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Death - Where is thy Sting!

The Resurrection gives Life!


"O DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING"

by Don Robson


     Recently, it was my misfortune to attend the funeral service
of a friend who was a member of my own church. In the past few
years I have found funeral services to be disconcerting and I
believe that those services highlight, better than anything else,
the flawed preaching of our ministers and flawed theology of our
religious scholars. Over time, we have come to believe that death
is a transition from this life on earth to a life in heaven with
God. So, death is NOT death but a passport to a paradise where we
live with the angels. This is not what the Bible teaches or more
specifically, what Jesus teaches. Let us examine this together
and see if we can find the truth.

     The first truth is found in John 3:13 where Jesus is
teaching Nicodemus that we must be born again. To be born again,
we must first face death; the rebirth comes with the
Resurrection. The verse cited states, "And NO MAN hath ascended
up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of
Man which is in heaven." That rules out singing with the angels
and praising the Ancient of Days before His throne. All of our
funerals refer constantly to going to heaven, "a better place",
and eulogizers include messages to the dead like they can he
heard; for example, "Dad I love you!" It would make more sense to
me if the eulogizer said to the participating congregation, "I
loved Dad."

     As in every phase of life, we can look to Jesus for
understanding and compassion in our times of grief. When Jesus
confronted death He referred to sleep. When we sleep, we fully
expect to awake the next morning; so when Jesus referred to death
as sleep, He was giving us hope that it would have a good ending,
or, better, a new beginning. Although the Bible has several
examples of recovery from sleep (death) I believe the most useful
is the story of Lazarus. There is no doubt in my mind that
Lazarus died, an act of God, so that His Son Jesus could
demonstrate His power designed to strengthen the faith of His
followers and to give Him necessary credibility with mankind when
He stated, "I AM THE RESURRECTION."

So, let us take a look at the Lazarus story. The story begins in
John 11 - "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may wake
him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep he
shall do well. Howbeit, Jesus spake of his death, but they
thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep, Then Jesus
said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your
sakes that I was not there, to the intent that you may believe;
nevertheless let us go unto him." Here Jesus uses the metaphor of
being awakened from sleep, meaning resurrected from death. And He
expressed delight that He would have the opportunity to display
His power, THAT HIS DISCIPLES MAY BELIEVE! And John has recorded
this story that WE MIGHT BELIEVE! As you know, Martha told Jesus
that He could have saved Lazarus if He had been there, but
whatever Jesus asked of God, God would give it to Him. Jesus did
not tell her that Lazarus had gone to heaven and being in heaven
do not mourn for him for he is in a better place. No, Jesus said,
"Thy brother shall rise again." Martha expressed her belief in
Jesus and the Resurrection at the last day. Without going through
all the details of the story, Jesus said to them, "If thou
wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God." Finally,
those famous words, "Lazarus, come forth!" Then, the miracle was
completed as Lazarus complied with that command. What a
demonstration of power! This was a foretaste of Jesus' own
resurrection.

     In this story, Jesus made the following declaration, "I AM
THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE; he that believeth in Me, though he
were dead, yet shall he live: but whosoever liveth and believeth
in ME shall never die." When Jesus says shall never die, He is
referring to the SECOND Death. We all must die once but through
the power of the Resurrection, we shall be born again into LIFE
EVERLASTING! But if we sleep in the grave until Jesus calls us
forth, what happens to our spirit? Again, on the Cross where
Jesus DIED, He said, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My
Spirit." Yes, God preserves our essence in His own mysterious way
until it is reunited with our new flesh and bones, a body like
unto Jesus' glorious body.

     St.Paul based his whole ministry on the truth of the
Resurrection. But even he had to deal with unbelievers. His
response to this major theological problem is found in 1st
Corinthians, chapter 15. I think it would be profitable for you
to take time, at this point in this essay, to read that whole
chapter. St.Paul does a better job than I could ever do, although
I will quote some key verses. For example, verse 12:19, "Now if
Christ be preached that He arose from the dead, how say some
among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there
be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen; and if
Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith
is also vain. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God;
because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ; whom
He raised not up, if it be so that the dead rise not. But if the
dead rise not then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not
raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they
also which are fallen ASLEEP in Christ are perished. If in this
life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most
miserable." Then, St.Paul discusses how the risen Christ atones
for Adam's sin (and ours) concluding, "Even so shall ALL be made
alive. And then in verse 23, "But every man in his own order;
Christ the firstfruits; afterward, they that are Christ's AT HIS
COMING."

     St.Paul discusses the subject further and verse 32 ends with
words we all know, "If after the manner of men I have fought with
beasts at Ephesus, What advantageth it me, if the dead rise not?
Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die." St.Paul discusses how
we must die, like a seed in the ground, to acquire our new body,
like unto His glorious body. This discussion leads to the verses
54 and 55, "So when this corruptible shall have put on
incorruption and this mortal shall have put on immortality then
shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is
swallowed up in victory. 0 Death, where is thy sting? 0 grave,
where is thy victory?"

     We should be overjoyed at the prospect of joining our loved
ones at the time of Resurrection. But St.Paul foresaw the future
when he prophesied in 2nd Timothy, 4:3-4, "For the time will come
when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own
lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching
ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and
shall be TURNED UNTO FABLES." So, we conduct funerals without any
mention of the Resurrection to new life on this planet, where God
has promised to make all things new so that we will not call to
remembrance the former things. 

     St.Paul offered us comforting words which I have never heard
at a funeral and seldom, if ever, in a church. I refer to 1st
Thessalonians 4: 16-18, "For the Lord Himself shall descend from
heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with
the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then
we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with
them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, (returning to
earth with Him) and so shall we ever be with the Lord: Wherefore,
comfort one another with these words."

                               .............

From "Thy Kingdom Come" (June 2008)
A publication of The Association of the Covenant People, Burnaby,
B.C. Canada

Entered on this Website June 2008


 
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