The Death of the Righteous
For the child of God, death is a glorious event. When the child of God dies, he leaves this world of heartache and sin behind to dwell in the Paradise of God.
This morning, we want to think about the death of the righteous, the death of the child of God. Balaam said to Balak, “Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number one-fourth of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!” (Num 23:10). Why would Balaam want to die the death of the righteous? Scripture outlines several reasons why we would want to die that death. Let’s think about those reasons this morning:
The Death of the Righteous is Fearless
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Ps 23:4).
David says, “Look, when I go through that river of death, I have nothing to fear. I have nothing to fear because God will be with me.” Some of the last words David spoke were at a great assembly of the people of Israel; the people were bringing items to be fashioned into a temple. David broke out in praise and said, “We are aliens and pilgrims before You, as were all our fathers; Our days on earth are as a shadow, And without hope” (1 Chr 29:15). No fear, no trepidation. David simply knew what this life was about, and thus he told the people of Israel.
Just as David did not fear death, we have no reason to fear death. Hebrews 2:14-15. Jesus came, died for our redemption, and rose again. We, therefore, have no reason to fear death. I dare say that if death frightens you there’s something amiss in your life.
Do you fear death? Is there something amiss in your life?
The Death of the Righteous is Precious
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints” (Ps 116:15).
God views death far differently than do we. When a loved one dies, we hurt too deeply for words—even if that loved one dies in Christ, we hurt because we feel so empty and because life will never be the same. God knows that that loved one’s suffering has ended, that he will have joy beyond compare, that he will be able to praise God with unbroken praise.
What if your death were to come today? Would your death be precious to God, or would your death be far less than precious to God?
The Death of the Righteous is Hopeful
“The wicked is banished in the wickedness, But the righteous has a refuge in his death” (Prov 14:32).
The term “refuge,” translated as “hope” in the King James Version, refers literally to a place of refuge. The term was used of taking shelter from a rainstorm or of fleeing to the hills to escape danger.
The righteous have refuge—shelter—in death. We have shelter, for we shall not see hell “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (Jn 11:25-26). This flesh is going to fail and men will carry our body to the grave—but our spirit shall not die.
We have shelter, for we shall return to God. “The dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Eccl 12:7). God gave us our spirits in the first place, and our spirits will return to him, and we shall have shelter there.
The Death of the Righteous is Triumphant
“So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (Lk 16:22).
Lazarus did not just die, but God provided for him—God sent his angels to care for and to provide for Lazarus. God’s angels took Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom, the place called elsewhere in Scripture “Paradise.”
The righteous go to Paradise, where they have bliss beyond compare, as they await the resurrection. To the penitent thief on the cross, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43). “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which his in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Rev 2:7).
“Paradise” is an old Babylonian term that means “beautiful garden”—the term refers to the splendor and beauty of Nebuchadnezzar’s hanging gardens and other such gardens. Paradise must be a beautiful place. The rich man begged to be able to enter that place or at least to have Lazarus go and warn his family to escape Torment and go to Paradise. Remember that Abraham said that Lazarus was comforted in Paradise (Lk 16:25)—all the pain and anguish he endured in life was over, and he had great comfort.
Paradise is waiting. Will you die the death of the righteous and enter Paradise?
The Death of the Righteous is Divine
“If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom 14:8).
Paul knew quite well that both his life and his death belonged to God.
Paul wrote of his longing to go and be with the Lord: “I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Phil 1:23-24). Paul was torn—he wanted to depart this life and dwell with the Lord; yet, he knew that there were things for him to do. The apostle knew that either way his life belonged to God and that if he departed this life that he would dwell with the Lord.
“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). When the righteous leave this world, they go into Jesus’ presence and there they will await the resurrection of the dead.
I love the following stanza of “When We All Get to Heaven:” “Let us then be true and faithful, Trusting serving ev’ry day; Just one glimpse of Him in glory Will the toils of life repay.” I wonder what it’s going to be like to gaze into the face of the Savior who gave his life for me. And, when this life is over, I’ll have that honor of all honors, and I’ll be able to gaze upon Jesus’ face.
The Death of the Righteous is Gain
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21).
Paul said that if he were to die, he would have gain. There are great gains for those who die in Christ.
Those who die in Christ will never sorrow again.
“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). All the pain and sorrow that has been endured on this earth will vanish when the righteous leave this world.
Those who die in Christ have put aside all the labors of this world.
“‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them’” (Rev 14:13). All the toils that we have endured will be ended when we die in Christ, and we will have rest.
An examination of some final words of Christians shows that dying the death of the righteous is gain. One lady said as she was dying, “If this is dying, it is the pleasantest thing imaginable.” A preacher said, “I know I am dying, but my deathbed is a bed of roses. I have no thorns planted upon my dying pillow. Heaven is already begun!” A missionary said, “I am not tired of my work, neither am I tired of the world; yet when Christ calls me home, I shall go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school.”
Are you living the life of the righteous? Will your death be gain?
There is one more thing worthy of mention concerning the death of the righteous: “These all die din faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb 11:13). The righteous die in faith. They put their faith and their confidence in God, not in man.
What death are you going to die? Will you die the death of the righteous? Will you die in faith?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.