Death

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

Hope

For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopeth for that which he seeth? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it (Romans 8:24-25).

Hope, in the world, is the antidote to despair.  The word only begins to surface when things no longer go well.  When economic times get rough, people hope that conditions will improve.  When someone becomes ill, people hope that they recover.  Yet, in “normal,” positive day-to-day life, hope does not seem as necessary.

The Christian, however, is to live in hope (Romans 15;13, 1 Corinthians 13:13).  There is not a time in which we are not to await the return of our Lord, the redemption of our bodies, and the opportunity to spend eternity with the Lord (Ephesians 1:18, Colossians 1:5).  It is at that point, as Paul says, that we shall no longer hope, for our hope will have been realized.

But that day has not yet come.  We must never be so comfortable in our lives here that we lose sight of our greater hope.  We cannot allow confidence in the riches of this world to lead us to neglect our hope for riches in Heaven.  We cannot be so satisfied with life here that we no longer hope for a better life in eternity.  If earthly blessings sap our hope for heavenly ones, we of all people are most impoverished.

Many people live almost entirely in hope because they do not have the multitude of blessings that we have.  While we may feel sorry for them now, in the long run perhaps we are to be more pitied, if we lose our heavenly hope in the satisfaction of the present.

As long as we live in a sin-sick and tragic world, let us cling to our hope in Jesus Christ!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Promised Messiah

“And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).

At this time of year, many stop to consider the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.  The picture of the Son of God– God the Son, in fact– as a relatively helpless infant is quite touching.  To consider that the Son of God experienced the same stages of physical growth as we have really brings the reality of the Incarnation home.

Nevertheless, many put great emphasis on the birth of Jesus, yet even in His birth, His purpose and plan are foreseen by Gabriel.  We can only imagine what Mary can see when she is told about her Son– King of Israel, sitting on David’s throne.  It presents so much hope and promise.

God’s plan, however, involves future suffering in order to accomplish this glorification.  Jesus was born so as to die as the Lamb of God (cf. John 1:29).  Jesus was born to be raised again in power (1 Corinthians 15).

Indeed, Jesus was born to be a King, but not like any other king who has ever been or ever will be.  While it is good to recognize that Jesus was born to Mary in a manger, we must never forget that we have life through His death and victory through His resurrection, and that Jesus is our King (Matthew 28:18, Romans 5:6-11, 1 Corinthians 15).  Let us stand firm in His Kingdom and proclaim His Word!

Ethan R. Longhenry