Monday, 04 March 2013

At Death--and Resurrection to Life

If you are familiar with our monthly newsletters, you have probably noticed that the articles are generally written matter-of-factly, rather than from a personal view. However, this particular section will offer a bit of both.

Just recently, I sat close beside the beloved man who I knew as my father, stroking his forehead as he took the last, surprising gentle breaths of his life in this world. As difficult as those final weeks had been for him and our family, I consider it a true gift that I was able to be with him at the very moment the spirit of life left that feeble, sickly body that was no longer capable of allowing him a fulfilling existence. While there were, of course, many tears shed by those of us who loved him, there was also a sense of peace and relief that he was no longer bound by the suffering that had become part of his daily life for the last months and weeks. He was truly at rest.

As a person who works for a hospice, I encounter individuals on a daily basis who are facing their own mortality, and family members trying to cope with the grief of losing one so dear. I have no doubt that many of you reading this may now be recalling your own experiences of having a loved one die, for it is an inescapable part of mankind’s existence in this present world. And whether those remembered deaths came with the stunning blow of unexpectedness or had been expected for weeks or days, there is always that crushing sense of finality and sorrow that, suddenly, you can no longer see or touch or converse with them. But how we each view death, and our beliefs about what happens at that moment in time and beyond, can be a source of comfort--or uncertainty and fear.

I often hear people say that death is just a normal part of life. But, if you consider it, there really does not seem to be much “normal” or routine about death at all. When Jehovah God created the first man and woman in the garden, everything was perfect. Adam and Eve were given one simple commandment to keep, which was to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They could eat from any of the other trees of the garden, but God told them that they would die if they ate the fruit from or even touched that one particular tree.

We probably all know the event that followed when the serpent (Satan) lied to Eve by telling her they wouldn’t die. Eve ate the fruit of that particular tree and then gave Adam the fruit to eat, too. And just as God had told them, from that day forth the earth was cursed and their days were numbered. He put them both out of the Garden of Eden so they would not also partake of the tree of life that could allow them to live forever. Read Genesis chapter 3.

Because of Satan’s deceit and mankind’s disobedience, generations from that time forward were bound to experience aging, disease, and death. It became something inescapable. But it is not as dismal as it may sound. While there is the certainty of death in this world, there is also a great hope of a life to come that is far better than we can imagine.

Many of those who were entrusted to record God’s holy word spoke and wrote about the hope of the resurrection that would one day occur. Job said, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25-27) After Lazarus died, Jesus said to his sister, “…Your brother will rise again. Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Read John 11:23-24 NKJV. The prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah also spoke of a resurrection when those who died would be raised back to life and they knew they would be, too. Read Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Isaiah 26:19.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 the apostle John wrote, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” In these verses, “sleep” refers to being deceased or dead. Paul tells those who believe in God’s word that they should not sorrow to the same degree as those who do not have the knowledge or conviction that there will be a resurrection to eternal life. It is not saying that the death of a loved one will be without sorrow or pain, but that there is a hope of someday being raised back to life and being reunited again to live forever in a world that is free of grief and death.

The apostle John wrote of a time when “…God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Read Revelation 21:4. One of the greatest comforts one can possess is having knowledge of what happens at death and beyond for those who hold a strong belief in and obedience to Jehovah’s word. Of course it is sad when a loved one passes from this life and we miss them deeply. Yet there is a guaranteed hope in the resurrection that will start at Christ’s second coming that will signal a new beginning when we can be with them again forever. Can you imagine the joy at that time?

Paul wrote, “Knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:14-18 NKJV) Therefore, our best hope is to learn what God’s will is for us so that we, too, can experience the joy that will be known when death is swallowed up once and for all. Read 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 and John 6:39-40.
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