For Believers, Death but a “Departure”

Posted on July 31, 2018

9


By David Ettinger

I’m a great fan of the classic TV series, “The Twilight Zone.” The TV masterpiece, which ran from 1959 through 1964, was innovative, and still holds up admirably today.

bon voyageBut despite the show’s ingenuity, it blew it in one area, that being its dealing with death. In several episodes, Rod Serling, the show’s creator and foremost writer, presented death as a peaceful, welcoming, and desirable passage from this life to the next.

Sorry to say, but this is nothing but wishful thinking. The Bible is clear that following this life, unbelievers move on to eternal punishment in Hell. Jesus confirms this truth in such passages as Matthew 18:6-9 and Matthew 25:31-46. The apostle Paul also affirms this truth in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10.

There is nothing good about death. It is bad, and is meant to be bad – particularly for the unbeliever. However, for the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, death is a different matter. The kind of peaceful death envisioned by Serling for humanity in general is the norm for Jesus’ followers.

In fact, we could say that Christians don’t actually experience “death,” but something else altogether: a “departure.”

Where We Find “Departure”
The notion of Christian “departure” is found twice in the New Testament, and both penned by Paul.

The first reference to this concept is Philippians 1:23-24, where Paul is expressing the conflict he feels between serving Christ in this life and wishing to be with Him in the next. He writes (emphasis added): “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

dungeonThe second reference is 2 Timothy 4:6, as Paul, locked up in a Roman dungeon, knows his time on this earth is imminent. He writes: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.”

Note in the Philippians reference how the word “depart” is used in a positive sense, as something to be desired; indeed, Paul does desire “to depart.”

Meaning of “Departure”
The words “depart” and “departure” come from the Greek word analysis, which has no association at all with the English word of the same spelling; it is a coincidence.

Analysis means “an unloosing (of woven things).” The image in view is that of a boat being moored, or secured, by ropes or cables so that it is held in one place. When the boat is ready to be taken out to sea, it is, in essence, set free from its moorings and now may engage in its natural state, that is, to sail freely.

This “departure” of the boat is a very good thing. Boats were not made to remain tied up in port, but to be loosed – at the proper time – to that for which it was created, to sail the seas. The same holds true for human beings. We were made to have eternal fellowship with God, and to do so in a perfect environment. However, this world is fallen and sinful, which often makes unbroken fellowship with God impossible.

Paul writes of this sad reality in Romans 8:22-23:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves [believers], who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

moored boatSo, for now, while trapped in our human flesh, we are moored to this sin-stained planet, where our fellowship with Him is hindered. Inwardly, our spirits long to break free from that which shackles us to this earth, and “depart” to be with God in His abode.

Desire “Departure”
It’s interesting how Paul could have used the word “death,” but instead used “departure.” He desired analysis, “departure” – to be loosed from the moorings of this life and be set free to sail the open seas of perfect fellowship with God.

Indeed, this is what “death” is for the believer in Jesus Christ; not death at all, but a wonderful “departure” into the bosom of the Lord Jesus.

Despite Mr. Serling’s best intentions, he was wrong. Eternal life – what Jesus calls “paradise” (Luke 23:43) – can only be attained through acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross. For those who bow the knee to Jesus, the end of this life is but a “departure.” For those who haven’t bowed the knee, the end of this life truly is “death.”

May we be found faithful in sharing a living Savior with a lost and dying world!