By David Faust
Trying to be tasteful, a corporate memo described mechanics fired from their jobs by saying, “They were placed on non-duty, non-pay status.” A physician whose patient died wrote on the patient’s chart, “He failed to fulfill his wellness potential.”
Perhaps that’s better than the indelicate ways we talk about death. “He kicked the bucket.” (And died from a toe injury?) “He bought the farm.” (And perished from an acute case of buyer’s remorse?) “She expired.” (Like a parking meter?) “He croaked.” (Compare me to no frog when I die.)
The Bible, however, uses meaningful word pictures to describe a believer’s death and resurrection.
Gathered. Before Jacob died he gathered his sons around him and gave instructions and blessings to each of them. Then “he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 49:33). Abraham and Isaac also were “gathered to their people” (Genesis 25:8; 35:29). Death could be the loneliest event of all, but for a believer it leads to a family reunion.
Reassured. At age 110 Joseph told his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid” (Genesis 50:24). What beautiful reassurance to give the next generation when you die: “After I’m gone, God will still be with you!”
Rested. When King David died, he “rested with his ancestors” (1 Kings 2:10). After all, he expected to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).
Returned. Solomon described death as a time when “the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
Dismissed. Devout old Simeon waited faithfully for the Messiah. Upon encountering the Christ-child, “Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation’” (Luke 2:28-30). What a beautiful way to think of death: “Lord, dismiss your servant in peace!” Simeon viewed his approaching death as if the Lord were a teacher saying, “Class dismissed” or a commanding officer giving the order, “At ease, soldier!”
Departed. At his transfiguration, heavenly light surrounded Jesus as he talked with Moses and Elijah. “They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31). Peter used the same term for “departure” (Greek exodos, “the way out”) in reference to his own death when he wrote, “I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things” (2 Peter 1:15). For a Christian, death isn’t an inescapable trap. Because of Jesus, we know the way out! Death is our departure—an exit, not an extermination. Someone has said, “Earth’s exodus is Heaven’s genesis.”
Awakened. The prophet Daniel foresaw a time when “multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake” (Daniel 12:2), and the apostle Paul declared, “We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51).
One popular euphemism for death, however, never appears in the Bible in reference to a Christian. We read, “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). Christians don’t “pass away.” Like Jacob we will be “gathered to our people” for a reunion of God’s family. Better yet, “We will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
1. Are you comfortable talking about death? Why, or why not?
2. What is your favorite biblical description of life after death?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for January 25, 2015
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Genesis 42, 43
Genesis 44, 45
Genesis 46, 47