An old Scot lay on his death bed, and his family called for their local minister. As the minister entered the room and sat down in a chair next to the bed, he noticed another chair that was pulled up right alongside the bed’s opposite side. The dying man noticed the minister’s puzzlement about the other chair and began to explain. “Pastor,” he said, “many years ago I found it very difficult to pray. So one day I talked to our previous pastor about the problem and he advised me to place an empty chair opposite me, imagine that Jesus was sitting in that chair, and then talk with Him as I would a friend. I found that praying that way worked for me and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
A few days later the Scot’s daughter called the minister and informed him that her father had passed away. She said, “I wasn’t expecting him to die when he did. I had just gone to my room to lie down to get a couple hours sleep. I thought it would be alright because he seemed to be sleeping so comfortably. But when I checked on him after my nap I found him dead. The only difference between when I left him and when I found him was the fact that his hand was now placed on the empty chair beside his bed. Isn’t that strange?” The minister couldn’t help but give a little smile as he answered, “No, it’s not so strange. I understand.”
That story reminds me of one I’ve read about Genesis 5:21-24, the passage that tells us that God “took” Enoch. Verse 24 of that passage says:
Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. (N.I.V.)
As the story goes, each day God would come to Enoch in the morning and say, “Enoch, let’s walk together today.” Enoch would agree, and he and God would spend the whole day walking together. Every day they would walk a little further than they had the previous day and then return to Enoch’s house. But eventually there came a day when God said, “Enoch, we’ve walked so far today that we are actually closer to my house. So let’s just go on there this time.” Yes, I know, technically Enoch didn’t die. But it’s still a beautiful way to think about how the believer transitions to the afterlife.