Here’s a thought: Today marks my 62nd birthday! As I reflect, I can remember when I was a child, thinking people who were 50 were old! I definitely don’t think that anymore!
But as I reflect on this moment in my life, I understand and accept the reality that I do not have as long as I have had! I know I do not have 62 more years on this earth! I know, in the best case scenario, within 15 to 20 more years, I will cash in my chips!
I am not saying this to be morbid, pessimistic, or anything of that sort. I am thankful for the time I have had! I am thankful for spending all of these years in good health! Nevertheless, I know that my day is headed toward the sunset and the night!
Therefore, I will endeavor to be even more careful with my time and more selective with my activities. I’m striving even more than I have in the past, to make every moment count! So please excuse me if I no longer indulge in idle, fruitless, or negative activities. I am past putting a premium on ‘having fun,’ I am striving to have and leave a positive impact on the lives of others!
They tell me that during World War II, all throughout Europe, was found, scribbled in many places, the phrase: “Kilroy was here!” It is my desire, that after I am gone, my epitaph will not be restricted to being etched in stone in some cemetery somewhere, but that it will also be written in the hearts of all those who knew or even heard of me, letting the world know: “Harold Miller, Jr., was here!”
Has anybody ever told you how awesome you are? Well, if they haven’t, let me tell you, you are AWESOME with a capital A!
Now you might wonder why would I make such an assessment when I don’t even know you? Well, you are part of the human community and according to the Bible, you bear the image of God! What does that mean? It means that in spite of your flaws, imperfections, and insecurities, you are designed for God to manifest His life and love through you!
God created this whole world, just for you! When things went haywire, God sent His Son into the world, and that Son died a cruel death to get you back! And then God raised that Son from the dead as a stamp of approval of what the Son did and as a guarantee that if you trust Him with your life, even after you die, one day you will be resurrected as well!
I know, it sounds incredible, especially when you look at the mess this world is in today! But this world is in such a mess because there is an enemy that has blinded the minds of so many people to the truth I just shared with you! But I’m telling you right now: If you think it’s hopeless; that’s a lie! If you think your life doesn’t matter; that’s a lie! If you think life is not worth living; that’s a lie!
Be encouraged my friend! You are valued, you are loved, and you matter! No matter where you are in your life right now, the God of Heaven and Earth wants to lift you to a higher plane! He wants you to live in and enjoy the benefits of His Kingdom, not just after you die, but also right now and right here!
Want to know more? Find a Bible version you can easily understand and read Psalm 8. You will find out that you are royalty!
I didn’t mean for this post to be this long, but I just wanted to encourage you! Hold your head up! Be encouraged! No matter what’s going on, you are loved! You are valued! You matter! And you can make it! YOU ARE AWESOME!
Here’s a thought: Please understand, I am not trying to be unsympathetic or insensitive, but I think it is important that we (the people of God) proclaim biblical truth at all times, especially when someone dies!
Here are some things we (the community of believers) need to quit saying when someone dies because these statements are biblically incorrect and potentially misleading:
1. ‘They earned their wings’ – There are several things wrong with this statement. First, since we are not saved by any works we do, but rather by grace, why would we associate death with ‘earning’ something? What makes God’s grace so amazing is that we don’t deserve it and we can’t earn it! Second – When a believer dies, they are not transformed into angels or given wings! Humans will always be humans and angels will always be angels!
Third- ANGELS DON’T HAVE WINGS! In every occasion of angels appearing on earth in the Bible, they appeared as ‘normal’ men! The only angelic ‘winged’ creatures mentioned in the Bible are the seraphim (Isaiah 6:2, 6) and the cherubim. These creatures are not regular angels, but guardians of God’s throne! The idea that all angels have wings comes from English literature, not the Bible!
2. ‘They have earned their crown’ – Same as in ‘earning their wings.’ Whatever God gives us is because of God’s grace, not because we earn it! The crowns we will receive from God will be ‘rewards’ for our faithfulness, not bonus payment for our work! A careful reading of the Bible will help us to understand the fact that death is an enemy, not a friend! (1 Corinthians 15:26) The only crown given because of death will be to those who died (were killed) because of their faith. In Revelation 2:10, the crown of life will be given to those ‘faithful unto death.’ This is not about people being faithful until they died, but rather about people being faithful to the point that their faithfulness cost them their lives!
