There is a right view of death

Published 11:59 pm Friday, March 10, 2006

By Staff
There was a cemetery at the edge of the small town of Kendall. The arched entrance sign to the cemetery had fallen into disrepair. The “K” had loosened and blown off. The result was, “Endall Cemetery.” This was an obvious aberration, but depicts how too many of us think about death. Even though death ends all earthly relationships and activities, death does not end it all.
The means and time of death is the most private transaction possible. No person has the right to determine the time or the means of the death of another person. Death is the intimate interaction between a person and the Creator.
Death is a way of life. When it hits close to us, we are forced to deal with it and move on. Even though death is a breath away, we must live like it is a distant reality.
The Living God of Heaven is the giver of life, but He has a lot to say about death.
Moses was an Old Testament Bible character. He was chosen and called by God to lead the nation of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. God had a close relationship to Moses (Exodus 33:11).
Moses served God faithfully for years, but in a particularly stressful situation, Moses messed up. It was at Kadesh. The people were complaining because there was no water to drink (Numbers 20:2). Moses and Aaron took the complaints to God, and God instructed Moses to speak to a rock and the water would flow (Numbers 20:8). Moses was angry with the people and struck the rock with his rod rather than speaking to it. This brought a death sentence to Moses. God told him he would not lead the people into Canaan (Numbers 20:12).
One would think such a circumstance would devastate Moses, but he seemed to continue unabated in his mission. Moses did appeal to God on one occasion, but God said in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 3, verse 26, “Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter.”
God spoke tenderly to Moses about his impending death. In Numbers, chapter 31, verse 2, God said, “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the children of Israel. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.” It is like God said, “Moses, you have one more mission before you leave.”
And then God said, “You shall be gathered to your people.” Sounds like a reunion doesn't it? An obvious question is, who were his people if the people he was with were not them? You conclude that Moses might have been looking forward to death as a rest from the tremendous responsibilities he carried. Being gathered to your people gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling about death.
King David had similar sentiments in Psalm 55, verse 6: “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” I'm not positive that David was speaking of dying, but flying away and being at rest has become a very comforting thought about death, particularly for believers in Jesus Christ who are facing persecution for their faith.
The Apostle Paul in the epistle to the Philippians, chapter 1, verse 23, expressed his longing to leave this life: “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” Paul was willing to stay and fulfill his responsibility to the gospel and the calling of God on his life (Philippians 1:24).
God is other. Born-again Christians are, in one aspect, other. Life and possessions should have no hold on them. There should be a readiness to depart this life for the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Paul lived in the tension between desiring to die and be with Jesus, and the desire to be faithful and finish his mission well. Such should be the tension in all those who believe on Jesus Christ.
There is no “Endall Cemetery,” even though some might wish there was.
Death is passing from one life to the next. The grave is a temporary holding place. There is eternity out there for all. It will be spent with God or in that other place called the “Lake of Fire” (Revelation 20:15).
The Rev. Dan Puckett is a minister with Life Action Ministeries. He writes a weekly column for the Niles Daily Star.