THE BLESSING OF DEATH
A headline on an internet site read, “Death, the nation’s # 1 killer.” The point is obvious. Death is inevitable. Last I checked, the mortality rate is still 100%. The Bible says that there is a time to be born and a time to die. The late Dr. Billy Graham said that “death is the most democratic experience in life. We all experience it.”
Because that is true, Ecclesiastes 7:2 gives us some sage advice:
“…death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.”
Since death is inevitable, it is wise to be prepared for it and to have the proper perspective on it…..God’s perspective. The Bible references death and dying nearly 1,000 times.
Even though we need to give thought to death, most of us probably would push back against the title of today’s message-“The Blessing of Death.” But that is exactly what Revelation 14:13 says about Christians who die. It is a blessing.
READ REVELATION 14:13
Now you need to pick up on the phrase “in the Lord.” The blessing of death is only for those who die in the Lord. Death is a blessing when the person is a Christian. But death is not a blessing for those who go into eternity without knowing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. A fate worse than death awaits them in hell.
But this verse tells us that Christians who die are blessed. Why is death a blessing for us? We’ll talk about that in a few moments. But first let’s take a look at the Biblical perspective concerning death and talk about…..
Most of us don’t do that. We dread the thought of death and we try to avoid it altogether. We don’t even like talking about death. Some won’t even use the word. We’ve come up with euphemisms for death…..
Passed away…..kicked the bucket…..bought the farm…..bit the dust…..bought a one-way ticket…..gone on ahead….expired…..entered the pearly gates…..pushing up daisies…..and my favorite-taking a dirt nap.
People hate attending funerals. They procrastinate making out their will or purchasing cemetery plots or making funeral arrangements. Why? Because we’re trying to ignore death.
The writer of Hebrews talks about those who live with the fear of death their entire lives. Maybe that’s talking about you. But Jesus came to free us from that fear. The Bible even encourages us to have a positive attitude towards death. We need to have God’s perspective on death. This is his perspective on the death of a believer:
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” – Psalm 116:15
Now, none of this is meant to minimize the grief we feel when a loved one dies. We will grieve. That’s normal. But our grief is tempered with the hope that we have in Christ.
Death is an enemy….the Bible classifies it as such. But it is a defeated enemy. 1 Corinthians 15:54 says:
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’”-1 Corinthians 15:54
Death wins a battle when we die. But it loses the war when we are resurrected from our graves! The apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 3 that death belongs to us. And here is his perspective on death:
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21
As Christians, we don’t have to fear death. Now, to us, with our limited human perspective, death never seems to be a precious thing. But let’s look at the blessings that Revelation 14:13 talks about in relationship to death.
We will be blessed because we will……
Now, when John wrote Revelation, Christians were being persecuted for their faith. Some were being put to death. This verse had to be a comfort for them. Death meant that they would no longer be tortured.
In a general sense, death will bring about rest from the labor of life. After we work hard our entire adult life, what do we look forward to? Retirement. Here’s a riddle for you. What do you call a person who is happy on Monday mornings? Retired! I talked to a friend of mine last week. He has just retired. He is one happy guy.
Eventually, after a lifetime of living, working and serving God, there will come a time to retire from life. In death, we will rest from the labors of our lives.
And sometimes life can be rather laborious. We live in a fallen world. Life is not fair. Life is not heaven on earth because earth isn’t heaven. And so many times, we end up dealing with problems and difficulties. Life altering diseases come even to people who aren’t old. Death will bring about a merciful release from all the troubles of life.
And in death we rest from the labor that comes from aging. Someone once said that “growing old isn’t for sissies.” How true that is. The senior years have been dubbed the golden years. But Dr. Billy Graham, in his book, Nearing Home, made the observation, that if you take the g off of golden, you get the word, olden. And he suggested in his book that maybe someone just put a g on the word olden to soften the thought of aging.
Getting old is tough. Your social calendar is filled with Dr. appointments. Your back goes out more than you do! And as we age, everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work!
As we age, life gets much harder with the burdens and disabilities that come with age. Our bodies end up winding down and wearing out. Death becomes a peaceful release from living with the pain and suffering that comes with old age.
But, the ultimate rest that happens when we die is that we enter into the eternal rest of heaven! For the believer, death just becomes the doorway to heaven. In John 5:24, Jesus said that believers will cross over from death to life. Death is just a bridge that we walk over to get to heaven.
Death is not the revoking of life. Rather it is the beginning of eternal life. And eternal life is better than life here on earth! In Revelation 21 we read of things that we will no longer have to deal with in heaven. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. Heaven is the land of no more.
But, the very best thing about heaven is that we will get to be with Jesus. In writing about death, the apostle Paul wrote:
“I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” – Philippians 1:23
The old preacher, Vance Havner once said about heaven- “Remember, that as a faithful child of God, you await a promotion.”
When heaven awaits us, death is a blessing. Another blessing in death for us, as Christians, is that we will be…..
3.REWARDED IN HEAVEN
There is a line from the movie, Gladiator, which says, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” Revelation 14:13 talks about our deeds following us into eternity. What this may be talking about, I believe, when you look at what the Bible has to say about rewards, is that we will be rewarded in heaven for our service to the Lord while we live here on earth.
