Other than my own family members, the news of Billy Graham’s passing from this Earth moved me more than most any other. Hardly any American over the age of 20 has failed to interact in some way with Dr. Graham, so the news of his death, at age 99, was felt far and wide. Many have shared this quotation attributed to Dr. Graham:
“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
Billy Graham actually adapted that quote from his hero, D. L. Moody, who made it in 1900. This quote reflects an anthem text that our choir at FBC Keller just began preparing this week. Called It Is Not Death to Die, it was written in 1832 by César Malan and translated into English by George W. Bethune in 1847. The text reads as follows:
It is not death to die,
To leave this weary road,
And ‘midst the brotherhood on high
To be at home with God.
It is not death to close
The eye long dimmed by tears,
And wake in glorious repose
To spend eternal years.
It is not death to bear
The wrench that sets us free
From dungeon chain, to breathe the air
Of boundless liberty.
It is not death to fling
Aside this sinful dust,
And rise, on strong, exulting wing,
To live among the just.
Jesus, Thou Prince of life!
Thy chosen cannot die:
Like Thee, they conquer in the strife,
To reign with Thee on high.
This text so beautifully captures the message and faith that Billy Graham expressed in his quote, just as D. L. Moody before him. This message is at the very core of the Christian faith, that we have hope in eternal life in Jesus Christ. Without this hope, our faith is futile.
“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Cor 15:16-18 ESV
But Christ has been raised. He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor 15:51-57 ESV
Rejoice, Christian. Indeed, “It Is Not Death to Die.”