The Happy-Sad Realities of Death & the Grave: A Believers Exultation

Ask any random person who has lived and loved others about their experience in times of mourning and loss. It is always excruciating. The questions, the tears and the memories are constant. Does God know how much turmoil is in my heart? Does he hear my sobs and cries? Is he interested at all? Is life worth living with all the chaos within me? Is this the end of all things, or is there something to look forward to afterwards? Scripture is not silent about this predicament that dwells in many believers’ hearts today. So what should we labour to teach our hearts when such moments come our way – for they must come?

The Land of the Dying

One primary truth for our hearts to embrace is that where we are today – earth – is not where we shall always be. Job (Job 14:1) said that man, born of woman, is short of days and full of trouble. In Genesis 1:17, we are told one of the consequences of disobedience was death, both physical and spiritual. Physical death – what we experience first-hand – is more impactful, though spiritual death is worse; we do not seem to understand its gravity because we live in this material world. Anyone alive in this life will either die or be taken up into glory during the resurrection of the dead, assuming that the rapture will find them here. So we live daily on this earth, knowing we are closer to our expiry date by each second. From the day we are born, we start counting down our days, counting down to when we shall die and leave this world. This world is not the best we can see. This world is temporary, so we look forward to something more (2 Cor. 4:18, Matthew 24:35a). We need to remind our hearts that this world is not the place meant for us eternally. Earth is the land of the dying, so our loved ones die daily. 

The Pain in Death

From the time of the fall, death has dealt a heavy blow to humanity because death was the punishment for sin – walking in rebellion or independently from God (Genesis 1:16-17). Likewise, Adam and Eve must have felt pain after the murder of Abel by Cain (Genesis 4:8); from that time, we see many instances when death brought unexplainable pain in men’s hearts. For example, Isaac felt it at the death of Abraham (Genesis 25:1-10), and so did Pharaoh at the death of his son during the exodus (Exodus 12:29-32). The Jews were cut to the heart when Moses, the man of God, died in the wilderness (Deut. 34:1-8), and King David was in pain when Absalom, his son, died (2 Samuel 18:31-33). We could cite many instances when death brought pain in the hearts of men. The best example is our Lord Christ, who wept deeply (John 11:30-35) because of Lazarus’ death. The pain in death makes it feel like everything else is dark and gone. I have lost close friends recently, and it felt as if the earth was ready for destruction by fire. I was angry and wounded. But that is not the end for saints like you and me. Though the pain of death is real, there is hope in the master’s ability to overcome this pain. The question is how and when he will do that.

The Victory in Dying

A hymn I love has these lyrics to it: 

“Unto the grave, what will we sing?

‘Christ, he lives; Christ, he lives!’

And what reward will heaven bring?

Everlasting life with him

And we will rise to meet the Lord

Then sin and death will be destroyed

And we will feast in endless joy

When Christ is ours forevermore.”

Jesus will cause us to be victorious over death at the sound of the trumpet. In his discourse on the resurrection, Paul paints this picture (1 Corinthians 15:50-57): first, we shall not all fall asleep. This means that some saints will be here physically when Christ comes. But those who won’t be here shall still be changed into new bodies – the immortal body. Once that happens, there is a victory cry we shall all give to death and all it brings upon us: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” This victory will be because death does not have the final say in a believer’s life. Saints in Christ die to live again. Death only translates us into our designed and desired destination. Paul’s doxology is also ours: “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

The Land of the Living

After this is said and done, we who trust in the Lord shall be ushered into the land of the living, where death, grave and decay have no access forever (Revelation 21:1-4). Why? Because it is the land of the living. Death won’t be there at all. What should concern us most on earth is the book of life in God’s presence (Revelation 20:15). Is your name featured there? How does your name come to be in the book of life? God tells us to call upon his name, and we shall be saved (Acts 4:12). Jesus said that one must be born again if they want to find themselves on the victory side (John 3:3, 3:16). Are you born again? The only way for the sad reality of death to be turned into happy doxology is for your heart to be changed. 

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