This past week a preacher I had known years ago passed away at the age of 86. Of course such is just part of the circle of life, but it’s somewhat sobering when we begin to realize that we’re all headed that way in the not too distant future. Death, as we read of such in Scripture, is not a friend – it’s an enemy. “The last enemy,” according to Paul, “to be destroyed is death.”(1 Co. 15:26)
I remember early on in my ministry, I was in Vienna, Illinois, to preach over the weekend. There was a member in the hospital, so we went up to pay him and his wife a quick visit. When we arrived things had taken a turn for the worse; he was in ICU and on the ventilator. The look of terror on his face was only surpassed by the distress of his bouncing up and down trying to get free of things. He kept screaming through the mask: “Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me!” Honestly, it was so disturbing that it made me physically nauseated. I nearly had to excuse myself. I seldom visit an ICU without thinking of that day.
The Hebrew writer said: “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”(Heb. 9:27-28) Yes, of course we’re all going to pass from this life. For the Christian, however, death, although it’s not a friend, ought to be viewed with joyful anticipation. While the thought of saying goodbye to our loved ones is doubtlessly painful and the process of death is troubling, knowing that we’re going to meet our Lord who loves and redeems us is a wonderful thought! I love the song that says, “No guilt in life. No fear in death.”
If you’ll look closely at the above passage there are several things that are noteworthy. 1) Death comes and then judgment. 2) Jesus, unlike the OT high priest who offered sacrifices each year both for himself and the people, did it just one time. And 3) He is to return again – not to address sin, but to save those who are“eagerly waiting for Him.”
That last phase is interesting. The Jewish reader may have very well reflected back to the work of the Jewish high priest.“There may be an allusion to the reappearance of the High Priest after the solemn ceremonial in the Holy of Holies on the day of atonement to the anxiously waiting people” (Vaughan, in Expositor’s Greek New Testament). On the Day of Atonement the high priest’s work in the holy of holies was the point of their forgiveness under the Law. Imagine a crowd of people outside the temple anxiously anticipating his arrival, for return would signify that he had completed his redemptive work. Seeing him again would doubtlessly have been a time of great joy, for they were forgiven!
So it is, friends, with the return of the Lord. Yes, Jesus is coming back. And when He comes it is not to deal with sin. But the exciting thing is that He will be returning with good news! The fight is over! The victory is won! Next comes the afterlife! We, as Paul puts it,“will always be with the Lord.”(1 Th. 4:17)
Christian, don’t fear the judgment; rather, take courage and be excited about “that day” when the Lord comes to reward His own.
You are loved,