One of the most fascinating descriptions of the death of a believer is that of an exodus or departure. Paul said of his competing desires of continuing to live and minister juxtaposed to wanting to go home to be with the Lord, “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” (Phil 1:23, 24). On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus spoke of his impending death an exodus, a departure (Luke 9:31). And Peter wanted his brothers to remember his words after his departure (2 Peter 1:15). So the Christian should view her/his death not as the end, but as the beginning of a journey to a land of Promise and Rest that God has prepared for his children.
There was a story told of a King who had in his court a Jester (also called the Court Fool) whom he would call upon to make him laugh and lighten his heart when discouraged. During one visit, the King laughed so much that he exclaimed “Jester, I am going to give you my scepter and I want to you to search my kingdom for a fool greater than yourself.” So, the Jester spent months scouring the kingdom for one who would be more of a fool than he was. He travelled far and wide and could find no one. Finally, he received word to report back the castle because the King was on his deathbed. He sat beside the dying King who sadly told the Jester that he was going on a long journey from which he would never return. The Jester responded, “Sire, where will this journey take you?” The King said, “I don’t know.” The Jester then asked, “Your Majesty, are you prepared for this journey?” The King quietly said “No, I don’t even know how to prepare.” The Jester then took the King’s scepter that he had been carrying all these months and gave it to the King, for he had finally found a fool greater than himself.
There is truth here that if death is a journey then we should know where we are going and how to prepare for the trip. If we know Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord then we know that this journey will lead to the eternal kingdom of heaven. He has already gone on ahead of us as the Pioneer of our Salvation (Heb 2:10) to prepare a place for us in his Father’s House. (Jn 14:2,3) What a wonderful hope! In God’s House there is a place for us; a place of belonging because we are in the family of God. Do you have that hope? Do you trust in Christ alone as your entry way to heaven? Or are you unsure of where you stand with God and whether you will be accepted into heaven. Don’t be a fool and come to the end of your life unprepared for the journey.
So, the first part of preparing for your exodus is to know where you are going. The second part is to let people know that you know where you are going. You may have a will, a health-care proxy, a DNR, and you are an organ donor, but have you prepared your funeral or memorial service? I don’t mean printing up the bulletin at Staples complete with the order of worship. Have you written down some of your favorite passages of Scripture that you would like read, or suggested some of your favorite songs you’d like sung? Just doing this will make it easier on your family as they will be the ones who print up the bulletin.
Finally, have you thought of writing out a statement that could be read to the congregation by the Pastor or one of your family members. This statement can be a powerful witness to your faith in Christ and the certainty of your hope of eternal life. Don’t make it long or mysterious like, “If you are listening to this message then you will know that I’m dead.” Just make it a simple statement of your love for your family and of your hope in Jesus.” It can be powerful.
I will finish with two such a statements. The first, written by Jonathan Edwards, American Pastor and Theologian, 5 yrs. before his death; the second, the last will and testament of John Newton, the old converted slave trader and author of the hymn “Amazing Grace.”
First of all, I give and commend my soul into the hands of God that gives it, and to the Lord Jesus Christ its glorious, all sufficient, faithful and chosen Redeemer, relying alone on the free and infinite mercy and grace of God through his worthiness and mediation, for its eternal salvation; and my body I commend to the earth, to be committed to the dust in Christian burial…hoping through the grace, faithfulness, and almighty power of my everlasting Redeemer, to receive the same again, at the last day, made like unto his glorious body. (quoted in “Jonathan Edwards,” Ian Murray, 422)
I commit my soul to my gracious God and Saviour, who mercifully spared and preserved me, when I was an apostate, a blasphemer, and an infidel, and delivered me from that state of misery on the coast of Africa into which my obstinate wickedness had plunged me and who has been pleased to admit me (though most unworthy) to preach His glorious Gospel. I rely with humble confidence upon the atonement and mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ, God and Man, which I have often proposed to others as the only Foundation whereon a sinner can build His hope, trusting that He will guard and guide me through the uncertain remainder of my life, and that He will then admit me into His presence in His heavenly kingdom.” (John Newton, The Works of the John Newton, Ed. Richard Cecil (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 1:90-91)