Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Where is Grannie?

At Christian funerals we celebrate Christ’s victory over deathA message given at my mother-in-law’s funeral on 16 September 2021

Grannie was brought up on farms where they grew their own food and prepared their own meals. It was hard work. There were no takeaway meals or supermarkets in those days! Then she married and spent 31 years in country towns bringing up her five children. After this she used her cooking and hospitality skills and experience to cater at Winmalee Christian Conference Center for 11 years before she retired.

A friend said, “Grannie was warm, loving, wonderfully hospitable, generous and so interested in people including a genuine concern for our family members. What a wonderful heritage you all have from her and I’m sure that her godly character has rubbed off on you all. I feel privileged to have known and loved her.”

Another legacy was her Christian faith which she passed on to her children and grandchildren. This is reflected in the hymns and Bible readings she chose for this service.

Psalm 23 says that God cares, guides and protects His people like a shepherd cares, guides and protects his sheep. Grannie knew that divine care, guidance and protection. Do you?

The first hymn said, “All the way my Savior leads me
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His faithful mercies?
Who through life has been my guide.”
Grannie trusted in the God revealed in the Bible.

The hymn Face to face with Christ, my Savior, says
“Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by!”
After following Him for 75 years, Grannie is now face to face with her Savior.

The final hymn says, “Great is Thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”
Grannie appreciated what God did for her.

People are dying every day. We are probably more aware of it now from the daily media statement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic the death rate in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, was about 155 deaths/day. So, it is a regular event. But is death the end of life? The answer is yes and no. It’s the end of one phase of life and the beginning of the next phase.

Southern cryonics storage facility, Holbrook, NSW, AustraliaThe first cryonics storage facility in the southern hemisphere at Holbrook on the Hume Highway in southern NSW is expected to open next year. The warehouse can house up to 40 bodies at a time for 500 years into the future. The bodies will be cooled to around minus 200 degrees Celsius in liquid nitrogen to preserve them in the hope that future medical technology may be able to repair the accumulated damage of aging and disease at the molecular level, and restore the person to life and health. They say it will cost around $150,000 to have your body cryopreserved. That’s one way to plan for your future!

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 describes what happens to a Christian after they die. It’s part of a letter written to Christians almost 2,000 years ago. There are three main points.

  1. Victory over death through Christ’s death

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died, so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with Him the believers who have died” (1 Th. 4:13-14NLT).

This explains what will happen to believers who have died so that we can grieve with hope, and not without hope. Before this revelation, the early Christians were ignorant and uninformed about this.

The Bible says that people are made up of a body, a soul (our mind, will and emotions) and a spirit (our God consciousness) (1 Th. 5:23). Death is a separation. When Christians die, the visible separates from the invisible – the visible body goes into the grave and the invisible (soul and spirit) goes to be with God (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:21, 23). On the cross, Jesus told the dying criminal, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk. 23:43).

Paul called death “sleep” – he said the body is asleep (v. 13, 14, 15). Sleep is a temporary condition, not a permanent one. When someone is “asleep”, we can have contact with them again after they wake up. This metaphor teaches us that death is not the end. As waking follows sleep, resurrection (rising back to life) follows death. This happens when Jesus returns to take all believers to be with Him in heaven.

The reason given is that because Jesus died and was raised back to life again, Christians who have died will also be raised back to life again in the future.

Christ’s death and resurrection back to new life is the foundation of the Christian faith. God sent Jesus into the world to pay the penalty of our sin so we can be in heaven with Him. Believers who have died will be resurrected like Jesus was. They will receive new bodies that will never experience suffering, disease, decay or death. That’s why death has lost its sting (1 Cor. 15:55-57). At Christian funerals we celebrate Christ’s victory over death (Heb. 2:14-15; 1 Cor. 15:21-22). Because Jesus took the penalty for our sin, we can be forgiven; be reconciled with God; have peace with God and the peace of God. That’s why Grannie always had a smile on her face. She had the joy of God’s promises.

  1. Resurrection through Christ’s resurrection

We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet Him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Th. 4:15-17a).

This reveals how the resurrection will happen. We have already seen that the metaphor of “sleep” for death implies the resurrection of believers who have died. This will happen when Jesus returns (1 Cor. 15:20-22).

