saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes
from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded saith the LORD; and
they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there
is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall
come again to their own border. Jeremiah 31:16, 17
experience brings more tears than the loss of a loved one, especially
when that loss is a child. So much potential lay before the
little one and now it seems all cut off. No matter what words
of consolation are offered, the bereaved mother cannot be comforted.
the scripture above Rachel represents all the mothers of the
world. In a particular sense, she was the mother of all the
tribes of Israel. Her descendants included both Benjamin of
the two-tribe kingdom and Joseph’s son, Ephraim, whose
name came to stand for the entire ten-tribe northern kingdom.
Rachel, all mothers who have lost beloved children have wept
bitterly. Death is indeed an enemy from which there appears
to be no release. Yet that is just the message of hope which
Jeremiah holds forth, “there is hope for your future.”
And that “future,” the great resurrection hope of
the Scriptures, will mean an end to all sorrow and crying.
through the prophet Isaiah, promises a time will come that will
end all weeping. “He will destroy death forever. My Lord
GOD will wipe the tears away from all faces and will put an
end to the reproaches of his people over all the earth—for
it is the LORD who hath spoken” (Isa. 25:8).
experience of death is universal; all feel its bitter pangs.
This is why Isaiah, in the preceding verse, describes it as
a “covering that is cast over all peoples” and “the
veil that is spread over all nations.” But he assures
us, that in the mountain of his kingdom, this veil will be destroyed.
destruction of death is the theme of yet another prophet: “From
Sheol itself will I save them, redeem them from very death.
Where, O Death, are your plagues? Your pestilence where, O Sheol?”
Origin of Life
order to understand death, we must first understand life—its
origins and of what it consists. The Bible traces life back
to the creation scenes of Genesis and the formation of man and
woman in the time of the Garden of Eden.
simple words, the author of Genesis describes precisely how
life came into being: “The LORD God formed man from the
dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7).
description could be simpler. A body, formed of the dust of
the ground, was infused with “the breath of life”
(or, power to live), and man became a living being.” There
is no hint here of giving man a nebulous entity called “a
soul.” Man did not receive a soul. Man became a soul.
life can be defined so simply, cannot death be defined just
as simply? If the union of body and breath forms a soul, then
the dissolution of body and breath ends the existence of that
Origin of Death
the original couple lived in their garden home, they were given
one command. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying,
Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for
the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it;
for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die” (Gen. 2:16,
we note the simplicity of God’s arrangements. Obey and
live. Disobey and die. Death, the dissolution of the soul, was
to be the punishment for disobedience. As the prophet Ezekiel
was later to say: “Consider, all lives are Mine; the life
of the parent and the life of the child are both Mine. The person
who sins, only he shall die” (Ezek. 18:4).
a period of 930 years that death sentence was carried out. Adam
died. Not only did the first family die, all their descendants
were condemned to death through them. As David wrote in the
Psalms, “Indeed I was born with iniquity, with sin my
mother conceived me” (Psa. 51:7).
tragic it must have been for Adam and Eve to witness the first
death, the murdered body of their beloved son Abel (Gen. 4:8).
For the first time a mother had to bury her son. How she must
have pondered the dreams she had invested in this youth. How
she must have been thrilled with the Lord’s acceptance
of his sacrifice. Now, with one blow, her hopes were dashed.
Not only had she lost Abel, but her firstborn, Cain, was a murderer.
side by side with those early tragedies, small glimpses of hope
could be seen. While still within their garden home, God laid
the ultimate blame for their transgression on the deceptions
of the serpent. They must have wondered when God pronounced
his sentence upon that offender with the words: “And I
will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy
seed and her seed; they shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt
bruise their heel” (Gen. 3:15).
that this promise was planted in the mind of Eve is indicated
when she named the son she thought would replace Abel: “Adam
knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth,
meaning, God has provided me with another offspring in place
of Abel, for Cain had killed him” (Gen. 4:25).
their guilt and shame, Adam and Eve clothed themselves with
the best garments they could make from the materials at hand,
sewing together fig leaves. Yet the Lord, when sending them
in exile to the land outside the garden, replaced these flimsy
coverings with “garments of skins” (Gen. 3:7, 21).
