Last December 22, 2015, we lost a loved one, Jocelyn “Joy” Lao Tenerife. (Mylene took care of her as her caregiver for several months, together with other relatives.) But our loss is heaven’s gain. She is absent in the body, but now present with the Lord. We know this because she has accepted Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior. Those who believe in Christ shall never perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). When they die, they go straight to heaven to be with the Lord (Lk. 23:43).
Joy’s wake was at St. Peter Chapels, Imus, Cebu. I’ve visited the place countless times. I go there to be with friends and brethren who have lost their loved ones. One day, I thought about the many things that the living can do at the wake. They come and look at the dead. They talk with the relatives. They eat and drink. They laugh and cry. Then they say goodbye and go home. The living can do many things while living.
But the dead cannot do anything anymore. I thought about four things that the dead cannot do at the wake.
1. They cannot wake up, at least at this time. The day shall come when all the dead will rise. They shall face the Judge of the living and the dead.
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done” (Rev. 20:12-13, ESV).
2. They cannot look any younger compared to their pictures. You’ve noticed it many times. The picture looks much younger than the actual.
But in heaven, we will look younger because we shall renew our strength in the presence of the Lord. Deuteronomy 33:25 tells us, “And as your days, so shall your strength be.” The great Baptist preacher, Alexander MacLaren, wrote that this promise will still be true in heaven. “There,” he says, “each new moment shall bring new strength, and growing millenniums but add fresh vigour to our immortal life.” Quoting Swedenborg, Maclaren says that “the oldest angels look the youngest . . . When life is immortal, the longer it lasts the stronger it becomes.”
“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:30-31, ESV).
3. They cannot talk and laugh during the noisy family and friends reunion in their wake. But in heaven, we will enjoy the grand family reunion with the family of God in the presence of our Lord. “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:17, ESV).
4. They can’t tell you where they are now. But we know from the Bible that those who died believing in Christ are now in the presence of the Lord. Those who died rejecting Christ are now in Hades, the place of the dead, waiting for the final judgment of Christ (Lk. 16:22-24; Rev. 20:12-13). Those who believe in Christ will join Him in heaven when they die on earth (Lk. 24:43). The body dies; but the soul lives with Jesus. He is the Source and Giver of eternal life (John 11:25).
Sooner or later, we will all join the dead. Meanwhile, we must get ready for that eventuality. The key to readiness is not your religion, not your good works, and not your money. You cannot pay your way to heaven by your religiosity, your good works, or your money. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight . . . For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom. 3:20, 28, ESV). No one can be “justified” (made right) before God by works of religion or works of goodness, no matter how good.
Rather, the key to readiness is the grace of God in Christ. God is now offering His favor to every sinner who comes to Christ. The good news is that Jesus became man and offered Himself on the cross for your sin and my sin. He rose again from the dead, proving that He has broken the power of death. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He can save you from your sin. He can forgive you your sins. He can give you eternal life. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26, ESV)?
Have you invited Jesus to save you from your sin? Please don’t wait until the day when you, like the dead, cannot do anything anymore. Today, while you still can, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved'” (Rom. 10:13, ESV).
You can call on the Lord by this suggested prayer. This prayer cannot save you. But if you pray believing in your heart that only Christ can save you, you will be saved.
“Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for my sin. I believe that you rose again from the dead. You have broken the power of sin and death. I repent of my sin. I trust you as my Lord and Savior. Please come into my life and forgive me my sin. Save me from my sin. Amen.”
Please do not delay. Call on the Lord now. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2, ESV).