Summary: If you’re grieving the loss of people you love, find comfort in their rest; find comfort in their resurrection; and find comfort in the grand reunion to come.
As Shay Bradley’s coffin was being lowered into the ground at a cemetery in Dublin, Ireland, last year (October 2019), another sound cut into the mournful strains of the bagpipes.
A shout rang out – from inside.
“Hello? Hello. Hello? Let me out!” yelled the deceased from within the box.
Then came the knocking.
“Where am I?” Bradley yelled. “Let me out, it’s dark in here.”
His loved ones, gathered around the hole in the ground, stood still in shock. Then their tears and sniffles began giving way to giggles.
“Is that the priest I can hear?” came the cry. “This is Shay, I’m in the box. No, [the one] in front of you. I’m dead.”
Then Bradley’s voice launched into a song. “I just called to say goodbye,” he crooned, and the mourners were treated to one last laugh, which was Shay Bradley’s dying wish.
You see, when Bradley got the news of his terminal illness a year prior, he made secret arrangements with his children to make and play the recording. Two days before the funeral, they alerted their mother and other immediately family members, so they wouldn’t be too shocked.
Bradley’s daughter Andrea posted the video to Facebook, along with a few thoughts in tribute. “To make us laugh when we were all incredibly sad… what a man.” (Theresa Braine, “Dead man pranks funeral-goers by screaming from coffin in pre-recorded message as he’s lowered into the ground,” New York Daily News, 10-15-19; www.PreachingToday.com)
Can you imagine that happening at the last funeral you attended? It would certainly shake things up, but it might just put a smile on your face, too!
Now imagine hearing a voice from heaven, the sound of a trumpet, and the corpse coming out of the grave alive. You would be shocked, to be sure, but you wouldn’t be able to contain the joy that wells up from your own soul to see your loved one alive again!
Well, here’s the good news! You don’t have to just imagine it, because you will experience it one day if you’re a believer in Christ. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Thessalonians 4, where the Bible talks about what happens to believers who have died.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (ESV)
The Bible describes believers who die as those who have fallen asleep. That is, their bodies are asleep while their souls are very much alive with the Lord!
The Bible is very clear that to be “away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Paul writes in Philippians 1, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23). And Jesus Himself said to the thief on the cross next to Him, “TODAY, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). When a believer dies, his or her soul goes immediately into the presence of Christ, but their bodies remain on this earth.
So what do you do with the body? You lay it in a grave, which the early Christians called a koimeterion, from which we get our word cemetery. It literally means “a sleeping place.” You lay the body to rest, and that has several implications.
First, the believer who dies is at rest. His or her work is done! They have ceased from their labor, and they are at peace.
It also means that the believer who dies is really alive! D. L. Moody once said, “Some day you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment, I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone higher, that is all-out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal...” (D. L. Moody, Christian History, No.25).
The believer who dies is at rest. The believer who dies is really alive, and the believer who dies will wake up again. Jesus will bring that body to life when He returns with the souls of those who have gone before. So if you’re grieving the loss of people you love...
FIND COMFORT IN THEIR REST.
Find strength in the truth that your loved one’s body is only asleep. Be encouraged that their labor is over, their soul is alive, and their body will awaken someday.
1 Thessalonians 4:14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (ESV)
Jesus guaranteed that awakening when He died and rose again! His death paid the penalty of death for your sin, and His resurrection demonstrates His power over death, so that when Jesus returns with the souls of believers who have “fallen asleep,” He will reunite those souls with their newly awakened bodies.