This, combined with the Lord’s acceptance of Abel’s
sacrifice of a blood offering and his rejection of Cain’s
offerings of fruits of the ground, were small early hints that
the release from the death penalty would come through a sacrifice
until the time of Abraham, over two thousand years later, did
these small hints of salvation take more definite form. After
calling Abraham to journey to an unknown land, the Lord gave
him a number of opportunities to demonstrate his faith, culminating
in the offering of his specially beloved son, Isaac. When he
passed that test, the Lord conferred on him a most significant
promise: “By myself I sware, the LORD declares: Because
you have done this and have not withheld your son, your favored
one, I will bestow my blessing upon you and make your descendants
as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands of the seashore;
and your descendants shall seize the gates of their foes. All
the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants,
because you have obeyed my command” (Gen. 22:16-18).
longer were there vague hints. Now there was a definite promise;
a promise confirmed by an oath, that it would be from Abraham’s
descendants that the promised seed would come who would bless
“all the nations of the earth.”
hope of deliverance, not only for Israel but for “all
the nations of the earth,” would now be centered in the
descendants of Abraham. This promise was refined even further,
to the tribe of Judah, both by Jacob (Gen. 49:10) and by the
author of the Chronicles (1 Chron. 5:2). Once again the lineage
of the “seed” was more narrowly defined to be of
the line of David (2 Sam. 22:51). David, in turn, prophesies
of a future descendant as the mashiyach, or “Messiah,”
the anointed one (Psa. 2:2). This belief in a coming Messiah
kept alive the hopes of deliverance from the grave throughout
the Hebrew scriptures, culminating in the prophecy of Daniel
that Messiah would come after a period he describes as “seven
weeks, and sixty-two weeks” (Dan. 9:25, 26).
breadth of the Abrahamic promise, “in thy seed shall all
the families of the earth be blessed,” is a recurrent
theme throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.
patriarch Job asked specifically if there was life after death,
and then proceeded to answer his own question. “If a man
die, can he live again? all the time of my service I wait, until
my replacement comes. You would call, and I would answer you;
you would set your heart on your handiwork” (Job 14:14,
15). He spoke not only of his personal hopes but of those of
the great ones of earth as well: “For now would I be lying
in repose, asleep and at rest, with the world’s kings
and counselors, who rebuild ruins for themselves” (Job
foresaw the returning of man from the grave. “You return
man to dust; you decreed, Return you mortals!” (Psa. 90:3).
predicted that even the wicked men of such places as Sodom and
Samaria would once again return to life. “Then your sister,
Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former state,
and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former state,
and you and your daughters shall return to your former state”
resurrection will evidently consist of two classes. These are
specified in Daniel 12:2, “Many of those that sleep in
the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, others
to reproaches, to everlasting abhorrence.” The Hebrew
olam, here translated “eternal,” does not necessarily
convey the thought of eternal, or being without end. It can
also be used for any long indefinite period of time which does
not have a predetermined end.
this sense Daniel uses the word olam. Some, such as the faithful
prophets of old, will be raised to perpetual life. Others, such
as the sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah, will be raised to bear
their shame perpetually until they shall reform their lives
in harmony with the laws of the resurrection arrangements.
are these laws? The same laws as were given to Israel at Sinai.
These precepts are eternal. They are the standards of righteousness
for all time. But all men do not know these laws. How and when
shall they learn them? This question is addressed directly in
Isaiah 26:9, “At night I yearn for you with all my being,
I seek you with all the spirit within me. For when your judgments
are wrought on earth the inhabitants of the world will learn
judgments of the Lord are not punitive. They are educational.
Men will “learn righteousness.” The resurrection
time will be a period of instruction in the laws of righteousness.
results of that judgment will be universal: “No longer
will they need to teach one another and say to one another,
Heed the LORD; for all of them, from the least of them to the
greatest, shall heed me—declares the LORD” (Jer.
31:34). “For the earth shall be filled with awe for the
glory of the LORD, as waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14;
standards will be strict: “And I will apply judgments
as a measuring line and retribution as weights” (Isa.
28:17). Yet God will have compasson and will strengthen the
weak hands and “make firm the tottering knees” (Isa.
man is born with iniquity and conceived with sin (Psa. 51:7);
then every man will bear responsibility for his own behavior.
“In those days they shall no longer say, Parents have
eaten sour grapes, and children’s teeth are blunted. But
every one shall die for his own sins: whosoever eats sour grapes,
his teeth shall be blunted” (Jer. 31:29, 30; Ezek. 18:2-5).
