A Blessed End
Near the beginning of my dad’s time on hospice, my friend Dan Antal prayed with me. As he prayed for my dad, he asked the Lord to grant him a blessed end when his last hour would come, and to graciously take Dad from this world of sorrow to Himself in heaven. I don’t want him to have an end at all, but since he must have one eventually, it was comforting to me to ask God to bless it and then just leave it in God’s hands.
Later I found out that Dan borrowed words from Luther’s explanation of the seventh petition of the Lord’s prayer, “But deliver us from evil.” What does this mean? Luther answers, “We pray in this petition, in summary, that our heavenly Father would deliver us from all manner of evil, whether it affect body or soul, property or reputation, and at last, when the hour of death shall come, grant us a blessed end and graciously take us from this world of sorrow to Himself in heaven.” Yes, Lord, deliver us from evil.
When I first heard a “blessed end” prayed for, I immediately thought of an end in which the morphine would do its work to make Dad comfortable. But later, while I prepared for the funeral of a dear saint, I realized that any end, when salvation through Christ is believed, is a blessed one. Luther speaks to this in the explanation of the third petition, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Part of his explanation is that God’s will is done “when He strengthens us and keeps us steadfast in His Word and in faith, even unto our end.”
Jesus told his friend Martha, who was grieving the death of her brother, Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25–26). And Paul wrote, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9–10). To die believing is really to continue living with Christ. Our eternal life does not wait to start until our bodies die—our eternal life starts when we believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. You, baptized child of God, will have a blessed end no matter what that end looks like.
But for those of us who remain, we grieve. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian congregation about his friend Epaphroditus almost dying. He said, “For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow” (Philippians 2:27). If Jesus wept for Lazarus, and if Paul knew he would have sorrow upon sorrow when his friend died, then we have absolute freedom to grieve and hurt and be numb and empty all the tissue boxes.
Yet Paul, who was ready to bawl his eyes out whenever death would come for his friend, wrote this to the Thessalonian congregation, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you grieve as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14).
So we sorrow and we grieve, but we do so with the comfort from Christ that our loved one’s soul is with Christ now (2 Corinthians 5:8), and his or her body will rise again when Christ returns (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Because of Christ’s resurrection, we take comfort in our deceased loved one’s future resurrection. Indeed, death is an end, but it is a blessed end, because in Christ it is not an ultimate end. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!