than ever.” After encouraging them to turn to the New Testament for consolation, he said, “Look where you will, everywhere you will find jubilation over the grace that makes us children of God. What can befall a child of God? Of what should I  be afraid? On the contrary, rejoice!” [32]


The distinguished German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, also executed just days before the German surrender, conducted a service for his fellow prisoners before being taken out to his death. His text was “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who in his mercy gave us new birth into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). As the guards removed him, he sent this last message to the Bishop of Chichester, “This is the end— but for me the beginning of life.” [33]


When English cricketer and missionary C. T. Studd died in the heart of Africa, the last word he wrote was “Alleluia!” The last word he spoke was “Alleluia!” The mission sent a cable back to England, “Bwana glorified July 16. Alleluia!” [34]


Jack Armstrong, a member of the Christian organisation Navigators, serving on the Atlanta during World War 2, wrote in a letter, “What a privilege to give our lives for our country! What a hope a Christian has after death—eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ, and loved ones!” Shortly after, in a post-midnight battle off Guadalcanal, he was fatally wounded. As the chaplain sought to minister to him where he fell, both legs shot off, Jack protested, “Don’t bother with me. I know where I’m going,” urging the chaplain to spend time with the unsaved. [35]


Sir David Brewster, inventor of the kaleidoscope, said, as he was dying:

I will see Jesus. I shall see Him as He is. I have had the light for many years. Oh, how bright it is! I feel so safe and satisfied.


Henry Venn, founder of the Anglican Church Missionary Society, retired from being Vicar of Huddelsfield and went to live in Clapham, next to his son John’s rectory in 1796. Samuel Thornton noted in his Recollections: “Old Mr Venn is almost in the last stage. He is like a shock of corn fully ripe and he promises to end his course triumphantly.” By June it was evident that he was dying and when he was told this, the prospect made him so jubilant and high spirited that his doctor said it was his joy at the thought of dying that kept him alive for another fortnight.


A friend visited Augustus Toplady, author of the popular hymn Rock of Ages, just before his death. He felt his pulse and told him that his heart was evidently beating weaker and weaker every day. Toplady replied immediately with the sweetest smile, “Why, that is a good sign to me that death is fast approaching and, blessed be God, I can add that my heart beats every day stronger and stronger for glory.” [36]


Jean Rees tells in His Name was Tom (the biography of her husband, British evangelist Tom Rees), how she was at her father’s bedside when he was dying. She said, “A number of us were present, including the nurses and the doctor, when father looked round and said, ‘If I should meet my Maker tonight, I will say, “I want no other argument, I need no other plea. It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me.”’” Those were his last words.


Poet and editor Luci Shaw told in Decision magazine how, shortly before her father died, he dictated a letter to her to send to all his friends, in which he described “the wonderful coming experience of any moment suddenly being with Christ” as “surely the most interesting and extraordinary event which can ever come to a child of God.” His letter concluded, “Love to you all. Goodbye, or is it not rather, Goodnight?”


Lady Jane Grey was Queen of England for sixteen days. Because she refused to renounce her simple faith in Christ, she was condemned to be executed. On mounting the scaffold she addressed the spectators, “I die as a true Christian woman, and I look to be saved by no other means but only the mercy of God and the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ.” At the close of her address she knelt and repeated the fifty-first Psalm. The executioner knelt and asked her forgiveness, which she willingly granted and said, “I pray you, dispatch me quickly.” Tying a handkerchief around her eyes, she felt for the block and laid her head on it with the words, “Lord, into your hands I commend my spirit.” She was seventeen years old.


A moving story is told in Graham Twelftree’s Drive the Point Home. [37]  A young man, Jimmy Lee Davis, was sentenced to death row for rape and murder. Even his mother wrote to the state governor, “Don’t reprieve him. What he has done is so bad I want my boy to die.” A news magazine from America carried the headline: “I want my son to die,” says mother.

A young Pentecostal man in Melbourne, Australia, read the story. He was moved to write to Jimmy and tell him that Jesus loved him. To his amazement he got a letter back saying, “It’s the most wonderful letter I have ever had in my life. I do wish I could meet you. I just wish I could know Jesus in my life like you do. I’ve made such a mess of it. You have given me hope.”

The young man felt that God wanted him to go to America and visit Jimmy. After prayer and sharing the idea with friends, he raised the money and went. By a series of coincidences he got permission to go into death row twice a week, for four hours a visit, for two months. He took his guitar and they sang choruses, told jokes, laughed and he led Jimmy to Jesus. His last visit was to Jimmy’s baptism.

For two years Jimmy’s faith grew. In one of his letters, he wrote, “There is one thing I’m not going to do. I’m not going to dishonour the gospel by using my conversion to escape the death penalty.” Then one day the young man in Melbourne got a ring from his wife, “Can you come home at once? Jimmy’s just got permission to ring us from prison; he’s being executed tonight.”

