On Death

This is from a recent thought-provoking post by Dan Phillips on http://teampyro.blogspot.com/

……I read a book on ministering pastorally to cancer patients. It historically traced the attitude folks used to have towards dying. I learned that our forefathers’ attitude was not the same as ours today

Most of us, I presume, would say that we do not so much fear death as we fear dying. We fear a dehumanizing, drawn-out, agonizing,financially-devastating process. Our “dream death” — odd phrase, that — is a quick death. You know: Sky Lab falls on us, or a whale. Something in our brain blows out, and bam! we drop like a lead
sinker in a pond on a summer day. We throw ourselves in front of someone taking a shot at a loved one, and are instantly killed. That’s our dream-death.

Not so, our forebears. Their “dream death” was a slow death.

Why? We recoil from the suggestion.

I think it was because they had a sense of judgment and responsibility that we don’t have. A slow death announced its coming. It’s like getting a “five-minute-warning.” A slow death gives the opportunity to prepare for the judgment of God. It gives occasion for trying to sort out any unsorted relationships, saying last words, arranging our affairs fully. It gives opportunity to prepare in the sight of the pulling of the last curtain on this life.

Knowledge of impending death was their Isaiah the prophet, announcing to Hezekiah, “Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live” (Isaiah 38:1).

Our forebears wouldn’t envy our longed-for quick death, our abrupt exit that leaves no time to prepare. That would be a sad death, to them.

Reading that broadened my perspective… but I’d be lying if I said it has made me feel different about the prospect!

But I think something else, too. Should we really need that kind of warning?

Isn’t our first heartbeat a “warning pistol”? Maybe we don’t have five minutes left, but on the scale of eternity, is there really that much of a difference between five minutes and a hundred years?

Isn’t it true that “you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14)? The statistics are pretty doggoned overwhelming: unless the Lord comes for us, our first heartbeat is #1 of a finite series, a series that has a fixed, definite and unalterable number known to God. While you’ve read this article, your total number of heartbeats has likely gone down by several hundred.

What… you didn’t know that?

I must say, most seem to live as if they don’t. Most live as if life will
go on as-is, forever—though they know as a detached fact that it surely won’t. When people ask me whether it was dangerous being a private investigator, I tell them the most dangerous part was driving the freeways of Los Angeles. People drive as if life is a video game, where if your “blip” explodes, you can just casually put in some more money and go again.

Yet such is not life. The beer commercial is only half-right: you only go around once in life. Then comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Usually there is no warning-sign, no “Five minutes, Mr. Phillips.”

Surely this is the wisdom at the heart of Solomon’s craggy observation that “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).

Whatever our cosmic eschatology is, our personal eschatology had better keep that truth in the forefront. However imminent the Lord’s coming is to the world, or whatever it may involve, our going to stand before Him surely is imminent.

Best be prepared.

Dan Phillips, July 3, 2007


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