Oscar sat alone in the quiet cemetery, looking down at his wife’s gravestone. It had been a long and difficult year watching his life partner battle cancer. Sad memories flooded Oscar’s mind. Tears poured down his cheeks as he felt the loss of one who had stood by his side for almost 50 years.
Then the old man smiled and chuckled to himself as he remembered their first date. He honestly didn’t mean to run out of gas five miles out of town in the pouring rain, but at least it gave them time to talk while they waited for the rain to let up. Oscar’s thoughts were interrupted when he heard a car pull up to the graveyard. A moment later, a little girl jumped out of the car and ran toward him. “Grandpa,” Oscar’s four-year-old granddaughter asked, “why are you smiling and crying at the same time?”
Is there any good reason to smile about death? Can we find one good thing to say about this enemy of life? Most people are overwhelmed by the darkness, pain, and loss of losing a loved one. But like a dark cloud during a summer rain, we just might find a few silver linings if we look closely.
death ends suffering
God didn’t create us to die. It was His plan that we should live forever. But when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s law, our world reaped the consequences of their sin. This death sentence sometimes comes suddenly to the young, but most people experience the slow process of losing the vigor of life over time.
As we age, our bodies slow down, our eyesight dims, and our hearing decreases. The elasticity is no longer in our step because our human frame is breaking down. Paul the apostle speaks of how “outwardly we are wasting away” (2 Corinthians 4:16), and David wrote of his old age when his “strength is gone” (Psalm 71:9).
Solomon warned, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’ ” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
And it isn’t just strength that we miss as we age; it’s also the sense of purpose in our lives. We can no longer do the things that gave value to our existence. We may conclude with the wise man, “Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
Death brings an end to this meaninglessness. All of our striving to build, save, and make a difference in the world stops when we draw our last breath. “I hated all things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me” (Ecclesiastes 2:18).
death ends old age
Oscar’s wife suffered much during her last days as she battled cancer. Not everyone who dies simply slips away in their sleep without pain. For many, it can be a prolonged process of agony and misery. Caregivers of the elderly or terminally ill may hear them say, “I can’t handle this anymore—I just want to die.” Some people choose to end their lives, and a growing number of states are wrestling with the legalization of physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill adults.
Death brings relief from the pain of suffering. When Job went through his severe trials of loss and physical sickness, he wrote, “Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come?” (Job 3:20, 21). He cried out, “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil” (verse 26). And the apostle John wrote, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.
“ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor’ ” (Revelation 14:13).
death is restful
What precedes death can be very painful, but death itself is not painful. We know this is true because of how the Bible describes death. Solomon explained, “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
When a person dies, he or she is not in a state of unrest, anxiety, or pain. There is no conscious thought about paying bills, worrying over children, or struggling with a migraine headache. David even says, “For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give You thanks?” (Psalm 6:5, NKJV1). The answer is, no one. There is biblical truth to the acronym chiseled on many tombstones—RIP “May They Rest in Peace.”
Jesus compared death to sleep. When His friend Lazarus died, Jesus told His disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up” (John 11:11). Notice the disciples’ response: “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better” (verse 12). That would be a natural response, but the Bible continues “Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep” (verse 13).
Like going to sleep at night, death is an unconscious state. David said, “It is not the dead who praise the Lord, those who go down to the place of silence” (Psalm 115:17). A person who is dead is not thinking, dreaming, or even worshiping God. Speaking of those who die, the Bible says, “When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them” (Psalm 146:4, NLT2).
Jesus conquered death
Jesus knows all about death. Even though He was divine, He chose to take on human nature to walk in our shoes. Not only that, but the perfect Son of God also willingly took all of our sins upon Himself, including the results of our transgressions. They crushed Him to death. He was lovingly removed from the cross, and His dead body was laid in a tomb.
But on the third day, Jesus rose from the grave. The tomb could not hold Him captive. He broke the cold shackles of death. He broke the silence of the sepulcher when He emerged. Surely His words “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) were fulfilled. Paul tells us, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
You’ve seen popular movies showing safe crackers opening bank vaults using sophisticated techniques. Some manipulate locks or guess at combinations, while others drill through a weak point or use brute force and blow off the door with dynamite. But there’s one strong room that humankind has never opened—the door to the tomb. The one exception is Jesus. He opened the locked grave. He said, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever. And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18).
death will end someday
There is one more good thing to say on the topic of death: someday, there will be no more dying. The grim reaper himself will be put to death. John writes in the last book of the Bible, “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death” (Revelation 20:14), and he further explains that God “will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things [will have] passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
When will all of this take place? “Listen, I tell you a mystery,” Paul said. “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).
Elsewhere, Paul spoke of Christ’s second coming as the end of death for His children. “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of an 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. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–18).
Oscar picked up his granddaughter and kissed her cheek. “Honey,” he beamed, “Grandpa misses Grandma very much. But I’m happy because I know that someday when Jesus comes back, He will open her grave, wake her up, and make her all brand new. Then we will be together forever. That’s what made Grandpa cry and smile at the same time.”
1. Bible verses marked NKJV are from the New King James Version®.
2. Bible verses marked NLT are from the Holy Bible. New Living Translation.
Curtis Rittenour is a senior writer for Amazing Facts, an international media ministry. He and his wife, Colleen, live in Spokane, Washington. He is an occasional contributor to Signs of the Times®.