Rev (Dr) Quek Suan Yew
Euthanasia and the Christian?
Euthanasia literally means “good death.” “Eu” means “good” and “Thanatos” is Greek for “death.” How could death be good? Yet this view of death is common in some modern societies. “As of June 2016, human euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, and Luxembourg. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Canada, and in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Vermont, Montana, Washington DC, and California.” [https://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Legality_of_euthanasia] [emphasis original] They probably believe that death is good because they do not know where they are going after death or they live in ignorance believing that after death there is a better place or there is no judgement. The sad truth is that after death there is the judgement of God. If anyone dies in sin the sentence after judgement is hell! Every sinner who dies in sin will end up in hell and then ultimately in the Lake of Fire for eternity. There is absolutely no escape after death.
Where did death come from? There was no death when God first created the heavens and the earth! Everything was said by God to be very good after creation. Genesis 1:31 “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” There was no death, for there was no sin. On the sixth day, God created man and gave man a covenant of works whereby both the man and the woman must not eat of the forbidden fruit that was on the tree known as the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This tree, together with the tree of life, was placed in the midst of the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve dwelt. For the first time the word “die” appeared in the Bible. It was in the covenant of works given to man by God. Genesis 2:17 “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” It was not “maybe man will die” but that man will surely, i.e. definitely die! The consequence of sin in man is definitely death. Sadly, soon after this covenant was made between God and man, man sinned against God and he died. He died spiritually immediately as sin now resides in his heart. He became ashamed of his own nakedness and that of his wife Eve as well. They used fig leaves to cover their own nakedness (cf. Gen 3:7). The reason for this is the lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes that have crept into their hearts. When God confronted them, they blamed each other including the serpent that deceived Eve into sinning against God. Pride was also evidenced in their hearts when they pointed fingers and blamed others for their transgression. If they had remained in this state of spiritual death all their lives and then died physically, they would have died the second death which is to be cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity!
What does this death entail? When a person dies in sin he will find himself in hell. This was what God meant when He said to Adam, “thou shalt surely die.” It is more than just the cessation of breathing; it includes ending up in hell as a punishment for the sins committed on earth against God. Therefore death is defined as the termination of life and finding oneself in hell. Of course, in the case of Christ it is different. The reason is that He died on the cross for our sins. He was perfect and did not die IN sin. He was not a sinner. Therefore when the Lord Jesus died on the cross of Calvary He went to paradise, i.e. heaven itself. This was what He testified to the malefactor who believed in Him and died on the cross next to Christ. Luke 23:39-43 “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Do Christians die? The answer is no. Christians do not die anymore since they have already died in Christ. When a sinner accepted Christ as his Lord and Saviour, what he did was to identify himself with Christ who died for him. The believer whom Christ died for has now died in Christ because he has been crucified with Christ. Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” This identification with Christ is what faith is all about at salvation. Therefore the believer does not die anymore. This was what Jesus said in John 11:25-26 “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” If this is the case, then how does the Bible describe the “death” of a believer? The Bible calls it “sleep”. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” That is why the Bible describes the death of a believer as sleep. His spirit is in heaven with God, for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. This occurs instantly the moment the believer breathes his last breath. There is no such thing as soul sleep. The Bible’s description of sleep for a believer who has died is that the physical body looks like a person who is sleeping. When the first resurrection takes place at the 2nd coming of Christ, the spirit and the new and glorified body will be united as one. He becomes one of the glorified saints that the Bible speaks of. Christians must view death from this perspective and not the world’s. The doctrine of “sleep” is the end of the believer’s service on earth. His service continues in heaven with the resurrected and glorified body to serve God for eternity. With this view of death for the believer we shall now look at euthanasia, organ donation and life support in coma.
