Way back when we first joined FBC Pelham, perhaps 32 years ago, I recall something our pastor said, as if it were yesterday. He said it on the occasion of the death of one of our best-known members, in a tragic accident caused by a drunk driver.
He said that the police had contacted him for the family notification, and he'd gone with the officer. The widow knew something was drastically wrong, as they rang her doorbell close to midnight on a Friday night. What Brother Mike said that struck me was that he had told her that her husband was dead. Not gone to heaven, not with Jesus now, not gone to his eternal reward, but dead.
He said it is very important that they hear, and deal with, the fact that someone has died. That he is dead.
Ever since that day, I've been particularly alert to the euphemisms people say ... those in the Christian community ...when someone dies. I'm sure you've heard them all.
When I got to pondering the issue, I decided I'd prefer to take the view that God does, on the matter of death. And particularly so, in light of the fact that about the third verse I ever memorized, in 1969, was Hebrews 9:27-28:
"And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him."
So God says that He has set up, for us, an appointment to die. And in the context of the two verses, He did that for people He loves.
If He says "die", I think I will, too.
Then there's always Psalm 116:15:
"Precious in the sight of the Lord, is His Godly ones."
God says our dying is precious to Him. He doesn't call it something else. And if He doesn't, then His language is fine with me. I mean, why would be even want to call it something else?
Perhaps it is that, despite all our talk about faith and the assurance of Heaven, with all the promises of what a ..... well, heavenly .... place it will be, we really don't want to think about it. Don't want to use that word.
I think that may be the case. And I may be in a little different situation than most. I wasn't saved over conviction of sin, or the promise of a terrific life and relationship down here. I got saved because I was afraid of dying.
Picture the end of WW2. Russia had the bomb, we knew it, and we lived in a suburb of Chicago. Small house, no A/C, the middle of summer, and Air Raid Shelter signs up all over. Newspapers saying the best place to be would be ground zero, since the suffering would all be over for you. Casual remarks from adults like "Nuthin' sure but death and taxes", often followed by laughter.
And then me, lying in my bed at night, listening to the sound of bombers flying over Chicago, apparently very high. Wondering if they were Russians coming over to kill me. Feeling relief only when the sound began to fade. And wondering what it would be like to die.
That fear ended in about 1948, when I was about 10. Dad asked me what was wrong, as he'd seen me moping around, poking at my food, etc. When I said "I'm afraid of dying", he said "Don't you remember what you heard in Vacation Bible School ... if you believe in Jesus, when you die you go to heaven". Instantly, the lump in the throat and the hollowness in the chest went away, and I ran outside to play.
By the way, it took a long time to realize that was actually when Jesus had saved me ... the moment I first trusted Him.
Ever since that day over 65 years ago, He's had me like a fish on a stringer, reeling me in when He wants me.
I always figured the best way to overcome fear of something was to face it. Talk about it. Get used to it so it wouldn't be a bother. And guess what ... it's worked.
Peggy and I had a discussion a few days ago about this very matter. I told her when I die, I don't want any of those euphemisms flying around. She rather enthusiastically agreed with me, about herself, too!
So, when one of us dies, expect to see something somewhere that says we're dead. If it's precious to God, and to the folks already in Heaven........ let it be precious to us, too.