When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
- Genesis 5:21-24
Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”
And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is.
- Deuteronomy 34:1-6
After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.
Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
- Judges 2:6-9
But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.
- Judges 4:21
I chose the first three Scriptures, the final moments in this world of three great men of faith.
Enoch did not die in his sleep, because he did not die. We cannot find his body because Enoch took it with him.
Moses was looking out over the Promised Land when he breathed his last. We cannot find his body because God personally buried him. I would think that God did that to prevent the people of Israel from worshipping Moses’ bones. They seemed to worship everything else, like the snake Moses had fashioned (making the bronze snake – Numbers 21, worshipping it – 2 Kings 18:4).
Then, we know where Joshua was buried.
But the fourth Scripture is the only time the Bible records, to my knowledge, the death of someone who is asleep. Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army, is the one who Jair killed. Of course, you might argue that Eutychus, who fell asleep and then fell from a window during one of Paul’s lengthy sermons, might have died without awakening (Acts 20). The Scriptures do not record a scream and then a thud. Like a friend told me, he did not have an irrational fear of falling, but it was reasonable to fear the sudden stop when the falling was over. You might find this inappropriate humor, but I think Eutychus might be laughing about now.
The other day, I woke up at four o’clock, on the dot. Not that early when the alarm was set for 5:30am. My back hurt from the diaphragm down to the lower back. My chest hurt, a pressure that seemed to crush my chest over the entire rib cage, from the shoulders down to the xiphoid process, that tiny bone at the bottom of the sternum. The crick in my neck had a crick in it. My hamstrings and calves felt like I had just run a marathon. I have actually run the distance of a half-marathon before. My left wrist, oddly, hardly had half its usual pain. My head was hurting. My eyes could not focus. I would not know what time it was except for the large numbers on my watch, “4:00.”
I stared at the ceiling and said, “So, is this what dying in your sleep feels like? I thought you simply died and felt nothing, but no-o-o-o-o, you have to wake up first because of the pain.”
A Voice said, “You’re not dying. Not yet.”
I said, “Thanks for letting me know.” I rolled over and tried to sleep with no success. I then got out of bed and took a few ibuprofen tablets. Do not ask me how many. My eyes could not focus. I simply could not sleep with practically everything in my body screaming in pain.
For most people of a certain age, the pain that you have when you wake up lessens, in many cases, after you get vertical and start moving. By six o’clock that morning, I was not pain free by anyone’s measure, but I was my normal self again. Maybe the medicine had kicked in. Or maybe God had gotten my attention.
But that conversation in the dead of night stuck with me.
We, the living, comfort ourselves when a loved one dies in their sleep. We say that they died “peacefully.” But is the peaceful look on their faces, when the body is discovered, the gift from God to a faithful follower? They see, just before their final breathe, the gates of Heaven opening and Jesus beckoning? For a true believer, that would be irresistible.
But for the five minutes prior to that vision, could they have been in unbelievable pain, and enduring that pain all alone?
No, forget I said that. There are some questions that should not be asked. For us, the living, we need the hope found in an old expression, like “He/she dies peacefully in their sleep.”
As I have conversed with many over the subject, I do not fear death, but I am not looking forward to the pain leading up to death. Call me a wimp, but that is not among the items on my bucket list.
But it is a great idea to be prepared and to leave no regrets behind. C. S. Lewis wrote that he would not mind if he learned that his theology was off in one way or another, found to be a fool, of sorts, but it would be painful if he knew that he had not responded to someone in need.
We need to live our lives as if this day is our last. We are not guaranteed another.
Will you show someone else God’s love today?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
Wow. That pain you had this morning sounds horrific. I’m sorry you went through that. Glad you did not die yet, though. 🙂
I had a near death experience in my sleep, when I was 39 years old. For several weeks leading up to this, I kept feeling something like a recurring muscle spasm in the left center part of my chest. Because I was relatively young and healthy, I did not bother to see a doctor. I believed it was just a twitchy chest muscle, certainly not my heart.
Then I had the near death experience. I was in a deep, dreamless sleep, when I suddenly awoke to find myself out of my body. This experience was not at all dreamlike. On the contrary, this seemed more real than anything I have ever experienced in my life.
I felt overwhelming joy, peace, and love, radiating all around me and through me. I knew that I was dead, even though I felt more alive than I had ever been before. I remember thinking: “Wow, this is what it’s like to die? This is what everybody is afraid of all their lives? Death is WONDERFUL! And now I don’t have anything to be afraid of anymore!”
I was in a kind of tunnel or hallway between this world and heaven. Although I was an agnostic at that time, I had the very strong sense that I was going home. I couldn’t wait to get there!
Then, a wordless message was given to me, telling me that my life on earth was not finished. Even so, I was given a choice. I reluctantly chose to return.
When my spirit returned to my lifeless body, my body jumped like it had been electrocuted. My pulse was very erratic. I went to a doctor and, long story short, after a myriad number of tests, a cardiologist diagnosed me with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Twenty-nine years later, I am still here, and my heart has since healed. I haven’t had to take a beta blocker or use nitroglycerin tablets for something like twenty years. But some day I know I will leave this body and go home forever. Especially now that I am no longer agnostic!
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Thank you for that story. I think my chest pain is from GERD. Since this happened, a week ago actually, I have seen my cardiologist and he agrees. I sleep half sitting up and the chest pains are either non-existent or minimal, after awaking three nights in a row after lying down for six hours. But even people with perfect EKGs can kick the bucket.
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I’m glad that you’ve seen a cardiologist and especially glad that your heart checked out good. When my doctor sent me for an EKG after my near death experience, the guy who gave me the test had a look on his face like I was probably wasting his time, because I sure didn’t look like someone with a heart problem. But he stopped the test very quickly and said: “It’s not safe for you to do any more on this treadmill. I’m sending you to a cardiologist. Today is Friday and it’s too late in the day to get you an appointment, so the soonest I can get you in will be sometime on Monday. I will call you and let you know, when and where the appointment will be. In the meantime, you need to be very careful. Don’t walk fast, don’t go up any stairs, don’t lift anything over five pounds…” Apparently, my EKG was a bad one. But now, my EKGs are always fine. Still, like you said, even people with perfect EKGs can kick the bucket.
By the way, that book on Alzheimer’s prevention and reversal that I told you about? I’ve looked into it a little more and I am not so impressed. 😦
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The neurologist has reversed his idea, and thinks my wife’s dementia-like experience is due to poor sleep and stress. With kidney failure and the constant trips to doctors, the stress is unavoidable, but we are seeing our PCP today and maybe we can address the sleep, yet again.
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