Carried by Angels

The Bible describes what occurs as we die, and there’s no hint that it’s going to be different for anyone, same for all of us: angels appear and carry us away to our eternal home. (Lk 16:22-23)

Yes, as we speak, angelic beings are evidently escorting eternal souls departing this world, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Da 12:2) Some are soaring through the celestial wonders of the universe (Ep 4:8), others plummeting into the fiery bowels of the earth. (9) It makes all the difference in the world where we’re headed, but the means of transportation appears to be shared in the nether world.

Why such a conveyance system? Well, stating the obvious, we might not know the way to our eternal home, and it isn’t clear that we’d be able to travel there on our own even if we did know how to get there; we do appear to be stuck wherever the angels drop us off, unable to visit other places. (Lk 16:26) And the damned inevitably evade and resist; a secure escort is appropriate.

Yet for those of us in Christ, of course, evasion isn’t a consideration; there’s no better place to be than with Him. (Php 1:23) As we’re abiding in Him here, we’ll be ever closer to Him each instant of our journey home, with a singular delightful focus on Him (Ps 72:25), the most beautiful Being in the universe. (Ps 45:2)

Since each elect soul has at least one angel attending them throughout their entire life (He 1:13-14), it stands to reason they’ll be present with us as we die, and it may in fact be their responsibility to get us all the way home.

It also seems reasonable to think that these personal angelic attendants might grow fond of the saints over time, watching over us day and night, knowing us inside out, and have some personal affection for us since our common Master loves us uniquely, and so very much. Their joy in our homecoming will certainly be evident; perhaps they’ll engage us in some worshipful conversation as we journey into the immediate presence of our Savior (2Co 5:8), enquiring about our walk with Christ (1Pe 1:12) before they depart for their next assignment.

For the lost, however, the journey may not be so pleasant; the fear and dread of eternal destruction (Pr 1:27) evidently comes upon the wicked quite suddenly at death. (Ps 73:18-19)

Angels meeting an unsuspecting soul departing this life might intimidate unto dread (Mt 28:4), and introduce their victim to a sample of God’s eternal hatred. (Ps 139:21) They will surely accomplish His mission for them, unmoved by the cries of the damned; their grip firm and unyielding, their faces — if bewraying honestly — will surely brim with the terror of God. (2Co 5:11)

The secret things belong to God, but those things which are revealed belong to us. (De 29:29) God has revealed mysterious things to those who seek Him (1Co 2:9-10), and we do well to cherish everything He shows us about His way, imagining as well as we can what this final journey home will be like.

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The Spirit Shall Return

Death is so final. One minute we’re taking a life for granted, and the next it’s snuffed out forever; only dust remains.

Or is it final?

Hoolah Hayes

Yesterday, a sweet old friend died, our 12-year old dog, Hoolah. She had a wonderful life; brought such delight to us and our children, as well as many, many others.

I’ll never forget – walking her one morning when a complete stranger pulled up beside us in her car and asked, “Are you Hoolah’s owner?” As I affirmed she said, “I just LOVE Hoolah! She brightens my day every time I see her. Look here! See?”, showing me her phone … Hoolah was her wallpaper.

That was Hoolah, not just cute — she was adorable; her fur was as soft as a stuffed animal toy, and she was so gentle she’d lay down in a crouched position when strangers approached so she wouldn’t intimidate them. People would exclaim, “Oh! How sweet!! How did you train her to do that?” We didn’t train Hoolah; that was just her temperament.

A 50-lb Great Pyrenees + Golden Retriever mix, Hoolah was the perfect family dog.  She was gentle but also fierce; when I’d roughhouse with my Down’s Syndrome son and we’d do our 7-step slap-bump-clap (which delighted him unto squealing), Hoolah would literally lunge into us barking and growling and body-slam me! She didn’t like anyone messing with Jonathan, not even in fun.

Yet when Hoolah saw a tennis ball or a frisbee all else vanished; she’d fetch until she dropped from exhaustion, rest a bit, and beg for more! She had a certain bark that simply demanded we play with her. She’d hike the frisbee back and forth across the back yard all day long — as long as someone was watching, but never by herself. She loved being noticed, engaging with her family.

And she had this uncanny ability to do what we called her bucking-bronco; whirling round and round like a wild bull in a rodeo, sometimes with a short, fat rope in her mouth, smacking it on the ground and into anyone who dared draw near, like she was killing a viper. She had so much energy at times she just didn’t know what to do with herself!

And there was the day Hoolah was nearly killed by a Pit Bull. Tough day! So thankful it wasn’t so much worse. (Ep 5:20)

Then, like many larger breeds, she developed hip dysplasia, which my wife Elizabeth carefully nursed for 6 long years, then finally laryngeal paralysis: yesterday Hoolah’s breathing finally became so labored the vet put her down. She didn’t suffer much, or for long, and showed her chipper, spunky, playful demeanor right up to the end.

I feel so privileged to have known Hoolah, to have cared for her and enjoyed her. My grief even has a bittersweetness to it because she was such a joy. She will be sorely missed; we’ve no hope of ever finding a sweeter animal.

Perhaps our lives are somewhat like this; life is so short, yet the death of the righteous is a blessing (Ps 116:15), and their memory is sweet. (Nu 23:10b) I see a lesson in Hoolah: live so I’ll be missed. (Ac 20:37-38)

But I’m finding that there’s more than mere memory here for me – like Hoolah’s not really gone for good, more like she’s just stepped away for a bit, still aware of her family. Is this an illusion? wishful thinking? or another window into eternal reality …

Scripture says all Creation is waiting for the Resurrection (Ro 8:19), for the restitution of all things; this includes Hoolah. If she was just a body, and didn’t transcend her physical life, this makes no sense. She’s a spirit (Ec 3:21) who’s now returned to God (Ec 12:7), still looking forward to the end of all things, what so few of us can see.

We have a body, but we aren’t just a body: we’re a living soul (Ge 2:7) with body and spirit (1Th 5:23); death for the believer is simply the shedding of the earthly body for the heavenly one (2Co 5:2); it’s a final transformation, becoming a new creation, as from a caterpillar into a butterfly. (2Co 5:17)

For those in Christ, there’s hope beyond the grave; we sorrow and grieve in losing loved ones in death (Php 2:27), but not as those without hope. (1Th 4:13) Whether I’ll ever reconnect with Hoolah again isn’t the point — maybe so, maybe not — but every precious relationship is a shadow of the fullness we’re promised in God. (Ep 3:19) That’s Who we’re ultimately after. (Php 3:8)

Heaven is beyond our wildest dreams, perfection (1Co 2:9); however God’s designed it, we know one thing for sure: our joy will be complete.

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