With a heart aching with sadness over the death of a dear friend, I arose early one morning and turned to the page in my Bible where I had left off previously. After reading several verses, I came to a passage God surely wanted me to read that morning, for it brought comfort to my grieving heart.
The words of hope were spoken by Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. Although Jesus had been unjustly accused and then crucified, “God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life again, for death could not keep him in its grip” (Acts 2:24).
Peter then quoted what King David had written centuries before. Although David seemed to be speaking of himself, Peter said that he couldn’t have been, since David had died and was still in his tomb!
So, Peter concluded, David had to have been referring (in Psalm 16:8-11) to what Jesus would say: “My body rests in hope. For you [O God] will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.”
Although that was true of Jesus, it is also true of all who believe in Him. When we die, our bodies can rest in hope, as His did, because the Bible says, “Christ has been raised from the dead. He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again” (1 Corinthians 15:20).
Jesus believed that, for He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish” (John 11:25-26).
Except for those who are still alive when Jesus returns to earth to gather believers to Himself, we all will die. We will be just as dead as Jesus was. Just as dead as Lazarus. Just as dead as all the great heroes of the faith mentioned in the 11th chapter of Hebrews. Just as dead as those mentioned in today’s obituaries.
Even so, we can “rest” in hope! We will live again, though our heavenly body will be different than this earthly one. (Paul discusses that at length in the 15th chapter of First Corinthians.) Although we don’t know exactly what our new body will look like, we do know, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:50-55: “These perishable bodies of ours are not able to live forever…[but] when the trumpet sounds, the Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies. And then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die….When this happens…then at last the Scriptures [such as Hosea 13:14] will come true: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”
Based on the truths found in the Word of God, we know that God will raise the bodies of our loved ones—and our own, as well—when the time is right. So, even when death claims a loved one and causes grief as sharp as a knife to pierce our heart again and again, day after day, we are consoled by remembering that our loved ones will not reside forever in “the cities of the dead,” but will—one day—be raised, as promised, from their resting places to live forever in perfect health and happiness, for death cannot keep them in its grip.
© 2008 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill, www.jgaskill.com. Scriptures quoted are from the New Living Translation (NLT).