Past Tense

There is a way of thinking that permeates our culture and is reflected in almost every report given regarding someone who has died. I am talking about the practice of referring to people who have died in the past tense.

When we talk about something that happened in the past we use the past tense because it is past. It’s over. There is no more.

I had pizza yesterday.
I was 43 years old last year.
I got married 23 years ago.

My wedding was one day and it is over. The pizza was one slice and it is over. I am now 44 years old and I will never be 43 again. It’s totally appropriate to refer to things events happening in the past by using the past tense. The problem enters when we refer to people in the past tense.

When my wife went to visit family for Thanksgiving last month and I was not able to go with her I did not refer to her in the past tense when talking about her. I did not say, “My wife was a beautiful woman” or “My wife was very intelligent.” I said she IS beautiful, she IS intelligent. Because she is still alive. We were separated by distance, certainly, separation by distance does not negate existence. She does not cease to exist when I leave home to go to work.

In the same way, when someone dies they do not cease to exist. Those of us who have trusted in Christ as Savior and therefore identify ourselves as born again believers acknowledge this fact, that people do not cease to exist. Death is not the end. Death is a door way through which we step from this world into the next. I know several people personally in the next world. They are not dead. Their bodies are dead, yes, but that does not mean they as a whole are dead. When I get a haircut, part of my body is removed but I do not cease to exist. When someone gets their arm or foot amputated, part of their body is removed and is now dead but they do not cease to exist. And so it is with our physical body. The Bible says that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. That applies to those of us who have trusted in Christ as Savior. Those who have not trusted in Christ are still alive when they leave their body but they wish they were not because the Bible says that they are suffering as we speak. So when someone dies we should not say they WERE our brother or our sister or our father. Because they ARE alive they still ARE our brother or sister or father.

Death is not an ending, it is only separation. As believers, we will one day be reunited with those of our family and friends that are also believers. That is the joy and the hope and the surety of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus said in Matthew 22:31-32 ” “But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”” If God doesn’t refer to these people who no longer live on earth as “dead” then why do we?

So the next time someone asks you, “Did you love that person who died?”  You can answer, “Yes, I love them” instead of “I loved them.”  Because they aren’t gone, they’re just somewhere else.


About Steve Picray

I am a conservative Baptist Pastor in the midwestern United States. Every day I commit my life to Jesus Christ. This blog is my view on life. My prayer is that, by reading what I write, you will learn more about me, more about God, and be assisted in becoming the person God means for you to be. If you have a question, just e-mail me at spicray AT gmail DOT com. God Bless!
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