Friday, July 5, 2013

Hope Beyond the Grave

Sometimes when I am trying to share the gospel in Taiwan, I start the conversation by asking about funerals in Taiwan. Then I move the discussion to the difference between Christian funerals and funerals of Buddhist or traditional Taoist religions of Taiwan.  I have seen both.  Whatever the philosophies and teachings of traditional Taiwanese religions, as a practical matter, there is a sadness without hope characterizing traditional funerals.  Christian funerals also have a sadness and feeling of loss, but there is also a hope and a joy and a sense of celebration.  

Christians have a hope in this life, but their hope extends beyond the grave. They hope for a fully restored relationship with the Creator of this universe, and the eternal life that flows from Him drives them to act differently in this life. Their treasures are not stored up on earth. They know this present world is passing away. They look forward to the Day when death and decay meet their doom. 

"On this mountain, the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine -- the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, 'Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.' Isaiah 25:6-9. (NIV 1984)

There was a mountain in Israel where Abraham's son Isaac was saved from death by a sacrifice that died in his place. What happened to Isaac prefigured what happens to all of us who put our faith in Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus, the Lamb of God, died in our place to take our sins. He took the punishment for us, and we receive the inheritance of His righteousness, eternal life with our Creator, Lord and Redeemer.

A Christian singer, Steven Curtis Chapman, has put his hope as a Christian into words: 

Out of these ashes,

Beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins
We will see it with our own eyes

Out of this darkness
New life will shine
And we'll know joy is coming in the morning

I can hear it in the distance
And it's not too far away
It's the music
And the laughter of a wedding and a feast

I can almost feel the hand of God
Reaching for my face to wipe the tears away
You say "It's time to make everything new
Making it all new"

This is our hope
This is a promise
This is our hope
This is a promise


Steven Curtis Chapman - in "Beauty Will Rise"

He wrote this song as part of an entire album "Beauty Will Rise" after facing the death of his youngest daughter in a car accident.  The album expresses agony at loss, but also being filled with hope and joy and anticipation of seeing her again.