“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” 1 Thess. 4:13-14 NIV
The church nursery was scary for my toddler. The first dozen times I left him, he screamed his head off and acted like he would never see me again. It grew on him and he now feels safe parting with me for a few hours. His knowledge of me coming back for him, coupled with his experience of the goodness of those who watch over him, make all the difference. Now, when I come to get him he sometimes doesn’t want to go–he’s too busy enjoying a book or playing with friends. When parting with a loved one, our first response may look much the same. The loss of the one we love may feel like it’s goodbye forever. Yet, as believers we are comforted in that we will see them again and behold the presence and care of the Lord in this place now, and more fully forevermore in heaven. We have hope because of the resurrection and the revelation of Christ.
Those who die in the Lord only leave the physical body ‘asleep,’ but take their spirit to the very presence of Christ! While, it may be a temporary goodbye, it’s not forever. No one likes to say goodbye to those we cherish. We want to hold on to them as if they belong to us. If we surrender them to God, we receive the freedom to enjoy them as momentary gifts and look to the more exhilarating gift of Christ that they are meant to point to. We await a heavenly union to Christ for all eternity!
A Christian’s life is lived in light of eternity because that is our forever home. The moment we take our last breath, we go home to dwell with the God himself. Our faith stands on the promise and hope of the resurrection. We can be comforted that although our bodies temporarily die, our souls immediately are ushered into the presence of the Lord. All believers will be happily reunited again. “Christians do not experience the hopeless grief of non-believers, for whom death marks the permanent severing of relationships. Unlike them, Christians never say a final farewell to each other; there will be a ‘gathering together’ to Him. Partings in this life are only temporary.” (MacArthur Commentary p.126.) Like David, we can wash our face from tears when we realize that although our loved ones can’t come back to us, we will join them in heavenly bliss one day.
Not only will we be reunited, we will be remade one day. Our sleeping physically bodies will be raised again and made perfect in ways we have never even dreamed of! Just imagine what that day will be like when Jesus comes back and establishes his kingdom on the new earth! The closest picture I can imagine in my finite mind is like that of the scenic images from “Lord of the Rings.” Can you picture Jesus heroically coming back on a white horse with a sharp sword in all His glory? He will give this earth an amazing remodel and rid it of every harmful and ugly evil thing, and make beauty from its ashes.
Prayer: Our Lord, Emmanuel! Thou are the gracious giver of eternal life and our awesome redeemer! Forgive us for breaking your perfect law. Thank you for Christ who came to this painful world to live a perfect life and yet be punished with the death we deserve, that we may believe onto him and live forever. Thank you that you gift us with the grace of your presence. May we look to the day you come back to establish your majestic kingdom from the ashes of this earth. We ask for anticipation of seeing you face to face, and being remade from these dry bones to glorious bodies fit for a heavenly home together upon the redeemed new earth! In Jesus’ name.
“O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer, Our spirits by Thine advent here. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, Thou Key of David, come, And open wide our heavenly home.”