Tuesday, March 22, 2011

God's orchard

J. Douglas MacMillan relates the following anecdotes in his book The Lord Our Shepherd (Bryntirion Press, 2009, pp 106-109):
I have met people who have said, 'Mr MacMillan, I am afraid I can't have Christ at all, because I am still afraid of death.' Now I have to look at this through the eyes of the apostle Paul. Paul could say, 'For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain', and he could also say, 'having a desire to depart and to be with Christ; which is far better' (Philippians 1:21, 23). But let us not forget that Paul also had to say that death was an enemy. More than this, he said it was the last enemy, and we praise God for that.

Can I again use personal experience? I remember the morning of the day on which my father died. Rather, it was the day before, the Saturday morning, for he died just after the entrance of the Sabbath. (He went on the Sabbath to his rest with his Maker on 16 June 1957, two years and two days after I was converted.)

On that Saturday morning I was going out on to the hill early. My father had been ill for three weeks, and as I looked into his room before going out at half-past six that June morning, he was propped up on pillows looking out of his bedroom window on to a kind of long, sweeping hill that rose behind our house. He was very weak, but he looked at me and said, 'Hello, Douglas, are you going out?' When I said 'Yes', he said, 'Sit down, sit for a minute.'

Then he said, 'What do you see out of the window, Douglas?' So I looked and told him, 'Well, I see the sheep just beginning to come down.' (The sheep always go up to the top of the hills at night to sleep - and many a Christian could learn a lesson from that. Go up to the hills before you go to sleep at night.) He said, 'It's strange, you know' - and a smile came over his face. (I had noticed a strange light in his face as soon as I went into his room.) 'It's strange, you know. I can't see that now at all.'

I said, 'What do you see?' He said, 'It's strange, I'm looking out of the window and it's as if I was looking into an orchard. It's a very beautiful place, and I can see people and I know a lot of them. I can see my mother and I can see your mother.' (I had lost my mother six years before.) Then he smiled again and said, 'Do you think I am seeing into heaven? I think I am.' He said, 'I have been on the doorstep for three weeks' - he had been asking people not to pray that he would get better - 'and I am going to go over it today.' Then he said,
For forty years I have followed Christ, and for forty years I have prayed for grace to live for Christ, and for forty years I have prayed for grace to die like a Christian. I have always been afraid secretly - never admitted it, but I have always secretly been afraid that I wouldn't get grace to die. But now I see how stupid I was. God wouldn't give me grace I didn't need until I needed it; and when I need it, I have it.
He said, 'Don't be afraid of death, it's going to be wonderful.'

I was with another minister two weeks before he died, a man who loved the Lord. His wife and son (also a minister) told me of their experience with him. He had been very weak, and he was a very gentle, good man, who was steeped in the Scriptures. He had not mentioned to his son or to his two Christian daughters or his wife that death was drawing near. In fact, when I was visiting two weeks before, one of his daughters (a nurse) was very concerned about him. When I asked her why she was crying she said, 'Oh, Dad had a bad night and, you know, when he got better this morning he didn't seem to realise how near death he was, and he was talking about his cabbages. Do you think there is anything wrong with my father?' (She meant something wrong spiritually.) I said, 'No, there's nothing wrong.'

They told me that two hours before he died, he sat up in bed (for days before that he had barely been able to move), and a light came on to his face and he said to his son sitting beside him, 'Get your mother, bring them all down. I am seeing into heaven and I can see the Saviour. He is with me.' His wife came down and she started to cry (who wouldn't?). But he said, 'Peggy, don't cry. This is what I have been waiting for. This is my coronation day.' He was like that until he passed into the glory that he was seeing. It is a wonderful thing to see God's people go home to the Father's house; and it is a terrible thing, on the other hand, to see people go out into eternal darkness.


  1. Another great post Patrick. You gotta post more often. :-)

    Here are links to books on the same theme.

    Dying Testimonies of Saved and Unsaved by S.B. Shaw http://www.biblebelievers.com/dying_testimonies/index.html

    (I disagree with many things from the above website. It just happens to have a copy of this book first published in 1898).


    Death-Bed Scenes; OR, Dying With and Without Religion by Davis W. Clark http://books.google.com/books?id=fy20dDbgu-MC&dq=deathbed%20scenes%20by%20davis%20clark&pg=PA3#v=onepage&q&f=false

  2. It is a wonderful thing to see God's people go home to the Father's house; and it is a terrible thing, on the other hand, to see people go out into eternal darkness.

    "A story I heard personally from Malcolm Muggeridge (that stirred me then and still does even yet) was his account of a conversation he had with Svetlana Stalin, the daughter of Josef Stalin. She spent some time with Muggeridge in his home in England while they were working together on their BBC production on the life of her father. According to Svetlana, as Stalin lay dying, plagued with terrifying hallucinations, he suddenly sat halfway up in bed, clenched his fist toward the heavens once more, fell back upon his pillow, and was dead." (Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God, Word Publ., Dallas: 1994, p. 26).

    I copied and pasted the above quote from a random website because it's found on various websites. But I don't know how accurate it is...

  3. I followed the link to the dying testimonies of the saved and unsaved. I was struck by how many people back then were convinced that they sinned in such a way that the Holy Spirit had left them forever, and died in the agony of despair, wishing to but unable to repent. These days not many people have such a thought, maybe because the preaching was different back then. It seems Biblical, though...

  4. Thanks, Annoyed Pinoy! :-) The two books to which you link are instructive. I might post a link to one or both of them. Thanks again.

    I've also heard the story about Stalin, and in fact I heard Ravi Zacharias himself recount it.