1. Euthanasia – There is no good death unless it is the death of a saint. Psalm 116:15 “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” The reason is that they will go home to their heavenly Father when their work for Him is done. In the case of an unbeliever, he will die in his sin and will find himself in hell! There is only great sadness. There is nothing good about a sinner going to hell at the end of his life. A believer will not commit suicide. His life is in God’s hand. His life in Christ is an abundant life. He has the blessed hope of the resurrection and heaven. There is no reason or justification for a Christian to take or shorten his life. Those who believe in euthanasia will shorten or take their own lives. It is a sin to do so. They find their lives not worth living because they think it is no longer rich and full due to some ailment or depression. This phrase “quality of life” is not a biblical phrase. Christians should not look at their lives from this worldly perspective. The determination of the “quality” of life” is measured by the mobility or lucidity of the person. When a person is bedridden and not able to move and requires help in feeding and hygiene, he is said to have no quality of life. He might as well terminate it. The life of a cancer patient enduring the painful treatments and the effects that follows is said to have no quality of life. Those who opt to take their lives because of this believe in the “goodness” of euthanasia.
This is a fallacious argument. The quality of life is not based upon one’s mobility or lucidity. As long as there is breath, it is life. The quality comes from one’s relationship with God. Even when the person is in a coma, we cannot say that there is no quality of life. The sovereignty of God teaches that He alone is the Giver and Taker of life. God alone can take a life and not man. Man is forbidden by God to take his own life just because he does not like his life. He accepts the life that God gives to him, whatever the state and condition that God determines. This must be the thinking of every Christian. God makes no mistakes. He knows exactly what He is doing in our lives. He decides when and how we enter this world as well as how we leave this world. Our duty is to ensure that we live trusting in Him always in whatever state and condition we are in and learn to be content. However, there is a difference between actively taking a life and not wanting to sustain a life. The 21st century has provided options for treating diseases that were not available to many in the past. Because of these options, due to medical and scientific advancements, a man could be brain dead and still “breathe” for a long time due to the machines hooked to his body. Euthanasia is not deciding to switch off the machine when the person is already brain dead. Not wanting to seek a particular treatment due to financial or health considerations is not euthanasia. Euthanasia is actively taking or shortening a life such as taking poison or committing suicide or asking someone to kill us.
In the case of a person who is comatose, what should the Christian do? What does it mean to be in a coma? “Coma is a state of unconsciousness in which a person cannot be awakened; fails to respond normally to painful stimuli, light, or sound; lacks a normal wake-sleep cycle; and does not initiate voluntary actions.” [Emphasis original--https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coma] Based upon this definition the person who is in a coma is not dead yet. He is not dead but unconscious. The biblical rule is we are not to take our own life. This is not the same as not wanting to prolong a life. Machines have been invented to keep the person alive for years at exorbitant costs. If one wants to keep the machines on because he can afford it, then there is nothing wrong with that. However, if another cannot afford to keep the machines on and decides to trust God to see if his loved one will continue to live, he also has not done anything wrong. However, if the machines are switched off and the loved one remains in a state of coma, the person’s life cannot be terminated, for that would be committing the sin of euthanasia.
2. Organ Donation – The believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit while he is alive. Once he is dead it is just a body. Will a believer be resurrected whole and complete if he were to donate his organs after death? Of course he will be. The resurrected body is not dependent upon the condition of our bodies at death. If due to a mishap the believer became food for the sharks, does this mean that the believer’s resurrected body will have shark bites on it or have some body parts missing? Of course not. Therefore donating one’s organ is not a moral issue but simply an issue that is subjective. If one does not want to donate, one has not sinned. If you choose to donate you have also not sinned. It is not a matter of right or wrong but the motive. The motive behind the donation is key to determining whether it is acceptable to God or not. If we donate our organs as a form of good works to enter heaven, then it is wrong. If we donate our organs as a gesture to help others without any ulterior motive, then it is fine.
Conclusion – We live in a world of inventions and modern sciences that have created for us a host of ethical and moral issues that did not exist in previous centuries. Be that as it may, the Scriptures are sufficient to help us resolve them in a manner glorifying to Him. It can be through the direct teaching of God’s Word or inference through the general guidelines revealed to us in Holy Scriptures. First, evaluate if the action is one of sin or not, in itself. If it is a sin then we cannot do it. Euthanasia belongs to this category, for it is a taking of one’s life. Only God alone, who is the Giver and Taker of life, can do it and not man. If the action is not wrong in itself, then our motive behind that action must be righteous. Pray for much wisdom from God our heavenly Father as we live in this world with its many ethical issues. Keep on studying the Word of God, for it is all sufficient in helping us make all decisions in life that will glorify His holy Name. Amen.