Recently, we had an occurrence in our church that many other churches across the country -
and indeed - across the world experience: the sudden and unexpected death of one of our
most active deacons, a man of 61 years in the prime of his church work and asking for more
responsibility.

At the memorial service for the deacon, the pastor chose Death and Resurrection as the basis
of his homily. He described the occasion as one of utter sadness in the loss of a husband,
father, and brother of the family. Our minister beautifully and forcefully described the grief of
Christ upon learning of the death of his beloved friend and follower, Lazarus, and how he
lamented loudly that this couldn't be true! And because Christ couldn't bear the death of his
friend, Lazarus was raised from death and restored to life. Christ told him that when his time
did come finally, that he would go to be with Himself and His Father in Heaven forever.

The minister continued describing the grief of Christ again when He learned of His own
impending death by crucifixion at Golgotha. He also lamented loudly in the Garden of
Gethsemane to His Father,"Why have You allowed this to come to me? Take it away from
me."  In the end, Christ drank the cup of bitterness and death and said, "So be it. Thy will be
done." When His strength ran out, He proclaimed, "It is finished." Christ had finally known the
very reason He was sent to earth: To live, teach, die and be resurrected in payment for man's
sins against God.

You may think that both those incidents in Christ's life were unbelievably cruel, and that being
Christ, He could have prevented both of their occurrences. He could have, but He had faith in
the unalterable majesty and wisdom of God, His Father over all things in Heaven and earth,
even His own death. Because He knew that Resurrection would follow and He would be in
Paradise before the blink of an eye when His life ceased.

In one recounting of events following the death of our friend and deacon, our minister stated
that if you looked at the candles on the Altar, you would see them burning brightly, but for
Sunday evening services, after our Christian brother had passed, the candles went out!  
Nothing earthshaking was going to happen; nothing would be changed in the conduct of
services at our church; the candles would be lit again and be as before. The reason they went
out was that Tom was not there to tend them as he always had. But now, this morning at his
memorial service, he didn't care about candles being lit, or any other church responsibility! He
was in the presence of God in Heaven blissfully happy to be there! He had already been
resurrected!

Our pastor restated the fact that our deacon was resurrected and followed Christ into
Paradise in an instant after his own death. Both would demonstrate again, although two
thousand years apart, the wonder of God's promise to mankind delivered through Christ: "All
of you who believe on me will be saved from eternal death to ascend into Heaven where a city
of inexplicable beauty is being prepared for your arrival to dwell in your Father's house with
Jesus Christ and all the angels forever and ever."

Then our minister reminded us that for Christians and believers, the day of death is also a day
of victory over death and the most wondrous ecstasy that one can only imagine. What a
glorious thing to imagine our loved ones waiting for us in a beautiful city, a fantastic home that
Our Heavenly Father has erected for our arrival!

So the commemoration of a loved one who has only just died IS a very sad event, and one
that we must grieve. It is a very selfish grieving as we will be denied their presence in our daily
lives. We cannot do as Jesus did with Lazarus and because we cannot bear the absence of
our loved one, we will bring them back out of death to life again! Only Christ had and still has
that power!

What we CAN do is believe and trust in God's promise delivered through Christ who was
crucified and resurrected for our sins. We CAN celebrate our loved one's victory over death as
we someday will do also. Isn't that a wondrously beautiful thing to imagine and look forward
to? Sure we grieve the loss of our beloved, but at the same time, deep in our heart of hearts,
we should celebrate and rejoice at the going Home of our dear ones. They will no longer
experience sickness, pain and suffering with the ills of this world that we live in today. They
are "Home Free" to live eternally in unutterable joy while they await our coming as well.

So my friends who are grieving the loss of a family member, dear friend,  or other, consider
that at the same second as your loved one exhaled the last breath of life on this earth, they
were taking their first breath in the presence of God, The Father, Christ, the Son and the Holy
Spirit in Heaven! What a reason to rejoice and celebrate! They will have been resurrected
even as Jesus Christ was on the Cross. And He promised, "Today you will be with me in
Paradise." Praise be to God!

And if you are grieving a loved one who has left you behind to follow later, rest in God's arms
and ask for peace that passes all understanding, and you will be given it in Christ's name.
Temper your sadness with the knowledge that your loved one has been resurrected and is at
this very moment alive in Christ in Heaven with God.

May your fears, sadness and hurts be taken away and replaced by that blessed peace.
What Comes After Death?
© Betty Sue Eaton


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