THE MEANING OF DEATH
Dying, Christ destroyed our death.
Rising, Christ restored our life.
Christ will come again in glory.
Here and now, dear friends, we are God’s children.
What we shall be has not been revealed,
But we know when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Those who have this hope purify themselves as Christ is pure.
Jesus said, "I am the Resurrection and I am the Life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, yet shall they live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. I died, and behold I am alive forever more, and I hold the keys of hell and death. Because I live, you shall also live."
Let Us Pray
O God, who gave us birth, you are ever more ready to hear than we are to pray.
You know our needs before we ask, and our ignorance in asking. Give to us now your grace, ;that as we shrink before the mystery of death, we may see the light of eternity.
Speak to us once more your solemn message of life and death.
Help us to live as those who are prepared to die.
And when our days are accomplished, enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that living or dying, our life may be in you, and that nothing in life or in death be able to separate us from your great love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me
In the presence of mine enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
John 14:1-10a, 15-21, 25-27
The Bible says many wonderful things about the death of a Christian. But the trouble is that we don’t believe these things. We think of death as an end to all things good. We think of death as a time of separation. We think of it as a hideous monster come to cut off all our joys.
But the death of a Christian is a wonderful thing. Suppose you were in a prison camp where you were persecuted and beaten every day, where you had nothing to eat but a dry crust of stale bread every day and you had to sleep on the cold, damp ground every night. Then suppose some army friends came in and rescued you and took you to a place of rest and good food and happiness. Wouldn’t you consider these rescuers as good friends?
Well, we ought to look upon death in that way. We live in a cruel world, a world of many hardships, injustices, trials, tears, sorrow, and separations. Now when death comes to take us into the presence of the Lord, where we shall have perfect health and perfect rest, wouldn’t you say that death is, after all, a good friend? We look upon death as an enemy, but really death takes us to a better place.
Psalm 116:15 says, "Precious in the sight of God is the death of His saints." When a Christian dies it is a matter of concern to the Lord. He knows about every breath that we draw, every pain that we endure, every groan that we utter. It all means something to Him. Now our text says, not that death is precious in our sight, but in God’s sight. The Psalmist is talking about death from God’s standpoint.
We can’t understand the why’s and how’s of death. But we do have this wonderful promise from God.
The Bible says, (Ps 127:2) "God giveth His beloved sleep." Elizabeth Barrett Browning said that, to her, this was the sweetest text in the Bible.
Now sleep is a wonderful thing. We can’t do without it. Every living thing must have some time for sleep. It brings us sweet rest and gives new strength for the new day. Yes, physical sleep is a wonderful thing, but it can never compare with the sleep God gives to His beloved.
What a different sleep that is indeed. We go to sleep tonight and when we wake up tomorrow we have the same problems and worries and aches and pains that were ours when we went to bed. But when we go to sleep in Jesus, we soon wake up on a new shore and find that it is heaven. We breathe a new air and find that it is celestial air. We feel the touch of anew hand on ours and find that it is God’s hand.
I want to share with you four things that death means to a Christian.
1. It means a change of environment. Everything down here has been contaminated by sin. All around us we find dishonesty, drugs, lies, and lust. And we also find all the by-products of sin, namely sickness, sorrow, pain, poverty, and death.
But when God’s people die, they go to a place where these things can never touch them. There is for them a complete change of environment. They go from sin to sinlessness, from earth’s discords to heaven’s harmonies, from all that is bad to all that is good, from all that hurts to all that brings happiness.
2. It means a change of nature. Here we are burdened with an old sinful nature, which causes us continual grief. Up there the old sinful, fleshly nature will be gone forever.
3. It means a reunion with our loved ones. You have sat by the bedside and watched your loved one die. You have looked into their faces for the last time and wept many bitter tears, but they are not gone from you forever if they have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior.
I have seen on TV many times the arrival of cruise ships in the harbor of some exotic island. There are hundreds of people on the shore waving and yelling. A band is playing, flags waving, and flowers and greetings for all the new arrivers. That scene will be nothing like the scene in heaven when we are reunited with our loved ones who have died in the Lord.
4. Finally, it means that we will see Jesus. If it were not for him, there would be no heaven. But, praise God, we shall wee him and we shall know him and we shall fall at his feet and thank him for saving us and bringing us safely home.
Each one of us can look forward to there four things and especially being with Jesus for eternity when we put our faith and trust in Jesus.
Let us pray.
God of us all, your love never ends. When all else fails, you still are God.
We pray to you for one another in our need, and for all, everywhere, who mourn with us this day.
To those who doubt, give light;
To those who are weak, strength;
To all who have sinned, mercy;
To all who sorrow, your peace.
Keep true in us the love with which we hold one another.
In all our ways we trust you. And to you, with your church on earth and in heaven, we offer honor and glory, now and forever.
Now to the one who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, to this God be glory in the Church and in Jesus Christ to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.