Death and Good Theology

When a Christian dies

This week our church family received the news that one of our dearest brothers passed away. This leads us to some important questions. Should we rejoice or weep when a brother or sister in Christ dies? Is a Christian memorial service a celebration or time for mourning? The answer is found in a right understanding of a Christian’s death.

Often people who are dying will say something like, “Don’t cry when I die, but be joyful because I’ll be with Jesus.” As a result, it’s normal to hear family members of the deceased person say, “He didn’t want us to grieve, but to joyfully remember the life he had and remind ourselves that he is truly in a better place.”

These are endearing statements, and we don’t want to belittle the love and affection that caused them. However, these responses are not complete. We should not merely rejoice when a Christian dies.

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26, NLT)

Even though there are great promises to Christians after death, death itself is an abomination. Death is an unwelcomed guest. It had no place in creation. Rather, it stormed onto the scene as the thief of life upon the entrance of sin into this world. Therefore, death itself is not to be celebrated.

We cannot merely rejoice when a Christian dies somehow forgetting that death is an enemy. The Scriptures never ask Christians to deny the feeling of grief.

However, we should not merely grieve

When a Christian dies we should also be filled with rejoicing. Truly, for the Christian, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). As a believer in Christ departs from this life they are immediately in a far better place (Philippians 1:23). They are with Christ! They have finished the race and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7); and that faith has become sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). They no longer see in a mirror dimly, but see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). The object of their love, affection, and joy is before and with them forevermore.

What amazing things wait for the Christian at death!

When a brother or sister in the Lord passes away, there should be grief and rejoicing. They both have a place. We grieve for what is lost and rejoice at what is gained. That is good theology of Christian death!

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