“I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever!
And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
Jesus’ words in Revelation 1:18
Death is Grace
Death is grace. That just doesn’t sound right, does it? We typically don’t think of death as grace, but as a curse – the worst of all the consequences of sin. It makes our broken relationship with the Almighty very real and evident. It brings hurt to our hearts and tears to our eyes.
Death is indeed a curse. But for a Christian, death is also an experience of God’s mercy and love. God puts a time limit on our existence in sin. How horrible it would be if he didn’t! Death is an act of grace that allows mankind to begin life anew in heaven without the burden of sin.
I recently finished the book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas. The book is a biography of how the Holy Spirit brought Dietrich Bohoeffer to faith in Christ and used him to share the Gospel during the horrors of World War II and to preserve its message despite the Nazi’s diabolical plan to extinguish it.
Early in his ministry, Bonhoeffer eloquently described death as an act of God’s grace in a sermon:
“No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence.
Whether we are young or old makes no difference. What are twenty or thirty or fifty years in the sight of God? And which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal? That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up – that is for young and old alike to think about.
Why are we so afraid when we think about death? ….Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it.Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God’s Word. Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves.Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.
How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether, in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world? Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.”(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted in Metaxas, p. 531)
Faith in Jesus Christ’s full payment for sin on the cross and his certain resurrection transforms death from a curse into a blessing. It makes the frightful, delightful! Death is grace – a simple pathway to the life God intended for you and for me since Creation.
May we view death through the filter of God’s love for us in Jesus as we wait calmly and patiently for the day of our inevitable heavenly homecoming.
Written by Brent R. Bitter, Staff Minister