Thinking about death

A few months after I became a pastor, a funeral home called me and asked if I would do a funeral service for a woman whose family did not have a relationship with a church in our community.  I agreed and went to meet with the family to talk about the service.

They wanted one main thing for the service.  They wanted it short.  No music.  One Scripture reading.  No eulogies.  Graveside only.  After we concluded the discussion I said that with my message I envisioned the service would be about 20-25 minutes.  Silence.  “Could you make it shorter?…Fifteen minutes at the most?”

I was shocked.  Why did they not want to honor their mother (and the Lord) in a more significant way?

A couple of days later as I rode to the cemetery with the funeral director, I related the story.  He was not surprised, and he told the young pastor why:  “People want it short because they don’t want to be confronted with the reality of death.”

I’ve never forgotten what he said, and I have seen that true statement exemplified in multiple ways over the years of my ministry.

But we need to think about death.  After death was introduced in Genesis 3, it remained a constant theme through all the subsequent chapters and books of the Bible.  Death is a constant companion of all people; all those who are living are actually dying, daily (hourly) moving closer to their final earthly end.

What does the Bible teach us about dying?

There is no escaping death; it is one-out-of-one:

“For there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man as with the fool, inasmuch as in the coming days all will be forgotten. And how the wise man and the fool alike die!” (Eccl. 2:16)

It is good to consider the day of our (coming death):

“A good name is better than a good ointment,
And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.” (Eccl. 7:1–2)

Death is the enemy of all men:

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…the wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 3:23; 6:23)

“The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” (1 Cor. 15:26)

Death is not victorious over believers:

“The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 5:20–21)

“…indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us…” (2 Cor. 1:9–10)

“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” (Heb. 9:27–28)

Death is God’s final act of redemption:

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.…The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” (1 Cor. 15:20–22, 26)

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” (1 Thess. 4:14)

“It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him…” (2 Tim. 2:11)

Death is a great joy for believers (though the greatest tragedy for unbelievers):

“…according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:20–21)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:3–9)

The inclination of the heart is to avoid talking or thinking of death.  The believer in Christ does well to think on death, for it gives him a desire for the next world, while loosening his attraction to this world, and deepening his love for and dependence on Christ for his final and ultimate hope.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels.

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