I was in my 40s and I remember having a moment, where for the first time ever, I realized that my parents are not immortal. It was shocking to think about, and the first time I really grasped the fact that they were getting older. Now that I’m in my mid-60s and they are both 91, I’m starting to think they might outlive me. But as Benjamin Franklin so astutely observed: “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
It now occurs to me that it won’t be long until our peers (and maybe even we ourselves) begin to depart this life and be delivered to the next. This is, after all, the natural progression of things (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2b). It’s why I refer to this stage of life as my third trimester (0-30, 30-60, 60-90+ years) leading up to rebirth into eternal life. Death is not a topic to avoid, but to embrace, as every day we are one day closer to our heavenly destination.
The Bible tells us that we can know for sure that we have eternal life. Hear the apostle John as he reminds us where our confidence comes from:
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
—I John 5:11-13 (NIV)
This is the best news ever! “He who has the Son has life.” And not just in this lifetime, but for eternity.
So why are we utterly wrecked when a loved one who knows and loves Jesus goes ahead of us? Of course we miss them. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. But alongside our grief should be the joy of knowing that when Jesus said, “Hey! Wake up! You’re home!” they were welcomed into eternity with him and all those who have preceded them. This is our hope! Heaven is a real place! This is what we are living for – to one day go to our forever home to live and love and serve Jesus in a place without brokenness and pain.
Grief is for a moment, but heaven is forever. Here on earth, we who remain need to wake up from our slumber and reach out to our living loved ones who do not have faith in Christ. Should they die without believing, this is the truest reason to be brokenhearted. Hell is a real place, too. Let’s pray together for them, that God’s love would envelop them and draw them to himself while there is still time. There is no greater work than to be the hands and feet of the gospel to a world in dire need of the Savior.
And remember, for the Christ-follower:
Death is not the end, but the beginning.
Death is not a departure, but an arrival.
Death is not a loss, but a gain.
Death is not a goodbye, but a hello.
Death is not a period, but a comma.
Death is not weeping in the night, but joy in the morning.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
— I Corinthians 15:54 (NIV)