“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
I was thinking of death this week. Not a specific death, mine or another’s, but death in general. My focus wasn’t on the preliminaries of death – the decline into frailty by disease nor the suddenness of accident and injury.
I was trying to imagine what the journey of death is like. What is the actual transition of moving from this life to the next? The Bible is largely silent about the event. We are warned that everyone must face death (Heb.9:27) and are assured that there is conscious existence after death; but you won’t find a description of the transformation. We are assured of our destination but told nothing about the trip there! Since we can never know until it actually happens, we are left to speculate.
God leaves clues about the life to come scattered in the life that is. The parables of Jesus were heavenly truths discovered in the familiar. Paul uses sleep as a metaphor of death (1 Thess.4:14). If death is but a sleep and we awake to a new life, consider this: some mornings I awake with a jolt. My alarm jerks me to my feet and the day begins. But there are days when the alarm is not set, and I am left to my own rousing – a more gradual process. It often goes like this.
I am dreaming and content to stay there. But I begin to hear some soft noises from the room. They get incorporated into my dreams, to the point that I’m not sure what is illusion or real. I feel the restlessness of my body beginning to stir. I sense the weight of blankets or the breeze from a window. The real world pushes on my dream illusions with sound and touch. The glimmer of day invades my shadows. And when I hear my name called, my eyes open to a new day. I stumble to the bathroom mirror and am disappointed by the reflection. I have moved from the state of sleep to being alive to the world around me. While I have no proof, I envision the transition of death in a similar way.
There will be those that hear a blast of Gabriel’s trumpet alerting them instantly to new life (1Thess.4:16). But most generations experience an awakening to eternity without a celestial announcement. It is more transitional. Having dwelt for decades in this life, it holds us with a grip we name reality. It is all we know. It’s a place where our dreams seem genuine. But death comes to move us from this reality to the next. We may hear angelic sounds faintly. The glint of glory and the breeze of worship invite us to arise. Our soul begins to stir. The brightness of the Son penetrates our darkness. And then – you hear your name whispered. It’s not a generic call, but the one who called Lazarus by name, speaks just to you. His voice is tender. His voice is power. He calls to you with a name that you’ve never been called by before. It’s a new name, but you recognize it as your own – an intimate gift (Rev.2:17). The eyes of your heart are fully opened (Eph.1:18). The distorted mirror is perfected to show you exactly who you are in Jesus (1 Cor.13:12). You are awake, alive and animated by the surge of the Spirit. You turn to the One who called you. Having followed Him all your days, you are now home. Eternal life. Eternal love.