"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bonhoeffer on Death

As most of you know, I have been immersed in studying the resurrection. I have also been reading the newest biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. Now that I am finished with the book I will encourage you to read it. (Warning: It can be addicting, and it will take time because it is 542 pages) Bonhoeffer is a man that is surrounded by controversy. He was a man of deep conviction, and his convictions always led to action. I will not debate the choice of this man to join the assassination plot against Hitler. I struggle with those who would judge Bonhoeffer while sitting in absolute freedom and safety. That is not the point of this post so I will leave it at that. I find his writing and thinking to be a great encouragement to greater love and service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the end of the biography Metaxas writes about Bonhoeffer's view of death. This is where the study of resurrection and Bonhoeffer cross paths. Here is the quote that struck me. It is from a sermon preached by Bonhoeffer while he was pastoring a church in London. He says,

No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward to being released from bodily existence.
Whether we are young or old makes no difference. what are twenty or thirty or fifty years in the sight of God? And which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal? That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up - that is for young and old alike to think about. Why are we so afraid when we think about death? ... Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God's Word. Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.
How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether, in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world?
Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.

Those are powerful words spoken by a person who is safe from all harm. But when you consider the fact that Bonhoeffer was facing an evil regime that he opposed with public words and actions, you begin to see the power of God in the life of his servant. So I began to wonder, how do we view death? Would you say that it is the gateway to the eternal home that you are homesick for? Or would you have to admit that you are so in love with the things of this life that death seems cold and night and hell to you? Just something to think about. Talk to you soon... CW

P.S. Bonhoeffer was executed on April 8, 1945 at Flossenburg prison. He died a noble death and joined the martyrs around the throne of Christ. He told a friend when he knew he was going to be executed, "This is the end...for me the beginning of life!" One of the men, Dr. H. Fischer-Hullstrung, who attended his execution is quoted as saying of Bonhoeffer, "At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God." May we all die with such a godly testimony and a godly courage! To God Be the Glory for the life and death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


  1. May it be true when the time comes....the last action in the body for His glory

  2. I came across this blog searching for this very quote from Bonhoeffer. I just finished the biography too (albeit a year and a half later than you). It was an amazing book. Thank you for your post.

  3. This was quote that I thought of upon learning of a friends , sister passing away...I recently lent my biography to someone, this was the most amazing human life I babe ever been privileged to have gain insight from, even though it was from a book. I was paralyzed in the pages at the conviction, the fortitude, the divine essence that emulated off this man's life and into our world. Oh that more followers of Jesus could maintain this degree of Gods image in their own life. Please help me Lord to glorify You.