Hebrew Scriptures speak eloquently of conditions on earth during
that resurrection time.
shall be no more: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be
opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the
lame man shall leap as a deer, and the tongue of the dumb shall
shout aloud: for waters shall burst forth in the desert, streams
in the wilderness.”—Isaiah 35:5, 6
shall end: “Thus he will judge among the nations and arbitrate
for the many peoples, and they shall beat their swords into
plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall
not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know
war.”—Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3
and man shall be in harmony: “The wolf shall dwell with
the lamb, the leopard lie down with the kid; the calf, the beast
of prey, and the fatling together; with a little boy to herd
them.”—Isaiah 11:6; 65:25
security: “They shall not build for others to dwell in,
or plant for others to enjoy. For the days of my people shall
be as long as the days of a tree. My chosen ones shall outlive
the work of their hands.”—Isaiah 65:22; Micah 4:4
will be a time when the earth yields her increase: “But
what it sows shall prosper: the vine shall produce its fruit,
the ground shall produce its yield, and the skies shall provide
their moisture, I will bestow all these things upon the remnant
of this people.”— Zechariah 8:12
deserts shall blossom and bud: “The arid desert shall
be glad, the wilderness shall rejoice and shall blossom like
a rose. It shall blossom abundantly, it shall also exult and
shout. It shall receive the glory of Lebanon, the splendor of
Carmel and Sharon. They shall behold the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.”—Isaiah 35:1, 2
will be an enduring government: “I will establish his
line forever, his throne, as long as the heavens shall last.”
it will be universal: “In token of abundant authority
and of peace without limit upon David’s throne and kingdom,
that it may be firmly established in justice and in equity now
and evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts shall bring this
to pass.”— Isaiah 9:6
Will It Come?
such a prospect before us, how can we help but cry, “When,
O Lord, When shall it come?”
the Scriptures death is spoken of as a sleep. Men sleep in the
night. In the morning they awaken, refreshed and ready to live
again. This is the analogy of the Psalmist when he writes, “For
He is angry but a moment, and when He is pleased there is life.
One may lay down weeping at nightfall, but at dawn there are
shouts of joy” (Psa. 30:6).
Bible abounds in signs as to when that morning will come. The
prophet Daniel speaks of a “time of the end” when
sin, iniquity, and death will come to an end. He gives two signs
marking that period of time in Daniel 12:4, “But you,
O Daniel, keep the words secret, and seal the book until the
time of the end. Many will range far and wide and knowledge
words could better describe the day in which we live. The information
age has arrived. The world has grown smaller and smaller as
jet planes carry millions through the skies daily. The Internet
is only the latest in the symbols of a knowledge explosion that
seemingly has no end.
further describes this “time of the end” as one
in which there would be “a time of trouble, the like of
which has never been since the nation came into being.”
The horrors of two world wars and ethnic battles erupting throughout
the world attests to the fulfillment of these words. They gain
even deeper impact when we consider the technology of modern
warfare, including nuclear weapons that possess the power to
destroy all human life many times over.
the greatest indication of all that we are nearing the bright
“morning” of prophecy is the re-establishment of
the nation of Israel upon her ancient homeland. “I will
put my breath into you and you shall live, and I will set you
upon your own soil. Then you shall know that I the LORD have
spoken and have acted— declares the LORD” (Ezek.
last passage comes from a vision foretelling the resurrection
of the nation of Israel. This vision is popularly known as The
Valley of Dry Bones. In the vision the prophet sees a valley
filled with dry bones. He witnesses a great shaking which assembles
the bones in order, and then he watches in amazement as sinew,
flesh, and bones give the appearance of a field full of human
bodies. As he continues to watch he sees four winds blowing,
and from them a “breath of life” enters into the
bodies and they live. The prophet leaves no doubt as to the
significance of the vision. He writes: “And He said to
me, O mortal, these bones are the whole House of Israel. They
say, Our bones are dried up, and our hope is gone: we are doomed”
in the next verse, he connects this national restoration with
an individual one. “Prophesy, therefore, and say to them,
Thus said the Lord GOD: Behold, I am going to open your graves,
and lift you out of the graves, O my people; and bring you to
the land of Israel. You shall know, O my people, that I am the
LORD, when I have opened your graves and lifted you out of your
graves” (vs. 12, 13).
return of Israel to their land is the ultimate harbinger of
morning. It indicates that we are on the very brink of that
resurrection time when all that are in their graves shall come
forth. What a glorious time that shall be when families shall
be reunited and funerals will be replaced with welcoming parties
for the returning dead. Tears of anguish shall turn into tears
of joy. Weeping shall be over.
