Death: What Next?
What Happens When A Person Dies?
I've conducted lots of funerals through years. Most have been quite normal. A few have been a little different. But I never had anything happen quite like the true story I recently read of a young preacher and one of his first funerals. A very elderly man who had formerly lived in the town had died in another state. The funeral was held where he now lived but the burial was to be back home. The funeral home called the young preacher and asked him to have the graveside service. The burial was to be at an old country church cemetery several miles out of town. The funeral director explained that since he hadn't lived in town for years and years, he had no family in the area and likely very few remaining friends. He told the preacher a few words of Scripture and a short prayer would do. He didn't expect anyone else to show up except the funeral home people and the cemetery workers.
On the way to the unfamiliar cemetery, the young preacher got lost. He drove around and around the area. He grew more and more nervous as the scheduled time for the service came and went. Finally, he saw a little church with a cemetery. Sure enough, he could see three men with shovels standing beside a pile of dirt at the edge of a little cemetery behind the church. The hearse was nowhere in sight. He figured the funeral director had given up on him and left. He quickly got out of his car and walked up to the grave. He said to the workmen, "I see you've already buried the vault, let's pause and let me say a few words and pray before you finish filling in the grave." The workmen silently removed their hats, and he began the service. Afterwards, one of the workmen smiled and said, "Preacher, I don't know who you are, but that's the best funeral service for a septic tank I've ever heard!"
Funerals are serious matters. We have all been there. We know that by experience. Behind the prayers, the tears, and the grief lurks the shadow of an unanswered question. What next? What happens when a person dies? All of us in our more serious moments want to know the answer. In a book called Children's Letters to God, a little boy named Mike wrote, "Dear God. What happens when you die? Nobody will talk to me about it. I don't want to do it. I just want to know."
Where do you go for answers to a question like that? I am convinced that there is only one reliable place: God's Word. That's why we are exploring the Bible for information about the future that faces us all—unless Jesus Christ returns first.
You get to decide lots of things in life. But there are three choices you don't get to make. You didn't get to choose to be born. You won't get to choose when you will die or not. And you won't get to choose whether you will exist beyond the grave or not. But you do get to make the choice about where you will spend eternity. Our text provides some of the infor ...
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