This is the last day of the year. It is also my final post in this series on finishing well in retirement. Appropriately, I want to end by focusing on the end of retirement. Every retirement ends with death. Yet, for the Christian, the end of retirement is not just about dying. Most significantly, it includes the hope of glory.
I am just starting my retirement. Last month I spoke with a dear friend who was ending his retirement. Notably, he was so excited about seeing Christ in all his glory. Although he was experiencing significant pain, he was finishing well, with his hope of glory clearly visible. My friend modeled the key to finishing retirement well: facing the reality of death with the hope of glory.
The Reality of Death
North American culture avoids talking about death. In fact, it is considered impolite to mention it at the table. We tend to ignore it and pretend it won’t happen. As the chorus of a Simon and Garfunkel song from 1966 so aptly says,
So, I’ll continue to continue to pretend my life will never end and flowers never bend with the rainfall.Simon and Garfunkel, Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall.
This pretending does not lead to finishing well. In contrast, the psalmist asks God to teach us to number our days so we gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). Facing the reality of death opens the door for us to cherish the hope of glory. Matthew McCullough writes,
Before you long for a life that is imperishable, you must accept that you are perishing along with everyone you care about. You must recognize that anything you might accomplish or acquire in this world is already fading away. Only then will you crave the unfading glory of what Jesus has accomplished and acquired for you. And you need to recognize you are going to lose everything you love in this world before you will hope in an inheritance kept in heaven for you.Matthew McCullough, Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope, Crossway, 2018, p.24.
Acknowledging death as the end of retirement leads us then to prepare spiritually for death’s inevitability. We can do so by taking time to meditate on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Specifically, we need to ponder again that he took on humanity to pay the penalty for our sin and conquer death (Heb 2:14-15; 2 Tim 1:10). Christ’s righteous life, substitutionary death, and glorious resurrection provide us with hope. Death will not separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:38-39).
Because we don’t know when we will die, we should make legal arrangements for the transfer of our estate well in advance. In chapter 10 of Reimagine Retirement, C. J. Cagle suggests we consider using a living trust and preparing a will. These documents will make things a lot easier on your family after your death. Consulting an attorney specializing in estate planning will be worth the time and money.
Additionally, Cagle reminds us,
Our legacy is not just about money and possessions we may leave behind for others. It is the sum total of all the various ways we have been used by God while we were on this earth to impact the lives of others for their good and his glory. Therefore, it’s not just about leaving, but living a legacy – a life characterized by humility, kindness, integrity, trustworthiness, faithfulness, and generosity.C. J. Cagle, Reimaging Retirement: Planning and Living for the Glory of God, Kindle loc. 2759.
Advances in medicine require that we decide ahead of time the kinds of treatment we want as the end-of-life approaches. Health Care Directives (also called Advance Directives) are a means of communicating your desires. These documents can be notarized and have legal standing. Nevertheless, it is important to have conversations with your family, so they clearly understand your desires. Additionally, you should appoint a Health Proxy agent to speak for you when you are no longer able. The following books are helpful resources on medical issues:
- Kathryn Butler, MD. Between Life and Death: A Gospel-Centered Guide to End-of-Life Medical Care. Crossway, 2019.
- Bill Davis. Departing in Peace: Biblical Decision-Making at the End-of Life. P&R Publishing, 2017.
- John Dunlop, MD. Finishing Well to the Glory of God: Strategies from a Christian Physician. Crossway, 2011.
The Hope of Glory
In the Bible, hope is not wishful thinking. Constantine R. Campbell writes,
Hope is not merely a subjective, experiential factor in the lives of believers, according to Paul. While it certainly does shape the experience of believers (Rom 15:13; 2 Thess 2:16-17), hope is regarded more as a pillar of theological expectation. It reflects a confident anticipation of what God will do based on his promises and his past faithfulness in doing what he says he will do (Titus 1:1-2). It is the belief that, having been justified by God’s grace, believers will inherit eternal life (Titus 3:7).Constantine R. Campbell, Paul and the Hope of Glory, Zondervan Academic, 2020, p. 320.
Hope and Glory are Twins
Campbell elaborates on the relationship between hope and glory.
Hope is the present-age counterpart to the glory of the age to come. While the age to come will be defined by glory, the lives of believers in this present age ought to be characterized by hope. Thus, hope and glory become the twin elements that shape Paul’s eschatological thought. Hope exists now in anticipation of the glory to come. . . . so hope is bound to this present age, even as its purpose is to encourage believers to look beyond it to the age to come. The hope of glory will give way to the glory itself. Hope is penultimate; glory is ultimate.Campbell, Paul and the Hope of Glory, p.449.
Hope of Glory and the Resurrection
In the face of death, resurrection is central to our hope of glory. Indeed, our resurrection is assured by our faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Thess 4:13-14). During our retirement years, the aging process seems to accelerate. That is, we suffer more aches and pains. Also, we tend to talk about them more. We are more susceptible to various diseases. Yet, focusing on the resurrection will strengthen our hope of glory. D. A. Carson once said, “I’m not suffering from anything a good resurrection can’t fix.”1 quoted in “Do Not Fear Growing Old with Him“
Entering the Glory
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ special phrase for heaven was “the glory.”2 Jason Meyer, Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life, Crossway, 2018, p. 41. Jason Meyer describes how “the glory” gave hope as Lloyd-Jones faced death,
As the moment of death neared, he reached a point where he asked people not to pray for his healing; he could not handle the thought of being held back from “the glory.” His eldest daughter, Elizabeth Catherwood, was reading her Bible by his bedside when the Doctor – who had lost all ability to talk – pointed excitedly to the passage about the eternal weight of glory (2 Cor 4:17-18). When confronted with death, the hope of glory came roaring to life.Jason Meyer, Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life, Crossway, 2018, p. 208.
Not the end
We may have 20 to 30 years in retirement. But eventually, it will end. Indeed, death is the last enemy and there is pain and sorrow. But the end of retirement is not the end for the believer. In contrast to the limited number of years of retirement, we have eternity to enjoy the glory prepared for us in Christ’s presence (2 Corinthians 5:1-9). So, there is hope in the midst of grief (1 Thess 4:13-14).
May the hope of glory characterize how we live in retirement so that we point others to faith in Christ as death approaches.