Do you ever skip to the last page of a book to see how the story ends? A surprising number of people are guilty of this. Doing so, they might discover the happily ever after, but they will have missed the story. They won’t see the struggle or the obstacles. They won’t see the heroics. They will only see the end, and as a result of not seeing everything that led up to that end, they won’t fully comprehend it.
The same thing happens with Christians regarding death. Sometimes we get so focused on the end (Christ’s return and the resurrection) that we misunderstand the obstacles and the struggles that lead to that glorious moment. As a result, some Christians are missing biblical truths about death and have come to skewed conclusions.
In the end, death will lose (1 Thes. 4:13-18; Rev. 20:13-14). Make no mistake about it. But you and I, we aren’t to the end yet. We are living somewhere in the middle where death still rears its ugly head and causes tremendous problems and pain.
Death is not insignificant. It isn’t gone. It is the enemy… Christ’s enemy (1 Cor. 15:26).
While on earth, Jesus could have looked at the end of the story and known that He would be resurrected. He knew that. But at the moment when His death loomed, that knowledge did not take away the pain of death nor did it comfort Him to such a point that he craved death. In fact, He did not want to die (Heb. 5:7; Lk. 22:41-44). He repeatedly prayed to be saved from having to go through it. A Christian would not be wrong to feel that way today, nor should others accuse them of being less Christian if they are tormented by death. How absurd to be accused of such a thing when Christ sets the example in the garden!
Death is awful. It is the consequence of sin (Rom. 6:23; Jam. 1:15). It happens when a soul and a body are torn apart from one another (Jam. 2:26). And it is not a momentary pain either. Peter points out that God raised Jesus up again, “putting an end to the agony of death” (Acts 2:24). Death didn’t end the pain—resurrection did. Perhaps Paul alluded to this agony in 2 Corinthians 5:2-3 where there is a longing for a dwelling from heaven and to not be found naked. The dead may enjoy comfort in Abraham’s bosom and may find themselves at the foot of God’s throne but at the same time also not feel complete—like they are missing something.
If we skip to the end—to Christ’s return, we see death being ultimately and completely conquered. But how should we view death until then?
For this awful thing called Death, Christians have unique comfort. We have the comfort that death is not the end (Lk. 16:19-24). Death will be conquered (1 Cor. 15:25-26,50-57). Death brings on rest for the righteous (Rev. 6:11; 14:13). Death has become like sleep (John 11:11-15). Death ushers saints into the arms of Jesus (Phil. 1:23). Death, therefore, is not to be feared (Heb. 2:14-15). Nonetheless, it is still the enemy and we should eagerly anticipate the day in which Christ fully and finally conquers it. On that day, loved ones will be reunited. Pain and separation will be abolished. That will be a day of rejoicing like no other.