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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Blessed Hope

By George O. Wood
June 13, 2010

When I visit the local cemetery and look out over the vast number of grave markers, I wonder how many of the people buried there put their faith in Jesus Christ. Many wonderful Christian men and women lie buried in those graves. I know, because I labored with many of them.

Hundreds of those markers represent laymen, pastors, missionaries and leaders of the church who sacrificed and gave of themselves so the gospel could go forward. Their impact was felt well beyond their lives and continues to expand God’s kingdom today.

Most people don’t like cemeteries because of their sorrow at being separated from their loved ones. It’s never easy to lose friends or family members who are dear to us. But death is a reality. The Bible says, “It is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27, KJV).

Some deaths are more difficult than others. When a child dies or a spouse is taken or an entire family is unexpectedly ushered into eternity, we are left with a difficult and daunting “Why?” It’s a fair question, but often one with very few answers. Seldom on this side of eternity will we ever understand the timing, the circumstances, or the why. For many who are left behind, the pain of loss lingers.

We all grieve and experience pain, Christians and non-Christians alike. But followers of the risen Lord Jesus have the assurance of a wonderful hope, a reunion with our saved loved ones and, more important, with our Savior. We call this our Blessed Hope.

If I die before the Lord returns, someday my own body will be summoned to rise at the last trumpet call. As the Scripture promises: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17, NIV).

This is the Blessed Hope of the Church — the coming of the Lord! That’s why our Fellowship’s doctrinal statement says, “The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the Church.” That’s the teaching of the Bible.

I trust that I will be in the second shift, that I will still be among the living when the Lord returns. Like the Early Church, I’m not looking for the undertaker but the Upper-Taker!

So imagine that day when the graves will be opened. How many graves will be emptied out the moment when the trumpet of the Lord sounds and the Lord himself descends from heaven? My local cemetery and every cemetery around the world will look a lot different on that day.

Imagine the joy then, as fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and the many, many dear friends waiting for us in heaven are all once again reunited. And not for a day, but for eternity. Can you picture it?

You see, the coming again of Jesus Christ is the Blessed Hope of the Church. Do you have that hope in you? If you were to die this day or if the Lord were to return, are you confident that your eternal home will be with Jesus in heaven?

The hope of the Lord’s return is not in the nature of a wish. It’s based on a historical fact. Jesus rose from the dead. If Christ is not raised, then our faith truly is futile. But, “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

Standing in a cemetery, we are confronted with a powerful mystery. On the one hand there are Christians’ bodies there awaiting the return of Christ. On the other hand, the apostle Paul tells us that they are “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). In these 10 words, “away from the body and at home with the Lord,” we learn that:

1. Death is not the end.
2. Reincarnation is not possible.
3. The soul is not sleeping, although the body is dead.
4. Purgatory does not exist.

We are faced with a question: How can we be at home with the Lord and yet our bodies await the resurrection? The Scripture is clear that, while awaiting the resurrection of the body, we enjoy the conscious presence with the Lord. I don’t worry about this mystery because I know an all-powerful Lord who has it all figured out. At any moment, the Lord Jesus can call us home — either through His coming or our meeting Him through the gateway of death.

As a pastor years ago, I once spent time at the hospital with one of our dear church members who was dying. She always had an interest in prophecy and she asked me, “Pastor, do you think we are living at the end of time?” I assured her that I thought we were. Of course, I knew that unless the Lord intervened with healing, she was living at the end of her time.

That’s why I never get caught up in speculation about a date for the Lord’s return, or who the antichrist might be. For each of us, this is the end of time, the end of our earthly time. It’s our last generation, because this is the only generation we have as individuals.

There’s a wonderful phrase in 2 Corinthians 5:4 where the apostle Paul talks about our longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” Imagine that! Those buried followers of Christ have already been swallowed up — not by death, but by life!

It has been my custom for years to carry a seed pack of morning glories with me when I officiate at a graveside. I hold up a small seed from the packet and then show the picture of the morning glory. The seed looks nothing like what will be. But in order for the flower to emerge, the seed must be planted into the ground. There it will undergo a transformation.

Our bodies are like that. Whether the Lord returns when we are still living or after we are dead, we know we are in for a tremendous metamorphosis. Paul puts it this way: “[The Lord Jesus Christ] by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).

We are all waiting for this extreme makeover when “the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53). Are you living with hope? Are you living in daily expectation that this could be the day? I hear echoing across the centuries the words the Holy Spirit put in the apostle Paul’s heart: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51,52).

What a day that will be!

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. Adapted from the iVALUE video series available online at Used with permission.

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