We have arrived at the last valley of the Christian life. The great mountain of God’s eternal glory lies ahead, but the path that leads there runs through the shadowy valley of death. One day you will walk through this valley, and when you do, Christ will be with you.
When Jesus died, He changed the nature of death for every believer. We still have to walk through the valley, but death has no power over those who belong to Jesus.
The book of Hebrews explains what happened when Jesus died and how your death will be different as a result: “He suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).
Jesus was in great agony of soul as He prepared to face death. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow,” He said in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:38). Overwhelmed!
Nothing else had overwhelmed Jesus. But as He anticipated His death, He said, “Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (Matthew 26:39). The prospect of what He was about to experience filled Him with consternation. When you know what was in that cup, you will understand why He was appalled at the thought of drinking it.
The Bible speaks about death in two dimensions. The first, physical death, is familiar to us all. But there is also “the second death” (Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8). This is the judgment of God that will be poured out on the Last Day.
Jesus experienced both the first death and the second death simultaneously. Wicked men nailed Him to a cross, where life drained from His body. At the same time, God laid our sins on Jesus and poured out the judgment that was due to us on Him. So when we read that by the grace of God He tasted death for everyone, it means He tasted both dimensions of death together (Hebrews 2:9).
Our Savior faced death as nobody else before or since has faced it. He endured death in both dimensions at the same time. And if facing that double death was so horrendous to Jesus in prospect, what must it have been like in reality?
Christian believers will never taste the second death. Christ endured it for us and drew its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55). Death is still a dark valley, but its nature has been changed for every believer. That’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death” (John 8:51). Christians face death without the sting. Your death will not mean separation from the Father but entrance into His presence.
While many people die peacefully, some endure a great struggle. The prospect of dying can be frightening even for a person who is sure of his or her eternal destiny. So it is helpful to think about what will happen when you come to that moment of departure from this life.
The Gospels record an occasion when Jesus came to the disciples who were in a boat on the lake. Late at night, Jesus went out to meet them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw Him, they thought He was a ghost, and they were terrified. But Jesus spoke to them. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Mark 6:50).
That’s a great picture of what happens for the believer at the moment of death. Some Christians die peacefully and seem to have a strong sense of heaven being opened. Others die with a great struggle and, like the disciples, experience great fear. Either way, Jesus is coming to take them home.
The Bible gives us another wonderful picture of what death will be like for the believer. Viewed from this side of the valley, it is Christ coming to take us home, but viewed from heaven, it will be the moment of arrival.
When you arrive in heaven, Jesus will stand beside you and present you to the Father (Hebrews 2:13). He has promised that if you confess Him before men, He will confess you before His Father in heaven (Matthew 10:32). Christ will gladly identify Himself with all His people. Before the Father He will say, “Here am I, and the children [you have] given me” (Hebrews 2:13).
On that day, Christ’s word will be the one thing that matters. He will confess you before the Father, and He will usher you into the joy of everlasting life. This is His promise, so what is there to fear?
For the Christian believer, death is a passage into the immediate and conscious presence of Jesus. This gift is ours because Christ endured the second death for us. He drew the sting of death and changed its nature for all His people.
The experience of dying may be frightening, but Christ will walk with you through it, and He will bring you home. The Christian can say with assurance, “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” (Psalm 23:4 ESV).
On the other side of the valley lies the great summit that is the destination of our journey. Its glory is beyond anything we have seen or can comprehend. But God has given us a glimpse of what’s in store, and it is to that ultimate vision that we now turn.
5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him?
7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.
9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying,
“I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.”
And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
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