He had to die so that …
Little Colton had died. In the months after his resuscitation he would, from time to time, mention a snippet or two of what he had experienced when he saw Jesus. For instance, his father thought to test his four-year-old son’s understanding of the gospel. ‘Colton, do you know why Jesus died?’ ‘Oh yes; he told me when I met him: he had to die so that we could go and see his Dad.’ That answer expresses sound biblical theology!
A departure accomplished
On Mount Tabor, while Jesus’ clothes glistened with celestial brightness and his transfigured face beamed forth the radiance of New Jerusalem,
‘Moses and Elijah … appeared in glory and spoke of his departure [Greek exodos] which he was about to accomplish [literally bring to completion] at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31).
Most deceased humans simply endured their death; some fought it; others even caused it to happen. Those martyred for their faith are among the few who ‘accomplished’ their ‘departure’. The original ‘exodus’ had been a triumphant event. Through the death of their Passover lamb, the children of Israel celebrated their liberation from slavery when ‘baptized into Moses’ ‘under the cloud’ and ‘through the sea’ (1 Corinthians 10:1-2).
Face to face
My mother was one of those surprised by her death. She departed in the blink of an eye with no warning. At her funeral I choked up during the opening line of the first hymn – her favourite. I had often heard her render it lustily in her clear soprano voice:
Face to face with Christ my Saviour,
Face to face – what will it be
When with rapture I behold him,
Christ the Lord who died for me?
Face to face will I behold him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all his glory
I shall see him by and by.
While celebrating her departure ‘full of years’, and that she was now at peace after decades of suffering the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis in all her body’s joints, I wept because she was now enjoying the unclouded vision I only dreamed of. No mortal has ever seen the face of God – not even Moses, though privileged to speak with God ‘mouth to mouth’ (Numbers 12:8). He was allowed once to see God’s form and even his afterglow (Exodus 33:9, 11, 17-23) – but never his face. The Bible concludes with details of that eternal bliss, one feature of which is: ‘they will see his face’ (Revelation 22:4). Through Jesus’ death, we his people do have access to God’s presence even now. However, ‘now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face’ (1 Corinthians 13:12).
* Thank God for our hope of a guaranteed resurrection on Jesus’ return!