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Death

In the American culture there are certain things that make us feel uncomfortable and we are not sure how we should feel or respond in those situations. One of those situations is death. I have been thinking a lot about death lately because of what has been going on in my own life, the death of my mom. As a pastor, I have seen people suffer with cancer and I have been the one who has walked with the family when they get the news that their loved one’s cancer has spread and there is nothing medically that can be done. As a pastor I have received those 3:00 am phone calls to come to the Hospital or to a person’s house to sit with the family as they mourn the passing of their loved one. Over these past several weeks, I experienced this firsthand. As I went through these events of having my mom be sent home on hospice, getting that phone call that I needed to head over to my parent’s house because she didn’t have much time, having my wife pulling me aside right before Sunday school and telling me that my mom passed, planning my mom’s memorial service, and now dealing with all the paperwork that comes when a person passes, needless to say, death has been a constant thing on my mind. To be honest with you, I haven’t asked the why question; the question of “why did God allow my mom to go through this?” This is probably due to the fact that I know why good people get sick and die, and that is because we live in a sinful fallen world. Cancer and the diseases that people die from are all because of a result of sin and followers of Jesus because we live in a sinful, fallen, broken world will experience sicknesses and diseases. But through this time of grieving, I have been reminded by the Holy Spirit of some promises that I would like to share with you so that when you go through a time in your life, where you have to say goodbye to a loved one, you will be able to stand firm in your faith in Jesus Christ.

 

               The first thing that the Holy Spirit reminded me of is that when “death” is talked about in the Bible, it means separation. In Genesis 2:16-17, God tells Adam that “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Fast forward to Genesis 3 and people will point out that when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they didn’t die. In fact, Adam lived to be 930 years old (Genesis 5:3-5). If we take death to mean just physical death in Genesis 2 and 3 then yes, we have an issue. But if we apply the Biblical understanding of death, which is separation, then we see clearly that when Adam and Eve ate that fruit, immediately they became separated from God (spiritual death) and eventually they would become separated from this world, which is what happens when a person dies physically. All throughout the Bible we see that when a person dies physically, that person’s body is buried, but their soul or spirit becomes separated from their body. If that person has put their faith and trust in Jesus, we are told that their soul or spirit enters the presence of the Lord in heaven (1 Corinthians 5:1-10). If a person did not put their faith and trust in Jesus, then their soul or spirit enters a place of torment (Luke 16:19-31). But these people who have died and have become separated from this physically world will one day rise again and that brings us to the second thing.


                The second thing that the Holy Spirit reminded me of is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. Paul is helping the believers in Thessalonica to understand how we, as followers of Jesus, are supposed to view death. Paul gives us an image of death when he says that the believers are just “sleeping.” Why does Paul say that people who have died are just sleeping? Paul is not saying that they are literally sleeping, but he uses this image to help us understand what will happen at the end of time. For example, every night, we lay our head down on our pillows and go to sleep, but in the morning, when our alarm clock goes off, or when our parents tell us to wake up, we wake up, get out of bed and start the day. Paul says this is what will happen to those who have died; one day they will wake up and be brought back to life. When will this happen? When Jesus comes again. On that day, when Jesus comes, the dead ones who have put their faith and trust in Jesus before they died, will be resurrected to live in the new heavens and the new earth. There will be no more pain, or suffering, or curse (Revelation 22:3). All believers will dwell with God in the new havens and the new earth, which is what Revelation 21-22 is about.


But those who do not believe in Jesus, they will also be resurrected, but they will be resurrected to face God’s judgment. In Revelation 20:11-15, we are told that the dead are judged and those whose names are not written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life,” in other words, those who have not become followers of Jesus, will be thrown into the lake of fire, a.k.a. hell. We are told in Revelation 20:14 that this lake of fire is the second death. What does that mean? Again, when the Bible talks about death, it means separation. Those who are thrown into the lake of fire are those who will spend the rest of eternity in the lake of fire and will be separated from God forever, which is why it is called the second death. Their first death was dying physically and now they are experiencing that second death of being eternally separated from God.


All these future events are why Paul tells the believers in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 that we should not grieve like the rest of mankind who have no hope. Because for us who believe that Jesus died upon that cross and three days later, He rose again, we have hope. We will see our loved ones again, when Jesus comes. My mom believed in Jesus, and I have this hope that when Jesus comes again, I will see her, and we will be reunited and will live in the new heavens and the new earth forever. Yes, I am sad, and I miss my mom, but my heart echoes the Apostle John’s cry in Revelation 22:20. Jesus says that He is coming soon. John says, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” What a day that will be when my faith is finally made sight. When I hear the trumpet of the archangel announcing the arrival of the King of Kings. What a day that will be when we will be reunited with those who have died, those who are physically separated from us. That is my hope, and this is what I am clinging to as I now live physically separated from my mom.

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