He tore home and got through to the prison two hours before Jimmy was due in the gas chamber. But he just broke down and cried on the phone. However, Jimmy at the other end said, “I love you man. Thank you for all that you have done for me. I’ve got to go now. Goodbye. Be seeing you.” And Jimmy hung up.


Colin Chapman, in The Case For Christianity, [38]  quotes Ugandan bishop Festo Kivengere’s account of the 1973 execution by firing squad of three men from his diocese:

As we walked into the centre of the stadium, I was wondering what to say. How do you give the gospel to doomed men who are probably seething with rage?

We approached them from behind, and as they turned to look at us, what a sight! Their faces were all alight with an unmistakable glow and radiance. Before we could say anything, one of them burst out: “Bishop, thank you for coming! I wanted to tell you. The day I was arrested, in my prison cell, I asked the Lord Jesus to come into my heart. He came in and forgave me all my sins! Heaven is now open, and there is nothing between me and my God! Please tell my wife and children that I am going to be with Jesus. Ask them to accept him into their lives as I did.”

The other two men told similar stories, excitedly raising their hands, which rattled with handcuffs.

I felt that what I needed to do was to talk to the soldiers, not to the condemned. So I translated what the men had said into a language the soldiers understood. The military men were standing there with guns cocked and bewilderment on their faces. They were so dumbfounded that they forgot to put the hoods over the men’s faces.

The three men faced the firing squad standing close together. They looked towards the people and began to wave, handcuffs and all. The people waved back. Then shots were fired and they were with Jesus…It was a day never to be forgotten. Though dead, the men spoke loudly to all of the Kigezi District and beyond, so that there was an upsurge of life in Christ, which challenges death and defeats it.

Karla Faye Tucker was sentenced to death in a Texas prison for murder. During her period in prison she had become a Christian and had a positive ministry to other inmates. In an article about the ministry of the prison chaplain Jim Brazzil in Christianity Today by Virginia Stem Owens, [39]  he described how, before her execution, Karla Faye asked to borrow his Bible. He gave it to her while he went to see the warden. When he returned she handed it back without saying anything. Next day, while working on her funeral, he picked up his Bible and flicked it open. There was her message. She had written:

Chaplain/Jim

THANK YOU  for bringing the love & fellowship of Jesus to me as I was preparing to be face to face w/Him. You, my precious brother, are hand-picked of God, because of the compassion in your heart, to minister to those who have to walk this road. May the grace and peace of God continue to cover you in a mighty way all of your days!

I love you in Christ
Your Sister, Karla Faye
Ps. 16:11

Rev. Roger Thompson, one of our retired and much respected Anglican clergymen in Christchurch, New Zealand, told how his grandmother was watching over his grandfather as he was dying. Suddenly he sat up, his face lit up, and he said in an excited voice, “Coming, Jesus.” Then he sank back on his pillow and passed on from this life.

Footnotes

[24] Charles Simeon, by H.C.G. Moule, 1892.

[25] The shorter Life of D.L.Moody, by A. P. Fitt, 1900.

[26] Billy Bray: The King¹s Son, by F. W. Bourne, 1937.

[27] When Iron Gates Yield, by Geoffrey T. Bull, 1957, ©.

[28] The Punctuality of God, by Ian MacPherson.

29 Fair Sunshine, by Jock Purves, published by the Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1968, ©. Contact info@banneroftruth.co.uk Printed by permission.

30 Four Score and More: Some pages from my scrap book, by A. Lindsay Glegg, 1962, ©.

[31] Robert Bruce: Minister in the Kirk of Edinburgh, by D. C. MacNichol.

[32] Dying We Live, by Trevor Huddleston, Collins, London & Glasgow, 1959,©.

[33] Man Alive, by Michael Green.

[34] C. T. Studd, by Norman Grubb , Lutterworth Press, London,1933, ©.

[35] Told in Daws: The Story of Dawson Trotman, Founder of the Navigators, by Betty Lee Skinner, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1974, ©.

[36] Christian Leaders, by J. C. Ryle.

[37] Monarch, Crowborough,1994, ©.

[38] Lion Publishing, Tring, Herts, England, 1981, ©.

[39] May 21, 2001, ©.

 

 

 

 

Foreward

Preface

Part 1: Exploring the territory

Why it matters what we believe

The avoidance of death in our modern world

The reasonableness of life after death

Part 2: The Christian view of life after death

The nature of Christian conversion

Resurrection, not reincarnation

Between death and resurrection

The nature of Heaven

Stories of faith

What about Judgement

The future of unbelievers

A Choice to be made

Appendices

 



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