Christopher Hitchens, the Mission of Desiring God, and God's Word About Death

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Three things came together in the last thirty-six hours to create this post. The death of Christopher Hitchens, the Desiring God Board meeting Thursday, and the word of God.

  1. Christopher Hitchens died Thursday night. He was, perhaps, the most aggressive of the “new atheists.” I am sobered and made quiet by the probability (though we do not know his final hours) that he is in torment today awaiting his final judgment and the lake of fire.
  2. Also on Thursday the Desiring God Board clarified and refined the Ultimate Goal, the Mission, and the Core Strategy of Desiring God. The Mission of Desiring God is to help people everywhere understand and embrace the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
  3. Pondering these two events in connection to God’s word I asked myself: How shall we be satisfied in God in the face of, and the hour of, our death?

There are more answers than we can give here. But here are some. I can be satisfied in God at the moment of my death. . . .

Because the sting of death is removed by the work of Christ.

O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55–57)

He satisfied the law’s demand for my perfection and for my punishment. I may  weep, but not because of the sting.

Because Jesus stands to greet us.

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. . . . And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:55–60)

The satisfaction in Christ can be so deep that all revenge vanishes.

Because death is the last great occasion in this life for glorifying God

Jesus said to Peter: Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God. (John 21:18–19)

Death is not after a life of glorifying God. It is our last supremely meaningful, God-glorifying assignment.

Because the Spirit of glory and of God will rest on us in our final crisis.

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:14)

I have often feared that my present faith would be inadequate for a time of torture. But I infer from this verse a precious truth: God comes to his own in the hour of final trial and rests on them with the Spirit and the glory so that we are able to endure.

Because the hairs of your head are all numbered and you out-value the unforgotten birds.

I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:4–7)

Fear God, not death. For in the fear of God, there is nothing to fear. Fear not what displeasing man will mean, but fear what failing to trust God will mean.

Because in death not a hair of your head will perish.

Some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. (Luke 21:17–18)

Even if beheaded, not a hair will be lost. We are held in his hands and raised more whole than when we fell asleep.

Because you have passed from death to life and will not come into judgment.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)

As we die we say: I am not going to judgment. My judgment happened 2,000 years ago. I am going home.

Because Jesus is the resurrection and you never die.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25–26)

There is a sense in which we die. But most essentially, most personally, we simply do not die. There is no millisecond in which our fellowship with God is broken.

Because death will not separate you from the love of God.

I am sure that neither death nor life . . . nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romams 8:38–39)

We are inseparable from God’s love for reasons more solid than the pillars of the universe. That is the point of Romans 8:29–39

Because to die is gain — it is to be with Christ more fully and more intimately.

To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Philippians 1:21–23)

More of Christ is superior treasure than all that we leave behind.

Because Jesus is the Lord of the dead and the living.

To this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” (Romans 14:7–9)

Not the Lord of the living only. But of the dead. Which means the dead are not dead. For God cannot be the God of the dead (Matthew 22:32).