It’s easy to forget sometimes, but the book of Revelation reveals. There’s a lot of mystery in the book’s details, but if we step back and focus on what’s clear, what emerges is a beautiful expression of the greatest truths any human being can be blessed to know.
I was reminded of this recently as our pastor preached through Revelation 5-7. Flowing through the awesome scenes, strange creatures, and epic moments of these chapters is a retelling of the great story of all of Scripture.
Chapter 5 continues the apostle John’s vision of God on His throne. God the Father is holding a sealed scroll and John is confronted with a question from a “mighty Angel.” It’s really the great question of the ages, since the transgression in Eden and the fall of the human race. It has long had the same tragic answer.
And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. (Rev 5:2–4, emphasis added)
The most prominent reality at a funeral is also at the same time the most difficult subject to discuss. That reality, of course, is the subject of death. As one man has noted, “Death is the one experience that will be shared in common by every person …. Every moment we live, the sand in the hourglass of our existence continues to flow, bringing our final end ever near.”1 And yet, despite the “commonness” of death, most people prefer not to talk about it. There seems to be a kind of natural aversion to death. If we had our choice, we’d much rather celebrate the birth of a new child or the wedding of a close friend. If we had our way, there would be no funerals, no sad and uncomfortable occasions associated with the passing of a loved one.
Yet, we cannot escape reality. Death confronts us on the front page of the newspaper. It shakes us when we have to bury a family member or friend. Finally the day comes when death knocks at our own door. Indeed, the moment you and I were born into the world, we began our lifelong journey to the grave. And so, we can’t avoid the reality of death. With this inescapable reality in view, I’d like briefly to address the meaning of death. Specifically, what is death? And why must we die?
Webster’s Dictionary defines “death” simply as the cessation of life. Thus, to understand “death,” we must first understand “life.” Webster’s offers two primary definitions:
"This tendency to see contested public-policy issues—such as those concerning immigration, religious liberty, or economics—through the lens of modern political ideologies and party platforms before seeing them through the lens of the gospel is problematic." - TGC
"What this 'greatest threat' trope ignores is the clear teaching of Jesus that He will build His church and not even the gates of hell will prevail against it (Matthew 16:17-19). The gospel is never threatened because it is the Savior who ensures His kingdom will advance." - LifeWay
"In the Greek New Testament, the noun euangelion (“gospel”) appears just over seventy times. Since, in one sense, the whole New Testament is about the gospel, we might have expected the word to have been used more frequently. Even more surprisingly, its use varies greatly among the authors of the New Testament books." - Ligonier