Today is Sunday, February 10, 2019.
I am noting the date and day because today is the sixth anniversary (2013) of our Dad’s dying from here and going Home to Heaven and entering the Presence of Christ.
I insist on calling his physical death “dying from here” because for a Christian and a believer in Jesus Christ, physical death is only “dying from here.”
Physical death for a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ is not a cessation from being or existence. Nor are we zapped into nothingness or ether.
It is only “dying from here” to be transitioned to the Presence of Christ.
This is what God promises us in the Scriptures.
“So, we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight, 8 and we are confident and satisfied to be out of the body and at home with the Lord.” [2 Corinthians 5.6-8 HCSB]
So, when our Dad “died from here,” he just transitioned from living here in his physical body of flesh and blood [he always called it “this tabernacle of clay”] to living in the body Christ has prepared for him in Heaven.
So, as I was saying, that was six years ago today.
And, six years ago, February 10 was on a Sunday also. I remember it so well.
But, today, six years later, I am feeling much more emotional about that day six years ago than I remember feeling on any of the other 2,190 days since then.
On that day Dad died from here, I think that, honestly, all we could feel was thanksgiving to God for releasing and relieving him from the sufferings that eventually led to his death. His last days were excruciatingly painful for him – and for us to have to witness it. His body had so deteriorated that it was starting to break down with him still barely breathing inside it.
And so, when the Lord finally called him to walk that last final stretch of ‘the valley of the shadow of death’ and into the blazing light of Glory, we could only rejoice and be happy for him – and thank God for finally receiving him Home to His Presence.
I also remember so well how the church services went that day as we were waiting for his going Home. I announced that morning in the church I was pastoring at the time that I had been talking with our family caring for Dad, and that his condition was moment-by-moment. [I was in Kentucky – they were in North Carolina.]
That morning, in our song-worship, we sang Matt Redman’s song “Ten Thousand Reasons” or “Bless the Lord, O my soul.”
We sang that third stanza:
“And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still, my soul will sing Your praise unending –
Ten thousand years and then forevermore”
…and as I am singing those words, I am thinking of our Dad’s last strength failing, his end drawing near, his time coming – but ‘still his soul will sing God’s praise unending – ten thousand years and then forevermore!”
My heart was so full of praise to God that this is so – and our Dad was about to enter into it!
This is true! This is our reality in times of physical death from here! This is God’s Grace! This is God’s Promise in Christ! This is our assurance and our hope!
I got word just later in the afternoon of that day that Dad had breathed his last breath here, and was in the Presence of Christ.
When we returned for our evening service, one of our brothers met me in the entrance hallway, and asked, “Dave, how’s your Dad?” I wanted to wait until I could announce and tell everyone at the same time, so I stalled him and replied, “Thank you for asking – he’s about the same.”
When the service started, and I got up to speak, I looked at this brother and called him by name, and said, “Brother, when you asked me a few minutes ago how Dad is, I told you ‘he’s about the same.’ I lied to you. He is not ‘about the same’ – he is ‘far better!’”
I then quoted the apostle Paul in Philippians 1.21-23 [HCSB]:
“For me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. 23 I am pressured by both. I have the desire to depart and be with Christ—which is far better…”
Then I went to describe how “far better” Dad actually “is” from Psalm 16.11 [HCSB]:
“You reveal the path of life to me;
in Your Presence is abundant joy;
in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.”
All of that is why we felt mostly just joy for him – imagining as best we could the ‘path of life’ he was seeing, the ‘abundant fullness of joy’ he was enjoying in Christ’s very Presence, and the ‘eternal pleasures’ he was beginning to discover and explore! And, all the while, “still my soul will sing Your praise unending – ten thousand years and then forevermore – FOREVERMORE!”
So, that brings me to today, February 10, 2019. For some reason, this sixth anniversary has been more emotional than any of the previous anniversaries – or other days – since.
Not sad – just emotional.
Then, it suddenly hit me during our worship service today. We are singing again about seeing Christ – personally, face-to-face.
This morning, it was while singing “Praise the Name of the Lord our God.”
“He shall return in robes of white
The blazing sun shall pierce the night
And I will rise among the saints
My gaze transfixed on Jesus’ Face!”
So, I’m already thinking about Dad anyway – and I could see him – there in the very Personal Presence of Jesus Christ Himself – singing some adaptation of that line:
“My gaze transfixed on Jesus’ Face!”
Then I understood that what has been making me so emotional today is that I am believing, I am realizing, I am actualizing, I am fore-tasting that THIS IS SO!
When we die from here, we really do enter the Presence of Jesus Christ!
We really do – and will – see His Face!
To die from here and to be absent from this physical body really is to be present with the Lord!
And so, the emotions that I am feeling today are the exultations of assurance, the stirrings of hope, and the anticipations of my own joy when I will join Dad and all the others who will be there with us –
“My gaze transfixed on Jesus’ Face!”
And, I like it!