We believe that Jesus will return visibly and bodily to judge all people. Those who believe in Jesus will live with Him forever, while unbelievers will be condemned to an eternity in hell.
Debates have been held and books have been written on the whole “End of Life” matter. The Lord gave St. John a vision of the end of time. When he considered all the trouble and sadness this world would face, he came to this conclusion: “Blessed are the dead” (Rev. 14:13). But when you think about it … that can’t be right! Death is a bad thing. Death is horrible. It’s sad and tragic. Death is a leap into the great unknown. How can a voice from heaven proclaim: “Blessed are the dead”? Is it possible that, sometimes, dead is better?
Now, we understand. Death is truly overwhelming. Death is final. Death as the last victory. It stings. It hurts. It separates the body and the soul. To sever the body from the soul causes physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. Death is the harbinger of sorrow. Death is the final, sad consequence of sin. It is the last straw of God’s judgment against a fallen world. It is God’s final stand against those who repeatedly and willingly rejected him in this life. And that is hell. Hell is reserved for Satan and all who reject Jesus’ love. Hell is a relentless, unyielding, unending torture.
The Lord never wanted death and hell. It was unnatural to his creation. Jesus himself experienced the sad, unnatural pain of death when his friend Lazarus died. Scripture plainly tells us that “Jesus wept.” Dead is better? We need to think again.
Sinful flesh fears death. Adam and Eve feared death. After the fall into sin they both hid in the garden because they were afraid. Every person ever since has been born with that same fear – death is not better! All who die in this life without faith in Christ will experience this truth for eternity: Dead is not better!
Sometimes, there is an exception, though. St. John mentions it. Death is only better when those who die are “in the Lord from now on!” (Rev. 14:13) Things are different now. Jesus has changed the rules. Death no longer means separation, loss, and stinging pain. Jesus plucked death’s stinger. He did it by conquering death by his death on the cross. When Jesus gave his life, death may have thought it could claim him. After all, the Grim Reaper comes for all. Jesus was laid in a cold, lonely tomb. But death could not hold him. Death lost on Good Friday because of Easter Sunday.
That’s because Jesus had the last word. It was the message the angels proclaimed: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he’s risen just as he said.” (Luke 24:5-9) Jesus promises that those who hear his word and believe will be blessed. The only time death is better is because of Christ Jesus. Without faith in Christ, death is terror. With faith in Christ, even death is triumph. Scripture plainly tells us: “He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:4)
God’s Word reveals the truth of death and life. With Jesus, death is already dead. Without Jesus, death is all there is. The difference is the gospel of Jesus Christ. He lived the perfect life for us. He died an innocent death in our place. He conquered the grave and removed the curse, the sting, of death forever.
The Word of God teaches us that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. And the gospel of Jesus Christ empowers us to live for him like we’re dying. That means we live with the understanding that today is the day of salvation! We have a positive attitude, a living faith, a courage that is willing to spend and be spent in service to Jesus. It’s all because we have a risen and ever-living Savior. As we grow in our faith in Christ, we grow in our ability to live our faith to his glory.
And so, the Holy Spirit equips us to take advantage of opportunities to share our faith with others. The Lord promises eternal deliverance from death to everyone who has been led to believe in him. We are privileged share that message with the people we serve in Christian love and counsel. As Christians, we are better off. We are even better off dead! That’s because Christ is risen, indeed!
Pastor Edward Frey
Come, Lord Jesus. Come in your mighty power to save. Come in your gospel as you create faith and keep faith alive in the hearts of your people. Use us to proclaim your truth so that more people might be convicted of sin and comforted by your forgiveness. Continue to come, Lord Jesus, as your gospel is spread to the ends of the earth. Come, Lord Jesus, to bring us to our eternal home above. Amen.