Bruce Collins, Evangelist

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Meditation for the week of November 30, 2008

2Timothy 4:8
Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

My neighbor came over the other day and welcomed me to the “stent club”. While I had a stent put in before having a heart attack, he had his own story to tell about having been on a motorcycle when neck pain sent him to an emergency room with a heart attack. Before he got his stents, he went into cardiac arrest and saw the “white light” and the tunnel that so many people report when they have a near death experience. He said he is no longer afraid to die.

Most Christians that I talk to tend to dismiss near death experiences as not being Biblical. Some have told me that the Bible says that it is appointed unto men once to die (Hebrews 9:27) and that we don’t die twice physically. The problem with that statement is that those like Lazarus who died and were raised from the dead in the Bible, all died again. So they died twice. So Hebrews 9:27 must be a general principle, but I don’t think it denies the possibility that some people die more than once.

I believe that the statement Paul makes in 1 Timothy 4:8 might actually support the idea of Christians seeing the white light at the end of a tunnel when they die. Since the Lord is light, I have wondered if they don’t see Him manifested that way as they go from time to eternity. The appearing that Paul refers to in our verse is an epiphany or the outshining of light reflecting the glory and beauty of Christ. Paul talks three times of “that day” in this epistle. Once it is with regard to his confidence in the Lord (2 Timothy 1:12) and once it is in connection with the need for mercy for Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:18) and lastly it is in connection with the appearing of the Lord. What day would be on Paul’s mind? Since he knows that his execution date is near (2 Timothy 4:6), it would seem likely that Paul was thinking of that day. Some say this is the judgment seat of Christ but if it is, then the judgment seat of Christ where Christians are rewarded for their faithfulness must occur when we die. And why would Onesiphorus need mercy at the judgment seat of Christ? Paul likely was hoping that the Lord would be merciful to his friend who may very well have been facing the same fate as Paul. I think Paul was hoping that his friend too would be delivered from the lions just as Paul was (2 Timothy 4:17) and that his execution would be merciful.

Now if I am right, then it makes sense that at the moment of death the Lord appears or is manifested to us in His outshining glory to meet us as we go from this side to the other side. David said in Psalm 23 that the Lord is with us when we go through the valley of the shadow of death. Paul has told us in Philippians 1:23 that when we depart we go to be “with Christ”. I would like to believe that the first thing Paul expected to see after the executioner had taken his physical life was the Lord in his glory which involves brilliant light. The Lord is the light of the world (John 8:12) and He dwells in light (1 Timothy 6:16) and He clothes Himself with light (Psalm 104:2).

There is one difficulty however. Many of the people that tell me that they have seen the light and are not afraid to die are people that go to churches where the Gospel is not normally clearly presented. So there must be those who are saved in those churches. I wonder if those of us who go to churches where the Gospel is clearly presented will all see the Lord as light and love when we die. I have heard of some who have not only not seen the light but have had visions of the torments of hell due to a near death experience. One man that I know came to trust in the Lord because of what he experienced. Since we know of more who remember a pleasant experiences during their near death experiences than those who have had terrifying experiences, some have concluded that the mind blocks out things that are traumatic. All I know is that I fully expect to see the Lord when I die. When I do, I have His Word for the fact that I will be meeting the Lord Who loves me and I will be meeting One who will know me by name (1 Timothy 2:19). It will be a most pleasant experience.

Bruce Collins

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