3. ‘They are watching over us now!’ ‘They are our guardian angels now!’ – For one thing, as stated before, humans are not transformed into angels when they die. In addition, the Bible describes the state of deceased believers as ‘resting from their labors.’ Could or would they honestly be at rest if they were tasked with the job of ‘watching over us?’ God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirt, along with a detachment of angels are already watching over us! The help of our deceased loved ones is not needed!
4. ‘It was just God’s will.’ ‘God took him/her/them’ – Death is never God’s will! Jesus said: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). The ONLY reason people die is because of sin! (Not necessarily because of that individual’s sin, but because of the Fall of Adam. Genesis 2:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 26) Death was not part of God’s original intent! In fact, the blessed hope of the Bible is the Resurrection! In the Resurrection, believers will live again, not in Heaven, in a spiritually disembodied state (the state of dead believers now) but on the new earth in glorified physical bodies! (Revelation 21-22). It is not God’s will for people to get sick and die! It is not God’s will for people to be killed in accidents or murdered! We need to quit saying this!
Didn’t mean for this post to be so long! But if we seek to comfort people in their bereavement, the only real comfort is in the truth of God’s word, not in our erroneous interpretations of God’s word!
How many times have you heard your pastor, some preacher, your favorite evangelist, or heard a song say: “The Bible says: ‘God won’t put no more on you/us than you/we are able to bear!” How did you feel when you heard that? Well, you should have felt like something’s not quite right! Why? Because the Bible DOESN’T SAY THAT, and GOD DOESN’T OPERATE LIKE THAT!
Even before discussing what the Bible actually says, let’s consider the implications of that widely believed, yet false premise. What kind of God would ‘put something on you,’ and then offer to relieve your burdens, only after you pray for relief? That’s a sick and sadistic god! Definitely NOT THE GOD revealed in the Bible! If you actually believed in a god like that, you would have some sort of resentment, even if it was only subconscious! One of the reasons the world rejects our faith is because so many of us who profess faith misrepresent faith by making statements that sound good but make no sound theological sense, such as the statement of this discussion!
Now, here’s what the Bible actually says: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 KJV.
Now, let’s break the verse down: The Greek word for ‘temptation’ in the verse is a word defined as; ‘a test, an enticement to do evil, adversity, or affliction.’ The phrase: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man,” means whatever you are going through IS NOT a unique situation! You’re not the only one, others have and are going through what you are going through! What you think is unique to you is actually quite common to everybody!
God is faithful and God will not suffer (allow) you to be tempted/tried/afflicted/burdened above/beyond what you are able, but with whatever you’re going through, God will provide a way for you to escape so that you may be able to bear/handle it.
Now notice, Paul did not say the temptation/trial/affliction came from God! James said in James 1:13: “Let no man say when he is tempted (same Greek word Paul used in our verse), ‘I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempted he any man.” Wow! James actually said, we are not to say what we’ve been saying because God doesn’t roll (operate) like that!
The gist of the matter is this: Whatever trials, afflictions, burdens or adversities we face; GOD DIDN’T PUT THEM ON US! And James tells us not to say that! But the GOOD NEWS is that God is faithful, in that God will not allow whatever we’re going through to be more than we are able to bear! Paul said, God will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape. In other words, the answer is in the question, within whatever you’re going through is your relief, and there is a blessing within your burden!
When we say, “God won’t put no more on us than we are able to bear,” we misrepresent the character and nature of God. God is not the source of our burdens, sin is! We live in a sin-cursed and fallen world. But when we encounter the various burdens and afflictions that everyone encounters and goes through, we (believers) can rely upon a faithful God who will not allow whatever we’re going through to be more than we are able to handle! The real message is this: If God allowed you to come it, (or it to come to you), God will help you through it! Whatever your burdens may be, what the enemy has designed for your defeat, God wants to use for your good! Don’t curse the darkness, just light a candle because we serve a God who is able to turn our stumbling-blocks into stepping-stones!
