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.