I found out this morning that one of our church members passed away yesterday.
He was an older gentleman with some health challenges, but all in all seemed to be doing okay until last week. He and his wife had dinner at our house a couple months back, and his wife has been to our house a handful of times since then for small-group fellowship. (Her husband’s hearing and mobility challenges make group gatherings tough, so he tended to stay home.)
He went into the hospital for some sudden health issues this past week, seemed to come through surgery just fine, and then took a sudden turn for the worse in the last few days. Today is a rare mid-week day off for me, so I was planning to visit him this afternoon if I could.
I didn’t know him super-well, but I was getting to know him better. Now, that will have to wait.
Death is an enemy, an unwelcome imposition that has no right being a part of God’s good world but for the fact that sin has poisoned everything it has touched. However, because we know Jesus, we have hope. Jesus came to defeat sin, death, and the grave, and all those who turn from their sins and trust in Jesus alone for salvation have a share in that victory. He rose again as the first fruits of the great resurrection to come, and on that great day, my brother will rise up with a new body, a body with a greater strength and keener senses that he ever knew in this life, a glorified body free of all stain and infection of sin. Even now, at this moment, my brother is rejoicing with the saints in the presence of his Savior.
Meanwhile, his widow, his children, and his church grieve his death. But we do so with the hope and confidence that we will see him again–not because of some vague and gauzy notion of the afterlife, but the solid and certain promises of God found in His word.
I’m sad today. Death is sad. Our hope in the return of Jesus and the future resurrection of the dead doesn’t preclude our mourning–even Jesus wept at the grave of a friend (a friend He fully intended on raising up to life). But it does give our mourning context. “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning,” the Psalmist writes.
So we embrace our grieving loved ones, wipe our tears, and wait for the dawn and the rising of the Son.
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 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.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.I Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV)