Pastoral Care, Chapter 8: Death is a Reality, Not a Threat – Part 1

Job is a representative character of every human being at one time or another, and in every generation, as we contemplate the mysteries of life and death and ask the question, “If a man die, will he live again?”

Even as Christians who claim, as part of our faith, to have the answer to that question, some still ask, “If a man dies, and if he lives again, where will it be?” If a man die, and if he lives again, how will it be? With what kind of body? Will he be recognizable? What is the nature of it?

Death is not an easy subject for many people to discuss. There are still many taboos. We are people who do not deal well with mystery and the unknown which requires faith rather than fact. Only one person has been there as far as I know, through the door of death and returned to say anything to us about it, and He did not tell us much. This is a problem for many who think of ourselves as living in a scientific age, where everything is factual; or is it?

At the outset, I must tell you that I intend to give an answer to Job’s question and to deal with the subject of death; but I intend to do it, not from the perspective of facts, but in the context of faith. In an age which seems, at times, to be able to be almost brutally honest and frank about so many things, we still speak of death in veiled language and symbolic terms and euphemisms such as “passing away” … “going to heaven.”

From time to time, a person will say to me, “If I die, will you do this for me?” or “will you do that for my family?” Notice the conditional phrase, however, much like Job, “If I die … “as if there were some doubt about it. Is there some question that it will not happen to all of us? Is there going to be one or some who are going to miss it? Shall we talk about it only in the event that it might happen?

In contrast to our inclinations to evade, to avoid, to push it aside, not only the thought of when it will happen but even the consideration of it; and in contrast to our ways of using conditional phrases and symbolic language to talk about death, the Bible is very realistic. The Bible speaks in a very candid, straight forward, honest way about death. The Bible deals with death as a part of the creative process which God set in motion in the very beginning. All things and all persons who live will also die. We do not have trouble with the first part of that. We accept the fact that things die. We do not have difficulty, at times, even with the death of persons we do not know. Our problem, primarily, is only with those who are close to us.

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