My media world exploded with death over the past couple of days. A Facebook “friend” who lost a husband, a Voice contestant who we followed a few years ago, a nightclub full of people we have no connection with other than through the news cycle. The husband who passed did so of natural causes. The others, of heart-wrenching, head-shaking, anything-but-natural causes. Our FB connection’s husband went home to be with the LORD, He was promoted into glory. The others, we don’t know.
Paul says that when someone who has placed their faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross “falls asleep”, those with like faith should “not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep” (1Thess. 4:13-14 ESV).
But death confronts us with mortality. And the death of others acts a reminder of our own mortality. So maybe that’s why something I read in Philippians this morning jumped off the page. Paul reminds me that for the believer who is confronted with death, and their own mortality, that when they think about falling asleep it should ignite their imagination to an awakening beyond imagining.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21 ESV)
Nothing pretty about death. Nothing easy for those left behind to mourn and figure out how to move forward. But for those who have trusted in Jesus for life beyond life, to die is gain. Having turned to the cross, they anticipate one day standing before a heavenly throne. Having recognized that Jesus came to die for their sin of rebellion against God in their old lives, they also know that Jesus came to provide a spiritual re-birth into a new life which will extend far beyond the confines of this world and time and space.
They know that to be absent from the body is to be present with Lord (2Cor. 5:6-8). And in that there is great hope, even among unfathomable tragedy.
That is good news. That is the message of light so needed in a dark world.
O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1Corinthians 15:55-57 ESV)
Because of grace. For His glory.