By Pastor Wayne Camp


By Wayne Camp

TEXT: Numbers 23: Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!  

This is a rather strange desire, is it not? Here is a wicked man. One who has gone down in infamy as a greedy false prophet. He was never a man of God; he was a false prophet who had substantial power to bless and to curse. I would remind you that Satan’s men derive such power from him as is seen with the magicians and astrologers in Egypt.

There are two questions and one lesson that I want us to consider from this text. First, we will consider the question, Why would a wicked man not desire to die the death of the wicked? The Second question for our consideration is, Why would a wicked man pray to die the death of the righteous? And, finally we will learn a very important lesson which is, Men usually die as they have lived!

It is rare indeed that a man who has lived a wicked life has the opportunity to die the death of the righteous. I know of only one in Scripture. He was a thief and was crucified with Christ. He died the death due him for his wickedness but in truth he died the death of a righteous man for he died a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is one lest no man despair but only one lest no man presume. 


If a man wants to live the life of the wicked, it would seem that he would want to die the death of the wicked. Balaam had lived the life of a greedy false prophet. He was a prophet for hire. He was a soothsayer and an abomination before God. He desired to curse Israel and receive a treasure of gold. He was not hesitant to plead his cause and offer sacrifices in an attempt to bribe God into letting him curse Israel. Yet, as strange as it seems, this man did not want to die as he had lived. He did not want to die the death of an unsaved person. Therefore he prayed, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!"

I would suggest there are several reasons why a wicked man would not desire the death of the wicked.

The death of a wicked man is a death to everlasting destruction from the presence of God. Psalm 37:35-38 I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. 36 Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found. 37 Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. 38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.

Can you imagine facing a death that would bring one into an eternity of everlasting destruction? Can you imagine facing a death that would bring you into an eternity of separation from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power? That is the death of the wicked and they seek to escape it even though they are living the life of the wicked.

Another reason the wicked man may pray to die a righteous mans death is the certain terror that lies before him immediately after death. He may appear outwardly to die at peace. In the last forty years I have had several people describe to me how peacefully someone died thinking this was evidence he/she knew the Lord. Regardless of the seeming outward tranquillity of the wicked in the time of death, his life ends in the terror of death. Psalm 73:3-19 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. 5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. 6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. 7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. 8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. 9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. 11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? 12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. 13 Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. 14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. 15 If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. 16 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; 17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. 18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. 19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! THEY ARE UTTERLY CONSUMED WITH TERRORS. Oh, the horror that death holds for the wicked. As the spirit takes leave of the body it immediately begins to suffer the agonies and torments of everlasting burnings. For all eternity their unanswered prayers will go up as they weep, wail, and gnash their teeth and gnaw their dried and parched tongues without so much as a drop of water to cool their tormented tongue.

It is also true that the wicked often die with the knowledge their children are not safe because the children walk in the wicked path the father has made. Job 5:3-4 I have seen the foolish taking root: but suddenly I cursed his habitation. 4 His children are far from safety, and they are crushed in the gate, neither is there any to deliver them. It must be an awful realization for a wicked man to come to the end of his life, look at his children who have walked in the same path he has, and know they too will probably face the same terrifying death he faces. Like Judas, there may be none to show the children of the wicked any mercy. Psalm 109:9-13 Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. 10 Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. 11 Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour. 12 Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children. 13 Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. This passage is in the midst of a Messianic Psalm. It is actually a prayer of Christ concerning his persecutors, especially Judas. He does not only pray for the damnation of Judas Iscariot; he prays that none extend mercy to the children of Judas. It is terrifying enough to know that hell is just ahead for you; it has to be even more terrifying to realize that the same terror will possess your children when they die and no one will show them the least mercy.

The good expectation and hope for the wicked vanishes in the moment of his death. Proverbs 11:7 When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth. Proverbs 10:28 The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish. There is absolutely no hope in the death of the wicked. Proverbs 14:32 The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death. No hope! No hope! NO HOPE! Hell is a hopeless place. There is not the slightest glimmer of hope for those who are there. When the rich man prayed that Lazarus might come and cool his parched and tormented tongue, this request was categorically denied. When he prayed that someone go warn his lost brothers, the hope for that being done was quickly vanquished. The hopelessness of hell is more than this writer can imagine. Words escape me.

