“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth…Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God for He has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:13–16

Most of those interested in historical figures find themselves wondering how famous people died. For some it is just curiosity, for others it may serve to satisfy the need to verify that all men are equal. And, for a few, it serves to help paint a full picture of that famous person’s life. I find myself interested to know if a person died like he lived. Did he finish his allotted time on earth well? If he claimed to be a man of faith, did he have a chance to confirm it? God does not always allow a believer the opportunity to express his faith with his dying breath, so much the more reason to express your faith with every breath!

Our passage quoted above is found in the book of Hebrews “Hall of Faith.” Faith is essentially believing what God says, trusting His Word implicitly, and living your life accordingly. The author’s point is to express that the Old Testament saints died in faith without seeing firsthand the literal fulfillment of God’s promises. Yet they did die in faith; they were “assured of, embraced, and confessed” God’s promises. They had no doubt He was trustworthy and they proved their belief by their actions of obedience, even to death! What a great testament that they finished well. “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”

In order to gain a sense of the way the unsaved person perceives death, simply review some of the ways death is represented in culture. Death is seen as the Grim Reaper (almost masculine in quality), as a dark specter, an animated skeleton, or as the Death Angel. In each instance is a reckoning of power that surpasses our own.

Once in a while you will hear the expression, “he cheated death this time.” But in the end, death comes to all men, just as Romans 5:12 plainly states: “Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” But praise be to God, Hebrews 2:9 declares, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God might taste death for everyone.” In verses 14f we read, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” This redeemer’s work that Jesus Christ has wrought for all who believe, is what Paul extolls in 1 Corinthians 15:50–58.

An unsaved person has no basis of hope of eternal life that even comes close to the hope illustrated in Hebrews 11. Instead, theirs is a false hope, if a hope at all. It is appointed to man once to die, and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27), and then the fateful words God will speak, “Depart from Me I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). There awaits only eternal punishment—away from God, grace, heaven, and hope—in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15). Only by God’s grace is mercy extended to those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God.

In contrast, the believer is the possessor of eternal life (John 3:16). At the moment of his death his condition will be “absent from the body, present with the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:8). Proverbs 14:32 states, “The wicked is banished in his wickedness, but the righteous has a refuge in his death.” Since Psalm 116:15 declares, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints,” and our Lord Jesus tells us of the death of Lazarus in Luke 16:22, “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom,” I would assume nothing less for the treatment of New Testament saints at death!

Revelation 14:13 reveals, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on…that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” Death for the saint is anything but loss! Jesus Christ promised that He was going to prepare a place for His own and that He would come again and receive us “face to face” to be with Him (John 14:1–6, 1 Thessalonians 4:13ff). Paul termed his death gain (Philippians 1:21), a blessed departure, better by far (Philippians 1:23), falling asleep in Jesus (John 11:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:13), and being at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Just as the Old Testament saints lived by faith, so we “according to the promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore…be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:13f).

Take heart even in the face of death. Trust and obey.