1999-12-07 - Mourning Turned into Dancing

Psalm 30:11 You have turned, for me, my mourning into dancing.

Death can come upon us suddenly. A man named Russell Byers was killed on Friday evening about 1/2 mile from our home and on the same city block where my wife works. He was arguably the most prominent Philadelphia newspaper reporter. When he went to a convenience store, with his wife, for ice cream, he was stabbed to death as he left the store.

There was no reason for it really. Just another city crime. This one is getting some publicity, but really, it is no different than any other murder. Someone has gone on to eternity and mortal life has ended. It happens all the time.

A Biblical Intro: Hebrews 2:14,15, gives hope for those who fear death. Christ has overcome death and therefore we have no need to fear it any longer. In fact the Apostle Paul thought that it was to his advantage to die, Philippians 1:21. And lastly, "Falling asleep in Jesus", as 1 Thessalonians 4:14 puts it, is something that Scripture talks of as a great advantage for those who have hope in the resurrection.

Eternity is a sobering concept. Just as a child in detention looks longingly at the clock wondering when it will be time to go home, so the unrighteous will cry out from their tombs, "what time is it?" and the only reply to their question will be, "It is eternity." Their detention will never end. Righteous or unrighteous there will be no more time than eternity when we are on the other side of the grave. For the righteous there is great comfort in this, but for the unrighteous eternity will only serve to add to the fear and torment that will occupy them without end.

The old Latin phrase for eternity, punctum stans, can be translated, "an ever-abiding present." And what a fascinating thought it is to think of "ever abiding present" as that phrase which best describes what our time in heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ will be like.

The resurrection from the dead is the great hope of the Christian. " … that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked." Acts 24:15 For the Christian the resurrection is something to eagerly await and look forward to. For the wicked it is something to fear.

Our hope in death is what turns the mourning of death into the dancing of life with God in heaven. We have the same hope that Paul had when he wrote in 2 Timothy 4:8, "in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing."

Richard Baxter, after many years of serving Christ, was on his death bed and was asked how he was. Even though he was in great pain he gathered the strength to reply, "almost well." Later, as his final hour approached and then came upon him, he reached the point where he was, in his own words, "entirely well." His mourning had turned into dancing.

Soli Deo Gloria,