Scripturally Comforting The Bereaved - Part 2
The Young Man
Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
The Lord again has compassion on the bereaved. Does He comfort this mother by telling her that her son is enjoying eternal bliss in Abraham’s Bosom? Does He tell her that he is much better off “where he is”? Does He say that her son has “gone on to be with the Lord”? No. He says nothing of these extra-biblical, Pharisaical/Pagan doctrines.
Does He speak to the sky to call on the soul of the young man? No. He speaks to the corpse as was His manner. The Lord never speaks of the loved ones being in "bliss" and the dead never speak of being in a place of rest. No "good side of hell;" no "Abraham's Bosom;" no "Paradise." They were dead. Period.
David said in the Psalms "though I make my bed in hell, thou art there." Of what comfort would that be if "hell" was a fiery place of torment that offers no rest, no comfort and which is run by the Lord himself? David knew that even in death, the Lord will remember him. There is also a tangent here on "the gates of hell." What do "gates" do? Do they attack anything? No. Gates KEEP THINGS IN. So the Lord was simply noting that those who profess faith in him... even the grave will not be able to hold them. The "gates of hell" shall not "prevail"! Death cannot hold those "asleep in Jesus.” (see: 1 Cor 15:6, 18, 20; 1 Thess 4:13, 15; 2 Pet 3:4)
How Does Paul Comfort the Bereaved?
Here we could quote the entire fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, but this passage will suffice:
For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
In his defense of Christ’s resurrection (and the necessity of it) Paul gives us comfort. The hope that we have is not that our loved ones in Christ are floating around somewhere in bliss, rather we are comforted knowing that just as Christ rose from the dead, so also will those “which are fallen asleep in Christ.” Note the only other option for the dead in Christ: perishing. Either we are resurrected or we perish (cp. John 3:16). Paul also notes when we will be “made alive,” that is, “at his coming.” The scripture constantly refers to "death," "perishing," and "destruction."
Let’s see how Paul comforts the Thessalonians.
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. - 1 Thess 4
Paul comforts them and tells them to comfort one another by looking to the resurrection of those “which sleep in Jesus.” He tells them to “sorrow not.” He tells them that we have a “hope.” Why should they not sorrow? Where do we find that hope? In Resurrection! When will the dead (those asleep in Jesus) be "ever with the Lord"? At their resurrection! Does he ever say, "they are with the Lord"? Does he talk of them running down the streets of glory? No. But these are the things we say to the bereaved.
As Paul did, we should point to resurrection! This will exalt the Lord's own resurrection! Our resurrection will no longer be a footnote, it will be inexorably connected to the Lord's resurrection and his victory over the grave will be exalted. If we believe that Jesus rose again then we should have faith that God will raise those asleep in Jesus! That is what Paul points to. He points them to Jesus’ own death and His resurrection!
The promise is that those who are dead in Christ will “rise first.” Because of the hope of resurrection, because Christ has already shown us that death can be undone, it is because of these things that we can “comfort one another.” So if you want to comfort someone who has had a loved one in Christ die, point to His resurrection and the promise of our own resurrection. That is what Paul did.
Paul himself groans for his own resurrection body.
What is Paul's hope when his earthly body “dissolves”? In a word: Resurrection!
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life… We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. - 2 Cor 5:1-4, 8
The last verse there is often misquoted as "absent from the body, present with the Lord" or even as "to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord" but it says neither. It merely refers to Pauls' groaning in that he'd RATHER BE absent from his earthly house and be in his HOUSE WHICH IS FROM HEAVEN. You cannot take the last verse, ignore the context and leave out key words. Our Apostle does NOT yearn to be "naked," he yearns to be "clothed upon." The "mortality" of the "earthly house" must be "swallowed up" by the "life" found in the "house which is from heaven."
1 Cor 15 is the "resurrection" chapter and clearly speaks of two kinds of "flesh." These are compared and contrasted. There is no intermediate state known. We are "corruptible" and "mortal." The ONLY way we can be "Immortal" is have an "immortal" body ("this mortal MUST put on immortality"). Shedding this body of corruption in death is not "putting on immortality," that will only come in resurrection. That is when the "victory" over the "grave" is accomplished.
Some Have Erred
Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. - 2 Tim 2:18
Paul addresses the fears of some in his last letter written (2 Timothy). Their fear was that the resurrection had passed and that they had missed it. Why would the resurrection be so important to them? Why would they be concerned that it may have passed? Why were they looking for it in the first place? Why would id overthrow their faith? The answer is that the resurrection is the central event of all the scripture. It is the undoing of death! It is the victory over the grave (1 Cor 15). It is why we can say “death where is thy sting? Grave where is thy victory?”
Death in the Bible is “the last enemy.” It is defeated in resurrection! In resurrection alone do we conquer death. The Lord Jesus is our life and our hope. He is the resurrection and the life. He conquered the grave by resurrection so that we might conquer the grave by our resurrection!
When The Lord Jesus Christ died, his body was in the heart of the earth (Matt 12:40). He commended his “spirit” (his God-breathed life) back to the Father (Luke 23:46). His “soul” was in Hades (Acts 2:27, 31). When we scripturally understand these truths, we see that resurrection is the answer!