Personally, I lost a dear Christian brother in July who I still miss deeply. Unlike many of the celebrities, heroes and infamous individuals listed above, my friend Ray only made the news when his passing was placed in the obituaries. Even though his death brought a great deal of sadness to family and friends, the life he lived delivered many blessings to untold numbers.
For Christians death shouldn’t be viewed as a terror to life, but as a means of transition from an inferior to a superior life with Christ. Yet it seems many people, including Christians, view the prospect of death with doubts and fears. The Scriptures indicate this is not the path or attitude which God would have us to follow or have as believers. The apostle Paul in writing to the church at Colossae teaches us that we are to live in this world with our minds toward heaven while we await his return.
Colossians 3:1-4 (ESV) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
There are at least five reassuring facts that we can obtain from the Scriptures concerning death for the follower of Christ.
1. Unless we’re still alive when Christ returns death is a certainty for us all.
This is based on Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 2; & 9:2 which states, “the same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad, …” Some may wonder why this is a reassuring fact for Christians. Just as physical death is a certainty so is the reality of eternal life with Christ for those who have placed their faith in Him. We cannot obtain or experience eternal life which has been promised until we passed from this life to the next.
2. Sin is the enemy of humanity not death.
Romans 5:12 (ESV) Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
Physical and spiritual death is the penalty for sin enacted by God after the fall of man. In other words, death is the byproduct of sin for which God has provided the antidote through His Son Jesus the Christ (Romans 6:23).
3. God has placed within us a hope for immortality which conquers death.
Romans 8:22-23 (ESV) For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
As followers of Christ there is an eagerness that yearns within us waiting to be reunited with Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul’s words, “as we wait eagerly” suggest a hope, or a confident expectation that Christ will soon return and redeem our mortal bodies. He will exchange the corruptible with that which is incorruptible.
4. For the follower of Christ death is to be liberating.
2 Corinthians 5:8 (NASB) we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
“To be absent from the body” is a euphemism for death which is far better for the Christian, because the only other habitat for us is to be in the presence of the Lord. Paul made a similar statement to the church at Philippi in Philippians 1:21 – 23, as did Christ Jesus in Luke 23:46.
5. Every Christian has the promise of a resurrected, glorified body which can only be acquired at specific point in time after death.
2 Corinthians 5:1-2 (ESV) For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,
What a glorious thought, to have a body like the body of Christ which is no longer subject to pain and torment, time, space, or gravity. We are to have a glorified body that is recognizable, eternal, and in which the Holy Spirit dominates both thoughts and actions.
Yet remember Christian, none of this is possible unless the body dies first. Let not the fear and possibility of death hinder your walk with Christ in this world, but let it enrich you as you keep your thoughts on the heavenly prize that awaits you.
May the peace of God be with you in the New Year.