Where, O Death is Your Victory?

Bible Study by Jack Kelley

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Cor 15:56-57

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction? (Hosea 13:14)

A friend died last week. [note: Jack wrote this in 2003] Old by earthly standards (75) and having battled cancer for 11 years, today he’s young and in perfect health, very much alive and filled with awe at the extent of God’s love as he starts the adventure of an eternity.

Beginning to know as he’s been known, (1 Cor. 13:12) he finally has a glimmer of understanding of Paul’s promise that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)

Are You Happy Now?

It’s said that the average child is happier than the average adult, and one reason is that children spend most of their time gaining new knowledge and learning new skills, while adults spend most of their time repeating what they’ve already learned. Another is that children haven’t experienced many failures and therefore have little or no fear of it.

If that’s true, imagine how happy my friend Bud is now. He’ll spend all of eternity gaining new knowledge (like interviewing the authors of the 66 books he’s spent so much time studying and receiving the insights of the One who guided their thoughts as they wrote). He’ll learn new skills (like how to travel back and forth through time at the speed of thought and how to access the third of his brain for which science has found no earthly use.) Bud was never very fearful, but what little fear he had is now gone, and the concept of failure is foreign to his new existence.

He has now escaped the bonds of space and time, has been divested of the sin that contaminates us all, and received the reward of that single decision that fulfilled the purpose of his life. He is, at last, becoming that which he was created to be—God’s work of art (Ephe 2:10).

Wait a Minute, Something’s Missing

There’s only one thing Bud’s still longing for even more than while he was here on Earth: The Rapture. You see Bud’s spirit, that part of him that’s really him and is eternal, is with the Lord.  Paul taught, “as long as we’re at home in the body we’re away from the Lord. We live by faith not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:6-8). But his body has returned to the dust of the earth from which it came (Gen. 3:19).

But at the Rapture, all that changes. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thes. 4:16).  At that moment Bud will be reunited with two things he really loves and misses: his body, made new and perfect, and his loved ones here on Earth. For after that we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we be with the Lord forever (1 Thes. 4:17).

Now I’m Happy

Then Bud’s joy (and ours) will be complete. We were created to be physical beings and need a physical body to fully experience all that eternity has in store for us. The dead will be resurrected into perfect, immortal versions of their previous bodies, while ours will be instantaneously changed from mortal to immortal.  Job declared, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end, He will stand upon the Earth. And after my skin has been destroyed yet in my flesh I will see God. I myself will see Him with my own eyes – I and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:27-29).  Paul agrees. “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Cor 15:53). Even the Creation, cursed by the sin of our first parents, cannot be liberated from its bondage until we are raptured and receive our perfect bodies. For the Creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed (Rom 8:18).

Though many of Bud’s most admired earthly accomplishments have been exposed in the fire of judgment as wood hay and stubble (1 Cor 3:12-14), of no significance in his standing before God and forgotten even in his mind, he hasn’t forgotten the loved ones he left behind and having had a glimpse of what awaits us all, longs even more than we do for our reunion.

We love you Bud and miss you too. But you haven’t seen the last of us.  Any day now we’ll be together again, this time forever.