One More River

I have one more river to cross

For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

What does Christianity have to say about death? Does the Bible have anything to say that will help us in this, the most characteristic human factor of all, our mortality.

Generation after generation has had to deal with the implications of death’s certainty. In Greek mythology the dead crossed the River Styx, a dreary, poisonous river that ran between the living and Hades. Whoever crossed had to pay Charon, a boatman who ferried people across.

It was, we must emphasize, a one-way ticket!

Remember the old Spiritual:

“I have one more river to cross.
My brother, my sister, my father, my mother
They’ll all be waiting, but they can’t help me across.”

Herein lies the fear beyond death; is death a transition, or a final statement? A period or a comma?

It was Woody Allen who said: “I don’t mind dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” What do we fear about death? We fear the loneliness, and we fear the unknown. We also fear being forgotten. You recall the king who ordered 100 people to be killed at his death, so there would be mourning in the kingdom.

But Jesus yanked the sting out of the scorpion of death. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

So how does this Christian perspective affect the way we face death?

  • It has an impact upon the way we grieve. Paul says that at the death of a loved one we should grieve, but “not as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).   

Please note: We can, and should grieve when a loved one dies. It would be unnatural not to. But we do not grieve with the hopeless abandon of those who do not have the hope we have.

It reminds us that Act II of God’s great drama still remains. The second act has already been written, it just waits to be performed. In our grief, we can remind ourselves that God will transform our bodies. The lame will walk, the blind will see, the victim of Alzheimer’s will remember again.

  • It has an impact upon the way we live. We no longer lay up treasures for ourselves here, in the temporary and the flammable (Matthew 6:19,20).

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have something that we can be fully devoted to, something that will last to the other side of the grave. Money and property will be given to someone else when we die, but heavenly investments we can carry with us. Make no mistake, if we have invested spiritually, we can  “take it with” us!

Remember the Spiritual? The one that says that our father and mother will not be able to help us across?

“I have one more river to cross.
My brother, my sister, my father, my mother
They’ll all be waiting, but they can’t help me across.”

Well, it goes on to say:

“My Jesus will be waitin’ there, and he can help me across.”

And, mark this: in death, our greatest desire is accomplished. We can be with Christ.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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