Lloyd Jones & the Doctrine of Dying With the Hope of Glory

No one sets out to plant a church with great anticipation for the funerals they will preach. In their big vision of future life and ministry, most young seminarians don’t consider how they will one day shepherd through the shadow of death. I have pastored our church plant for four years now. I have done many funerals for relatives and people in the community who were unaffiliated with our church, but I have yet to do the funeral for a beloved church member. It’s not something I look forward to. In fact, I tremble at the thought of it, but while reading the works of Martyn Lloyd Jones recently, I was struck by the thought of this inevitable future for my pastoral ministry. In the mid 20th century, Martyn Lloyd-Jones saw it as part of his responsibility as a pastor to equip the saints to die well. He aimed to equip his congregants with doctrine that would help them to glorify God even in dying. For ML-J, doctrine makes all the difference both in life and in death.

Doctrine Matters

Lloyd Jones defined preaching as, “logic on fire.” He passionately argued, “It is theology on fire… Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire.”[2] Just as Lloyd-Jones viewed preaching, so he viewed all of life as an overflow of doctrine on fire, that is, doctrine that is passionately put into practice.

Christianity is a religion of doctrine that shapes how we see the world and thus how we live in the world. This is especially true considering the big questions of life and death. Everyone lives, and everyone dies. From the beginning the church and her leaders have had to shepherd people in grieving the death of loved ones, and in preparing for death. The idea of death in modern society, however, is very much avoided. Though everyone dies, no one thinks it is happening today and no one wants to talk about the possibility of it happening tomorrow. Christian doctrine, however, does talk about it. Christian doctrine provides hope especially for the dying. The doctrinal preaching of Lloyd-Jones was seasoned with regular reminders of what Lloyd-Jones often referred to as the hope of glory. It is this hope of glory that allows the Christian person to approach death differently from rest of the world.

The Hope of Glory

Concluding his sermon series on John 17, Lloyd-Jones exclaims,

“What, then, is the future that awaits us as Christians? Let me remind you again of our tragic failure to realize the truth about ourselves. What is it that awaits us when we come to die?… We are going where Christ is: ‘to be with Christ; which is far better’ (Phil 1:23).”[4]

D. Martyn Lloyd Jones

For Jones, Christian doctrine took away the sting of death and replaced it with hope. This was no distant thought in the hearts and minds of his congregation in London during WWII. As the threat of war became a reality and air-raid sirens filled the London air, a million-and-a-half people left Britain’s cities as urged by the government. Gas masks were issued to all as the fear of Nazi attack intensified. In a sobering letter to his wife, ML-J noted that masks for children ages two to five were not yet available in those early days of the war.[5] Consider the dark context into which these words were preached,

“Let the bombs fall, let war come, let disease and pestilence ravage the land, let me die – what is it? Translation! To be with him! This old body of mine, the body of my humiliation, the body of infirmity, the body of disease the body of death, transfigured, changed, glorified, made like the body of Christ’s resurrection, and I, in this new, glorified body, ushered into his blessed presence to spend my eternity with him.”[6]

D. Martyn Lloyd Jones

Such truths were proclaimed to help the listener not only die well in the peace of God’s promises. They were designed to help the listener live well with sights set upon the everlasting city. Lloyd-Jones knew that during one of the world’s deadliest wars, only a big vision of Christ’s death conquering and life-giving resurrection could equip the Christian to walk in perseverance.

In Murray’s biography of Jones, he records the events, words, and attitudes that characterized Lloyd-Jones as he finished his race. Jones saw his own death and the death of any Christian as an opportunity for worship. In conversation with Murray, Lloyd-Jones reflected on the common assertion that a sudden death is a wonderful way to go. Jones disagreed, “I 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. Death is not something to slip past, it should be victorious.”[7] It is often forgotten by young pastors that much of their work will include not only helping the beloved church live well, but that they will also be called upon to help their church die well. Lloyd-Jones meditated upon the way in which some of the Christian men and women in his church had died over the years. He agreed whole-heartedly with Spurgeon’s words,

“If I may die as I have seen some of our church members die, I court the grand occasion. I would not wish to escape death by some by-road if I may sing as they sang.”[8]

– C.H. Spurgeon

In the final days of Lloyd-Jones’ sickness, his weakness was so severe that his voice had left him entirely. When his doctor attempted to increase his medication, ML-J refused, and when the doctor insisted upon the medication to relieve his sadness, Lloyd-Jones burst forth, “Not sad, not sad!” While sitting with his wife, Elizabeth, in those final days of speechlessness, Jones pointed his wife to the Scriptures and directed her attention to 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’’ When his beloved wife asked if that was his experience, he nodded his head with certainty.[9] On Feb. 6th he wrote on a scrap piece of paper, “Do not pray for healing. Do not hold me back from glory.”[10] For much of his life, Jones preached the hope of glory with power. But in the end, he, himself, modeled what it looks like to face death in the hope of glory.

Preach the Hope of Glory

The Bible is rich with hope. It is rich with big, deep, doctrinal realities that soothe the soul, and stir up the affections. If we are not careful, we pastors can so emphasize the mission of growing our churches, that we miss the great doctrines of the Bible that are designed to sustain our churches. The golden chain of salvation in Romans 8:30 takes us from foreknowledge to calling, to justification, and finally to glorification. The whole chain of God’s divine work provides assurance and fuel for the fire of our joy, worship, and mission. It is our deeply held belief about life, death, and eternal life that marks us as different than the world and drives us to live differently in the world. Just a couple weeks ago, one of our beloved elderly church members was anticipating a serious surgery. When I expressed concern and offered to pray for her, she quickly corrected me. She warned, “Don’t just pray for healing. Pray for God to get the glory. Pray for my family to be drawn to him through this.” That response is not natural. It is supernatural. It causes the world to stop and look at these unique people who have a hope that is out of this world. May we pastors see it as our ministry to equip the saints with an unshakeable hope of glory.

[1] Jason C. Meyer, Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life: Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire, Theologians on the Christian Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 21.

[2] David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 40th anniversary ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 110.

[3] David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Great Doctrines of the Bible (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2012), 10.

[4] David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Assurance of Our Salvation: Exploring the Depth of Jesus’ Prayer for His Own: Studies in John 17 (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000), 656–657.

[5] Iain Hamish. Murray, The Life of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1899-1981 (Edinburgh; Banner of Truth Trust, 2013), 192.

[6] David Martyn. Lloyd-Jones, Authentic Christianity, 1st U.S. ed., Studies in the book of Acts; v. 1 (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000), 198.

[7] Murray, The Life of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1899-1981, 445.

[8] Ibid., 451.

[9] Ibid., 457–458.

[10] Ibid., 458.

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