Many Christians will say they’re not afraid of death because they know where they are going; however, many admit to being fearful of the process. All of us, at some time, will have to watch or be nearby when a loved one leaves this world for heaven. Will they be afraid at the moment of that last breath? Will darkness engulf them? What exactly happens, at the very instant, when one leaves earth for heaven?
Understanding this is beautifully illustrated for us in Psalm 23. It’s a favorite of many. Let’s delve into it now, and let’s begin with the first three verses: The Lord is my Shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.” These verses describe for us what should be the normal life of every Christian. It’s a joy and comfort to keep the truth in our minds, that whatever we go through while we are living on earth — we have everything we need — because our Shepherd is making certain of that very thing. He leads us to rest when we’re weary from the battles in our lives. He walks with us after temptations and troubles, leading us to peaceful streams that refresh us. He leads us along paths of His choosing; He has a faultless plan for everyone. What lovely illustrations, picturing our Shepherd Jesus, watching over and caring for us, His sheep, whom He loves passionately.
Then we come to verses 4-5 which illustrates the sheep coming to the end of life on earth. “Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and Your staff protect me and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.” What a glorious comfort to know, that not at any time, will our Shepherd Jesus leave us. Because He has promised to never leave us, we know, with gladness, that when our time on earth, or the time of a loved one on earth, comes to an end, the Shepherd’s rod and staff protect and comfort. What does that mean exactly? It means this: Satan will not be pleased with the peace and joy one has in the time of death; therefore, he may attempt to bring dark illusions of a fearful nature, but take heart; those dark illusions will never come to pass because the Shepherd will strike out at the hungry wolves of darkness and send them on their way. The sheep will be fully protected from fear at all times. Most likely, the sheep will not even have been aware that the wolves were fast approaching; such is the Shepherd’s love and protection of those ready to enter heaven. Our Shepherd fights off the wolves so that we may breathe in perfect peace and serenity.
The rest of verse 5 reads, “You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.” At the very second we exhale our last breath on earth, we inhale our first breath in heaven. Then we see what we have thus far only dreamed about: the face of Jesus, a place of no more tears or sadness, loved ones gone on ahead of us, angels worshipping the Lamb of God. The joy will be endless and immeasurable!
Verse 6 beautifully sums up the sheep’s life on earth and the promised life in heaven that will come to every child of God. “Surely goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” What a glorious comfort to be reminded, that during our life on earth, whatever the trouble or calamity, God’s very own goodness and His very own love will pursue us all our days. Then, when that time comes that we are allowed to leave earth for heaven, we are emphatically promised that we will live with Him, in His house, forever! For the Christian, it just can’t get any sweeter, for in that place there will be the joy of complete understanding of what Jesus has done for us; there will be total joy in worshipping the One who gave His all, that we may both, live and die, in perfect peace.