2 Corinthians 5:10 speaks about the judgment that Christians will go through on Judgment Day:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done in the body, whether good or bad.” -2 Corinthians 5:10
Now this is not talking about being judged for our sins. As Christians, our sins were judged on the cross where Jesus took the punishment for our sins. We won’t be held accountable for our sins on Judgment Day. Ok, so let’s all let out a collective sigh of relief at this point!
The words good or bad in that verse aren’t being used in the moral sense of goodness and sin. It’s speaking about how well we have or have not served Jesus. Have we served Jesus genuinely, sincerely and given our best efforts? Or have our motives in serving Jesus been less than pure? Have we rendered half-hearted service? Have we just sat in the pew and not done much for the Lord at all? All this will be taken into account by the Lord when it comes to rewarding us or not rewarding us once we get to heaven.
For example, if my preaching has been all about Jesus and I’ve given it my best effort Sunday in and Sunday out, then I will get some sort of reward in heaven. But if preaching has been an ego trip for me or I throw my sermons together on Saturday night….or work them up during the offering….or commit spiritual plagiarism and preach other pastors’ sermons, then I won’t get a reward.
In 1 Corinthians 3, the apostle Paul says that God is going to test our works. Specifically, he will evaluate the quality of our Christian service. If our service passes the test, we will receive a reward. But, if our service is found lacking, Paul says that our works will be burnt up. We won’t receive any rewards. But we will still be saved.
Salvation is not based upon our works. We are saved by grace. But once we get to heaven, our rewards will be based upon our works. How well & how much we may be rewarded will be based upon if we have served the Lord and how well we have served him.
Now some people don’t think that the idea of receiving rewards in heaven is right. They say that shouldn’t be our motivation for serving the Lord. Some may even go so far as to say that the teaching of rewards in heaven isn’t biblical.
But the Bible does teach about rewards. 1 Cor. 3 that I referenced and 2 Cor. 5:10 are two such places. Jesus even spoke about rewards. He said that even a cup of cold water, given in his name, would not go unrewarded.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus said this about those who are persecuted for their faith- great is your reward in heaven. Not only will they receive a reward, but their reward will be great. So apparently there will be degrees of rewards. And those who are severely persecuted for their faith….those who are martyrs for the faith will receive a much greater reward than softies most of us as Christians!
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, spoke about keeping a proper perspective on money and material possessions. He said you can’t serve both God and Money. He taught, do not store up treasures on earth. Rather, he urged us to store up treasure in heaven. So, apparently, we will be rewarded in heaven based upon how generous we in this life.
Now, when it comes to being rewarded in heaven, the Bible doesn’t get realspecific when it comes to rewards. The Bible talks about rewards in more of a general sense. But there are some things that give us a clue as to what rewards there might be in store for us.
The Bible does speak about crowns being given. It speaks about the crown of life, the crown of glory and the crown of righteousness.
The Parable of the Talents may offer a few insights into the rewards that await us in heaven. Jesus taught the Parable of the Talents to illustrate that we will be held accountable for how well we have used our gifts/abilities to serve the Lord and that we will be rewarded accordingly. In that Parable the faithful servants are told:
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.” – Matthew 25:21
Now, what that verse may say about heavenly rewards may be somewhat speculative and open to interpretation. But they at least should be considered as possibilities.
One reward may every well be in the form of commendation- well done, good and faithful servant. As believers we spend all of our lives here on earth praising the Lord, and rightfully so! But, on that day, when we are judged for our service, God may very well praise us. Paul wrote about that in 1 Cor. 4:5:
“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.”
-1 Corinthians 4:5
Another reward may be increased responsibilities- I will put you in charge of many things.
If you do a good job at your place of employment, you might get a promotion. And a part of that promotion is greater responsibility because you have proven that you can handle it.
The Book of Revelation tells us that we will serve the Lord in heaven. Thereforethose who serve the Lord well here on earth may have greater responsibilities in heaven to recognize their good service here on earth.
The 3rd possible reward to look at from the Parable of the Talents is our enjoyment that comes from fellowship with God- come and share your master’s happiness.
The greatest thing about heaven will be to enter into an unimpeded relationship with God. To enter into his joy and happiness; to see the Lord face to face; to know him intimately; up close and personal.
In Psalm 27, David expressed the desire to enjoy the Lord’s presence:
“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” -Psalm 27:4
What David desired here on earth will be our highest pleasure in heaven. The old confession says- “The chief end of mankind is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” ENJOY HIM FOREVER. We couldn’t ask for anything more than to enjoy the presence of the Lord for all eternity.
So, our faithfulness in serving God here on earth, may well increase our commendation, responsibilities and fellowship with God in heaven. But the point is that one of the blessings when we die and go to heaven is that we will be rewarded for our faithful service to the Lord.
That’s why Paul wrote that, as we give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, that our labor in the Lord will not be in vain. We will be rewarded for it. And the writer of Hebrews promised:
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” – Hebrews 6:10
God will remember your works of service and will reward you for them in heaven.
But, now, as we come to our invitation time, I need to remind you of two things. One is that we are saved by grace. We don’t work our way into heaven. We are saved by grace through our faith in Jesus.
The other thing I need to remind you of, since we are talking about death this morning is that the Bible says that it is appointed unto man to die once, and after that comes judgment.
Once we die, our eternal fate is sealed. After death, there are no second chances. It is only those who die believing in the Lord Jesus Christ who will be saved and go to heaven.
So we offer to you the opportunity to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior this morning. We also invite those who desire to place their membership with our church family to do so at this time….as we stand and sing our hymn of invitation.