We’ve been hit hard with the news of the deaths of some of our brothers and sisters in the Lord recently. Two older saints have gone to be with the Lord, and one younger brother is now with Christ as well. All of them lived their full lives in God’s gracious, mysterious timing, but they will all be missed dearly. I’ve found myself singing the last verse of Henry Lyte’s hymn “Jesus, I my cross have taken” as I reflect on the deaths of these saints.
Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.
Heaven’s eternal days before thee,
God’s own hand shall guide us there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.
These saints haven’t “passed away” (an unfortunate euphemism that was coined by Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy, who believed that material things are an evil illusion and that everyone’s pure spirits “passed away” into another permanent, purely spiritual realm at death akin to annihilation), but they’ve tasted the curse of the reality of death. As John Piper writes, “We are kidding ourselves when we romanticize death as the climax of a life well lived. It is an enemy. It cuts us off from all the wonderful pleasures of this world. We call death sweet names only as the lesser of evils” (50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, p. 57).
It is okay for us to be emotional and angry at death and the curse even in the midst of rejoicing that they are even now with Christ. It is okay for us to shake our fists at death, even as we rejoice in Christ’s guaranteed future victory over this final enemy. We can be encouraged that the work that these saints have started on earth is not in vain, and will reach its consummation at the last resurrection and the renewal of all things. They, like us, will be given new bodies and will reign forever with Christ in the new heavens and the new earth. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:‘Death is swallowed up in victory. 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. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. -1 Corinthians 15:51-58