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Monday, October 12, 2015

A Vacation from Revelation, and a little visit with the Grim Reaper...

I spend quite a bit of time reading health news, health blogs, and medical stuff.  It's an interest, especially since I'm like everyone else--interested in my own health.
What strikes me about all this health information is that there is a hidden message:
"do this, and you won't die."
Fear of death consumes us.
We work so we won't starve.  We go to the doctor, and if there's bad news, we ask the question, "Am I going to die?"

Back when I was a regular (as opposed to internet) minister, I did a lot of funerals.  Seemed like people were always dying.  Even when the dead person was old, even if death was a sort of release for them, even if they had lived a full life, there were always tears.
After these funerals, I often walked the graveyards, looking at the graves of the "departed." I'd go and study the tombstones, stand among them, and remind myself that a grave is where we end.

The statistics on death are pretty dismal, really--100 out of 100 people will die.
I remember one of my first thoughts as a youngster was that I would die.  I was terrified.  I thought the devil was waiting for me at the end (and my family was not particularly religious at the time), to take me down to hell.  I felt I could not get out.  I dreamed this multiple times.

Later, I found myself thinking of life as having an end, and no hope of extension. I'd calculate my probable lifespan, and think things like, "Only 50 more years."
You mustn't think, though, that I thought these things often, just when there was little to occupy my mind. Like when I couldn't sleep.
So I had this interest in life.  More particularly, in when it ended.  When mine would end. I knew it would.  I just didn't want it to do so.  Remember, everyone in my world as a child was young, too. I didn't know any old or infirm people, and the oldest people I knew were some of my teachers, the oldest of whom had to be...well, 50!

When I became a Christian, my fear of death as an event pretty much disappeared.  I "got" the fact that I had eternal life, and that my life would never be over.
However, when I started to do funerals and memorial services, I came to a better understanding of the finality of death for our world here.  Life as we know it (on earth) is over when you die.  It won't come back.  You'll never see the people you know, the people you love, ever again. You'll never smell fresh-cut grass, or revel in the spring sunshine, or go to the beach and see the waves and smell the sea, or laugh with a child, or enjoy a young person's smile.  It's over.
So I began to think again about death and dying, and I came to some conclusions, some based on Scripture, some on experience, some on reading.
Here they are:

  1. A LOT of what we do with ourselves is to mask our fear of death.  We talk about our "health." At its root, the fear of bad health has to do with dying. We "eat right." We get physicals.  We go to the doctor, the dentist, the chiropractor, the (insert health professional here)..., all to keep us from dying. Or to make us enjoy life, since we know that life could be over, and we wouldn't be able to enjoy it any longer.
  2. A LOT of the Bible is about death, set in different frameworks. 
    1. Sometimes life after death is presented as a "pleasant inheritance;"
    2. Other times it's a terrible fate. 
    3. Sometimes the words everlasting life, or eternal life are used to present the life past death.
    4. Other times the words everlasting destruction, or perish, or words like them, are used.
    5. Death is never presented as the end, if the context is observed.
    6. Death is never presented as a "friend."
    7. If the person dying is a believer (in the God of the Bible, in Jesus), death is the major event, but not an event to fear so much as to "get through."
    8. If the person dying is not a believer, then the prospect of death is always presented as a warning, and the present life is an opportunity to believe, to repent, to make amends, to "become rich toward God." If we don't, disaster is at hand.  "Your soul will be required of you."
  3. All of us will die.  Eventually, even death will die (Revelation 20:14, 1 Cor. 15:26), and then "death will be no more." It's written that: Is. 25:7-8 And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. Therefore, death itself will be destroyed.
We all hate the idea of death and dying (I certainly don't like it) because it is the enemy of the human race, the event that defines us, and the event that came into our collective humanity because of sin.
I am not trapped by death any longer, however.  I have no pleasure in the idea that I will die.  I hate it. I want to live as long as possible--but it's not the end.
It's the beginning of the future.
And that is true for everyone who believes in God, and in Jesus Christ, God's dear Son, because we have been "Translated out of the Kingdom of Darkness, and into the Kingdom of His Dear Son." We are no longer children of darkness and death.  We are the Sons and Daughters of the Light.

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