As a representative of Heritage of Hope, I am troubled by how many believers are hesitant to discuss or prepare for their death. So, I offer seven possible ways to picture life and death. Do any of these analogies ring true with your convictions? Which ones are biblically accurate? Why not discuss them?
To some Life is a COUNTDOWN. People with this mindset see death as an expiration date. The clock is ticking. To them, getting old is not a blessing but a fearful thing as it means they are over the hill and on their way out. Even Paul admits the bucket-list mentality makes some sense if you believe you only go around once. I Cor. 15:32 And if there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and drink for tomorrow we die!”
Those who see Life as an opportunity for JUSTIFICATION BY WORKS can be very driven, accomplished people. They have not encountered grace, so they view death as a final accounting, a fearful reckoning. While they hope for reward, judgment looms large unless they have deluded themselves with the pride of achievement. Revelation 20:11 And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. . . 12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books . . . 15. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.
Picturing Life as a JOURNEY was well explored in Pilgrim’s Progress. Many challenges, distractions and obstacles were encountered by Christian on his way to the Celestial City, but once unburdened by sin, he was able to proceed. In this analogy, death becomes a portal to our eternal home, the place Jesus is preparing for us, Heaven, and the New Earth. With such blessings awaiting us, we can journey on in faith and hopefulness the closer we come to our final destination. John 14:3 Since I am going and preparing a place for you, I will return to take you with me; so that where I am, you may be also.
If Life is a RACE, then death is merely the finish line. Rather than dreading judgment, we can even anticipate reward. This was a favorite comparison of the apostle Paul. Phil 3:13-14 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
If Life is perceived as a MISSION, then death is its completion. We adopt the disciplines of a soldier, abstaining from entanglements, in order to be obedient and ready for deployment. We work and strive not for justification but to honor our King by accomplishing each task assigned to us. We long to join Jesus in declaring, “It is finished!” John 19:30, Revelation 16:17, 21:6. The end of a thing is better than its beginning Ecclesiastes 7:8a.
Visualizing Life as spiritual warfare, or an ongoing BATTLE is certainly justified by Ephesians 6. Scripture tells us we have three enemies—our sin nature, the devil, and the corrupt world system. This approach acknowledges pain and woundedness as a normal part of our earthly life and dispels the American dream along with Cinderella. Even better, death is swallowed up in the victory of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54) to become our release and reward, perhaps even our rescue.
When we live this Life as a RELATIONSHIP to God, then death becomes reunion. More than twenty times during his Upper Room Discourse, Jesus said he was “going to the Father.” On the cross, he said, “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.” At last we will enjoy, unhindered, the relationship for which we were created. Death will be a reunion like none other!
Fred Rogers makes this helpful statement about death. “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.” Let’s open the door to conversations that can make life and death “less scary” for us and those we love so much. Joel 1:3 Tell your children about it, and let your children tell their children, and their children the next generation.