November 4, 2021
Over the years, as a pastor, I have conducted many funerals and memorial services. Because of the understanding that we have about death and the resurrection, our approach is different from that of most people who profess Christianity. We believe that the dead are really dead and are awaiting the resurrection. We do not believe that they are in heaven or in hell, but rather that they are in the grave, assured of a resurrection either when Christ returns or after His 1000-year reign.
I generally end a memorial or funeral service by reading Revelation 21:4-6: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” I believe we all pray for the time when there “shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.” But that day isn’t here yet.
Before the Feast this year, my wife and I were saddened to hear of the sudden death of a friend who had been a member of the Church for more than 40 years. His memorial service will be on Sunday, Nov. 7, in the small town of Warren, Rhode Island, and the family has asked me to conduct the service. Of course, this Rhode Island family is not alone in losing a loved one this year around the Feast of Tabernacles; nor are they alone in scheduling a funeral or a memorial service. It is very difficult—seeing, hearing and feeling the sadness that exists in many families at this time.
In planning for the memorial service in Rhode Island this coming week, I have been thinking a great deal about the importance and meaning of a human life. The circle of life is a phrase that is often used when talking about life and how it begins and ends. You may think of the well-known song with this same title, from the Broadway musical The Lion King.
The words of this song are thought-provoking: “From the day we arrive on the planet, and blinking, step into the sun, there’s more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done. There’s far too much to take in here. More to find than can ever be found.” We have an insatiable capacity for seeing, hearing and learning—and yet we are limited by a physical body. Life seems incomplete. Surely there is more.
From Scripture we see that mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation. Nothing has been created that has a potential—for this life and beyond—greater than that of man. Yet we live in a world that devalues human life while rejecting God. The teaching of evolution in our schools attempts to refute the fact that God created man from the dust of the ground and then breathed into him the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). Man doesn’t have a soul; he became a living soul (Genesis 2:7, King James Version). He was given a unique spirit that makes possible a resurrection and eternal life in a world that is better than—and very different from—the world today. No other creation has been given such potential. Even the angelic world sang and shouted as man was created with the potential to become a member of the very family of God (Job 38:7).
In Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2 we are told that man was created with a glorious future, to be among the many sons brought to glory (Hebrews 2:10). That man has been crowned with a glory (Psalm 8:5) confirms the fact that every life is precious and every person is special—something not understood in our world today. But this beautiful creation of God, while possessing such great potential, has fallen under the deception of Satan and has developed the means to destroy all human life. And, sadly, man seems to be committed to doing just that!
It is said that there are four great questions that must be answered by each of us: (1) Who am I? (2) Where did I come from? (3) What is my purpose for existing? And (4) Where am I going after I die? Most people never find the answers to these questions, but God’s Word answers all four of them, and through God’s calling, enabling us to become members of His Church, we have been blessed with the gift of this knowledge. We can all take comfort in knowing what God is doing here on earth. We see in the deaths of our loved ones that life is extremely short, and we understand how important it is for all of us to make the most of each and every day. This is the great lesson that I take away each time I conduct a funeral or a memorial service.
Life is indeed like a circle, and if time goes on long enough before the coming of Christ, we will all return to where it began and close the circle. But that isn’t the end. After the physical circle closes, we await a new life that will continue into eternity. I am thankful for the truth we have been given, but I am still grieved when friends and family face the end of life. I believe that God is also heavyhearted when He sees us suffer. In Psalm 116:15 we read, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” God takes notice because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Don’t forget that He created us and He loves us (John 3:16) more than we can even imagine. He is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3)!
When I conduct a funeral or a memorial service, I reflect not only on the life of the individual who has died, but also on my own life. The death of a friend or family member is a tragic event, but one that should encourage us to reach out and offer comfort to those who are suffering. It is also a time for us to reflect on who we are and what we are doing with our lives. God created us with an unlimited potential. We should live accordingly, valuing each day of this physical life, determined to worship God according to His wonderful truth.
Please remember those who have lost loved ones in recent weeks. It is difficult to accept that we will no longer be able to share time with them in this life, but we should take comfort in knowing the future and our great potential. We are privileged to be God’s children, called to glory and life eternal in His Kingdom.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,