Homeward bound: More on a Biblical Theology of death as exile

Yesterday I wrote about the theme of death as exile.  In the Old Testament, it is that theme of banishment and exile that most visibly shows the consequences of death for humanity. 

  • Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden
  • Humanity are banished from the surface of the earth by the Flood
  • The human race are banished and scattered from Babel.
  • The people of Israel are later banished and exiled from the land

However, it is important that we remember that this is about how death is the post-fall penalty for sin. Christ’s death on the Cross reverses all that.  The sting has been taken from death. What this means is that for believers, death is no longer about exile. 

Now, this doesn’t take away our grief when we lose a loved one.  They have gone from us, so that we sometimes talk about them as “departed.”  They have left their earthly body – in fact, there is still a form of exile there until the final resurrection.

However, we also remember these words from Jesus.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”[1]

For the believer, as we’ve seen, the desire is to be part of “God’s people, in God’s place, under his rule.”[2] In other words, we long to dwell in God’s presence.  Our desire is to be at home with God.   When we die, we go to be with him in heaven, we do so looking forward to the final resurrection when we will receive our new bodies. 

So, one of the practical applications of our Biblical Theology is that it should help us with grief. We know what has happened to our loved ones. We do not mourn without hope.  It helps too as we face old age, ill health, the failing of our bodies and minds.  We do not need to fear death or regret and resist the aging process.  We are not heading into exile.  We are not leaving home.  We are heading home.

[1] John 14:1-4.

[2] Graeme Goldsworthy, “Gospel and Kingdom”, 54.

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