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New Year, Same Story

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From my father I inherited a fascination with cemeteries and obituaries – a morbid, but interesting hobby that leads one to the biographies and of “the dead, small and great” (Rev. 20:12.) Accordingly, I was delighted when some friends took my family on a tour of historic Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia on the final day of 2012. We visited the graves of presidents (for the U.S., James Monroe and John Tyler; and for the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis), soldiers (George Pickett, J.E.B. Stuart, along with twenty other Confederate generals plus thousands of other servicemen from every major conflict of American history), governors (six from Virginia), Senators and Congressmen (too numerous to name), a U.S. Supreme Court Justice (Lewis Powell, Jr.), novelists (like Ellen Glasgow and James Branch Cabell) and scholars (historian Douglas Southall Freeman being one of my favorites.) The recurring thought that struck me throughout the day was that despite all of their varied accomplishments, these men and women all experienced the same inevitable reality: they all died. The first genealogy in the Bible is notable for this repeated refrain “and he died” about all the names recorded in the list – with one notable exception – Enoch, a man noted for his fellowship with the Living God (Gen. 5:21-24.) His experience of supernatural translation from earth to heaven prefigures a greater resurrection to come, which gives hope to all those who know and trust in the Creator God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Life Lessons Learned At Gravesides

On the threshold of a new year it is helpful to remember what Christ said when He came to a cemetery. His magnificent promise was articulated to a beloved friend, who was grieving over her recently deceased brother; He told Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25-26.) This is the best news for 2013 – or any other year!

The Son of God came to make graveyards obsolete. He has transformed their status from long-term storage of mortal remains to temporary holding places of bodies that will one day be reconstituted. For those who received Christ as their Lord and Savior by faith, they experienced spiritual regeneration – a complete transformation of the inner man, also known as being “born again” (see Jn. 3 & Titus 3.) Therefore, their bodies will be raised and transformed into glorious bodies like the resurrected and glorified Christ (1 Thes. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:20-58; 1 Jn. 3:1-3.) But for those who did not believe on the Lord Jesus for salvation, they will be raised for judgment – a horrifying scenario which could have been avoided  (Jn. 5:22-29.) The Lord does not delight in people perishing spiritually; rather “He desires all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9.)

Jesus I Am Resting In The Joy Of Who Thou Art

Complete and sole trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died as a sacrifice for sin, rose again in vindication, and ascended to glory in triumph is what distinguishes a saved person who possesses eternal life with the Lord in heaven from a lost person who is eternally separated from their Maker and banished in the outer darkness of the Lake of Fire (Mk. 9:42-48; Rev. 20:11-15.) One must confess that he is a bankrupt sinner with no ability to earn deliverance or merit a rescue. They must turn to God for the gift of salvation offered through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, forsaking their old life as one that is justly condemned (Jn. 5:24; Eph. 2:8-10; 1 Thes. 1:9-10.) They are receiving Christ as if they died on the cross with Him, were subsequently interred with Him, and then rose in power with Him (see Rom. 6-8.)

When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder

When the dead small and great stand before the Lord, who is the righteous judge of the universe, the only credential that will matter is that their name is inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life. One’s name is only found there because they rely on Christ their spotless, sacrificial Lamb “who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29.) Human works, reputation, and worldly attainment will avail for nothing in that day. Only life as found in the Lord Jesus will matter. So I close by asking the question that He posed to Martha on the way to raise her brother, Lazarus, from the dead: “Do you believe this?” If you do, cry out to Christ for salvation. If you already have, then praise God that He who is the resurrection and the life holds your life in His hands. He will keep you safe for eternity.