But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
Death is a “four-letter” word in our society. It is a topic that most people avoid. We all know that it is out there, and we realize in the back of our minds that it will happen to us and the ones we love someday– but we never think that it will be today. But we do not want to think about it at all until it happens, and then we are expected to quickly forget about it and move on. There is no room for death in a society where this life is all that is prized.
Nevertheless, death is a natural process, as natural today as being born and being alive. And we would do well to consider it and be prepared for it.
Some people take the verses above from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 and reason that it is sinful or improper for Christians to grieve and mourn for the dead. That reasoning is inappropriate and quite dangerous. As we will see, we should not mourn the death of a faithful Christian like those who have no hope mourn their dead. Nevertheless, when someone whom we love dies, we suffer the pain of separation. That pain is real and should not be denied. In fact, that pain is quite healthy, for it reminds us that this world has been cursed with death, and that this type of separation is not the ideal at all (cf. Genesis 3:19, Romans 5:12-18). It is another reminder for us that this world is not our ultimate destination, and the pain we experience should lead us to obey God so that we may never again have to suffer the pain of separation and loss (Revelation 21:1-22:6).
It is still true, though, that the Christian should look at death and dying differently than others. The Christian has hope for a future beyond death. His Lord has suffered like he has, and has even tasted death (Hebrews 5:7-8), and God raised Him from the dead in power on the third day (Matthew 28). Death is a powerful force; what man alone can subdue it? Yet, through the firstfruits Jesus Christ, we have the hope of that wonderful final day, on which will come to pass the saying that is written,
Death is swallowed up in victory.
“O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?”
The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law: but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54c-57).
For too many people in this world, death is the end. For the Christian, however, death is only the beginning. When a faithful child of God dies, we mourn and sorrow for our pain at the loss of a beloved friend and brother/sister, but we take comfort in the hope of spending eternity with them before the Father who loves us and the Son who died for us (Revelation 21:1-22:6)!
The somber reality of death is not meant to paralyze us, causing us to constantly fear or rue each passing day. Instead, the reality of death is to be our catalyst for action. No one is guaranteed even the next breath (James 4:14). In an instant, your life, or the life of someone you love, may end. This should lead us to appreciate the blessing and gift of life, and we should refuse to take even one second of it for granted. We can take the best advantage of our lives by living every day as if it were our last– as far as we know, it very well might! Let us appreciate all the gifts that God has given us, especially the gift of His Son. Let us not be the sad souls who put off obeying Jesus one time too many, and meet our God unprepared. Let us no longer try to deny or hide from the reality of death, but live in hope of the resurrection to come!
Ethan R. Longhenry