watch your language
I said good bye to a friend today. And I heard a good solid biblical message at his funeral about the coming resurrection. The preacher said that my friend was asleep. That’s what Jesus said about Lazarus. He told his disciples “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him” (John 11:11). Sleep is the most widely used metaphor for death in the Bible.
Some Christians do not watch their language very well at funerals. They talk about death using language that the Bible never uses, and Jesus never endorsed. They speak as if the dead person has travelled to a far-away place. The Christian hope is not going some place. The Christian hope is a someone coming back to us: Jesus himself.
Usually, the dead person has travelled to heaven, and has joined the angels, who are giving thanks to God. But, in the Bible, David said that no one gives God thanks in the realm of death (Hebrew Sheol). David’s plea was for God to keep him alive so that he could continue to send up songs of praise.
Some view death as a release from the prison of the body to enjoy freedom forever. But the Bible places the terminus of rescue and escape not at death, but at the coming of Christ. As tempting as it is to believe that death will bring rescue, the most that we can say biblically is that at death the suffering will end. The rescue comes when the rescuer comes.
Some people think that death is the gateway to the reward that Jesus promised those who are faithful to him. But Jesus says that those who do acts of kindness toward those who cannot repay them will be “repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14). That does not happen at death. It will happen when Jesus comes back to raise people from the dead.
Jesus came to the tomb of his friend Lazarus to give us all a visual demonstration of the resurrection at the last day. His friend had fallen asleep and he purposely waited until that happened. Jesus shouted his friend’s name. “Lazarus, come out.” He didn’t say “come down” because his friend had not gone anywhere. He had simply fallen asleep. The shout from Jesus is all it took to wake him. Someday, you and I will fall asleep. Do not fear. All it will take is a shout from our friend, Jesus, to wake us up again.
It would do us all well if we watched our language when talking about what happens at death. The world is listening, and they need to hear the truth.
If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join me for this entire series as we search the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.
Listen to the audio file at Afterlife.