On Death and Departures

Written by Drew on January 3rd, 2007

Listen to the way the world speaks of death.

Yesterday I was watching some of the news coverage of President Ford’s funeral. A reporter’s statement caught my attention: “Gerald Ford has been moved back to his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan.” What a bleak picture! Gerald Ford, in a casket, buried in the ground near his presidential library in Grand Rapids.

The Christian view of death is much better. According to Christ, death is a departure rather than a final end. This idea is subtly brought out by Luke in his account of the Transfiguration of Christ. Describing the scene in which Moses and Elijah appear, the physician notes that the three prophets spoke of Jesus’ “departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Lk. 9:31). Of course, they were talking about the crucifixion, which to the world appeared to be the end of the carpenter from Nazareth. However, Christ evidently saw his death differently. The word translated “departure” in this passage is exodus, the same word responsible for the title of the second book in the Bible–a book detailing the Israelites’ departure from Egyptian bondage. Moses and Elijah, having the benefit of experience behind them, knew something the world did not. They knew that Jesus was about to go on a journey.

Paul followed this lead when he wrote his letter to the Philippian church. “I am hard pressed between the two,” he said, speaking of whether he would live or die, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil. 1:23).

Death, by all appearances, looks awful because we only see the physical side of things. Were we able fully to see the whole picture, we would realize that it is not the end, but rather a separation of body and soul.

The truth is, we can see the whole picture through eyes of faith: “…the body apart from the spirit is dead…” (Jas. 2:26).

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thes. 4:13).

 

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