Passing from Death to Life
Download Audio (8.8MB)
World-famous newspaper editor and writer Arthur Brisbane once pictured a crowd of grieving caterpillars carrying an empty cocoon to its final resting place. The poor, distressed caterpillars, clad in black raiment, were weeping and grieving for their lost companion, yet all the while the beautiful butterfly fluttered happily above, forever freed from its earthly shell! Needless to say, Brisbane had the average funeral in mind and sought to convey the idea that when our loved ones pass, it is short-sighted to remember only the cocoon, concentrating our attention on the remains, while forgetting the bright, beautiful butterfly!
That’s the wonderful thing when you have faith in God: We don’t have to grieve hopelessly and mourn with inconsolable sorrow when loved ones go on to be with the Lord. In 1 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul writes: “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Of course, bidding a loved one farewell is a sad occasion, but if you and they love Jesus, you know you’ll see them again. And though you will miss them, you can rejoice for them, knowing that they are finally free from all the trials and troubles of their old earthly body, and have gone on to a far better life and eternal home!
During our time on earth, we’re burdened by our mortal bodies, but once we leave this life, we won’t have this weight anymore! It will be something like astronauts feel in their weightlessness. We’ll no longer be burdened by the flesh and the problems of physical life. We will graduate from this temporary grade of earthly life and pass into the eternal heavenly realm (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Most people try to hide from death. They don’t like to think about it. Yet it’s something that is going to happen to everyone sooner or later. But most people just ignore it and make no preparations for the life to come. Of course, most people don’t worry much about dying when they’re young and death seems so far away. But when you suddenly come face-to-face with death, either through illness, injury, or old age, if you don’t personally know the Lord and His plan for your salvation, it can be a very frightening prospect—that of plunging into the unknown!
The Bible talks about those “who all their lifetimes live in bondage through fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14–15). The reason most people fear death is that they’re not prepared to die, and they fear the unknown. But with Jesus as your guide, death is not a cause for alarm or fear. As a Christian, you know without a shadow of a doubt where you’re going—home to heaven to be forever with the Lord—and you have nothing to fear (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Death for a born-again child of God is no loss, “for to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Our troubles are over! There may be a little bit of pain for a moment, because of this physical body, but then we’re free! It will be a wonderful release to a new life of eternal joy and peace.
These earthly bodies get tired, hurt, and sick, and our hearts grow weary. But the minute we die, we’re instantly liberated from the limitations of this earthly life into the eternal presence of the Lord. This is why the apostle Paul fearlessly flaunted these words in the face of death: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Jesus took the sting out of it. We pass through death, but without sting—through the grave with victory! “Thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Thank the Lord that for Christians, death is a homegoing, a relief, a deliverance; it’s our coronation day with the crown of life promised to all who are faithful to Him (Revelation 2:10; James 1:12).
For us, the end of the road will be just the beginning. We’ll meet our departed loved ones again and find our lost loves and be joined with them eternally in a life of love and joy forever with God and all those who love Him.
What beautiful and comforting words the Lord spoke to us when He said: “I am the resurrection and the life, and whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live. And everyone that lives and believes in Me shall never die. For I go to prepare a place for you … I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 11:25–26; 14:3).
As the beautiful old hymn says:
When morning dawns, farewell to earthly sorrow,
Farewell to all the troubles of today!
There’ll be no pain, no death in God’s tomorrow,
When morning dawns and shadows flee away!
How little then these trials of life will seem,
How light the heavy burdens we have borne!
The deepest sorrow, like a passing dream,
Will be forgotten in that blessed morn!
In the next life, according to God’s Word, we are going to have supernatural bodies, bodies like the Lord had when He was resurrected. “Who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body,” and “we know that when he appears we shall be like him” (Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2).
Our decaying, natural, physical body will go back to the dust, and we’ll trade in our old, worn-out, earthly model for an entirely new heavenly model. The apostle Paul refers to this as a wonderful mystery: “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51–53).
Pardon from death
Contrary to the views of many in the world today, God is not a cruel tyrant or a monster who is trying to frighten everyone into hell, but rather, He is a merciful God who seeks to love everyone into heaven! “For God is love” (1 John 4:8). He wants to help and save every single person He ever created with His love. In fact, this is why He created us: to love and enjoy Him forever.
But sad to say, we’ve all been selfish, unloving, or unkind to others—and even to God. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We don’t deserve to go to heaven or to dwell in God’s presence. But the Bible says that although “the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Receiving God’s free gift of salvation is just like a pardon from the guilt of sin. God loved every single person in this world so much that He gave Jesus to die in our place, to take the punishment for our sin (John 3:16). If we receive Jesus and His pardon for our sin and gift of eternal life, we’ll never die in the sense of spiritual death, or taste the agony of separation from God when we die. “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).
If you haven’t yet received Jesus into your heart, you can do so by praying a prayer like this: “Lord Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God and that You died for me. Please forgive me for all my sins. I ask You, Jesus, to come into my heart and grant me Your free gift of eternal life. Please fill me with the Holy Spirit, and help me to love You and to love others by telling them about You and Your love and truth. In Jesus’ name I pray.”
With Jesus in your heart, you have made the most important preparation for your life, as well as your death. And when your time comes to die, you will have finished your earthly task and graduated to life in the hereafter with a crown of glorious eternal life with Him and your loved ones forever. We who know Jesus will awaken in the heavenly kingdom of God, where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or sorrow, but peace and joy and love in God’s presence forever!
From an article in Treasures, published by the Family International in 1987. Adapted and republished May 2023. Read by Jon Marc.