Recently, the 1997 year group of my alma mater, Ghana National College, received the sad news of the passing of one of our classmates. The news devastated us. Death indeed is devastating. Less than a year ago, my family also had to deal with the demise of my father. It was a difficult period for us. I believe you would also have experienced the pains of the death of a loved one before. Even if you haven’t, one day, the reality of death will stare you in the face. Somebody you know will die and you will have to face the pain.
Death is not a nice subject, nevertheless, it is a subject the Bible addresses.
Death is a reality of life, as natural as birth is. Once we are born, we will die. Ecclesiastes 3:2 tells us there is “A time to be born, and a time to die…”. Now when someone dies we grieve and it is appropraite because the Bible tells us “…we should weep with them that weep”. (Rom12:12). But as we mourn our loved ones, God doesn’t leave us on our own in inconsolable sorrow.
In fact, for the believer, the Bible regulates how we must mourn the dead. To this I will turn to portions of a letter Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica. He said;
…sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him (1Thessalonians 4:13-14).
In the text above, we can glean a number of lessons for mourning or sorrowing for the dead. We find these two in the phrase “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope”
1: Sorrow With Hope
When Paul says “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” what I believe he means is that, in our sorrow and mourning, we should do so as people with hope. To us believers, death is a departure to a glorious place in eternity removed from the sorrows and pains of this world (Rev 21:4).
As painful as death is, it is also transition from this life into the presence of God. Psalms 116:15 tells us “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints”. Here is a truth so marvellous to ponder over despite the difficulty of the passing of loved ones. Why is the death of a believer precious before God? Because that person has been called home to begin their journey of eternity (Luke 23:43).
2: Sorrow Without Hope
Because Paul says “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope”, it is clear there are those who sorrow without hope. To these people, death ends it all. There is no hope for an after life. But that is not what the Bible teaches. There is life after death and the Bible is very explicit on that. For those who don’t believe in Christ, when they die, according to the Bible, they are carried to hell.
Death is a reality of human existence we must all live with but as human beings, we are clearly aware every human being will taste of death. The death of another human being simply tells us one day we will all die. But death doesn’t end it all. Death ushers the soul into eternity, either eternal life or eternal damnation. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”(Hebrews 9:27).
These two forms of sorrow have two different implications. Those who mourn the dead with hope are those who have a hope of eternal life. However, those who think death ends it all must be ready for the reality of eternal damnation separated from God. In the text, again, Paul again teaches a very important lesson with regards to death: “Faith In Christ”.
He said “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him”.
In these words is the gospel; the death and resurrection of Christ. If we believe in the death and resurrection of Christ, then in a similar fashion one day there will be a resurrection of all the dead. Christ died for sinners and if you believe in Him, then your eternal life is guaranteed. If you don’t, the opposite is true. Your eternity separated from the glory of God is also guaranteed. Faith in Christ has a correlation to our eternal destination.
Do you believe Jesus died and rose again?