The last days of his life were met with strength equal to that demonstrated earlier in his life. On January 23, 1546, Luther set out on a journey to settle a dispute between various dukes and their subjects. He was so ill and weak that he had to stop and rest along the way. By the time he had reached his destination, Luther’s condition had worsened—yet he preached four times, administered the Lord’s Supper twice, and ordained two ministers. He commented about his journey, “If I can but succeed in restoring harmony amongst my dear princes and their subjects, I will cheerfully return home and lay me down in the grave.”
Roberts Liardon tells us that on February 17, his illness increased so greatly that Luther was confined to bed. A doctor came to assist him and even offered hope for a cure. But Luther wouldn’t hear of it. For years Luther had felt he was close to the grave, mainly because of constant physical affliction. He once, humorously, wrote to Katie, “I am fed up with this world, and it is fed up with me.”
Roberts Liardon tells us that during the night of February 17, Luther prayed continuously and spoke of eternity to those around him. Late in the evening, while feeling a great constriction upon his chest, Luther prayed saying, “I beseech Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, receive my soul. O Heavenly Father, though I be snatched out of this life, yet know I assuredly that I shall dwell with Thee for ever.”
Between two and three o’clock on the morning of February 18, 1546, Luther closed his eyes and left the earth to be with the Lord. His body was conveyed in a lead coffin, and he was buried in Wittenberg with the greatest of honors. His body still rests at the foot of the pulpit of Castle Church, where he first nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the door.
Castle Church became the Westminster Abbey of the Lutheran Church. In 1760, the original wooden doors were burned in the Seven Years’ War. In 1812, bronze doors were erected in their place, and Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses were cast within them.