Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thou hast turned my mourning into dancing

Jason Helopoulos on "a good theology of Christian death," for we must both grieve and rejoice:
Is a Christian funeral service a celebration or time for mourning? A right understanding of how to consider a Christian’s death will stymie the two extremes of merely rejoicing or merely grieving. ....

As Romans tells us, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). It is not a good thing that our Christian friend or family member has passed away. No matter the benefits after death, death itself is an abomination. Death is an unwelcomed guest. It had no place in creation. Rather, it stormed onto the scene as the thief of life upon the entrance of sin into this world. Therefore, death itself is not to be celebrated. We cannot merely rejoice when a Christian dies somehow forgetting that death is an enemy.

For God formed man from the dust of the earth. Creation is turned on its head as man is returned to the dust in his death. There has been loss and loss that was not meant to be in this world. There has been death, which had no place in the good creation. ....

Martha, Mary, and their friends have good reason to weep at the loss of Lazarus (John 11:33). The Scriptures never ask Christians to deny the feeling of grief–it is a right and holy sadness. ....

However, we should not merely grieve. When a Christian dies we should also be filled with rejoicing. Truly, for the Christian, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). As a believer in Christ departs from this life they are immediately in a far better place (Philippians 1:23). They are with Christ! They have finished the race and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7); and that faith has become sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). They no longer see in a mirror dimly, but see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). The object of their love, affection, and joy is before and with them forevermore.

What glories await the Christian at death. One moment, a feeble sinner experiencing the miseries of this life, and the next moment, one who is adorned with the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8) in the presence of the King of Glory. There the Christian shall be–surrounded by His glory. A glory which banishes all our enemies. In that place there shall no longer be the experience of loss, grief, pain, discomfort, or regret. Rather, the saint shall dwell in sheer joy and bliss as they revel in the beauty and glory of their Savior and God forever. Therefore, we should rejoice at the death of a Christian, for as the Apostle Paul says, they are “in a far better place” (Philippians 1:23). .... [more]

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