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A Message of Hope Hebrews 2:14-15

Mrs. Smith's family wants you to know that while they grieve at the loss of her earthly fellowship, they also rejoice in this time of sorrow, assured that she was a Christian. This message will explain why they can rejoice in her death, and will also how you can rejoice in the face of death as well.

There is a world of difference between the way a Christian views death and the way others view it. For the unbeliever, death is a dreaded foe, something to be avoided at all costs, something so feared that we try to dismiss it from our minds. For the Christian, death is a defeated enemy. But more than this, death is actually a blessing. Two texts in the New Testament will demonstrate the dramatic difference in the way men view death. The first text describes the fear that enslaves all men, apart from the grace of God.

Hebrews 2:14-15 Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

The inspired writer of this Scripture tells us that men are subject to slavery all their lives because of the fear of death. It further informs us that the one who has the power of death is the devil. Why is death so dreaded that it enslaves men all their lives?

In the early chapters of the Book of Genesis we are told that God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden. There before them were many trees. Two of these trees were the "tree of life" and the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." They were forbidden to eat of only the one tree--the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." God told them that in the day they ate of the fruit of this tree they would surely die (Genesis 2:16-17). The devil tempted Eve and she and her husband ate of the forbidden fruit. From that time on they sensed a nakedness, and were not at ease in the presence of God, so that they hid from Him.

Men are not wrong to fear death. It is a dreaded enemy to those who have been separated from God by their sin. The Bible tells us that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). It further indicates to us that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Death is not an escape from the consequences of sin, for death brings men to the ultimate judgment for sin as they must stand before the God whom they have offended by their sin:

". . . it has been appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment" (Hebrews 10:27).

Death is a dreaded enemy, and the fear of death hold men in bondage all their lives. Some try to set aside the fear of death by concluding that after death there is neither a heaven to seek nor a hell to shun. Others simply try to avoid thinking about death and its consequences. Still others try to convince themselves that they most certainly would not be condemned to hell. Unfortunately, all are wrong. None of these solutions to the dilemma of death is adequate. We must take heed to these warnings:

Every man's way is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts (Proverbs 21:2).

There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12).

These texts warn us against seeking to find our own way, to trust our own ability to deliver ourselves from the fear of death. God has provided a cure for the fear of death. Those who have turned to this solution can say these words with confidence:

"O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

Allow me to explain how God has made it possible for you to triumph over death, and to claim these words of confidence as your own.

In the Garden of Eden, God promised Adam and Eve that the devil would be defeated, and that the dreaded events of their sin in the Garden could be reversed, through a solution which God Himself would provide. He promised a Savior, who would be born of the woman, who would destroy the devil (Genesis 3:15). As time passed, and as God continued to reveal His purposes and promises to men through the Scriptures, more and more details concerning the promised Savior were disclosed to men. The Savior would be the offspring of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), Isaac, and Jacob. He would come from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:8-12). He would be a "king," an heir to the throne of king David (2 Samuel 7:12-16). He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), and would be both divine and human, the Son of God and the Son of man (see Isaiah 9:6; 11:1-5; 52:13--53:12). God even indicated that the place of the Savior's birth would be Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

It was clear in the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Savior that He would save His people by dying for their sins. His sacrificial death was foreshadowed by the blood sacrifices which God required of those who worshipped Him. It was also revealed that the Son of God was also to be the "Lamb of God," who would die for the sins of His people:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, And He will bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:4-7, 11).

The promised Savior was Jesus Christ. When the prophet John the Baptist introduced Jesus, he said,

"Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).

While His disciples did not want to hear it or believe it, Jesus often told them that He would die for the sins of men, and that He would rise from the grave.

"The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day" (Luke 9:22).

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).

"And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:13-16).

It was the disobedience of Adam and Eve that brought sin and death into the world. It was the Jesus Christ who brought the solution to sin and death. Jesus Christ was the Son of God, without sin. When He died, He died for our sins, not His own. He suffered the wrath of God, the punishment which our sins deserved and demanded. When He rose from the dead it proved that God was satisfied with the sacrifice of His Son. When we acknowledge our sin and trust in the death and resurrection of Christ in our place then we are freed from the dread of sin and death, and enter into the assurance of forgiveness and eternal life. That is what the writer to the Hebrews was saying when he wrote these words:

Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives (Hebrews 2:14-15).

The "He" of verse 14 is Jesus Christ. He took on flesh and blood. The Son of God took on humanity, adding humanity to His deity. He, on the cross of Calvary, "partook of death" in our place. For all who have trusted in Jesus Christ, there is no longer any fear of death, for He paid the penalty for our sins. He also rose from the dead, assuring us of eternal life after death, life in the presence of God.

How, then, can death be a source of fear for those who have trusted in Jesus Christ? The devil no longer has a death grip on us, one which makes us slaves of the fear of death. We now have the sure hope of eternal life. Because of this, death is no longer a dreaded enemy, but a deliverance from the trials and tribulations of this life into the eternal joys of heaven.

The apostle Paul expresses the Christian view of death in these words which are recorded in the Book of 2 Corinthians:

1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this [house] we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord--7 for we walk by faith, not by sight--8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).

To Paul, and to every Christian, this life is temporal, while heaven is eternal. To Paul, the body in which we now live is temporary and imperfect. The body which awaits us after death is incorruptible and eternal. The Christian does not cling to this earthly life, as though this was all that there is, but longs for heaven. Death is the doorway to heaven, and thus it holds no fear or dread for all who are in Christ, by faith in Him. Just a few verses later in this 5th chapter of 2 Corinthians Paul writes,

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-18a).

You may not know for certain whether you are a Christian or not. One way to know is to ask which of these two texts expresses the response of your heart to death:

Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives (Hebrews 2;14-15).

"O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

Jesus Christ came to the earth to take away the dread of death. All those who have placed their trust in Him need not look upon death as a dreaded foe, but as a welcome friend, leading the way to eternal fellowship with God and with those who love Him.

While I did not know Mrs. Smith personally, Sue tells me that she knew the Lord Jesus as her Savior, and thus death was not a dreaded enemy to her. This is why Mrs. Smith's family can rejoice in the death of their loved one. Trusting in God's provision for your sins in Jesus Christ is the way for you to be delivered from bondage to the fear of death into the joyful anticipation of living with Him forever.

Graveside Service

As we come to the time when we must commit the body of Mrs. Smith to the ground, we should do so with the assurance of these words of Scripture. They are words of assurance for every person who dies in Christ, as a believer in His work on the cross of Calvary which has accomplished the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

As Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 and in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, our fleshly bodies cannot enter into the eternal presence of God. We will gladly set aside our earthly "tent" so that we may possess the new heavenly "building" which God has prepared for us, and which will never be subject to corruption. It is necessary for us to set aside this earthly body, so that we may put on our heavenly, glorified body. As we place this body into the ground, we do so awaiting its resurrection and transformation. What a glorious hope!

As we commit the body of Mrs. Smith to the ground, there is yet another text which I would commend to you, to think about in a way that you may never have considered before. Listen to these words of our Lord:

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).

I would like to suggest to you who believe in the Lord Jesus, and who loved Mrs. Smith, that we are now "laying up treasure in heaven" as we commit her physical body to the ground. It is in her heavenly body that she will live forever, and in a way that will make her no longer vulnerable to earthly corruption. And as we "lay her up in heaven" we find that in so doing our hearts become that much more fixed on heaven as well. She is a treasure, which our hearts look forward to enjoying for all eternity, in the presence of God.

Related Topics: Funerals