“For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 5:4,5).
IN OUR MORE HONEST MOMENTS, HOW MANY OF US CAN SAY WE LONG FOR OUR MORTALITY TO BE “SWALLOWED UP BY LIFE” AS PAUL DID? The truth is, we’re quite happy here, and we don’t want to die. We want to hang on to this life as long as we possibly can.
But why do we dread the day of our death, which from the Christian perspective is our greatest day of all? What is there about trading this “tent” for an eternal dwelling that is so unappealing?
Obviously, we may dread the manner of death. Certain ways of dying are extremely painful, while others are completely humiliating. If we had our choice, I imagine most of us would like to pass away quietly in our sleep when the time comes. But most of us don’t want that time to come until we have gotten everything we want out of this life. We dread death itself. It is unwelcome.
Paul more than once compared the Christian life to a race being run by an athlete, so let’s think of it that way for a moment. The right-thinking Christian doesn’t dread death any more than a runner dreads reaching the finish line. Can you imagine a runner who, rounding the last turn and seeing the finish line ahead, says, “Oh my! I don’t want this race to be over! I think I’ll slow down and see if I can be the very last runner to reach the finish”?
Peter speaks of receiving the end or goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9). Unless the Lord comes back first, it will be at our death that we reach this goal. So that day will be our graduation, the culmination of all our training in godliness. Do we want to be that “professional student” who dreads graduation because it will be the end of a situation that he’s loathe to give up? Don’t we want to graduate? And if, contrary to what we expect, the Lord indicates that our training is finished sooner rather than later, where is the problem in that . . . if we’re reaching forward?
“By all standards, death is the most dreaded event. Our society will pay any price to prolong life. Just one more month, or even another day. Perhaps our desire to postpone death reflects our dissatisfaction with God’s ultimate purpose. Remember, his work isn’t finished until we are glorified. Most of us would like to see God’s work remain half finished. We’re glad we are called and justified, but we’re not too excited about being glorified” (Erwin W. Lutzer).