Suffering and related concepts often prompt us to think of death, and this is because much of the pain we see around us is related to illnesses that bring human life to an end. Hardly any day goes by when we do not see or read of a suffering person passing from physical life into death. Consequently, the Bible, because it is God’s Word for all of life, has much to say about death, the final event of our earthly lives.
Without a doubt, all people will experience physical death — unless they are walking the earth at the moment when Christ returns to consummate the kingdom (1 Cor. 15:50–57). Thus, the focus in Scripture is not on the question of whether we will die but rather how we will die. In discussing this issue, the Bible tells us that we die in one of only two ways: in faith or in our sins. Dying in our sins will result in eternal conscious punishment, in our being counted among the goats that do not get to enjoy the benefits of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 25:31–46). According to the biblical imagery of judgment, goats represent those who never truly placed their faith in Christ alone before their death (John 8:24). Without a living and persevering faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is impossible to enter the glories of life eternal when we die (Matt. 25:41–46; James 2:14–26).
Eternal life, on the other hand, is the reward of all those who die in faith. Death for the believer is not the end but only the beginning of a new, glorious existence — one in which we enjoy face-to-face communion with the Lord forever. Everyone who trusts in Jesus alone for salvation belongs to His flock of sheep. They get to enjoy the bliss of living in God’s blessed presence (Matt. 25:31–40). Today’s passage leaves us without any doubt that God is not ashamed to be the Lord of those who trust Him (Heb. 11:13–16). As we place our hope in Him, we can be sure that our suffering will one day end and that our earthly labor will be rewarded.
Persevering faith is the type of faith required for salvation. It is easy to have a fleeting and false trust in the Lord when things are going well for us. Authentic faith, however, endures even in the most difficult circumstances of life, moving us to trust God even when we are at our wits’ end (Matt. 13:18–23; Heb. 11).
Do you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ as one of His sheep, or are you counted among the goats who serve another master? If you trust in Jesus alone, then you can be sure that He will receive you into the bliss of His eternal kingdom at your death. But if you do not believe in Christ, your reward will be eternal destruction. Today may be the last opportunity you have to trust Jesus, so do not delay in bowing to Him as Lord.