What do you fear? Researchers have found little kids are afraid of monsters. Older kids often fear bad people hurting them or getting a long-term illness. The most common fears, however, include being rejected by friends and the fear of death.
The fear of death is hard to escape. And if it’s scary for you, don’t you think it’d be worse for an eighty-five-year-old man who’s close to dying?
To answer that question, I flew to Portland, Oregon, to spend the day with Luis Palau Jr. Born in the 1930s, he and the ministry he founded have shared the good news about Jesus with a billion people worldwide.
I’d known Luis for more than thirty years when I learned he had stage 4 lung cancer. Doctors expected him to die in less than a year. He surprised them by living more than three years and continuing to serve God and spread biblical truth.
Luis died on March 11, 2021, surrounded by his family. When I visited his home a few months before that, his family was there too. I could tell his energy was lagging, but nothing could dim the enthusiasm in his voice as he spoke about what the Lord had done and what was to come.
Most people don’t like to talk about death. But Luis knew why I’d come. He was ready to have the conversation.
“Do you fear death?” I asked.
“No,” he said quickly, then he paused briefly. “No,” he repeated, more emphatically this time. “I don’t really. I’m so convinced from Scripture that after I close my eyes for the last time, I go to be with God. The apostle Paul says that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
The apostle Paul, the greatest evangelist of all time, also said, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21, NIV). Being with God isn’t something to be feared—it’s something to look forward to. For Christ followers, our forever home is heaven.
When Luis first received his cancer diagnosis in 2018, he thought about what he’d miss most. That was easy; it was his family. Instead of traveling the world, he spent his last few years more connected to his family and more at peace in delighting in God.
“I read the Bible with very open eyes,” Luis told me. “Every mention of heaven is underlined in green, with a little dot. I’ve started visualizing me seeing the great throne of God, me walking the glorious streets, me reuniting with those who have gone before.”
Luis couldn’t wait to see the face of Jesus. Revelation 4 gives a mind-blowing description of God’s throne. It’s a passage Luis had read many times before my visit. He described to it to me from memory. Luis then said, “How much of that is literal? How much is a word picture to point us toward something we can’t even comprehend at this point?” He paused and smiled. “Well, I can’t wait to find out.”