Summary: What does life mean, in the face of death?
How Are the Dead Blessed?
“And I heard a voice from heaven say: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. From now on they shall have rest from their labors, and their works shall follow them.”
Today we are confronted here by the death of someone we have loved. This confrontation raises questions in us as to what life is all about and how does the reality of death affect how we see life. In seeing our loved one in the coffin, it reminds us that we too will someday be in a coffin or urn. We who came from the dust will return to the dust. Is that all?
If we were to follow this train of thought, that death is the ultimate reality, what is life about anyway? One way to look at it is if we come from nothing and return to nothing, does it really matter how high we rise in this life or to what depths we plunge if in the end we all return to the same nothing? It would be hard to find much comfort in such a view. The best we can say about our loved one here who struggled with cancer is “Thank God she is not suffering any more!” We would read this verse this morning “Blessed are the dead” and stop there. What a depressing view of life that kills people while they are yet alive! It says ultimately that life does not really matter. Even those who are for all appearances practical atheists still say “Thank God, she is not suffering.” This view of life is unlivable when death seems to be the ultimate blessing.
So to avoid the trap of nihilism, mankind tries to substitute an alternate message. There are those who say like the Grass Roots, “Na, na, na, na, live for today, and don’t worry about tomorrow.” This is called by the philosophers “existentialism.” Basically it is an attempt to dodge the pangs of death by concentrating on making the best of life. When one is youthful and optimistic, that sounds promising. But how well does that work in the end. I see many of you who are elderly here today with aches and pains, just like I am suffering from the ravages of age. There may be some here who are suffering even in their youth, if not from physical suffering, are suffering inside. Life has been hard for you. Outside you make the best face on life, but you are all tears on the inside. And whether you like it or not, you are staring death in the face. How hard we try to put death beyond arm’s length! But all the face lifts and cosmetics cannot cover the truth that it is appointed for all men to die. There is all the uproar of how youthful Christy Brinkley looks at 63, but the fact is she is still 63. I am not 63 quite yet, but I have a pretty good idea of how 63 really feels on the inside.
There are alternate explanations that try to keep us from the door, some more positive than others. But time does not permit me to go into depth this afternoon. All of the alternatives die out in despair too. For a while you can deceive yourself. You can put on spiritual mascara. But you can’t hide, and you cannot escape the “chilling hand of death.”
But I am not here today to fill you with despair, but with hope. The Scripture alone has the answer to death. It does not stop with “Blessed are the dead.” Read on! It says: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” The Scripture des not affirm that physical death is the end at all. It is rather the beginning of eternal life or the beginning of eternal death. The blessing is only pronounced on those “who are in the Lord.” Before I go further, I need to tell you that the departed here confessed Christ as her Lord and Savior.” She believed in the Lord. So for her, the blessing is not that she died and was released from her suffering, although that is true. The truth is that she is blessed because she is with the Lord. The Scripture says: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” How can this be unless this death is but a doorway to now life. Death itself is not precious. It was never meant to be. It came as the result of the rebellion of the entire human race in Adam and Eve. They rejected the Lord who created them from the dust of the earth and pronounced their lives to be “very good.” This act of sin plunged the human race into darkness. We who were made living and purposeful creatures would some day be rendered back into the dust from which we came.