I wanted to write something about the life of Chuck Colson, but since those who knew him already have that covered, I thought I might say something about his death. Many will say that Colson’s death is his final victory, his graduation into glory, the highest achievement of his earthly life. Colson was a leading voice for the Kuyperian worldview, so I’m sure he would disagree with all that. Here is what I think Colson would want us to know about his death:
1. Death is bad. Paul calls death “the last enemy” (1 Cor. 15:26) which means it is not our friend. Paul says “to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21) because God is able to bring good out of death, namely, our going to be with Jesus. But if death itself is good, why would Paul say in the next chapter that “God had mercy on” Epaphroditus by sparing him from death? (Phil. 2:27). Paul wants to be with Jesus, but he prefers that happen by Jesus coming (1 Cor. 16:22) rather than by his dying.
2. Death has not severed our relationship. John tells us that the martyred saints in heaven are calling, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Rev. 6:10). This verse tells us that those in heaven are not perfected in every way but still want something more (such as their bodies, which will come in the resurrection). It also tells us that they spend at least some of their time praying to God.
The dead in Christ belong with us to the communion of saints. We form two wings of the church that meet in Christ: we in the church militant and they in the church triumphant. Colson’s death moved him from one wing of the church into the other, but we’re still connected in Jesus. We may pray for him (not that he now needs our prayers) and he certainly prays for us. He is part of the “great cloud of witnesses” that urges us still competing to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).
We lost a valuable player on Saturday, but the cheering just got a little louder.