– James H. Aughey
Present With the Lord
Paul knew that the moment he died, he’d be with the Lord. He had no doubt about it as he wrote, “We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8), writing “We are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” (2 Cor 5:6). In fact, he was “torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Phil 1:23). For the Christian, the funeral isn’t as sorrowful as for those who don’t know Christ, but it’s the beginning of an eternal joy in the presence of the Lord.
It’s Not Goodbye
The ground in which a believer is laid is not burial ground but resurrection ground. It’s not really goodbye for the believer; for those who are believers, it’s “see you later.” For those not yet born again, it is goodbye. I once said at a funeral that if you hope to see this Christian again, then you must be born again. If you are, it’s not goodbye but see you later, but if someone’s not born again, it’s goodbye forever.
The God of the Living
When a person passes from this life to the next, they are not really there in the ground or in ashes. The body is only a shell casing that formerly housed the person because they’re with Jesus at the moment of death. The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, and they asked Jesus what happened to someone who was hypothetically married to several husbands and whose wife she would be. But Jesus answered “Now He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him” (Luke 20:38). Jesus spoke about Abraham as though he still lived because he does. They were only trying to trap Jesus, but, of course, they never could. For the Christian, death is only the funeral of all his or her sorrows and evils, but it’s the resurrection of all his or her joys. It’s not an end but the beginning of something so incredibly joyful that it can’t even be described.
The psalmist writes, “Precious in the sight of God is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). At the end of the physical life, they are now more alive than ever before and will be with the Lord for all time. We mourn and sorrow for those who leave us at death. That’s natural, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but at that time they are celebrating with Christ in an unspeakable joy that I cannot put into words.