WebDef: Death

Death /deTH/ – Noun: A permanent cessation of all vital functions; an irreversable ending. From a Christian perspective, the moment of the soul's departure, as the breath of God no longer animates the body.

Death is the separation of the soul from the body, accompanied with the permanent cessation of that body's life-giving (vital) functions. Counselors, ministers and chaplains may find this entry of particular value.

Just as eternal life is a transcendent reality that can be experienced now has an indestructible nature stretching beyond death and the grave, so too death is a reality that is best considered in light of transcendent truths. Life's very source is the breath of God, or ruach. Without this ruach, our bodies cease to function naturally and we lose the ability to grow and change. Shakespeare tells us "death's the end of all,"1 but the Bible tells a different story. The words are from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, spoken by Juliet's nurse to comfort Romeo. Romeo, who faces banishment for murder, may never see his love again in this lifetime. We wonder: would a longer term view, one that transcends a single lifetime, have produced a better outcome than death all around?

The verses, used wisely, can provide comfort by conveying a sense that we are not alone (such as with Psalm 23 and 27) and that we do, indeed, have a future beyond physical death (e.g., John 14:2, 2 Cor. 4:17-18, 1 Cor. 15:42-44, Revelation 21:4). But they can also be painful, when used unskillfully. It's generous to take special care when using the faith-related scriptural passages when interacting with someone has experienced a death in the family, or is facing their own mortality. Faith is often tested at times of loss, and a poor choice of words can raise anger against the messenger (you) and even at God.

See also related WebDefs on Life, Solidarity, etcetera.


1Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Act 3, Scene 3.

What are WebDefs?

WebDefs – simple definitions of key terms relating to ministry and healing arts – are a regular feature of NHM Ministrants. Offered (where applicable) in conjunction with select key scriptural passages and analysis, WebDefs can be a useful starting place for exploring a topic of interest.

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