The death of Pharaoh’s warriors in the Red Sea illustrates the death of the wicked. Exodus 15:9-10 The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. 10 Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. There was no hope for those soldiers. They sank down like lead in the mighty waters of the Red Sea.

How does God look on the death of the wicked. God classifies the wicked who die in their wickedness fools. Luke 12:19-21 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

There are so many men like this one in the world. Their portfolios are filled with stocks and bonds. They know how to farm and build great barns. They are astute in business and what they touch just seems to turn to gold. But, they are not rich toward God. And, God declares them to be fools of the worst sort. One day, perhaps suddenly and unexpectedly, they are swept out into eternity without God and without any hope of ever being delivered from the torments of the lake of fire. It is no wonder such men would pray to die the death of the righteous. Who wants to die a fool’s death?

When the wicked die, they lift up their eyes from the terrifying torments of an everlasting hell. Luke 16:22-23 The rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments. They do not have to wait a week, or a year. It is swift and sudden. It is immediately after death. As their spirit slips out of their bodies it slides into the torments of the flames of hell. As Balaam faced this reality, he prayed, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!"

Considering these things and much more that could be said of the death of the wicked one can understand why a wicked man would not want to die the wicked man’s death.


While God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11),the death of the righteous is very precious in the sight of his Lord. Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. We grieve at the passing of our loved ones. Even if they are saved, there is sorrow at the hour of their death. This is natural and is not wrong. We are admonished to not sorrow as those who have no hope, but we do grieve in the hour of death of a friend or loved one even though he or she is saved. But, this is not so with the Lord. The death of one of his saints is exceedingly precious in his sight. It is apparently a very special time for the Lord when he brings one of his children home. We think of Jesus being seated at the right hand of the Father, and so Scripture teaches us. But, when Stephen died, he saw heaven opened and Jesus was standing on the right hand of the Father. Why was he standing? Apparently, he was standing up to welcome Stephen home. There must be rejoicing in heaven when one of the saved is escorted into glory through the door of death. Precious is their death in the sight of the Lord.

If the righteous die a bloody death as did Balaam, their blood is precious in the sight of the Lord. As will be seen later, Balaam died a bloody death. He was slain with the sword. Sometimes a child of God may be called upon to die a bloody death. Paul wrote of some people of faith who died very bloody deaths. Hebrews 11:30-37 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. 32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented. Even if one who is a child of God does die a bloody death, even his blood is precious in the eyes of the Lord. Psalm 72:14 He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.

Even despised beggars who know Christ are carried into the presence of the Lord by an entourage of angels when they die. Luke 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. In my mind’s eye I see old Lazarus lying at the gate of the rich man. He stinks for his only bath is administered by the tongues of dogs. He is covered with sores and the only ointment they know is the slobbers and saliva of dogs. He is a sorry sight. He is repulsive to look upon. But, he is precious in the eyes of the Lord. His death is precious in the eyes of the Lord. And, his blood is precious to Jesus Christ. So, when this beggar dies, an entourage of angels bear him to heaven and he is welcomed home by his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

For the righteous, the child of God, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. The body without the spirit is dead. Therefore, one is said to be absent from the body the moment he dies. The wonderful and glorious thing about that is that absence from the body means being in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a day that will be. Every wicked man must desire this kind of death. It is no wonder Balaam prayed for a righteous man’s death. Numbers 23:10 Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his! It is a glorious way to die. It is a way to die that is to be desired.

It is also true that when the righteous die they experience what is great gain. Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. It is wonderful to live in Christ. It is wonderful to have him live in us. But it is great gain to die if you are a Christian. It is a terrible loss to die the death of the wicked, but it is a mighty gain to die the death of the righteous.

When the true believer in Christ dies he goes to a place and a life that is far better than anything one could experience here on this earth. Philippians 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better. It is wonderful to rejoice in our relationship with Christ now. It can be like a taste of heaven. It will be far better to be presented faultless before the presence of his glory. Jude 24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. That is beyond all that I can perceive it to be. I have seen him through the eye of faith but how I look forward to seeing him face to face. And even more, the wondrous assurance that we will be presented faultless before his holy and glorious presence. What a blessing! What an amazing blessing of his wonderful grace and mercy. How wonderful! How marvelous! What a contrast to the death of the wicked.

We should note also that God’s special blessing has been pronounced upon those who die in the Lord Jesus Christ. Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

When one considers all these things and more that could be said of the death of the true believer in Jesus Christ, it is easy to see why a wicked man would pray to die the death of the righteous. It is no wonder that wicked and greedy prophet for hire, Balaam, prayed, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!" 