The resurrection of Christ is a fact of history. On that day God undid the work of the undertaker. An angel opened the tomb so the disciples could see that the corpse was missing (Mt. 28:2-4). It’s the best explanation of the rapid growth of Christianity in the first century. The creation of a new body is easy for the God who created the universe including space; matter; energy; life; the genetic code; the bodies of Adam and Eve; and the laws of science, mathematics and reasoning.

One day God will undo the work of the undertaker once again. Larry Norman sang, “And when I’m finished dying I’m gonna bust out of my grave” (“God Part III”). Like Jesus did. This will happen world-wide. When Jesus returns, dead believers will be resurrected with new bodies and reunited with their spirits and souls. This reconstitution reverses the separation of death. Resurrection reverses the separation of death, but with a better body (like a house is better than a tent, 2 Cor. 5:1-4). And the bodies of believers who are alive will be transformed (see Appendices A and B). Together all those who have trusted in Jesus will go to be with Him with remodelled bodies that live forever with no pain, disease, decay or death.

Resurrection reverses the separation of death, but with a better bodySo, death is not the end for Christians, but a pathway to a glorious existence! And resurrection is a victory over death. It’s like winning a game of football in the last minute.

But death ends the opportunity for eternal life.

  1. Eternal reunion through Christ’s return

“Then we will be with the Lord forever. So, encourage each other with these words” (1 Th. 4:17b-18).

The goal of Christ’s return is to bring all believers to be with Him forever (Jn. 14:2-3). This reunion with Christ also means that we will be reunited with all our loved ones and friends who are Christians. We will worship and praise the Lord together. I’m reminded of this old song that Grannie would have sung many times:
“When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory”.

Because of this bright future and glorious hope, we can “encourage each other with these words”. This comfort and hope is found nowhere else except in Jesus Christ. It is only by trusting Him as your Savior and Lord that you can have an endless hope instead of a hopeless end.

Lessons for us

Cryonics is a waste of money. It’s an expensive grave, like a mausoleum or an Egyptian mummy buried with items for the afterlife. A body without a soul or spirit is just a corpse and can’t be brought back to life by medical technology. Only God can do that. And He will at the resurrection.

A new house is being built near us. As a house is empty without occupants, a dead body is also empty without the soul and the spirit.

Don’t be ignorant or uninformed – a human life is comprised of body, soul and spirit, not just the body. Unfortunately, we’re becoming less informed about the things that matter (like death and life after death), although we have more information today!

The main points in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 were:
Victory over death through Christ’s death,
Resurrection through Christ’s resurrection, and
Eternal reunion through Christ’s return.
All this is only available through Jesus Christ to those in the first resurrection.

The best way to plan for your future is to ensure you are part of this first resurrection, not the second one. Get on the right side of God because God gives us what we choose. If we follow Him now, we will be with Him forever (that’s eternal life). And do it soon before it’s too late. But if we don’t, we will be away from Him forever (that’s eternal death).

Christians are to “encourage each other with these words”. We can grieve, but we shouldn’t grieve with despair. It should be with hope (v.13) in the certainty of the resurrection of believers (Acts 23:6) and their eternal life (Tit. 3:5-7), and the certainty of the return of Jesus Christ (Tit. 2:13). Let’s comfort, encourage and reassure each other that Grannie is in heaven with the Lord and we will be reunited soon.

Grannie had comfort and hope when facing death. She had lived a long life and wanted to go home to be in the presence of her Savior and experience eternal life. So, where is Grannie? She (her spirit and soul) is now living with the Lord and waiting for His return to be given her new glorified body, while her body is in the grave. Death is not the end, it’s the beginning of the next phase of life.

Let’s give thanks for the life that Grannie lived. She followed and served her Savior and looked forward to His return with hope. Do you have that hope as well?

As we sing “Face to face with Christ my Savior”, Grannie’s body will be laid to rest waiting for the resurrection day.

Appendix A: The nature of the resurrection body

1 Cor. 15:42-44: “It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.”

The soul dominates our body before the resurrection, while the spirit dominates it afterwards.

Appendix B: Christians receive glorified bodies at the Rapture

1 Cor. 15:50-57 “What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.

But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
‘Death is swallowed up in victory (Isa. 25:8).
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting? (Hos. 13:14)’

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Written, September 2021

Also see: Looking back and looking ahead
Why does the Bible describe death as sleep?
An outline of future events

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