Preparing to Die Well – Lesson 2
The Christian’s View of God and Man
What it Means to “Die Well”
Archibald Alexander’s said, “We have arrived now at a very solemn part of our subject. The writer feels that it is so to himself, as he knows that he must soon be called to travel the road which leads to the narrow house appointed for all living. If after having gone through this scene, he were permitted to return and finish these papers on Religious Experience, by narrating what the soul suffers in passing the gate of death, and more especially what are its views and feelings the moment after death—he would be able to give information which at present no mortal can communicate.”
The Christian’s View of Life
In today’s lesson, we’ll look at our view of life through our personal relationship with God and His Son.
1. God created us in His own image 2. God created us for a purpose 3. God created us to live forever 4. God sustains us and preserves us 5. God will glorify us when we die
God Created Us in His Own Image
How is man made in God’s image?
27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
19 ... Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.
Before we can know what “in His own image” means, we must know what “His own image” is.
Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 4
Q. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
Being made in God’s image means, in part, that He has given each of us some finite, temporal, and variable degree of His own divine attributes.
Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 10
Q. How did God create man?
A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.
Part of God’s infinite wisdom and truth produce our knowledge. Part of His eternal holiness and justice produce our righteousness and holiness. And part of His unchangeable being, power and goodness produce our dominion over the creatures.
Even the Fruit of the Spirit that is given to every Christian represents a degree of God’s own divine attributes. He does not, and indeed cannot, give us what He does not have within Himself.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control;
God Created Us for a Purpose
What is our purpose in this lifetime?
Our shorter catechism teaches us that our primary, indeed our only, purpose in life is to glorify and enjoy God forever. This is not only a privilege that we have while we’re alive, but it’s also a privilege that we’ll have in heaven for eternity. It’s also a command to glorify Him and enjoy Him while we’re alive.
Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 1
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Scripture tells us that all things are for Christ’s glory, and everything that we do we should be for His glory. We ought to thank God with all our heart and glorify His name forever. We ought to rejoice in Him always.
36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 10:31
31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
12 I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And will glorify Your name forever.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
God Created Us to Live Forever
How does Scripture teach us that we will live forever?
When God created man in the Garden, He intended man to live forever. Man lost that in the Fall. But that yearning for eternal life remains in the hearts and souls of believers. Scripture abounds with God’s promises of eternal life for us who believe in Christ.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 John 2:25
25 This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
We are all united deeply both spiritually and physically to one another. We are a united spiritually as a family, just as much so, if not more than, our own blood relatives. We are united physically as a church body of believers in a common faith. Consequently, when a loved one dies, we feel their loss just as if some part of us has been ripped off or torn away. That is why losing someone close hurts so much and for so long.
God Sustains Us and Preserves Us
How does God sustain and preserve the world?
God not only made the world, but through His Son Jesus Christ, He also upholds the world and everything in it, including us, through His Providence.
Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 11
Q. What are God’s works of providence?
A. God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
2 in these last days He [the Father] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3 And He [Christ] is the radiance of His [the Father’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power...
How does God sustain and preserve us during our lifetime?
God has sustained us from birth. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and we are known and loved long before we are born.
6 By You I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; My praise is continually of You.
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
After the Fall, God’s image in us was tarnished, but it was not destroyed. We, whom God has given to His Son Jesus Christ, are being transformed back into His image one degree of glory at a time.
29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
2 Corinthians 3:18
18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
This transformation process from fallen sinners to image-bearers of Christ is what we call sanctification.
God Will Glorify Us when We Die
How will God glorify believers when we die?
Immediately after death, God will perfect our sanctification and will conform us to Christ’s image. Our souls will pass into Heaven and our bodies will rest in the grave until the last day. Then our bodies will be resurrected and made imperishable and immortal before they are reunited with our souls.
Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 37
Q. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A. The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united in Christ, do rest in their graves, till the resurrection.
30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
1 Corinthians 15:52-53
52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
An Example of Dying Well
Alexander relates the following story about a lady to whom he was pastor. It is told over several pages in his book, and so I have tried to shorten it.
Another lady I had often observed passing along her way—humble, gentle, silent—evidently not seeking to be conspicuous, but rather to remain unnoticed and unknown. She had a few chosen female friends with whom she freely communicated, for her heart was affectionate and her disposition sociable. To these she poured out her inmost soul and received from them a similar return. She was crushed under an habitual feeling of domestic affliction... The conduct of an imprudent father weighed heavily on her spirits, but towards him ... she was assiduously respectful; and while he made himself the laughingstock of his acquaintances, she endeavored to make his home comfortable... [It became] evident that her health was slowly giving way... But she never complained and seemed rather to become more cheerful... At length, however, her strength failed, and she was obliged to confine herself to the house, and before long to her bed...
... I was accompanied to the house by one of her intimate friends... I [had believed] that from her habitual reserve and silence, she would be embarrassed in her feelings and reserved in her communications—but I was happily disappointed. She received me with an affectionate smile and a cordial shake of the hand and said that she was pleased that I had thought it worth my while to come and see a poor dying woman... [She spoke] in the sweetest manner on the divine excellencies of the Savior, not as one who was speaking what she had learned from others, or from the mere exertion of her own intellect—but as one who felt in the heart every word which she uttered. There was a gentleness, a suavity, and a meek humility expressed in every tone of her voice, and the same was depicted on every lineament of her countenance. Though, when in health, she was never reckoned beautiful, yet there was now in her countenance, animated with hope and love and pious joy—or rather peace—a beauty of countenance which I never saw equaled. It was what may without impropriety be called spiritual beauty...
... The mind of this young lady possessed a uniform serenity, undisturbed with fears, doubts, or cares. Everything seemed right to her submissive temper. It was enough that her heavenly Father appointed it to be so. For many weeks she lay in this state of perfect tranquility, as it were in the suburbs of heaven, and I believe no one ever heard a complaint from her lips. Even that grief which had preyed on her health, when she was able to go about, had now ceased to cause her pain. Hers was, in my apprehension, the nearest approximation to complete happiness which I ever saw upon earth; yet there was no violence of feeling, no agitation, no rapture. It was that kind of happiness which, from its gentleness and calmness, is capable of continuance.
... And, although forty-five years have passed since this scene was witnessed, the impression on my mind is distinct and vivid. The indescribable countenance, calm but animated, pale with disease but lighted up with an unearthly smile; the sweet and affectionate tones of voice; the patient, submissive, cheerful, grateful temper—are all remembered with a vividness and permanence with which I remember nothing of recent occurrence...