My father’s funeral was held two weeks after his death. Much work went into planning the program, the songs, the choices of poetry (Trees, for one), and the Scriptures that were our father’s favorites. There were also specific burial instructions chosen beforehand by my parents that pushed the timeline along.
All of their grandchildren and one great-grandchild were to be the pallbearers, men and women alike, a forward looking decision on my mother’s part that pleased both the grandsons and the granddaughters.
When the viewing of my father’s body was made available, the first one to the casket was our youngest grandson, age three (above). He ran toward the front of the large room, and then he paused in front of the casket, standing to look at his Grandpa for a moment.
“My Grandpa is asleep,” he announced. He then informed his father before returning to his playing.
Asleep is the word used so often in the New Testament to mean “dead.”
Out of that little mouth came the reminder of the true condition of my father’s body.
He is asleep.
My father’s soul is no longer in that corpse, but is alive with Christ, enjoying his well-deserved rest.
I picture Daddy young and vigorous of spirit, welcomed by Jesus and reunited with his brother Gerald (on the right below), also a believer in Christ Jesus, who was killed in the car accident that also harmed my father when they were teenagers.
Though Gerald died long before our father, he was a member of our family, impacting our father every day for the rest of his life. Daddy couldn’t get past Gerald’s death. But now, Daddy has joined him.
I envision these two, now in strong spiritual bodies, laughing for joy and racing one another, together again with Jesus. “I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now… Come further up, come further in!” (The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia).
The crash that cost Gerald his life and badly injured my father shaped the rest of my father’s days and all the days of our family life. Gerald was an invisible member of our family, behind all the times of my father’s sadness, anger, self-blaming, and depression. That crash was a devastating blow to a young boy who adored his older brother.
Plus, the head injuries and broken ribs sustained in that accident, when coupled with other injuries acquired by my father, who was the center on his HS football team, recruited to play football as a center at Northwestern University. All of these head injuries may have shaped the final years of his life, especially after being nuked in the Pacific while watching from his ship as an atom bomb exploded above them.
These were horrific tragedies, but God used them for good. Both of those boys became believers.
2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[that is, Peter] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born” (1 Corinthians 15:2-8 NIV).
The number of people who saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion is astonishing. The Lord made sure that there were plenty of eyewitnesses, an abundance, so that we could have confidence in Him.
This evidence that Christ did indeed rise from the dead on the third day is essential. For if Christ has risen, those who are in Christ — believers who have entrusted themselves to Him and have turned toward Him in repentance and faith — will also rise. We will not remain “asleep.”
This is a mystery and a victory. My father and Gerald will rise on the last day, when the trumpet sounds! And then they will receive new bodies, changed, imperishable, immortal.
And then death will be swallowed up in victory.
51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:51-58 ESV).Behold! I tell 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 trumpet…the dead will be raised imperishable, we shall be changed. (1 Corinth.15:51-52). Click To Tweet
The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives through faith in Jesus Christ is our guarantee to enter heaven. “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, WHO HAS GIVEN US THE SPIRIT AS A GUARANTEE” (2 Corinthians 5:1-5 ESV).
My father used every ounce of strength remaining in his body to breathe deeply, to sift through what was past and what was before him as he was dying. Silent and courageous, he kept his inner groaning to himself as he battled his way through the final agony of terminal agitation.
And then, his spirit left his body. Now he is at home with the Lord.
“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil“ (2 Corinthians 5:6-10 ESV).
An honest man, a quiet and humble man, a man who grew throughout the entire sixty-two years that I knew him on this earth. I am a witness to his growth. He grew increasingly gentle. He helped so many people. He loved Jesus. He loved going to church. He cherished his family. He is now with Christ and with Gerald, awaiting the Lord’s second coming and the new creation of heaven and of earth.
When does this happen? Only God knows the time.
I am a Bible Gateway Partner and Affiliate, one of many bloggers on the Blogger Grid, #bgbg2.
My blog is also available on the BG² portfolio at: https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/bloggergrid/.
My Twitter account @MelindaVInman is on the Bible Gateway Twitter List: http://bg4.me/1DNKdv2.