Reading Michael Wittmer’s excellent new book The Last Enemy, I came across a powerful little story that I wanted to share with you. I trust you will enjoy it as I did.
My friend Jeff stopped by the hospital to visit one of his dearest senior saints. Charlotte was in her eighties, but she had been young enough in heart to blossom under Jeff’s ministry. She had paid close attention as Jeff proclaimed the story of God—how the world began with God’s good creation, suffered a cataclysmic fall that ruined us and everything else, is being redeemed by Jesus’ cross and resurrection, and will be consummated when Jesus returns and delivers this world to His Father.
Charlotte said learning God’s story had changed her life. “I get it now,” she told anyone who would listen. “The parts of the Bible make sense when you read them in light of the whole. For the first time in my life, I understand how my salvation fits into the larger picture.”
Now Charlotte was dying. She chatted with her pastor about family, church, and the general quality of hospital food, and then Jeff said a prayer and promised to come see her again.
Jeff was minutes from home when his cell phone rang. It was the floor nurse calling from the hospital.
“Charlotte told me to contact you,” she began. “She said that it’s time for her to die. She told me to tell you not to hurry; she’ll wait until you get here.”
Jeff turned his car around and drove slightly faster than Charlotte had recommended. He feared she would die before he returned, and he prayed God would grant her sufficient stamina to hold on. He need not have worried. When he entered her room, panting from his swift jog from the parking garage, Charlotte called him over to her bed. She took his hand, looked into his eyes, and said, “Pastor, tell me the story onemore time.”
For the next twenty minutes, with a heavy but grateful heart, Jeff reviewed the story that had saved their lives. He told Charlotte about their gracious, triune God who created our world from love and for His glory. He reminded her that God put us here as His “image bearers” to take care of this world on His behalf (see Genesis 1:26-28). God intended us to flourish in all of our relationships—with Him, one another, and creation—and we would as long as we rested in His care and obeyed His loving will.
Jeff then described the destruction of the fall and how our rebellion against the one, true, and living God had shat- tered everything we were meant to be. We rejected God’s love, fought with each other, and brought a curse upon the entire creation. We were doomed, unwilling and unable to take the first step toward reconciliation. We were “without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).
Jeff and Charlotte remembered how God refused to let the world end this way, and He sent His Son to rescue us from sin and death. Jesus offered His sinless life in our place, absorbing the wrath of God that we deserved so we could be adopted as the righteous children of God. Our loving Lord was crucified, dead, and buried, but three days later He shocked the world by rising from the dead.
Jesus ascended to heaven where He rules the world and intercedes for us before our merciful Father. He will soon return to make all things new. He will restore our humanity, repairing our relationships with God, each other, and creation. And He will bring joy to the world, far as the curse is found, by abolishing sin, disease, and death. No more tearful goodbyes! Because Jesus lives, we too shall live—with Him, here, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever!
Jeff’s voice cracked and Charlotte’s eyes filled with tears. “It’s true,” she whispered. “I know it’s true.” She smiled, and then cleared her throat and asked, “Pastor, will you call for the nurse?”
When the nurse entered the room, Charlotte said with resolute voice, “Nurse, I’d like a clean robe and I’d like my teeth.” She turned to Jeff and patted his arm, “It’s time. It’s going to be okay.”
Jeff left the room while the nurse dressed Charlotte in a white robe and put her teeth in, and when she was ready, Jeff returned, took her hand, and kissed her on the forehead. As Jeff prayed beside her, Charlotte raised her eyes toward heaven, and with a serenity that comes from knowing how the story ends, she repeated the words “thank you, thank you, thank you.” By the third “thank you” she had fallen asleep, and on the fourth she was waking up in heaven.