I’ve never seen a person die before. I’ve never even seen a dead body outside of a funeral service. So it made an impact on me when I saw my wife’s aunt die Saturday afternoon. I had been invited to the House of Mourning (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
There was nothing outwardly spectacular about her passing. There was no physical reaction, no outbursts, no flutter of angel wings. Her pulse just stopped. She silently stepped into eternity.
For me, the timing was striking. That morning, I addressed Seniors In Action on the topic of the Jesus of the Future. My title was “Back to the Future.” We looked back at Daniel’s vision of the coming Messiah (7:13, 14) and compared it to John’s future vision of the Savior in Revelation chapters 1 and 5. We took great comfort in the fact that Christ, our present Savior, is returning to establish the Messianic kingdom promised to the patriarchs.
Sunday morning I taught two classes: one to a younger group of people who have very little concern for the future, and another to an age group (mine) that longs more and more for our real home (Philippians 3:20). The younger group learned about Postmodernism and how it’s affecting churches and disintegrating all concepts of truth. The older class and I studied Heaven and the new heavens and earth, wherein dwells righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). I felt bad for a generation that lives for the moment and wants to depart from the ancient paths, then was comforted by the seasoned saints who have been through it all and have set their sights on the things that matter.
When you confront death, strange things happen. Suddenly, the little things don’t seem so important—yet, at the same time, they can take on the utmost significance. We read this in the book of Job: “So Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life” (Job 2:4, NKJV). If we could barter with death, many people would. Nothing is more precious than a human life, and all the trinkets of the world pale in significance when we face the grim reaper.
Yet, as we saw in last week’s devotional, the fact that our earthly existence will some day flicker and die like a candle inside a sealed jar should spur us on to assigning the utmost importance to the responsibilities we have to the Lord and those around us. We need to concern ourselves with the truths of God’s Word and our relationship with the One Who died in our place.
Bip! Just like that, Aunt Winnie’s soul exited her body and entered eternity. Her pulse was taken, her heartbeat was checked, her eyes were gently closed. But her soul was more awake than ever. Just like that, the Vicks Inhaler she asked for didn’t matter, the container of juice would remain unopened, the intern would run off to another patient.
It was a good time to go back to the future. Thousands of years ago, God sent Abraham to the Promised Land to build a nation that would be His special possession, His witness to the world. During the dispersion, Israel’s biggest trial, He used His prophets to remind us that the Jews would be regathered in their land, never to leave, and that Messiah would come and restore all things (Daniel 7, cf. Acts 3:20-22). But first, he had to come to restore men’s souls to ready them for the kingdom: “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant” (Hebrews 9:15). Revelation reminds the saints on this side of the cross that he is coming again as judge to cleanse the earth and inaugurate the kingdom. The New Jerusalem will be the capital of the world for eternity (Revelation 21). The saints of all history, Jews and Gentiles, will live in perfect harmony and rule and reign forever. Sin will be banished, and all things will be the way they were meant to be.
That final “Bip!” will happen no more. When the soul and body are reunited and perfected at the resurrection, nothing will ever separate them or separate us from God (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Bip. Unless the Lord returns first, every one of us will make that instantaneous passage from here to eternity. There is no stopping it, no scheduling it, no swapping for it, no suspending it. The only thing we can do is prepare for it. “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28, 29, NKJV). “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25, 26). Do you? Bip.
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