Now that the words “death” and “died” are so out of fashion that even news reports are speaking of the famous as having “passed on”/”passed away” etc, we thought it was high time to write a new version of the Bible called the DIV (Death is Verboten) to cater to the sensibilities of the modern person, even the modern Christian!
Time was you would have to pass through a graveyard on your way to a church, and once inside there were plaques and reminders of the dead on all the walls, and engraved onto the flagstone floors. But now with the promise that everyday could be a Friday, as opposed to your last day, even Christians funerals are either ditching the words “death/dying/died”, or falling into the line with the culture that “it is just not that bad.”
So without further ado, here are some snippets from the DIV Bible that people will be just, er, dying to buy.
Genesis3: Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you pass over to the other side.’”
And what about Genesis5?
5 Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he checked out.
6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. 7 Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8 Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he became another flower in God’s garden.
9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he slipped away.
12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. 13 Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he crossed over. (Thank you John Edwards).
15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. 16 Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he became one with everything..
And how about this from Jesus? John 8:51:
Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see the room next door.”
Perhaps you might accuse me of making light of the subject, but surely that is the point. If we have reached the stage in which even Christian funerals lighten the topic and say “This is a time of joy” without ever pointing to the tragedy of human death; how unnatural it is, what an enemy death is, then we diminish the opportunity to reflect on death from God’s perspective. We diminish a great gospel opportunity for those who are unsaved, or for those who claim Christ whilst playing with fire.
Now whilst we are told by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 that some who saw the risen Jesus “have fallen asleep” (15:6, c.f v18), the rest of that chapter is overwhelmingly realistic about death, its source, its results and the solution to it found in Christ. In a culture such as ours in which death is, unlike Paul’s setting, completely hidden away from public sight, we would do well to bring out the death/dying terminologies for a viewing more frequently.
We are told in Ecclesiastes 7:2 – 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.
What chance have we got of laying anything to heart when even in the house of mourning we refuse to give death its full troublesome weight? Jesus cried his eyes out at Lazarus’ tomb minutes before raising him. Did he only just come up with the idea in that teary moment or was something deeper going on?
So let’s not fall into line with the extreme materialists who try to soften death’s blow by saying it is simply a natural part of life, part of the great evolutionary process of which we have become, by dint of our lives, entwined with. No one really buys that when it is their loved one dying. No one sits around a cancer patient marvelling at the disinterested evolutionary process. Death stinks, and it’s an insult to the grieving to say otherwise.
And let’s not cave in to the vast majority of deniers who quash the thought of death with stuff. I have conducted enough funerals to notice how, as one moves towards the back of the funeral cortege wending its way to the pastel-pink chapel, the conversations lighten dramatically. It’s all football results and white goods down the back. Live long enough and you’ll move further up the line, until eventually it is YOU everyone is following. We need to remind ourselves of that.
That death is not THE end is a beautiful and wondrous thing – for the Christian. For those who do not know Christ the judgement that follows death (Heb9:27), will be a judgement void of the canopy of God’s grace in Jesus. Death is the precursor for us all, either the precursor to life in the age to come on The Last Day, or the precursor to the second death on The Last Day.
One day, as John Donne said, “Death, you shall die!” Until then, however, we will. Yes, even you.