“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51).”
“Remember the Maine!”
I love a good mystery. My wife and I are enjoying a British detective show called “Vera,” which is in its ninth season and has become wildly popular. Contrast that popularity with another mystery folks work very hard to ignore…cemeteries. Have you ever noticed that they are almost always deserted?
And yet there’s something about a whole life crammed into a headstone that fascinates me. I can’t help it; I like cemeteries. My favorite is in Key West, Florida. A tombstone there simply reads, “I told you I was sick.”
Be sure to see your doctor annually
The Apostle Paul wrote that we are all sick too (Romans 3:23), infected with a spiritual cancer that has not only deadened our soul (Ephesians 2:1), but also kills our body. Sin is deadly (Romans 6:23). Paul also said that even if you are born again–the Holy Spirit is literally inside of your body–your physical death is inevitable, but that thankfully it’s no longer fatal for a genuine believer. He likened it to sleep, just like an afternoon nap.
Paul chose a good metaphor. Death looks like sleep, but sleep is only a temporary condition. You will eventually wake up, whereas death is a permanent separation of soul and body. Paul’s warning is that sin makes death inescapable, but that it doesn’t need to be permanent. The “change” he references above is to the resurrection where real believers are changed into immortals with a new body, but without sin.
Miracle Max and “mostly dead.”
So why do we avoid cemeteries? Perhaps ignoring death lessens our fear of it and the unknown, but the Bible says it’s good to go to funerals because they wake us up to this certain rendezvous (Ecclesiastes 7:1-2). Like cemeteries, funerals remind us of our own transience, that we have an irrevocable appointment with God, and the supreme importance of not gambling with death (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Are you gambling? Or are you one hundred percent positive, without a doubt, and absolutely certain that if you died tonight you’d go to Heaven? The Bible was written for this very purpose (1 John 5:13). Heaven isn’t guesswork, you can know for sure. Death can be just a nap!
Your fear of death can end today, and then you can join me for a cemetery stroll because they’re not only fascinating historical places, but literally restful. In fact, the Greek word Paul uses for cemetery, koimeterion, is also translated as hotel, a “rest house for strangers.”
A shameless plug (for Adrian Ashworth’s shot of an old graveyard)
So if He is inside of you, then death is more exciting than life, and no mystery at all. As Paul said, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).” Although someone giving away the ending for a mystery is annoying, Paul’s spoiler-alert means comfort for our ending…an assured funeral hope…and Jesus’ empty tomb proves that hope. Death itself is quite literally dead.