“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus shall we always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
For all of Bible believing Christians that have ever lost a loved one, we can never get tired of reading that above verse for it is our divine confirmation that we will see our loved ones that have died in Christ again. It says that we will be caught up together with them…”
If we are caught up together with them then it only makes sense that God would reunite us with our immediate loved ones in heaven since He is the one that united us all together here on earth. Trusting in that promise from the Lord believers grieve differently than those who don’t know Christ.
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
We do not grieve like those that have no hope because we KNOW that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), and we KNOW that we WILL see our loved ones again and we have Jesus Christ to fully thank for it. Christ is the sole source of our blessed reunion. We know that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we become adopted into the family of God (Romans 8:15-17), and we will be glorified together.
Knowing that we will see our loved ones again through Christ makes heaven even that much more greater to look forward to. 1 Corinthians 13:12 tells us that when we meet Christ face to face we will know Him as He knows us.
Since Jesus knows everything about us then He knows the relationships that we had here on this earth that were of true genuine godly love and what they meant to us. If a relationship is built upon Christ then He is the bond that unites us with our loved ones for eternity.
“Assuredly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18).
The departing of our believing loved ones is not the end of our relationship with them; it is just an interruption of our physical togetherness. We have not lost them because we know where they are – in heaven with the Lord!
For something to be lost would mean that you don’t know where it is but our loved ones in Christ had inherited eternal life the moment they believed in Christ and became indwelt with the Holy Spirit as the guarantee of their inheritance in heaven.
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (1 Ephesians 13-14).
When two Bible believing loved ones share in that trust of that promise then they are never really separated. Their love for each other is sealed and bonded together with the Holy Spirit. If one departs this earth before the other (which is usually the case), then the one remaining here on earth has the consolation from God’s Word of a future resurrection and a reunion in heaven.
That is what separates the grief of Christians from the grief of unbelievers. For the Christian there is great hope, but for the unbeliever all hope is gone.
In 2 Samuel 12:22-23 we have another confirmation that we will be reunited with our loved ones in heaven. In this situation King David was mourning the loss of his newborn child through his sinful affair with Bathsheba. When David was asked why he stopped fasting when he found out that his child had died he said:
“While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
Notice that last line that I have emboldened. David said that he will eventually go to where his child went, (heaven), but the child cannot return to where he is (earth). This is also a biblical assurance that young children (who are not able to be held accountable for themselves), are immediately accepted into heaven at their death. Jesus also hints towards this notion in Matthew 19:14 when He said:
“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of Heaven” (See also Matthew 18:10).
The loss of a loved one is painful to us here on earth but in heaven there is rejoicing as they enter into that marvelous glory. Psalm 116:15 says:
“Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of His saints.”
The passing of our loved ones in Christ is precious from God’s perspective because they are coming home to be with the Lord and we know that they will be there waiting for us when our time comes. Our physical existence in this world is temporary but our spirits are eternal. That is why our physical bodies remain here on earth when we die and our spirits return to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
The apostles Paul and Peter both describe their physical bodies using the analogy of a tent. A tent is a temporary dwelling place that is broken down when it is time to move on just like our physical bodies break down when our spirit leaves it. Our spirits are eternal and our spirits are who we really are, so when our departed loves ones that were in Christ leave this world they have gone on to the place that God has prepared especially for them. Jesus said:
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3)/
Again, if you had a relationship here on earth with Christ as the foundation of that relationship then that special place that God has prepared for you will have your loved ones there. The important thing is that the relationship was truly built upon Christ. In our modern day culture marriage is too commonly just a legal matter and not a true bond as it was intended to be, for Jesus said:
“Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’. So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).
There is much to be learned about the godly institution of marriage from that passage but what is most significant to this study is the last line: “What God has joined together, let not man separate.” If God has joined two people together in a godly marriage here on earth then it only seems likely that He will reunite them in heaven.
Even though Jesus said that there will be no marriage between individual people in heaven (Matthew 22:30), there will still be a marriage in heaven. The only marriage that will take place will be between the bride of Christ (ALL of the unified believing saints) to the Bridegroom, (Jesus Christ). Ephesians 5:22-32 exemplifies that the God ordained marriage of humans here on earth is an illustration of the glorious forthcoming marriage of Christ to His Church.
The deep relationship that has been built between two individuals that were married here on earth will not end in heaven. In fact, it will flourish even greater as sin, pain and sorrow will not be able to interfere with the relationship. So your loved ones will be with us when the whole body of Christ participates in the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9).
The amount of love that will be involved in that event is just overwhelming to the Bible believing Christian mind. You will first meet Christ face to face, then see all of your loved ones who died in Christ again; then everyone will be joined together in a glorious heavenly matrimony that will pale in comparison to any royal wedding gala event that we have ever seen here on earth.
In fact the things that are waiting for us in heaven are almost impossible to be described because they are so glorious there is nothing here on earth to compare it to so that we could understand it.