It is a demonstrable fact: Men usually die as they have lived. If they live the wicked man’s life they usually die a wicked man’s death. I recall two men whom I knew in Stuttgart, Arkansas, who reveal that this declaration is defensible.

On a certain afternoon a recently saved man from our church and I were visiting. We passed a service station where one of his old drinking buddies worked. We stopped and witnessed to him. He laughed and said, "I am 27 years old. I have plenty of time. Don’t you guys believe in death bed confessions? I am going to live to be about 80 and then I will trust Christ and be saved. I believe in death bed confessions." His friend who was now saved, said, "Ray, how do you know that you are not on your death bed right now." As we left he was laughing at us. That very night, less than six hours from the time we had left him, the phone rang and a buddy of Ray related how he had been shot in a fuss over a woman. A man put a pistol between his eyes and Ray laughed and said, "You won’t kill me." He did. He blew his brains out the back of his head. Ray was on his death bed and did not know it. He lived a wicked man’s life; he died a wicked man’s death even though he desired the death of the righteous.

The second man, Jack, was the father of two fine young boys. His wife was a Christian but he was a drunkard. I spoke to him about the Lord on several occasions. He seemed interested but he would say, "Preacher, I am only 28 years old. I have plenty of time. Don’t give up but I am not ready to give up my way of life yet." I spoke to him for the last time on a Friday. Sunday morning about five my phone rang and it was a deputy sheriff. He and a funeral director with whom I was friends asked me to meet them just out of town at the cite of a wreck. Jack had been driving at a high rate of speed and had veered into the path of an oncoming tractor-trailer rig. He had hit with such an impact that the front axle had literally been sheered out from under the Mack tractor. The funeral director said his body was more mutilated than many plane crash victims he had picked up during WWII. It was sad to have to go to Jack’s house about six and awaken his wife and tell her Jack was dead. After a night of drunken revelry in Pine Bluff he was killed within three miles of home. He lived a wicked man’s life; he died a wicked man’s death even though he had expressed a desire to die the death of the righteous. The men, Ray and Jack, demonstrate the fact that men usually die as they live.

This truth may also be proven from the word of God. Balaam died a violent death at the hands of Israel whom he had sought to curse. Numbers 31:8 And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword. Joshua 13:22 Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them. It is interesting that five of the kings who were slain are named and then, set apart from the others is Balaam, the wicked man who prayed that he might die a righteous man’s death. He died as he lived and is spending the eternity called for by his wicked life.

It is obvious from the words of the Apostle Peter that Balaam was not a saved man for he is classed with false prophets who perish. 2 Peter 2:12-17 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; 13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; 14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.

It is obvious from the words of Jude that Balaam did not die the death or enter the eternity he desired for he died as he lived. Jude 11-13 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. 12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; 13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.

Judas Iscariot acted like a Christian but inwardly he was unclean, a thief, an unbeliever and the son of perdition and he died as he lived. Acts 1:18-20 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. 20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.

The rich man who was not rich toward God died the hopeless life of a fool. Luke 12:20-21 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

On the other hand, Stephen lived the life of the righteous and died the death of the righteous. Acts 7:54-60 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Consider the words of Paul when he knew his death was imminent. 2 Timothy 4:6-8 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Those who live the life of faith can die the death of faith. Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  


The lesson is clear; you are more than likely going to die as you live. Don’t pray that you may die the death of the righteous if you are living the life of the wicked. Don’t pray that you may die the death of faith unless you are living the life of faith. Don’t pray that you may be with the Lord after you die unless for you to live is Christ now.

The life of faith begins with faith. Lay aside every vestige of trust in self, trust in what you can do, and flee for refuge and salvation in Jesus Christ. He is the door and only those who enter in by him will be saved. He is the way, and only those who come by him will be saved. Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

When Ruth and I were dating a preacher came by her house and talked to her and asked her to sign a little decision card. That was supposed to be her evidence that she was saved. But, salvation was not in that little decision card and some months later she was saved when she looked by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ and him alone. She was saved saved then, not when she signed the little decision card.

Can you trust him with your eternal destiny? Will you trust him and no one else for your salvation? I pray that God will give you the faith to lay hold of Christ right now if he has not already done so.  

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