Death is something that touches us all, be it through the loss of a loved one or one day our own death. Death is real and it hurts. This is not a topic to be superficial about, but it is one to be discussed with sensitivity. Losing a loved one is a painful reality. There are four important truths we need to know with reference to death.
DEATH IS IN EXISTENCE
Death came into existence as the result of the sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The punishment of this sin was death (cf. Rom. 5:12, 6:23). Because of sin, death is in existence and is a normal part of life (cf. Heb. 9:27).
DEATH IS AN ENEMY
Though death exists and is a normal part of life, death is not a natural part of life. Death is the consequence of sin. Death is an intrusion and it is an ugly and horrible experience. The apostle Paul wrote, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). It is an enemy and it really provides us a picture of how despicable sin is.
DEATH IS AN ENTRANCE
What happens when a believer dies? Despite the terror that death is, for the child of God, death is also an entrance to glory. How does a believer go from life here to life in Heaven? With the exception of Enoch, Elijah and those alive at the time of the Lord’s return, death is the entrance to glory! It is the clear teaching of Scripture that the moment this takes place their soul is instantly with the Lord in Heaven (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23). That is to say, when a believer dies, they are home in Heaven with their Saviour Jesus Christ. When it comes to the death of God’s people the Bible says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).
DEATH IS EMOTIONAL
To know a believer is in Heaven is an exciting reality, but it is not easy for those left behind to deal with. Death truly is a bittersweet experience. To know on one hand that a loved one is with the Lord in Heaven is a joy, yet on the other hand, to know they are not with you is so difficult. This is bittersweet. The excruciating experience of loss will result in grief, which is the normal process in which an individual displays sorrow and anguish as a result of loss. It is an aching experience that tears someone apart emotionally. It is important to understand that when it comes to grief, people will grieve differently. God makes us all different. For some the process will be private, others will be more public. For some it may appear brief, for others, it will take longer. The point is we all have different temperaments and we deal with these hardships in different ways (look at Mary and Martha in John 11).
As the people of God, our hearts ought to be filled with a genuine sense of compassion and care for our troubled brother or sister that is grieving. We ought to love them (Rom. 12:10), cry with them (Rom. 12:15), and pray for them (James 5:13) during this tough time of loss. We are to come alongside and care. Remember, our Sovereign Saviour loves His people and He is tender towards us. Let us be tender too. JC Ryle wisely said,
“Let us strive to be men and women of a tender heart and a sympathizing spirit. Let us never be ashamed to weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice. Well would it be for the Church and the world if there were more Christians of this stamp and character! The Church would be far more beautiful, and the world be far more happy.”
Death is a part of this world and it will touch us all. But we must not lose sight of the only hope in the midst of death, and that is the great provision and promise that comes exclusively through salvation in Jesus Christ. Yes, death exists, it is an enemy, and it is deeply emotional. But Christ has won. Let us find safety in Him. He is in control and He cares.
In loving memory of Craig Sheppard, my dear brother in the Lord. He is now home in Heaven with our Saviour and the great cloud of witnesses. He ran the race and it is now over. This is also written with loving care and support for his very dear wife.