Cemeteries are found throughout the countryside. I love to read the headstones and see the notations made about the life of the one who died. Some cemeteries seem to be random, standing as solitary sentries for a few memorial markers along the roadside. Some are huge and stand as monuments commemorating historic events that shaped our nation, community, and ourselves.
One such place that we visited was the cemetery in the Vicksburg, Mississippi battlefield. It was sobering to see the cannons all lined up as if they were ready to inflict injury on the enemy. It was even more sobering to consider that in the battle, American was pitted against American as the Civil War was raging throughout the country.
In the battlefield there were monuments throughout the area to fallen soldiers form various states and communities. This is the Illinois monument, complete with soldiers names inscribed inside the mausoleum-type structure.
Some have a decidedly modern atmosphere, such as Sunnyslope cemetery in California.
While some have a decidedly older atmosphere, such as this cemetery located in Boston.
Then there are cemeteries that bear special significance to us personally, feelings that other places do not produce.
My husband’s family is buried in this Virginia cemetery. I love going there, not only to remember the people and thank them for teaching my husband to be a Christian man who loves me unconditionally, but also to meditate on the end that will ultimately come to all of us. I also love to look out over the hillside and see the church steeples reminding me that Christ is the One who governs all of life and who gave His life as a ransom for many.
I truly don’t mean this to be morbid, but I do want us to think about our mortality and the finality of our days.
The writer of Ecclesiastes correctly notes:
“No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.”
The writer of Hebrews affirms that each of us will die, it is the fate of all finite beings:
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
Paul, writing to the Thessalonians said this about the end of our lives:
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 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 Thessalonians 4:16-17
In other words, all people will have to die unless they are still alive when Christ returns. Even they will rise to meet the Lord. None of His people will be left out! This is what Jesus meant when He said:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.””
The believer in Christ will certainly die a physical death just like everyone else – but the believer will not have a spiritual death. Instead, we will be with Christ. Physical death is a reality for all mankind because of sin. Spiritual life is a reality because of the grace of God as it is a gift from God given to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Our Western culture does a fantastic job of shielding us from death. We are killing each other faster than we are birthing people, but we rush the bodies off to the undertaker, to the funeral home, so that we don’t even see the body, often with either closed casket or cremation burials. Many children have never been to a funeral/memorial service and go into their early adult years before experiencing this type of personal loss.
Even if we wish to hide our heads and ignore reality, all of us will face death at some point, and when we do, we will no longer have time to make the decision that is of eternal consequence. Do I follow Christ Jesus as my Savior or do I act as if God does not exist at all, only to be supremely surprised when that belief is in error!
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
Beloved, be sure of your faith and of the One in which you have your faith. Be sure that you have answered that question correctly. Let the cemetery remind you that no one is immortal, we are all going to die and the ground will not be the final resting place for our spirits.
Blessings to you, today, tomorrow and throughout your life.
Father, I pray that these words would be of encouragement to those who believe in Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. I pray that the Holy Spirit would use these words to convict and soften hearts that are hard and that You would work in those hearts to bring them to Yourself. In Christ’s name I pray.