I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. —2 TIMOTHY 4:7
I’m dying! The doctor told me so, and, unless I was so sedated as to misunderstand him, I heard him tell my wife and daughter to take me home from the hospital and prepare for my imminent death. He assured them there was nothing they could do for me. My cancer had won the battle.
By the time you read this, I will probably be dead. But, of course, three years ago I was given only three months to live, and I’m still here, so, when you read this, maybe I will still be learning to die with grace.
Have you just learned that you are terminally ill? I know what that feels like. Do you have a loved one who has only a short time to live, and you don’t know what to do? If so, I can show you the way. Are you a pastor who is grappling with how to minister to the ill or to comfort the grieving or even to prepare your congregation—no matter what age—for heaven? If so, I have been teaching and writing for seventy years—and I now have intimate, firsthand knowledge on the subject of dying, so let me show you the way.
If you don’t know how to cope with death, it’s no surprise. Our culture won’t deal with death. One hundred years ago people were free to discuss death. Even the literature of that day dealt with the subject of death so often that it was often morbid. But those Victorians would not talk about sex. Today, nearly everyone talks about sex, but no one talks about death.
Death is inevitable. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). But even in the church, few teach on it.
When was the last time you heard a sermon on heaven? Or hell? Or death? But I know you have heard lots of sermons on grace…on believing in yourself…and on how God wants you to prosper. None of that will do you any good in the hereafter.
For the last seventy years I have been preaching—first as a boy preacher in the Great Depression and later as a pastor and traveling minister in the Charismatic community. I have taught on praise, prayer, God’s Word, marriage, and many other topics. Now, on my deathbed, I want to leave a legacy so you and your loved ones can be guided step by step through the process and so you will understand what to expect on the other side.
I want to offer people a sense of value in passing into death. I want to help them to remove the fear so often attached to our thinking when it comes to death, and replace it with a response of joy. It should be a joyful occasion when a Christian dies—not a time for weeping and wailing.
People like Bill Bright, Derek Prince, Fuchsia Pickett—and, shortly, myself—receive a glorious promotion into the very presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. The funeral of a Christian is a day of victory, a time to gather around the casket and rejoice. I want the words people say as they stand before my casket to be, “Judson finally has made it into the presence of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” I want them to rejoice, to celebrate my arrival into the eternal presence of God.
I want the people who read this book to recognize that they have an appointment with death—an appointment that cannot be canceled by anything they could do or say. But that appointment is not something they should fear; it is something that could fill their hearts with joy. That’s my goal for writing this book—to make death a victorious experience.
The day I settled comfortably into my bed at home after arriving home from the hospital “to die,” Paul’s closing words as he came to the end of his appointed time on this earth came to my mind: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). During my more than seventy years of ministry I have used this Scripture passage for funeral discourses to honor servants of God whose course was finished. Now I visualize it being used at my own funeral. It was a comforting thought as I tried to accept the death sentence I had just received that day, and it comforts me still.
When my long-time assistant Terri Gargas was asked to say what she had observed about the dying process in me, she responded: “It’s been different with Judson, because all the time he’s been dying, he’s been keeping the joy of the Lord. He is dying with grace, and he does it with joy.” My prayer is that after reading this book, that same experience will be yours when God comes to escort you to your heavenly home.
You see, I believe that just as He gives us a grace to live, God gives us a grace to die. Dying is a part of living. It is the finality. It gets us out of this life on earth so that we can enter our eternal life in heaven. Death is not a cessation of life—it is merely a stepping into the next realm, into the divine, heavenly realm, and God will give me—and you—grace to take each step from this life to eternal life.
Great reward is promised to those who love His appearing.
There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which
the Lord, the righteous Judge,
will award to…all who have loved His appearing. —2 TIMOTHY 4:8, NAS