I’ve been struggling through Billy Graham’s Unto the Hills: A Daily Devotional this year. Seeing as he is such a well respected man I thought I would spend the year with him. I did see him in person at one of his “crusades” twenty-odd years ago but I’ve never read anything of his before. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m finding his devotionals quite shallow and find that they rarely relate to the passage he quotes. Here’s a sample from April 26 that really takes the cake. It’s got angels, not an infrequent subject of his, it’s got extra-biblical theology, it’s got warfare in the heavens. Quite impressive if it wasn’t so troublesome.
DEATH IS DEAD
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
1 CORINTHIANS 15:54
Death is not natural, for man was created to live and not to die. It is the result of God’s judgment because of man’s sin and rebellion. Without God’s grace through Christ, it is a gruesome spectacle. I have stood at the bedsides of people dying without Christ; it was a terrible experience. I have stood at the bedsides of those who were dying in Christ; it was a glorious experience. Charles Spurgeon said of the glory that amends the death of the redeemed, “If I may die as I have seen some die, I court the grand occasion. I would not wish to escape death by some byroad if I may sing as they sang. If I may have such hosannas and alleluias beaming in my eyes as I have seen as well as heard from them, it were a blessed thing to die.”
Death is robbed of much of its terror for the true believer, but we still need God’s protection as we take that last journey. At the moment of death the spirit departs from the body and moves through the atmosphere. But the Scripture teaches us that the devil lurks then. He is “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). If the eyes of our understanding were opened, we would probably see the air filled with demons, the enemies of Christ. If Satan could hinder the angel of Daniel 10 for three weeks on his mission to earth, we can imagine the opposition a Christian may encounter at death.
But Christ on Calvary cleared a road through Satan’s kingdom. When Christ came to earth, He had to pass through the devil’s territory and open up a beachhead here. That is one reason He was accompanied by a host of angels when He came (Luke 2:8–14). And this is why holy angels will accompany Him when He comes again (Matthew 16:27). Till then, the moment of death is Satan’s final opportunity to attack the true believer; but God has sent His angels to guard us at that time. How thankful we should be for that promise.
Our Father and our God, I know You have mastery over death and dying. I thank You for the promise that, when my life on earth has ended, Your angels will be there to accompany me in that final moment. I will trust them to lead me safely through the gates of heaven and into Your holy presence. In the name of Christ. Amen.
Billy Graham, Unto the Hills: A Daily Devotional (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010).
The final prayer is perhaps most troublesome of all. I’m not sure which translation Billy’s reading but there’s nothing in my Bible about angels needing to protect us after death from Satanic assault, nothing about them leading me through the gates of heaven, and nothing about Jesus requiring angelic guards when he returns to claim his own. I’m really not sure why he’s so fascinated with angles when they play such a minor role in the Bible. I realise he wrote a book about them so perhaps I should have a look at that or read his autobiography. Until then I’ll have to leave it to your imaginations because mine doesn’t go there.