30 “Therefore, I will judge you, O house of Israel, each one according to his ways,” declares the Lord God. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, then sin will not be a stumbling block to you. 31 Cast away from you all your transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I take no delight in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “So repent and live!”
To be prepared for death, we need to be in a right relationship with the Lord, our Judge. He says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all have sinned and come short of God's glorious perfection. None of us is perfect. We know this. Our conscience tells us we are guilty of sins. Some sins we remember. Many, however, we do not remember. Others we never recognized as sins when we committed them. The Lord, however, knows them all. He knows everything about us and all that we have done. Psalm 139: 1 & 3 makes this very clear. The verses state: “O Lord, you have searched me and known me. . . You thoroughly examine my pathway and my lying down, And you are very well acquainted with all my ways.”
The penalty we must pay for our sins is death. The Lord pronounced this punishment in Genesis 2:16, 17 when he warned Adam: “You may surely eat from every tree of the garden; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it, you will surely die.” He tells us today in Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death.” He further declares in Ezekiel 18:4: “The soul who sins will die.” Being sinners, we must die. Our soul will be separated from our body, causing it to die and to return to dust. Upon our death our soul will be subject to eternal death, the everlasting torments of hell.
Unless Christ returns in his glory first, we will die. The Lord, however, does not want us to suffer the second death of the damned, being separated from him forever in the torments of hell. He therefore urges us in Ezekiel 18:30-32: “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, then sin will not be a stumbling block to you. Cast away from you all your transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no delight in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “So repent and live!” In Isaiah 55:6 he invites us to turn to him while we have the time to do so, saying: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” In Psalm 32:6 he tells us: “Therefore, let everyone who is pious pray to you at this time when you may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.” When God's judgment has begun to come down upon us and after we die, it is too late for us to repent of our sins and have God hear our prayers. While we are still living and the Lord is merciful and forgiving is the time for us to turn from our sins and pray to him, so we may have eternal life with him in heaven.
Grieved by the knowledge of our sins with the desire to sin no more, we will confess them to the Lord in prayer. We should not be afraid to confess them to him. He knows all about them, even without our telling him. Those sins we know and feel in our heart we will specifically confess to him. Those sins we have forgotten or were never aware of we can also confess to him by praying what David wrote in Psalm 19:12: “Who can discern his errors? Pardon my sins of ignorance.” Having confessed our sins, we will pray to God like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable did in Luke 18:13: “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” We will plead also in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
We can then die in peace, confident that what Jesus declared in Luke 18:14 about the tax collector is also true of us: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified.” Our merciful God assures us in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous -- he forgives our sins and purifies us from all unrighteousness.” God forgives our sins because Jesus, our Savior, atoned for them on the cross. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace,” as Ephesians 1:7 states. 1 John 2:1, 2 further states: “My little children, I write these things so that you may not sin. And if anyone should sin, we have one who pleads our case with the Father Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. And he is the reconciling sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world.” Having our sins washed away in the redeeming blood of Christ Jesus, our Savior, we can die blamelessly as ones prepared for death.
To avoid further blame, however, we must be ready to leave this world and everything we have in it. We dare not go to our deaths loving the world and what we have here. We must be prepared to leave it all go, holding what we have in this life in an open hand, willing to permit our Lord to take it from us. By faith we will recognize, as Job did in Job 1:21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Let the name of the Lord be blessed.” By faith we will accept the divine truth stated in 1 Timothy 6:7: “For we have brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
Being sinful by nature, you may be unwilling to give up all that you have. Your covetous nature may love the world and the things in it. If so, repent of this love affair before you die, as 1 John 2:15-17 urges you to do. “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Because all that is in the world the craving of the sinful nature, the longing of the eyes, and the arrogance of life, is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away and its lust, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.”
Loving the life you have had in this world makes dying that much harder. It increases your resistance to it. Such a love prevented Lot’s wife from leaving Sodom willingly. She looked back longingly to what she was leaving behind. Doing so, she fell victim to God’s judgment. He turned her into a pillar of salt. Jesus therefore warns us in Luke 17:32,33: “Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever strives to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.”
To lessen your resistance to dying and to squelch your love of the things you enjoyed in this world--by faith let go of what you have here to concentrate on what you have in heaven. The Lord urges you to do this in Colossians 3:1, 2, which state: “Since, therefore, you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things above, not on the things upon the earth.” Since we have been raised spiritually to faith in Jesus, we should set your hearts on things above, where Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, and not on earthly things. During his life Paul strove for perfection and the life that was his in heaven. In Philippians 3:12-14 he wrote: “Not that I already have obtained it or already have become perfect, but I press on if also I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, indeed I do not consider myself to have laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do, on the one hand forgetting what things lie behind and on the other hand straining towards what things lie ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward invitation of God in Christ Jesus.” So like Paul, when facing death, forget what is behind you here so you may die blamelessly by being ready to press on toward what is ahead. Before you lies the perfection and life in heaven to which Christ called you. This is far better than what you have on earth.
So you may die blamelessly, do not carry to your death unsettled grudges against others. Carrying a grudge to your grave is like carrying a ships anchor while swimming. It will only pull you down into the depths to a horrible end.
Individuals have sinned against you. Their sins may have aroused a lingering resentment within you that has caused you to feel: “I will never forgive that person! Not as long as I live!” Life is too short to hold such grudges that ruin your relationships. Even worse is carrying those grudges in an unforgiving heart to your grave. The Lord will hold them against you. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:15: “If you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
Before you die, right your past wrongs against others, if at all possible, and forgive those who have sinned against you. You can then die in peace, knowing that your Father has also forgiven you. Jesus assures us in Matthew 6:14: “If you forgive men their transgressions, your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you.” Settling whatever stands between you and another person heeds Jesus’ instruction to be reconciled to those you have wronged before coming to God (See Matthew 5:23-26). Ephesians 4:31,32 tells us: “Put away from you all bitterness and anger and wrath and shouting and slander, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other just as God in Christ also forgave you.”