Article: Truly Happy To Go Home | Roy E. Joy

A Christian learns to be happy even in death!
The aged missionary arrived in New York after several weeks of sailing on the high seas. No one was there to receive him at the port. He came out disappointed, though he had informed about his arrival several months ago. As he walked through a street, small planes showered leaflets and there were banners and flags all over the city welcoming a hero. He thought it was a surprise from the welcome committee and picked up a leaflet only to his utter disappointment. It welcomed Charles A. Lindberg, the hero of America and Europe who made the adventurous first ever non-stop flight across Atlantic Ocean in a single engine aircraft (1927). His arrival coincided with Lindberg’s return for a hero’s welcome.
The missionary went to a hotel room and complained to God: “Is this the treatment given for spending all my life among pagan’s preaching the Good News?” There was a pause and in the stillness God spoke to him: “Son, you have arrived just to New York, not home. Preparations for a rousing welcome are going on when you come home.” There is an allegory of Christian’s welcome he receives at his death in the Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. One should read it.
A Christian would love to go home to be with the Lord. Apostle Paul wanted “to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8)—“When the time comes we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for home-coming” (The Message). I’ve used the word ‘death’ to denote physical death.
To a Christian, death is neither horror thing nor something that he wants to avoid at any cost. Once he is with the Lord all struggles and troubles of the earth are finished. No more sin and temptation. Eternal life will start soon in its fullness. So there is hope and joy in the experience called “home-going,” “home-coming” “going to be with the Lord,” etc.
There are people who eulogize death and there are people who ignore it altogether. Yet there are people who propagate it through giving easy ways to die! But the approach of the Bible is different. “Death in the Old Testament is neither ignored nor accepted nor glorified,” whereas “an interesting feature of the New Testament is on life” than death. New Testament clears doubt about death. Christ has won victory over death. He demonstrated it through His resurrection. Death lost its sting (1 Cor. 15: 55). Now death is a toothless monster which is no more active among Christian believers.
Now let us see what is Paul’s idea about death. This is important for developing our own understanding on death.

1. Paul had the knowledge of an eternal home (2 Cor. 5:1)
Paul’s conversion experience, third heaven experience and his daily communion with the Lord prepared him to be with Christ in eternal home. His view about life and death was very positive (Phil. 1:19–26). Perhaps he preferred death. He was a prisoner while writing this letter to the Philippians. He was not sure whether he would be released or executed but he was so sure that he would be with Christ, because nothing can separate him from Christ. In fact, he desired to depart and be with Christ. He was already “in Christ” and “Christ in him.” Death would instantly turn it into “with Christ” forever. In Paul’s own words death is “gain,” “better by far” and “at home with the Lord.” However, he was willing to carry on for some more time for the benefit of his believers.
To a Christian both life and death are blessings. If life, he can remain here to glorify God. If death he will be “with the Lord” (Rom. 14:8). A Christian should be joyous about the possibility of going home to be with the Lord at the earliest. It is easier said than done in a real life situation like the following incident. Two of our family friends passed away in quick succession some years ago. They were about to settle down after many years of service in different parts of India and abroad. And over the last several years my own two young brothers and mother died. Being believers the widows of our friends and we believe that it is far better to be with Christ. Yet the physical absence of our dearest ones pains us very much. We feel it like the loss of our own limbs. When we sit around the dining table we feel just like the Jewish exiles felt in Psalm 137:1, By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and cried when we remembered Zion. Who wouldn’t cry? The fond memories of our dear ones linger around. It is difficult to forget them.
Here the million rupee question is, “Am I truly happy to go home to be with the Lord?” I want to quote what the apostle Paul said, “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (Phil. 1:23,24). (Read, it is more necessary for me and my family that I remain in the body because I am the major breadwinner!)
Bible speaks about the incomparable joyous life in heaven and greater rewards for the saints. “In heaven believers will enjoy the climactic presence of God, an experience that has not been available to human kind since the fall of Adam and Eve.”

2. Paul had the knowledge that our body is not permanent (2 Cor. 5:4)
Paul was a tent maker, so he uses the picture of a tent which is a temporary structure. On the ship Doulos I had seen a peculiar way for friends to hold on to each other (in 1990s). When the ship was about to sail friends break open cassette tapes and give one end to the person standing on the ship and the other end to the person on the shore. As the ship sails the tape stretches but soon it will break or one person let it go when it reaches its maximum length. No members of the ship live in any port permanently. The ship disappears from the shore only to appear on another shore.
Whatever may be the consequences the Bible reminds believers to be ready for home-going at any time. Age is not a bar. A boy asked to his mother, “At what age people do die?” She told him to go to the cemetery and measure the graves. His conclusion was this, “People die at all ages.”
We can be happy about home-going because heaven is not a strange place but a place where some of our dear ones have already gone. To me, my young brothers and mother are there, I believe. Heroes of faith are there. Old and New Testament saints are there. Most of all, our beloved Lord himself is there. One would surely enjoy going to a place where he/she would feel at home. Don’t you want to go there?

