Some years ago, I wrote the following to a friend who was facing impending death. Possibly you know someone who would be encouraged by this letter.  

December 8, 2021

Dear Sir Patrick & Lady Deb, 

You are as saintly a couple as we have ever met. Positive, spiritually adventure-some, humble, mature . . . the list goes on and on. 

Now you face the semi-unknown. I think giving up our physical life here on earth  is the greatest challenge we face in this life – moving on into the unknown (except for what we are told in Scripture, which, admittedly, is a lot, but still much is unknown).  

NEVER EASIER    Patrick, I turn 77 today.  I used to think, “Once I am 50 or 60 years of age, I will finally be mature and full of faith and nothing will bother me.” Now I believe that is not how life works. It will never get easier until we breathe our last.  Today, the spiritual battle to obey the Lord Jesus Christ is as intense as it ever has been.  The point being that I have ceased looking for some ideal, at-peace, seasoned and settled, mature and gracious-to-all life here on earth. 

PROMOTION     I am now viewing departure differently than I used to.  I used to see it as dark and unwelcome, something to resist as long as possible.  Possibly I will cling to life like a frantic man being pushed out of an airplane, but from where I sit now I am seeing it as Promotion.  Promotion into the presence of God, and promotion out of this world of woe, injustice, suffering and hardship. 

I do not want to leave Marilyn yet (she is five years younger than I am so eventually it will probably happen) and we want to help our Grandkids get through college, but in another 8 or 10 years, I think I will be more than ready for promotion. 

DEATH SENTENCE   This morning I was in Numbers 22-35.  In 27:13, Moses was reminded that the time before his departure was short.  He was reminded again in 31:2. He had the maturity to deny what he was thinking about–his soon death–and be concerned about the need for leadership for the nation (27:15).  Would we have had that maturity?   

I would very much like to know when in the 40 years of wilderness wandering the “smiting the rock” event of Numbers 20:10 occurred.  Moses disobeyed and lost his ticket to the promised land.  If this occurred early in the 40 years, Moses lived for years with a death sentence hanging over his head.  If it occurred late–say a year (or even a few months) before his departure–he lived for some months with it in his mind.  Either way–early or late–Moses must have been stressed about this early departure. 

It is obvious that he blamed the complaining of the Israelites and their unjust criticism of him for him losing his cool and smiting the rock (See Deuteronomy 1:37;   3:26;  4:21;  Psalm 106:33).  He did not want an early departure. 

DEATH OF JOHN    After some time in Numbers, I turned to Matthew 14 which  opens with the death of John the Baptist.  Why didn’t the Lord Jesus Christ gather an army of angels and break John out of jail before he was beheaded?  Why don’t we read Jesus preached against the wickedness of Herod in His next message?    That Jesus was so stressed and distracted that He withdrew for ten days of seclusion?  We don’t.  He didn’t.   

Jesus was not rattled.  While grieved over His cousin, the Lord Jesus Christ was not knocked off stride or off message;  He did not collapse emotionally.  

DEATH NOT THE ULTIMATE    He did none of those things because death is not the ultimate.  Death is not all there is.  Jesus even treats His own death as a means to an end (the salvation of mankind).  He willingly went to Jerusalem and the cross because He knew what was beyond His physical death.   

For the Christian, death is a passing through to fuller life.  Death is not the ultimate.  Life with God on the other side of death is.      

THE ULTIMATE   There is more life on the far side of death than on our side of death.  II Corinthians 5:4 says so.  . . .  what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

  • The context of II Corinthians 5:4 is clearly physical death.  Verse 1 says, Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed . . . .   Verse 4 adds,  . . . For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened . . . .  
  • Real Life;  Big Life   II Corinthians 5:4 says . . . what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Odd that we would have to die to really live.
    Swallowed up is only possible when something bigger, more powerful or dominating consumes something smaller and less powerful. We think of a bear eating a rabbit; a state-wide political movement absorbing the differing opinions of a small town, or Russia swallowing up some of Ukraine. Life (the larger thing) swallows up death (the smaller thing).   

HEAVEN   Yesterday I picked up a copy of Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven and went to read it aloud to a dear saint. Roy Dahl is 92 and still mentally sharp. Having read a few pages, I asked him if he would like me to continue reading. He said, “Yes.” I read a few more pages and asked him again if I should continue, trying to sense if I was reading to fast or if he was getting tired. He wanted more.  If you have not read Mr. Alcorn’s book, I would encourage you to do so.  It will bring encouragement and perspective.  

Patrick, Debbie, it is clear that you are adding to your legacy by how you are handling your health situation Debbie.  Many are inspired by you. Yes, there must we weak moments, but you are as saintly a couple as we have ever met and you are basically doing . . 

. . . beautifully,