Well, here’s a bit of a dicey if not morbid topic. I bring it up because I find there is a tendency when Christians learn that another Christian has died, to have a celebratory response to death. Why? Because that saint has gone home to be with the Lord, which is a widely expressed statement regarding death of a Christian.
However, in consideration of the overall context of death, I’ve actually begun to question the appropriateness of it’s celebration. In fact, I think it may not be appropriate at all. I hate to rain on this popularly held parade but I believe it’s important to see the whole picture. We must have a holistic perspective of death.
One one hand, there does appear to be scriptural support for celebration. One of the main text that supports this joy is found in 2 Corinthians 5:8, where Paul says “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” There’s also Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:21-23;
For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. And if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet, what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
Well, before get too excited about these passages, there’s some other factors to consider as it doesn’t really provide a complete picture. Regarding this statement specifically, note what he is comparing – living in the pains of this world vs being with Christ. He is not so much rejoicing in death, but indicating that to be with Christ is better.
Also, we must account for the fact that death does something grievous to our body. As I wrote about here, we are whole people and death impacts us in ways that should not be celebrated. For the sake of brevity of this post, I won’t go into details of why I believe the scriptural support for dichotomy view of humanity, meaning that we are made up of material (body) and immaterial (heart, mind, conscious). Death literally rips us in two. It sends our bodies to the ground and our soul to be with Lord.
Well, what’s wrong with that? Aside from the fact, that it has dismantled God’s creation, it is incomplete. That person who died may be with the Lord, but in a state that is not yet finished. Consider what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:1-5
For we know that if our earthly house, the tent we live in , is dismantled, we have a building from God, a house not built by human hands, that is eternal in the heavens. For in this earthly house we groan, because we desire to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed, after we put on our heavenly house, we will not be found naked. For we groan while we are in this tent, since we are weighed down, because we do not want to be unclothed, but clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
It might appear that he is referring to a comparison between our earthly existence now and what happens after death. And certainly, the context of the passage relates to the comfort to be received regarding an eternity with Christ. Again, it is a contrast to present earthly circumstances. But I think we have to turn to Paul’s discussion in 1 Corinthians 15 to understand that the clothing and heavenly dwelling he refers to in this passage is our resurrected bodies. In the meantime, the temporary state of the body is naked and longs to be clothed.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul lays out the case for the resurrection. It is a common practice to look to this chapter as support for Jesus’ resurrection and indeed it does. But notice, it doesn’t stop there. Paul indicates that Jesus is the first fruits among the brethren (vs 20). The point is not just Jesus’ resurrection, but the bodily resurrection of believers at Christ’s return. In vv 35-53, Paul makes a case for the bodily resurrection and it’s significance. The rejoining of a new body with the soul completes us.
The comparison between what happened as a result of the first Adam and the last Adam (Christ) is fairly important in the valuation of death (vv 21-23). Notice in vv 24-28 that he says when Christ comes and hands the kingdom over to the Father, the final enemy that will be destroyed is death. It is pretty significant that Paul refers to death as an enemy. But death gets swallowed up after we get new imperishable bodies (vv 50-54). Until then, death has a sting! And he goes on to say, “the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law” (vs 56). Cross referencing this with Romans 5:12-21, death is representative of sin that entered the world through one man.
Death is bad. Sin is bad. It reminds us that something terrible went wrong in Genesis 3. Jesus will conquer death and we’ll be made whole. But until then, it makes a detrimental mark. And it seems to me that if you rejoice over death, you are also rejoicing over the fall and what death represents. That is definitely not a good thing. Here’s a good article on the subject as well.
So putting this altogether, what should the Christian response to death be? On one hand, the saint who dies does go to be with the Lord, though in an incomplete state. On the other hand, I think the evidence supports that rejoicing over death itself is not be appropriate. We should not call death a blessing or a gift or applaud it. We should however, take comfort in the fact that when one of God’s people dies, there is a presence before the Lord.
So what does that mean in practical terms? Commemorate the person’s life. Give glorious tributes. Rejoice that they lived. But do not celebrate their death. Death is an enemy that reminds us of the persistent reality of the fall. Death should be mourned. But it should also provide us with opportunity to reflect on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15, that one day we will be transformed, made whole and spend eternity with the Savior.