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
The things in heaven are so marvelous and inexpressible that even the apostle Paul wasn’t permitted or able to describe them when He was caught up into heaven for a visit and then sent back to earth (2 Corinthians 12:1-6). The apostle Paul leaves us wondering because our earthly minds have no point of reference for the things that are in heaven but we know that it is a place of no sorrow, crying, or pain and best of all – no death! (Revelation 21:4)
With death removed, heaven is a place of never having to say goodbye to anyone ever again. So knowing that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). In essence, we really do not have to say goodbye to our departed loved ones in Christ while here on earth either. Christian funerals should not be about saying goodbye. They should be about glorifying God with patient trust in His promises that we will be reunited again. God has promised this and He keeps His promises!
Don’t get me wrong, I am not making light of the grieving process of losing a loved one. Christians are not immune to the pain of the loss of a loved one. Even Jesus wept with Mary and Martha as they grieved the death of their brother Lazarus (John 11:35). But perhaps it is wise for us observe the way that Job grieved when tragedy struck his household when his servants, his sons, and his daughters were killed.
“Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshipped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:20-22).
Job fell to the ground and worshipped God when he found out his sons and daughters were killed? Why? This is because Job knew and trusted in the sovereignty of God. A few verses later in Job 2:10, he says:
“Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”
We all need to be like Job. Secure in God’s promises and sovereignty. We secure ourselves in His promises by studying His Word in our Bibles. That is why it is so important to read and study the Word of God daily. His Word is our consolation. If we ignore His Word then we are ignoring His consolations and there is no greater or more solid consolation than the Word of God, for Jesus confirms us that “Thy Word is Truth” (John 17:17).
It is important to trust in God’s promises of our eternal future. Colossians 3:1-2 tells us to set our minds on things above, not on things on earth. If we are focused on the vertical then we will be well grounded on the horizontal. This way when a sudden tragedy should come our way we can be spiritually prepared when they happen.
This is not to say that our emotions won’t kick into overdrive, but that which is spiritual is separate from that which is emotional. When we are grounded in His promises from His Word, our spiritual confidence in Christ keeps our emotions restrained to a degree. Again, we don’t grieve like those who have no hope.
“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
The Lord is our sole comfort in our grieving and suffering. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 describes God as “…the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Not only does God comfort us but He also prepares us so that we can comfort others with the comfort that He gave to us. God is not absent in our sorrows. In Isaiah 53:4 (a prophecy of Christ as the suffering servant) says, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrow.”
When Christ went to the cross to atone for our sins, He was bearing all of the griefs and sorrows that we endure because of sin, which includes death. That is why we put ALL of our trust in Christ for our comfort and strength. He bore grief and suffering just as we do. That is how much He loves us.
God has a plan in progress. If He knows the beginning from the end (Isaiah 46:10) and if He knows all of our own days before they were even lived (Psalm 139:16), then He certainly knows everything that is happening in between. Nothing takes Him by surprise. However, many things do take us by surprise and an untimely tragic death of a loved one is one of the hardest trials that we will ever have to face here on this earth.
But we know that when we put it all in the Lords hands we become stronger through our trials (James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:7). And when we trust in the Lord through our trials we will not only get through it but there awaits a reward for our trusting faith.
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).
Tragic trials like the sudden and untimely death of loved ones are indeed temptations. Many are tempted to blame or curse God when these things happen. But if we curse God at a time like this then Satan wins but if we praise God at a time like this then God wins and the victory belongs to Him. That victory was achieved at the cross.
When Christ died on the cross He died for the sin of the world and defeated sin and then when He rose from the dead three days later He defeated death. All who simply believe and trust in what Jesus has done can claim that victory unto themselves. Christ wants to share that victory with you. That is why He did it.
Our greatest victory in Christ will be manifested at the Rapture when in the blink of an eye our mortal bodies will be changed to glorified eternal bodies victorious over sin’s consequence of death.
“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O’ Death, where is your sting? O’ Hades, where is your victory?’” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).
While we are waiting for the day that Christ redeeming of His Church we are to be living victoriously knowing that we have this solid promise from our Lord. For the faithful followers of Jesus Christ we face the world around us fighting from victory not for victory because the victory has already been won. When we are called by Christ, we are called to a battlefield. Jesus warned:
“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”(John 16:33).
While Jesus has overcome the world, it is our faith in Him that is the baton that passes that victory from Christ unto us.
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).
Our faith in Christ grants us power and victory through the most trying times of our lives. The victory that we have in Jesus Christ is an eternal victory that we take with us into eternity. If you truly trust in Him then you’ll be victorious forever.
When our time comes that we pass out of this world and into His glorious presence and see Christ face to face, we will fall to our knees in thankful awe. And we will also see our most significant loved ones that we’ve lost while we were here on earth.
Dedicated to my beloved wife Terry (1963 – 2011).
I will meet you at the feet of Jesus.