Note: The following paragraphs are excerpts from “Hope in the Face of Death” by Jeremy Marshall and published by Banner of Truth magazine, issue 687, December 2020. Jeremy Marshall has written this article to encourage and teach believers about the great evangelism opportunity we have in light of death and COVID-19.
The writer Blaise Pascal said, “Let us imagine a number of men in chains and all condemned to death, where some are killed each day in the sight of the others, and those who remain see their own fate in that of their fellows and wait their turn, looking at each other sorrowfully and without hope. It is an image of the condition of man”
For the Christian, though, the picture is completely different. Pascal again: “Reflect on death as in Jesus Christ, not as without Jesus Christ. Without Jesus Christ it is dreadful, it is alarming, it is the terror of nature. In Jesus Christ it is fair and lovely, it is good and holy, it is the joy of saints.”
This sharp discrepancy between the Christian and the non–Christian has, I suggest, been brought into sharp relief by the advent of Coronavirus. I believe (of course) that this was ordained by God and that one of the reasons was to give us a huge “helping hand” for our evangelism.
The Christian’s hope and confidence when confronted with death is… In my experience, intriguing and appealing to our non-Christian friends.
One of the key questions is how we can follow up on that initial interest in hope in the face of death? We need to use the word of God (which is of course where the power lies to bring people to repentance and faith). One way I have found is to invite my [non-Christian] friends to read one of the gospels with me, I suggest using a gospel plus explanatory notes such as “The Word 121” which uses John.
I guarantee you will find that the Word, available in such an accessible format, grips people, because it is designed by God to be gripping, because most people have not the simplest idea of what is in the Bible and because Jesus’ has power over death is so obvious. I had a friend who could hardly contain himself as we read The Story of Lazarus–”so what happens? Does he come back?” Even the most basic fact of all–that Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead – is a surprise to many, as a friend of mine was staggered to discover when chatting recently with his work colleagues.
When we talk of death you must not be opportunistic or harsh with our fearful and suffering [non-Christian] friends but full of compassion and kindness, as indeed the Lord Jesus was with the sorrowful and grieving of his day. If we point them to Him, who holds the keys of death and hell, we will also be doing something else vital – warning them of the second death – eternal separation from God. For those staring death in the face, we might ask them kindly, “Do you mind if I pray for you?” and “Could I read you the Psalm?” How wonderful are the words of Psalm 23 which I love to quote: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” The presence of God in the face of death is, I have found, an amazingly attractive offer. Never has there been such a God-given time to make that offer.”
As Charles Spurgeon said, “When the pangs shoot through our body, and gastly death appears in view, people see the patience of the dying Christian. Our infirmities become the black velvet on which the diamond of God’s love glitters all the more brightly.”
Author: Jeremy Marshall