Some years ago, we went on a "Cities of the Reformation" tour. One of the places that we visited was Eisleben, Germany, where Martin Luther was born on November 10th, 1483, and died on February 18th, 1546.
Luther boldly protested against the church's practice of selling indulgences for forgiveness of sins, arguing that money can't buy God's forgiveness. He posted his 95 theses of protest on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31st, 1517.
In Eisleben, we visited the room where Luther died, and that made quite an impression on me. So, I did some research and found that two friends, Justus Jonas and Michael Coelius, were both present when he died. Here is an abbreviated version of their writings.
At the age of 62, Luther had been actively preaching. However, on the evening of February 17th, he did not feel well, and at 10:30, he went to bed, where he offered his soul to God with a verse he commonly used:
Psalm 31:6 – I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the Lord. (NIV 2011)
A few hours later, pain awoke him, and thanking God for the revelation of Christ, he asked God to take his soul. He repeated Psalm 31:6 three more times, and then, he was silent. His two friends asked him if he was dying in the name of Christ and accepted all Christ's teachings. He answered that he did and fell asleep again. He died at peace at 2:45 a.m. on February 18th.
Strangely, there is nothing written about the deaths of any of the apostles or early followers of Christ, other than that of Stephen. He was chosen to help serve the widows because he was "a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit", and he "did great wonders and signs among the people" (Acts 6:5,8 NKJV). He got in trouble with the authorities, and they set up false witnesses who accused him of speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God. During his trial, he gave a great sermon.
Acts 7:55-60 – But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him … as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (NKJV)
Both Luther and Stephen were great preachers, and they were so sure of their faith in Christ that at the end of their lives, although under much different circumstances, they confidently expressed their assurance of life with Christ after death. What a wonderful testimony by these two men of faith, and what a great example for all of us!
Even though we may not be great preachers, we can have similar trust in Christ's great promises of eternal life in Him.
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we pray that we, too, may have the ability to express our faith in Christ as Saviour and Lord, now and always, even to the end of our days. We ask it in His name. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Who Is On The Lord's Side" (Lyrics)