As a minister for many years I’ve learned that death contains no sting for those who know God. I have been closely associated with death and dying most of my adult life. I have prayed with those close to death and held the hands of people as they breathed their last breath on this earth. I have experienced it up close and personal.
Some people refuse to acknowledge death and its reality, but whether it is from accident, disease or age we can’t stop it from touching us. It is as if some think if they just ignore it and it will pass them by. Some folks cover their fear of death with jokes or humor, but it does not stop its advance upon our lives. Death is one of those things which those of us who are wise enough, realize is but one breath away. As the saying goes, there are two things we can’t escape in our society, death and taxes. You may be able to cheat the tax man, but not death.
I’m not trying to look at death morbidly, but realistically with hope! Death truly is a time of transition. For those who are Christians it is a time of hope, a time of going home, a time of finally opening our greatest gift. If you are not a Christian, then that’s a different matter entirely.
Let me share why I can look at death positively. First, because of the words of Jesus, he said he was going to prepare a place for us after death. No matter what your individual understanding of that is, it is a good thing, a promise from the creator of the universe that he is going to take care of us after death, (John 14:3).
Second, I can look at death positively because of the testimony of the apostles as they wrote down God’s words for us. Men like Paul who describes the transition as receiving a new body like the one Jesus has in heaven and being forever with the Lord. Paul writes these words of comfort in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory (over death), through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Third, I look at death in a positive light because of the testimony of some who have seen past the veil of death and shared that vision. I can’t speak to all of the books and movies on the subject, but I want to share this. Recently an older sister in Christ passed away. She had been a faithful member of God’s family for many, many years. I was told that when she died she said, “Look there is John and Nancy” (two of her close Christian friends), “and there is Joe”, (her husband who had preceded her in death), then she took her last breath and died. That gives me chills as I recount this happening, not in a bad way, but in a wonderful, heart filling way. It is a testimony to me that the promises are real. That in an instant, in the blink of an eye we are transported into a new wonderful world with God.
I was reading about a young boy who was clinically dead and was brought back. He was being shown a picture album of family and was shown a picture of an old man, a grandfather he had never met. He responded, “No, that’s not him,” but pointing to a younger picture of the man he said, “That’s him, I met him in heaven.”
As the words of the old hymn remind us, there will be, “No tears in heaven, all will be glory over there.” We don’t fear death as Christians, but understand the words of God, “Death has no sting,” only promise.