Like most people, I’ve known several people in my life who have died. The first person I lost was my grandfather when I was 15 years old. I lost my mother when I was 20. Over the years I’ve lost several friends and other relatives, including my father and three brothers-in-law one of which died unexpectedly just last week.
But does it really?
Before getting deep in my faith, death was an extremely painful event. Even though I give the appearance that I’m hard as nails, I have very deep-seeded emotions which cause me immense pain even if I don’t show it. My mother’s death in December 1984 nearly undid me.
But as I’ve studied and learned more about God and understood more fully Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross I find myself looking at death differently. I want to share that view because I think that it may put into perspective how we as Christians should look at death.
I want to start by saying that the pain and grieving we have with death is real and okay. Even Jesus wept when his friend, Lazarus, died even though Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus back to life! Grieving is normal.
But why do we grieve? Why does it hurt so badly when we lose someone? My theory goes back to the Garden of Eden. When God created man His intent was that we would be together forever! There was no death in the Garden. We were made to be together, walking with God, for eternity. Of course, we all know how that worked out – thanks Adam and Eve!
Death entered the world through sin yet every fiber of our being tells us death is wrong! We aren’t supposed to lose one another and that is why we ache so deeply when death steals someone from us. We know in our very soul death goes against how things are supposed to be! Our response to death, then, is a cry from our deepest parts that rages against this unnatural act!
That said, I think we let the pain we experience in death cover the truth we have in Christ. We live, we die, AND WE LIVE AGAIN!!! It’s that last one we either forget or just give lip-service to, but it’s that last one on which we need to focus because it is the most important thing in your life today!
Isn’t it interesting since the beginning of man’s time on this earth that every civilization has worshiped a god and the afterlife is a part of that worship? Even today one study concluded that 96 percent of Americans believe they have a soul of some sort (Rutgers Soul Searching Project). There’s just something in us that tells us there has to be more!
Of course, for Christians we believe that “something” is God-created and that everyone has an eternity waiting for them when they die to this earth – an eternity with Jesus for those who have faith in Him or an eternity separated from God based on their choosing not to be in relationship with God. We believe we don’t actually “lose” people when they die – we know exactly where they are!
And isn’t that part of the Good News? Jesus died for the sins of the world so we could be reconciled to God so that we can spend eternity with Him? Isn’t that the whole point? We were estranged from God due to our rebellion in sin and now we are reunited with Him through Christ? Isn’t that really the entire message of salvation?
I have a friend who has a very rare type of cancer and I was told yesterday that he may not have long to live. I’ve known this person since we played little league together as kids and he is very close to me. I’ll be seeing him soon not just to visit but to ensure that his childhood faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior has not wavered over his adult years. I’m also going to share about what heaven is like if the opportunity presents itself.
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55
I want him to know that death to this life is nothing more than a transition into the next life. I want him to understand that his last breath on this earth will be his first breath in paradise where he will see Jesus face to face. I want him to know that in that moment he will be perfected and have perfect love, perfect understanding, perfect knowledge, and perfect relationship. I want him to know that death is not to be feared but welcomed in that the Father has decided that his work on this earth is done and He has big plans for him in heaven and on the new earth (see Revelation chapters 21 and 22).
There’s a book by Dan Schaffer called “A Better Country – Preparing for Heaven” that is by far the best book I’ve ever read on the subject. My plan was to quote part of this book, but as I am reading various pages I can’t just pick one paragraph it’s that good!! Let me just say that when I read this book my whole view of death changed. God clearly gifted Dan to take all the references to heaven found in scripture and connect them in such a way to give an incredibly clear and beautiful picture regarding what awaits us! Even as I sit here I’m getting excited about the idea of it all!!
I recommend this book to every believer because truth be told believers whose faith is weak need to read it as much as unbelievers who have no faith at all. I cannot tell you how many “Christians” I meet who say they believe in heaven but know nothing about it. They grieve their dead as if they are truly dead and gone and not alive in the place our souls crave to be. They grieve as if heaven is an idea just to make them feel better instead of a real place where we will be reunited with Jesus and every other believer we have loved who has gone before us. Honestly, they grieve as if God is not real and His promises hold no hope instead of reveling in the fact that God is God and His promise that we are citizens of heaven is as tangible as the keyboard on which I’m typing!
Last week my sister had to make the brutal decision to take her husband off life support and let him go. I was with her and her three daughters for a couple of hours after the respirator had been removed and my brother-in-law breathed uneasily on his own. Unfortunately, I had to leave so I said the last words I would tell him on this earth. I whispered in his ear, “Jesus loves you so hold on to Him tightly, and I’ll see you on the other side.”
We all hate the idea of dying but we should not be afraid of death. None of us wants to suffer yet there is meaning in suffering not just for us but for those who see how we glorify God in that suffering (a topic for another day). Yet as we think of our own mortality we need to clearly understand that we are, indeed, immortal! No, we’re not Gods, but we are God’s children who He made to be with Him forever.
More than 2,000 years ago the Apostle Paul summed up the feelings I have today. Here is what he said in Philippians 1:21-24:
“21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”
Today I remain in the body because God has more work for me to do. Who knows about tomorrow! But when my time comes whether it be this afternoon or 40 years from now here is what I know:
- I will see my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ face to face!
- I will spend the rest of my eternity walking with the Lord!
- I will be reunited with my mom, my grandparents, my friends, and others who have gone before me!
- I will be in perfect relationship with people, even those with whom I had strained relations with on this earth!
- I will be perfected and have perfect love, peace, joy, and contentment because I will be completely filled by God!
- God has plans for me on the new earth where I will be the perfect version of the person God made me to be!
- There will be nothing better than being with Jesus and I get to do that forever!
Like everyone else, I’ve experienced the searing pain of death of my loved ones and even today there is a tinge of sadness when I think of those closest to me because I miss them being here in my world. Yet my hope is in the Lord! As I grow in Christ I recognize that I must rejoice in the time God gave me with them on this earth and eagerly look forward to when we will all spend eternity together, which honestly is not that far away when you think of it.
So my friends, my prayer for you today is that you embrace the promise of eternal life! That you spend a little time studying heaven and what awaits us there and on the new earth when the time comes. And that you look forward to the day that you will be reunited with your loved ones!!
After reading this can you understand the importance of sharing Jesus with people? As I said earlier, everyone has an eternity but there are only two choices: Eternity with God or eternity without Him. I want everyone I know and love to be with me during my eternity with God so I share Jesus as much as I can. Think about those you know who will not be spending their eternity with you – what can you do to help change that? Sometimes we feel as if we are intruding on people if we share Jesus with them, but when you understand that what is at stake is eternity itself God can embolden you to share how the people you love can be with you forever.