But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. ” (2 Peter 3:8–13, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We are waiting the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. You and I, living in our sin soaked culture; our brothers and sisters under persecution the Middle East; Faithful saints struggling to feed themselves in Africa; All over the world the primary occupation of all Christians is waiting. We wait for the resurrection of the body as we say every worship service in the Creeds of the church. It will be a glorious day when Jesus comes on the clouds with his holy angels and the graves split open and dead rise and we are all caught up with him in the air (1 Corinthians 15). The joy of it will be beyond compare. To think that this body, this soul, this person will be with Christ and family and friends forever, perfect in Christ, is indeed a life long comfort. So until that day of resurrection we wait, eagerly, in hope.
And yet, unless the Lord comes before, we also wait for another event, death. Maybe not so eagerly. Open eyed my grave is staring. It’s there in my future and yours. How will it come? Car accident. Cancer. Heart failure. Violence. War. Old Age. Disease. This is known only to God. Your grave waits for you and it never sleeps. Your grave threatens all that you have, all your relationships, all your accumulated wealth, all of your education, all of you. No one is spared from it. Your children, your parents, your spouse, your friends, your family, you! Open eyed it stares over all you do. Like the old cartoons of the vulture hanging over the character’s head as he slogs through the desert in search of water. It shadows everything you hope to do and accomplish. How could there ever be any comfort here in the face in this enemy?
Our comfort isn’t found in death. In fact, Saint Paul calls it the last enemy that will be defeated. Death is the unnatural end to a sinful life, the just punishment for a sinful body. A funeral is proof of the wages of sin. Even though the body lay in state it must eventually, go to the grave.
God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It. LSB 594, v 5
There is nothing worth comparing
To this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring:
Even there I’ll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising,
Still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ;
I’m a child of paradise!
I am baptized into Christ, what comfort does this give whilst I look into the eye of my grave? Well, indeed if it were not for Jesus Christ there would be no comfort here. If there were no God at all there would be no comfort. If there is no God death is a forever sleep in nothingness, an end of all things. Everything that is done, thought and loved in life is all there is and nothing more. The vastness of forever nothing has no comfort only the coldness and darkness of nothing. And worse, with God’s existence. Sinful human beings cannot be with God (nor do they desire to be with him). That means to be separated from all that is good and right and true, living in the presence of God’s never ending anger over your sin.
There is no comfort in death, indeed there can be no comfort, apart from Jesus Christ. And listen to Saint Paul again:
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ” (Colossians 1:11–14, ESV)
Forgiveness of sins is the key. Forgiveness of sins is our rescue from the domain of darkness, our rescue from death that ends in nothing or eternal punishment. And Jesus Christ is the forgiveness of sins. His death on the cross is your forever death. His death on the cross is your eternal punishment for sin. He faces God’s eternal wrath and anger over sin. He suffers hell, your hell. This is exactly what Saint Paul means; he calls death empty of its victory and power.
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. ” (1 Corinthians 15:54–57, ESV)
All of the horror of death is emptied in Jesus Christ. What is the connection to Holy Baptism? I am baptized into Christ. In Holy Baptism you have been “clothed with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). In it you have died with Christ and been raised to new life with him. In it you are given the gift of eternal life with Christ, eternal life with the Father not in his eternal anger over our sin. In fact, for those in faith, for those in baptism, for those clinging to the cross of Christ for forgiveness, death is completely changed. Instead of all that it is, it becomes what Christians already are doing, waiting. It is interesting that what we are doing now, waiting for the day of our Lord, doesn’t really change in death but only becomes even more intense. We sing Even there that is in death, I’ll sleep secure. After your death, as your body decays, as it must. While it sleeps, You’ll be rejoicing in your salvation in Jesus. Like the thief on the cross, through death’s sleep you’ll awake with and find Christ. Your first thoughts and only thoughts will be praise, and joy, and wonder at the salvation of God for you, a sinner. A child of paradise. And there you’ll wait again for the resurrection of my body; wait for all God’s promises in Christ to come to their fullness; wait again to be joined by those who have preceded you and those who will follow you in death. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.