FIRST-PERSON: Death & angels

by Shane Pruitt, posted Friday, June 23, 2017 (one year ago)

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP) -- With sweat beading on my forehead, a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach, I stood behind a funeral home podium staring at a crowd of a couple hundred people.

Between the crowd and me was a casket three feet in length with a child inside it who was way too young. I repeated the only thing I believed could help in this dreadful moment -- hope from the Scriptures.

The funeral for a short life is never easy to officiate, but no matter the age, death is an inescapable reality for all of us. Many of us fear the death of family and friends more than we fear our own death. Their death produces extreme pain that stirs our emotions to grasp at any hope we can muster to give our hearts a brief moment of rest from the brokenness over unbearable loss.

In grasping and searching for the right words to help others, or even to soothe our own souls, we tend to believe and say things that are not necessarily biblically true.

Too many times to count in seasons such as these, I've heard people say and/or post on social media, "God gained another angel today." I believe it's not helpful to dive into theological debates while someone is in the midst of extreme hurt. Often, the best thing we can do is to hurt with them, hold them and just listen. In moments, then, when cooler heads and hearts can prevail, we will be significantly more empowered by biblical truth than we will ever be by pithy statements, especially ones that aren't true.

Here is the plain and simple truth: Humans are humans, and angels are angels. This remains so even in eternity. In fact, angels are intrigued by the interaction between God and His "image-bearing" humans. As we read in 1 Peter 1:12, for example, "angels long to catch a glimpse of these things" (CSB).

It's actually better for you to be human than it is for you to be an angel. Most Bible scholars believe that the scriptural accounts of Ezekiel 28:12-18, Isaiah 14:12-14 and Revelation 12:4 describe the fall of Lucifer (a former angel) and one-third of the angels (now considered demons) that joined his revolt against a holy God. What's sobering about the accounts of these fallen angels is that their judgments were final, with no hope of redemption, forgiveness or grace.

But God so loved humans that He sent His Son to become a human (although, He also never stopped being God) to die as a human for humans. "But God proves his own love for us," we read in Romans 5:8, "in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (CSB).

And through His resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and death for people, not angels. Through faith in the Son of God, we get to experience grace, hope and complete forgiveness of our rebellion against Him -- angels never get to experience this.

Here is our ultimate hope: When a loved one dies knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior, God does not gain another angel. Rather, God calls another worshiper to come home. Your loved one gains the opportunity to see Jesus face to face, to leave this temporary place for a home in the arms of a loving Father.

Let the promises of the Scriptures mend your broken heart knowing that your loved one, if they knew Jesus, is more alive today than you are -- not as an angel but, rather, as a fully glorified human being with a perfect heart that is no longer susceptible to sin, a mind that is no longer susceptible to depression or a body that is no longer susceptible to disease or death.

If you're a believer and follower of Jesus, one day you'll see your Christian loved one again, and together you'll see the perfect Jesus who loved humans so much that He laid His life down for our redemption.

Shane Pruitt, director of missions for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, is online at www.alreadyam.com.
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