In Psalm 116:15, we read these words: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.” God delights in the death of a believer because it stirs anticipation for the fullness of redemption. The death of a believer builds in our hearts a longing for the redemption that is coming to us in Jesus and his return. The death of a believer produces a desire for the completion of what God has begun (Philippians 1:6). This is Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians 5:1–8:
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house [the human body that houses who we really are] is torn down, we have a building from God [the glorified body of the believer], a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
Here Paul looks forward to the fullness of his redemption. When he speaks of the earthly tent (the human body that is already in the process of decaying, even while we live), his heart is filled with anticipation. While we live here, in this fallen world, we groan and are burdened. Yet we know that the Holy Spirit has been given to us as a pledge: a down payment, the promise of something more to come, which is the resurrection—at which time our mortal bodies will be “swallowed up by life” (v. 4). When our bodies are raised from the grave, we shall receive new ones—glorified bodies—that will not be susceptible to cancer, strokes, or heart disease. They will never die again. We will live with the Lord, whole and complete, for all eternity.
In the great resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes, “The last enemy that will be abolished is death” (v. 26). When Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week, He secured our resurrection. He is “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (v. 20), meaning that His resurrection is the guarantee of more resurrections still to come. At the final resurrection, Paul tells us that death will be forever destroyed. Until then, death is our enemy and it seeks to threaten us and lead us to despair. Paul Tripp writes, “We all feel death’s wrenching finality. Death is so wrong, so completely out of step with life as God planned it. The apostle Paul could think of no better word for it than “enemy” (1 Cor. 15:25–26). Death is the enemy of everything good and beautiful about life … Death was simply not meant to be. When you recognize this, you will hunger for the complete restoration of all things. You will long to live with the Lord in a place where the last enemy—death—has been defeated.” [Paul David Tripp, Grief: Finding Hope Again, New Growth]
The glorified bodies of believers will one day be rejoined with their spirits that are now present with Christ. One day, body and soul together, we will spend eternity with the Lord in the new heavens and earth.
God uses the sorrow of death in his church to produce in us a hunger for all things to be restored, to the glory of Christ. Our hope as believers is not bound to the things of this world, not even to those we love the most. “Ours,” writes Charles Spurgeon in a sermon entitled “The Hope Laid Up in Heaven,” “is a hope which demands nothing of time or earth but seeks its all in the world to come.”The death of a believer reminds us that we must live every day in light of the imminent return of Jesus our Lord when he will usher in the final restoration of all things.
Our grief is real, but it is not final. It leads to understanding, to growth, and to our transformation.The Bible doesn’t discourage our sorrow, even when fellow believers are ushered into glory. We don’t need to pretend we are happy when we feel deep sadness. We don’t need to hide our grief. Lamentation is a normal part of our Christian experience. However, it is not the end, the final word. We are not left with just our tears. Rather, our sorrow has a purpose, to lead us to seek for something more certain than this transient life. Our grief encourages us to seek the promises of the gospel as the anchor for our soul.