Last week my oldest brother went to heaven; he is my third sibling to go home in the last ten months. I am responsible for settling his estate, but even in the midst of seemingly hundreds of details, I have had time to reflect on a lot of things.
First of all, there’s the importance of koinonia, or intimate fellowship. My spiritual brothers and sisters at my church have been life-giving. For example, I was scheduled to teach an adult Sunday-school class on Sunday, but one of my brothers offered to take over for me. One of my sisters came up to me and said, “When I read about your brother, I was speechless.” She then allowed me to talk about my brother and things related to his homegoing. Another sister asked me some questions which again allowed me to talk about my brother, as well as my other two siblings who have gone home in the past year. Another source of koinonia has turned out to be a tribute wall that the funeral home set up online. People who knew and loved my brother, including me and my surviving siblings, have been able to post wonderful tributes about him, giving us great comfort and joy in the midst of grief. For example, one was from a close friend of my brother’s who also happens to be the man who taught me in fifth and sixth grade! There have also been tributes from some people who probably don’t know the Lord, at least not yet, but who obviously saw something of Jesus in my godly brother. (My wife has referred to him as a “spiritual giant,” which is an apt description.) A third source was an extended-family Zoom meeting on Sunday, giving us a chance to share memories as well as some plans for a pair of memorial services: one in person, and one virtual.
Second, I have had multiple opportunities to talk to other people who may or may not know the Lord, including several customer service reps for various agencies and companies. When I have told them why I’m calling, they have invariably responded with expressions of sympathy. I have always said something like, “I’m sad for me, but very joyful for my brother because he is with the Lord Jesus now.” In other words, my brother’s homegoing has given me a very natural opportunity to say something about the Lord; I have even met two sisters in Christ. (A side note: one young gal said, “I apologize for your brother’s death.” Hmmm. I thanked her but had to stifle a chuckle; she’s not responsible for his death!) The Lord has also given me a chance to share something about Him with a delightful young couple in our neighborhood.
There are several verses in Scripture that have recently come to mind. One of them is 1 Thessalonians 4:13, which says, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.” Paul then goes on to tell us about the second coming of the Lord. I truly feel sorry for those who have no hope; without it, I would be lost in a sea of grief. Another passage that has frequently come to mind is I Corinthians 15. Near the end of this chapter, Paul writes in verse 54, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Immediately following that, he asks in verse 55, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The truth is, for a Christian, death has no victory; it is but a passage to eternal life.
This brings me to the second part of the title of this post: life. You can probably guess I am not referring to this life. There are so many passages in Scripture that give comfort and joy about the life to come; one of my favorites is in Revelation 21, where the apostle John sees the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. In verses 3-4 we read, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
I believe that the Lord has more work for me to do here before my homegoing, and I don’t have a death wish. However, I am ready to go home anytime; indeed, I am looking forward to being reunited with all of those in my family who have preceded me as well as all of the rest of God’s family throughout history. For those of you reading this who are already my brothers and sisters, I look forward to sharing eternity with you. If you are reading this and are not a believer, let this be the day that you turn to Jesus Christ in saving faith.