Later today I will participate in the funeral of my friend’s mother. Today is also my own Mom’s birthday. She died four years ago. She would be 85 today–her birthday (though she would object due to the fact that she was actually a leap year baby, born on the 29th of February).
Sadly, as far as I can assess, my Mom died outside of the Lord. It was also saddening that we did not have a funeral or memorial service. My Dad had passed several years earlier. In reality, none of us children knew exactly what to do. Three of Mom’s siblings had passed and she had not communicated to any of us any particulars regarding a type of ceremony or service. Consequently, we did nothing. Perhaps something could have been planned but we’re spread out now, living in North Carolina, Nevada, Wisconsin, Texas and Tennessee. And since Mom wasn’t religious, no pastor or church was involved. She was quietly cremated and we all went on with life.
It was odd.
Today, my friend celebrates the blessed death of his mom. That concept is found in Revelation 14:13.
13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.
The reason for which the are blessed is provided. They may rest from their labors. Why? Their deeds follow with them. In other words, if we know Christ and strive to live for His glory, blessing others around us even though we remain remarkably imperfect in this life, a glorious rest awaits us throughout eternity.
Have you ever considered what that rest is like? Contemplate these thoughts from James Durham’s (1622-1658) collection of sermons on the verse quoted above (The Blessed Death of Those Who Die in the Lord, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2003, Don Kistler, ed.).
“Then we confidently and comfortably conclude that death–whenever, wherever, and however it should overtake us–would be gain to us, by putting a final and eternal period to all the remainders of indwelling sin, to all temptations to sin, to all desertion, and to all complaints and fears of desertion and hidings of God’s face; to all doubtings about our gracious estate and about our interest in God; to all fears of backsliding, and of offending or of giving offence; to all trouble, sorrow, sadness, and sighing on whatsoever account; to all indisposition to serve, worship, and glorify God; to all interruptions of fellowship with Him, and to all fellowship that is but mediate and in part; to all sinful ignorance and imperfect knowledge, or that which is but in part. In heaven, great theologians read all their divinity without books, and without the least difficulty in the beatifical immediate vision of God’s face. Death ushers us in to that blessed state wherein we call be satisfied with His likeness, and that both objectively and subjectively, being then admitted to see Him in Himself as he is, face to face, even to full, immediate, and never-to-be-interrupted fellowship with Him” (p.xi).
Said as only a Puritan preacher can!
Our glimpses of heaven provided to us by the Scriptures enables us to grasp Paul’s declaration that dying is gain (Philippians 1:21)!
Charles Spurgeon wrote,
“They rest from their labors in the sense that they are no longer subject to the toil of labor. Whatever they do in heaven will yield, then, refreshment and never cause them weariness. As some birds are said to rest upon the wing, so do the saints find, in holy activity, their serenest repose. They serve Him day and night in His temple and therein they rest. Even as on earth, by wearing our Lord’s yoke, we find rest unto our souls, so in the perfect obedience of heaven, complete repose is found” (A Voice From Heaven, Sermon 1219, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, http://www.spurgeongems.org).
My friend’s Mom did not live an easy life. She suffered greatly from Rheumatoid Arthritis. Today, however, she finds herself not simply in the Lord, but with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8)! Her laboring to live with an awful disease has ceased. She now rests in perfect health.
How thankful we all are that she was “in the Lord.” She trusted in Christ and in Him alone for her salvation. She was depending upon His grace and trusting in His promises. She was blessed. She is blessed. She will always be blessed.
I pray the same will be said of us!
James Durham concluded his treatise with these words:
“Now may the Lord Himself, who alone can do it, powerfully persuade and prevail with you so to live that you may have the well-grounded hope of dying in Christ, since blessed and only blessed are they who die in the Lord, who rest from their labors and whose works follow them” (p.129).
Although the application is self-evident, I am impressed to draw it to your attention. Where are you with Christ? Are you outside of Him or are you inside of Him? Believe me when I state that no more important question will be asked of you today, this month or this year. Death is only blessed if you are “in the Lord.” If we have received Christ, believing upon Him (John 1:12), how are we living today? Are we laboring? Are we striving to say on mission? Every Christian has the same purpose, even if we word it a bit differently. My mission statement reads as follows: Glorify God, Bless People & Prepare for Eternity. Does that resonate with you? If so, it will determine what you do today and this month and this year. It is what motivates you to serve others and find ways in which to utilize your gifts and talents in the body of Christ–a local congregation. The bottom line is this: What we believe today and how live today matters.
Thank you for stopping by the blog and for considering these important issues!
Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.