3. Paul had the knowledge that we will receive our reward in heaven (2 Cor. 5:10)
You and I shall receive our reward from the hands of Christ whether good or bad we did while in the body. Paul was counting his days to meet with his Lord in heaven, so that he will receive his due. The Bible is emphasizing with many verses that we shall receive reward. Definitely it is not gold or silver but we shall walk through the streets of pure gold. Let me list out a few Bible verses which talk about our rewards in heaven. Our reward will be great (Mtt. 5.12), we shall receive heavenly citizenship and glorious body (Phil. 3.20,21), we will have eternal pleasures (Ps. 16.11), we shall become like stars (Dan. 12.3), we will receive five type of crowns (Jas. 1.12; 1 Cor. 9.25; 2 Tim. 4.8; 1 Pet. 5.4; 1 Thess. 2.19 cf. Phil. 4.1), we will be seated with Christ (Eph. 2.6), everyone will have a place in heaven (Jn. 14.3), you and I become co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8.17). What else a believer would need in heaven?
So let us love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And let us greet bad people with a genuine smile so that we may become sons of our Father in heaven. Recently I talked with an elderly Christian who did not like some Christians in his church. He always avoided them so that he won’t need to shake hand with them. When I asked him, if he ever meet them in heaven will he shake hand with them or not? He said with a big smile that there won’t be any problem with them in heaven. I told him my doubt that it will be unlikely that one of them will be there to greet the other.

Death of sinners and believers
Death experience will be entirely different for sinners and believers. To a sinner if at all there is a place that he can feel at home is earth. For a sinner, death is the end, end of everything he has stood for, end of his plans, dreams, etc. Bible says that it is destruction for him—“he is prepared for destruction,” “and will be punished with everlasting destruction” (Rom. 9:22; 2 Thess. 1:9). He is going to receive the wages of sin that has accumulated over the years. “There is nothing between a sinner and hell besides the breath of his nostrils.” But for a believer, death would bring freedom from the end. He is released into total freedom. It is “rest” for him (Deut. 31:16). It is just a “sleep” (John 11:11). He sleeps here and wakes up there to see the “Sun of Righteousness.”

I’m afraid!
I have an iota of fear about death. We may approach death with fear but that fear is overcome with what happens after death (John Calvin). Even to believers death still brings pain and sadness because the history of death is a very painful and sad story.
Death was foretold by God as a consequence of disobedience (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12). It was brought into the world through man’s disobedience (Gen. 2:17; 3:3). And all people will die (Heb. 9:27). Since then death has been a nightmare for man. To see people in their agony of death and their awful gestures have the potential to make anyone to fear death. Heart rending scenes at funerals are always moving. One may even wish if there was a way to stop death at all.

Man’s days are numbered
Those who live in rented houses have a knowledge that they cannot live there permanently. In the similar fashion when we were born in the earthly home we were served a notice to vacate the house sans date! To make us understand the brief span of our life on earth, the Bible uses different terms: flower, phantom, grass, dust, breath, shadow, handbreadth, etc. (Job. 7:7; 14:2, 5; Ps. 39:4-6; 90:5,6; 103:14,15, Jas. 1:10; 1 Pet. 1:24). Man’s days are determined. God has set limits man cannot exceed.
There are occasions when you drive a vehicle, the vehicle in front of you turns to one side without signal. Immediately you apply sudden brake. You are angry and shaken by the impact. Many a time our loved ones depart just like that, without even slowing down to wave hands to say goodbye! In our human weakness we may fail to believe and appropriate the promises of hope that Bible provides. C.H. Spurgeon said, “Sudden death is sudden glory.” The sooner one dies the better! Philip Yancy said that the death rate of Christians and unbelievers are the same. Sooner or later both die.

History re-written
It is a matter of great joy to know that the painful and sad history of death has been re-written by our risen Christ. “Christ Jesus conquered death (Rom. 6:9; Rev. 1:8). Christ delivers us from the fear of death (Heb. 2:15). Death finally be destroyed by Christ (1 Cor. 15:26; Hos. 13:14). None will die in heaven (Luke. 20:36; Rev. 21:4).”
“If you happy and you know it, clap your hands…,” says a Sunday School chorus. It is unusual for anybody to clap their hands at a funeral service. However, Dr. P.P. Job in his book, ‘Why God Why?’ writes that he experienced peace to request to all present for his younger son Michael’s funeral to clap their hands and say “Hallelujah” as Michael entered his eternal home. Perhaps Dr. Job is the only person to do so. Scottish Theologian George McDonald said, “If you know what God knows about death you would clap hands.”

To cry is human
Crying over somebody’s death is not wrong. It is a very emotional time. Some may try to fight their tears back but the “shameless tears” roll down without any pretension. There are examples of prominent Bible figures crying over loss of friends or loved ones.

• David mourned over the death of King Saul (2 Sam. 1).
• David wept aloud at Abner’s tomb (2 Sam. 3:31-35).
• Jesus wept at Lazarus tomb (Jn. 11).

Earth is the only place where you can cry. It helps one to release emotions to an extent. When we reach heaven the Lord will wipe away all our tears (Rev. 21:4). This is a paradox, at birth baby cries and people smile but at death soul smiles and people cry.

Many are not really happy to go home to be with the Lord because they have so much at stake here. They are not amused at the thought of death. Thomas Watson puts it right: “The meditation of death would pull down the feathers of pride.”

The last enemy—death—wreaks havoc all around us through bomb blasts at regular intervals, ghastly accidents, sabotages, natural calamities, persecutions, etc. Believers are not immune from these dangers. Whatever happens to a believer he is with Christ now and then as well. The man who has found rest in Christ (Matt. 11:28) will RIP— “Rest In Peace.” When you are done on the earth you’ll hear this, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on…they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them” (Rev. 14:13).

“Where O death, is your victory? Where O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55). Thanks be to God, the victory of Jesus is complete. Amen!



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