Random Blog Clay Feet: June 21, 2008
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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Funerals and What Comes After

Yesterday I had off work as my boss and I both needed to attend a funeral. It was for one of the men in the Barbershop Chorus that we both belong to who had died unexpectedly and the chorus was singing for his funeral in a nearby town. This man and his wife had been very involved and dedicated to the activities of the chorus for many years and as to be expected it was a very somber occasion.

We sang three songs for the service which were very nice arrangements. The first was called Loving God, Loving Each Other which is a song I had not heard before I joined this chorus but which has become one of my favorites. They said that it was the favorite song of the man who had died as well. We then sang Farther Along and then sat down through the rest of the service until we sang The Lord's Prayer at the end. The arrangement for this last song was a very nice one and I was deeply moved by it.

There were not a lot of people at the service. I would say that there were a few more other people as the number of people who showed up for the chorus itself. I saw a side of the chorus that was interesting to me, a sense of deep loyalty and quiet camaraderie that they share as a group. Many of them took off work and drove many miles to sing for this event and that itself says a lot about how they feel about each other. I like this kind of group who care about each other in ways that almost seem rare in many places these days.

After the service we gathered outside and took this picture. It is the first time that I have had my own picture taken with this group as I have missed most of their public concerts so far. But even so I enjoy singing and practicing and associating with them just for the fellowship and getting to know more people in this region.

As I listened to the sermon during the funeral I was encouraged by the many Bible references that were shared. And even though the pastor did not share my knowledge of the sleep that people experience after death, the verses that he used reinforced that truth and reminded me of how much peace this fact can bring to those who are left grieving after a loved one's death. To realize that someone is not whisked away to either heaven or a supposed hell to live on in some other state of consciousness, but is oblivious to everything going on in this world until the resurrection brings a great deal of sense to life for those who grapple with the difficult questions that always arise after someone's passing.

As I have learned more and more about the bigger picture, the context in which all of our events take shape, I realize again how human-centered most religion has made our perspective and how important it is to see things from the true and broader perspective of heaven for them to really make sense. For to think that the resurrection will require people who have already lived in heaven for many years to somehow return and move back into an earthly body so that they can then be resurrected simply makes no sense whatsoever. But the Bible is very clear that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked and then the judgment will take place.

So much of popular religious doctrine seems to imply that there is no specific day of judgment. They may talk about it that way but it seems that it must be a different day for everyone because it is often implied that it takes place just after someone dies. But this simply does not align well at all with the rest of the events that are clearly prophesied in Scripture and the whole thing does not fit well together as taught by most Christian churches.

But when the truth as understood by a correct reading of the Bible is seen it all makes a great deal of sense and brings peace and comfort to those who wonder what has happened to their loved ones. Those who die fall asleep just as Jesus described because the judgment is not finished yet. God does know each person's heart at their point of death and knows if they are safe to save in heaven or not. This allows Him to know who will hear the voice of Jesus when He returns again as promised to this earth the second time to gather all the ones who have responded positively to His plan of redemption. Those who have chosen to depend on themselves or others as their source for hope and life will simply not be able in death to hear the voice of Jesus at this time. But even at the Second Coming of Jesus the Judgment still will not occur in the final way that is yet in the future. This is only a transition event in the grand trial that centers around the Judgment of God Himself that is at the core of the real issue going on in the Great Controversy of the universe.

So I find it very encouraging that nearly everyone who has died is still unconscious in their graves waiting for the time when they will be raised up to complete the process that they have chosen to start while living here on this earth. Yes, there are a few who have already experienced resurrection ahead of time as symbols and representatives of those who at last will join them in heaven. But the vast majority are sleeping until either Jesus comes the second time or when He returns the third time after a thousand years of preparation with the saved in heaven. At that time the final day of judgment – of full revelation – will take place that will completely vindicate God in the hearts and minds of every intelligent being that ever existed in the history of the universe.

The big picture centers around God and His vindication in the judgment far more than it has to to with our going to heaven or to some place called hell. The real issue to be resolved in this great war, this conflict between the diabolical accuser of the brethren and the Creator of the universe is whether God is fair, is just, is right and whether His form of government can really work or whether Satan's inventions of force and fear must be employed to bring about unity through conformity.

So in this broader view of the background, it is comforting to know that we are not being watched, analyzed or second-guessed by our deceased loved ones somewhere or wondering if they are suffering the agonies imposed on them by an angry God (who is really the invention of His worst enemy in our minds). God is keeping all those who have died in safe protection in their graves until the right time and then the end of all sin and suffering will be accomplished.

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:51-55 KJV)