It is the utmost moral and spiritual insanity to be living, but never preparing to die, never preparing for death in any way. To neglect preparation for death is like nearing a certain planned date of a long-awaited international trip, only to find that when the day and hour of departure arrives, both you and those around you realize that you have not packed anything for the trip–nothing at all. Going on such a journey without even one piece of luggage, no credit card, no cash, no traveler’s checks, nothing, not even a change of underwear or socks. Who would do it? Many people do it every single day.

People begin a journey of dying and then death for which they have not at all prepared for. Coming to the end of this life and then dying IS that journey. The most foolish thing imaginable in this life is to come to the time ill-prepared or totally unprepared.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed this deeply and he often preached about it. But it is one thing to preach about it and another thing altogether to practice it. Lloyd-Jones not only preached it, but practiced it as well, as the record shows. It was at the end of his life, when battling cancer, that he knew it was time to give his remaining time, not to further books or writing, but to prepare to die.

Iain Murray, Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ biographer, visited with MLJ a year before he died, in March, 1980, and an autobiography was discussed. But Lloyd-Jones decided against it for a primary reason. “It had to do with his final assessment of the right use of such time as remained to him. . . . it came home to him with much conviction that time to prepare for death was very important; he needed such time and believed that its right use was now his chief work as a Christian. What was uppermost in his thoughts did not lie in the past at all. The big thing before him was that all Christians need a pause from the activities of life in order to prepare for heaven.”

In expressing this to Mr. Murray, Lloyd-Jones, referring to words of Thomas Chalmers, spoke about his condition:

“I am grateful to God that I have been given this time [the time to face death and prepare for it]. I agree with Chalmers absolutely. We do not give enough time to death and to our going on. It is a very strange thing–this one certainty [death]– yet we do not think about it. We are too busy. We allow life and its circumstances to so occupy us that we do not stop and think . . . .people say about sudden death, ‘It is a wonderful way to go’. I have come to the conclusion that it is quite wrong. It think the way we go out of this world is very important and this is my great desire now, that I may perhaps be enabled to bear a greater testimony than ever before.

“We need to fight to realize our individuality and how limited we are. The world is too much with us. We hold on to life so tenaciously–that is so wrong, so different from the New Testament. Even until last November [1979] I wasn’t conscious of my age. I felt it was ridiculous to talk about it. When we feel well and active, it is difficult to realize the end. . . . Chalmers’ emphasis on preparation for death is right.”

Lloyd-Jones said, “The hope of a sudden death is based upon the fear of death. But death is not something to slip by. It should be victorious. All of my ministry I have used the words, ‘this short uncertain earthly life and pilgrimage’.” He went on to recall that he had often preached that death is a tremendous thing–to go out of this world and to leave behind all that one has ever known; his ministry, he confessed, had not been without instances of the power of that message. ‘But’, he added with much feeling, ‘I can see that it should have been even more emphasized. What is this brief span [this earthly life] in the context of eternity!’ Murray, commenting on his words, says, ‘Yet it was not said with an air of sadness nor with the slightest degree of just resignation to the inevitable; the negative and the morbid were entirely absent. His whole attitude was one of thankfulness and expectation, looking for and hastening to the coming of the day of God’, and that this is something that belongs to all Christians.’

Murray says, ‘In the course of our conversation, I spoke of the glorious death of a Christian known to me who had been like Bunyan’s ‘Mr. Fearing’ during his lifetime, but passed away with unspeakable joy. I added the comment, ‘How wonderful it would have been if he had lived like that.’ Dr. Lloyd-Jones responded at once and with a definite element of disapproval. ‘But don’t underestimate dying! Death (he said it with great emphasis), death is the last enemy. Men may live well who do not die victoriously.’

Murray concluded his experience about that visit: ‘In his prayer before we parted, MLJ asked for more of what he already knew, ‘that we might rejoice in hope of the glory of God’. As I left him at the front door, and it closed behind me, his smiling face remained silhouetted through the glass in the sunshine until I was out of sight. It was no more than the usual way in which he parted with friends, but as I returned to Scotland, it seemed very possible that this would be my last view of him.’

Lloyd-Jones got many things right. But the view of taking time to actually prepare for death was one of the most important of all. To not avoid death, but to think about it, face it, prepare for it as much as God enables us, is as wise a thing as a person can do.

We are all heading there. It is ever right in front of us, ever a hill, a mountain, a valley, a reality looming before us on our road. And it grows closer and larger the longer we live. For the Christian, this certainty doesn’t have to be dreaded or feared; the Christian who prepares can have a growing expectation, a sense of anticipation, a sense of, “Look! There is my destination, where I am going forever, a real place, with real Christians who have gone before, there now with the Saviour who is awaiting me. To die will be gain because I will be with Him.”

So let us prepare. We are wise if we do and foolish if we do not.

– Mack Tomlinson

(All included references can be found in volume two of Iain Murray’s biography, D. M. Lloyd-Jones, The Fight of Faith, chapter 35, Dying He Worshipped)

  1. December 7, 2015

    Thank you so much for this fantastic post. The LORD is mightily blessing me as I begin volume 2 of Murray’s biography of Dr. Lloyd-Jones. The Holy Spirit is also teaching me so much as I listen to ML-J’s sermons on Ephesians 6:10-13 online. May the Lord help all of His children to die well in a way that honors and glorifies Him!

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