It may sound strange to talk about death in a positive way. The truth is that the design of death is part of the creation. The second law of thermodynamics, in simple terms, says that in a closed system, things move toward a condition of disorder. That principle is built into the fabric of the physical universe. It allows the diffusion of resources, the circulation of air, the transfer of energy from one form to another, and multiple other physical processes. It also means that our human bodies are in a constant movement toward decay.
The Bible contains a statement of this law in Isaiah 51:6: “Lift up your eyes to the heavens and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell in the earth shall die in a like manner.” Thus, the design of death applies to the universe and everything in it.
Is our death just a piece of collateral damage to the second law? For those who are Christians, death is not the ultimate tragedy. My son Tim lived his whole life with multiple handicaps, including muscular dystrophy, blindness, cerebral palsy, and schizophrenia. Despite those handicaps, his life was full. When COVID-19 took away his ability to swallow, talk, sit up, stand or walk, he could still hear and communicate with me. For him to be unable to die would have been insanely cruel. Isaiah 57:1-2 describes this well: “For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness.”
For a Christian, death removes us from evil and brings us into peace. I look forward to freedom from politics, pollution, illness, global warming, and pain. In 2 Peter 1:15, Peter talks about his death using the Greek term “exodos,” which means to depart. It is the word from which we get the name of the book of Exodus that describes Israel’s departure from Egyptian bondage.
So far in 2021, I have lost my son, my brother, and three of my close friends to death. They were all Christians, so I am happy for them. I take to heart 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, which tells me not to grieve “as others do who have no hope.” Psalms 116:15 tells us, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” The word “saint” here refers to “one set apart” as members of God’s family of believers–Christians.
When I was an atheist, death offered me no future. As a Christian, I see death as an entrance into a far better existence than I have now. We have an instinctive desire to live, and any change we make can be scary. That is especially true of departing this life. Paul said in Philippians 1:21-23, “To live is Christ and to die is gain,” Death can be beautiful, and the design of death is a reality for the world in which we live.
John N. Clayton © 2021