is the time of which Isaiah says, “ And a highway shall
appear there, which shall be called the Sacred Way. No one unclean
shall pass along it, but if shall be for them. No traveler,
not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, no
ferocious beast shall set foot upon it—these shall not
be found there. But the redeemed shall walk in it; and the ransomed
of the LORD shall return, and come with shouting to Zion, crowned
with joy everlasting. They shall obtain joy and gladness, while
sorrow and sighing flee” (Isa. 35:8-10).
is the time of which Hosea sings, “From Sheol itself will
I save them, redeem them from very Death. Where, O Death, are
your plagues? Your pestilence where, O Sheol?” (Hosea
question remains. For over 6,000 years man has suffered the
ravages of sin and death. Why has it been so long? Why does
a God of love permit such indescribable evils as have prevailed
upon the earth? What good does such prolonged suffering do?
again it is necessary to see from God’s perspective. Man’s
viewpoint is vastly different from that of the Creator. Of him
we read, “For my plans are not your plans, neither are
my ways your ways—declares the LORD. But as the heavens
are high above the earth, so are my ways above your ways, and
my plans above your plans” (Isa. 55:8, 9). Among other
things, our time perspective is different from his. “For
a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is
past, and as a watch in the night” (Psa. 90:4) Additionally,
we must realize that, while sin and death have prevailed for
over sixty centuries, they have not affected any one individual
for that long. As a mercy to man for the present, his life span
is limited to the “threescore years and ten” of
the question remains: Why does God permit evil? The Psalmist
speaks directly to the point.
I was humbled I went astray, but now I keep your word. . . .
It was good for me that I was humbled, so that I might learn
your laws.”—Psalms 119:67, 71
I might learn your laws” gives us the answer to our query.
If we stand back and look at the whole of God’s plan,
as outlined in the Bible, we note that God permitted sin and
evil as a learning experience with a loving purpose. In this
life, full of woe, man has learned the real consequences of
sin—sorrow, sickness, and death. In the resurrection life
he will learn the consequences of righteousness—happiness,
health, and life. Then the decision will be up to man. Which
will he choose? Is there any doubt that he will choose righteousness
with all its benefits? Men will have been rightly exercised
by their experience with evil and will have learned the statutes
of the Almighty.
frequently God is judged by what we see today. We fail to step
back and look at the perspective of his completed plan. This
is as unfair as judging an architect by his unfinished work.
God’s work with man is complete, when all have been raised
from the graves and learn to live in harmony with God and each
other, when man helps one another and all praise the Lord together,
then will be the time to sing with the Psalmist, “Be at
rest, once again, O my soul; for the LORD hath been good to
you. You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears,
and my feet from stumbling. I will walk before the LORD in the
lands of the living” (Psa. 116:7-9).
It Will Mean to You!
most beautiful thing about the Bible’s vision of this
near-future kingdom is what it will mean to you, and to all
who have gone through the universal experience of losing a loved
one in death.
what it will mean to greet your beloved ones once again. Believe
in the promises of God that assure us all that there is a reality
to the vision of life beyond the grave.
plans for an assured future will be wonderful, a future that
is as bright as the promises of God. The prospects of what lies
ahead will not be dimmed with the uncertainties of sickness,
or tragedy, or death itself.
length of eternity is impossible for our finite minds to imagine.
Years will become centuries, centuries will fade into millennia,
and these, too, will roll on and on as life continues forever.
is more, however, than intellectual dogma. It affects our personal
lives in many ways, none more poignantly than in the experience
of losing a loved one to the universal enemy, death.
we sorrow with all who have lost a loved one. How can we not
be touched with a sense of your loss for we will also endure
similar losses. But we take heart in the fact that these losses
are temporary. While we weep in sadness beside the tomb, at
the same time we rejoice that it will not be long before that
grave, and millions of other graves, will give up their dead.
Then, truly, there will be no more tears.
of a lovely rose
May fall and die at summer’s close
And grief we feel for that brief hour—
For it had been a lovely flower.
at rest on dewy grass—
So fragrant still to all who pass.
E’en though it die . . . our Father knows
will resurrect the rose.
And so when
death makes all seem vain
like flowers shall live again.
“All in their graves” shall hear their King
in God’s eternal spring.