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Make a New Friend Out Of An Old Enemy

Health Magazine' reported that fifty people have paid $120,000 each to be frozen, in hopes that someday they can be brought back to life. Fear of death affects people in various ways-but it affects most people. We don't like to talk about it; we don't even like to think about it. We prefer to stay away from places that remind us of it-hospitals, funeral homes, cemeteries. We go to expensive extremes to postpone it-even for a few months. The Bible calls death "the last enemy" (I Cor. 15:26), and most people see death as just that-the enemy. Jesus came so we can make a new friend out of this old enemy (Heb. 2:15).

Jesus told Martha that "...whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die...," then asked if she believed it (Jn. 11: I I - 15). He did not mean believers never die physically. A Christian's body dies just like an atheist's. Jesus was inviting her to see death as a friend that opened the door for the spirit to live forever. Paul looked forward to dying because he knew he would then be with God (Phil. 1:22). Jesus wants us to learn to look at death from God's perspective.

God sees death as just going to sleep (Jn. 11: 11).

In the Scriptures, sleep is often used as a beautiful synonym for death (Dent. 31:16; Acts 7:60). To Jesus, buried Lazarus had "gone to sleep" (Jn. 11: 11). Since Lazarus was just "sleeping," the disciples thought it was needless to go and expose themselves to the danger of Christ's enemies. They were slow to catch His meaning, and He finally had to spell out that Lazarus was "dead" (cf. Jn. 10:24; 16:25,29). Sleep is precious-if you don't believe it, ask an insomniac or parents of a newborn! "Sleep" is an appropriate term because death is not final. Parents do not fear their children going to sleep; rather, they plan for it. They work family schedules so there will be plenty of hours for naps and sleeping.

Jesus saw raising a dead man as no more difficult than for us to wake someone from sleep (cf. Mt. 9:24). There will be an "great awakening" at the resurrection (I Cor. 15:18,5 1 ). On resurrection morning, Jesus will wake all those in the grave with the angel's "alarm clock" that will be loud enough (literally) to "wake the dead" (I Thes. 4:13-18; 5: 10). He will say, "Come on, time to go home" (Jn. 5:25-29), or in the case of non-Christians, sadly He'll say, "Time to go to the lake" (Dan. 12:2; Rev. 20:15).

God sees death as just taking a trip (2 Tim. 4:6).

Paul said, "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better" (Phil. 1:23). He expected his soul to go to paradise, while his body rested in a grave to await a happy rising. Imagine standing on a dock watching a ship moving out of a harbor. You say, "It's going." Finally, it sinks below the horizon, and someone says, "It's gone." But on another shore someone watches for the ship. Soon they see its hull and say, "It's coming." As it pulls into port, they say, "It's here." We say at a loved one's deathbed, "She's going," and as she takes her last breath, "She's gone." But watchers on another shore say, "She's coming. She's home at last."

God sees death as just a change of residence (Jn. 14:1-3).

Imagine knocking at an old house. A neighbor notices and says, "Are you looking for Mrs. Johnson?" "Yes," you reply. He says., "She doesn't live there anymore. She moved to a new house on the rich side of town." When you arrive there, she welcomes you and proudly shows you around her new place. We have Christian friends whose frail bodies no longer serve their purpose. They'll soon have to move out of the tenement of clay, but they are really only changing residences. We are journeying, not to the sunset, but to the sunrise; death is a gate on the skyline to heaven. Should we consider it a loss to be taken away from a decaying shack to live in a palace?

God sees death as His child gaining an inheritance (Phil. 1:21).

If we live for Christ, we get rich when we die! "To die is gain. We gain access to all we have invested in the place where thieves cannot steal and rust cannot corrupt (Mt. 6:19-21).   We gain victory over sin, Satan, doubt, and fear (Re%,. 20:10). We gain freedom from aches, disease, pains, tears, and death (Rev. 21:4). We gain fellowship with God, Jesus, and the Spirit (Phil. 1:23), and association with loved ones and the saints of all the ages (Mt. 8:11). Would we consider it a loss to be stripped of rags and clothed in silk? A Christian doesn't lose w hen he dies; he inherits unimaginable riches!
 

Jesus made it possible for all to say, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear  no evil,  for Thou art with me" (Psa. 23:4). Yet, many should yet fear death for they are not prepared to meet their Maker. The Bible says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Psa. 11 6:15; Rev. 14:13). Saint is short for a "sanctified person," or put more simply,  a "Christian." One becomes a Christian (follower of Christ) by following Christ's commands: hear the Gospel (Jn. 6:44); believe that He is God's Son (Jn. 3:16); repent of sins (Lk. 13:3); confess faith in Him (Mt. 10:32,33); and be  baptized into His body for forgiveness of sins (Gal. 3:26,27; Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38). One remains a Christian, by faithful Christian living (Rev. 2: 10). If I do am not prepared to die the death of the righteous (Num. 23: 10), then these concepts hold no comfort for me-yet.

A gentleman once visited a poor family and saw a thousand franc note (a lot of money at the time) framed on the wall. Ile said, "Where did you get this?" They told him they had taken in an injured French soldier during the war. They did what they could but were unable to save him. Just before he died, he gave them this "little picture as something to remember him by." They thought it was a "pretty souvenir," so they framed it. They were surprised to learn that it was worth a sum greater than their whole house! They were richer than they thought.

Christians who still fear death are not using the blessing Jesus left them. Death "is the supreme festival on the road to freedom."' It is a friend who gives us a ride home. It's a graduation exercise from Earth's High School to Heaven's College. It's a promotion to higher ground.

Endnotes:

'1 -2/93.

2 Price includes storage! By the way, the price for freezing and storing just the head of the client was only $41,000.

3 The Bible says much of death. The word (in various forms) is found 813 times and is in 49 of the 66 books.

4 Kerdos, "gain, lucre."
'D. Bonhoeffer, quoted in The  Martyred Christian, by Joan Winmill Brown.