The Righteous Is Taken Away

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It’s hard to dull the pain of losing someone we love.

We know the verses. We know the promises. We know God’s incredible, wonderful, beautiful plan.

But we still hurt.

No matter what we can look forward to in the next life, we’re still stuck here, living this one. For all the hope we have, we still have to wrestle with the painful truth:

Until the return of Jesus Christ, there will be an unfillable hole in our hearts, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

That’s hard. And it’s okay to struggle with. It’s okay to be in pain. Knowing the truth doesn’t make the loss any less real. When Lazarus died, Martha told Christ, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). That didn’t stop her from asking Christ to bring him back (John 11:21-22). It didn’t stop Mary from weeping at Christ’s feet (John 11:32-33). Even coupled with the truth, the pain is still there, and that’s okay.

Recently, though, I’ve been trying to look at death through God’s perspective. I imagine that on some level, death is unpleasant for Him, too. Just think—it’s been several thousand years since He last saw His friend Abraham. Christ’s disciples—His friends—have been in their graves now for almost two millennia.

That’s a long time to wait—a long time to be without someone.

But God’s perspective is different than ours. We know He experiences time differently, for “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).

There’s more to it than that, though. The Bible also tells us, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15)—a verse that can be somewhat puzzling from our mortal viewpoint. Death? Precious?

From where we stand, death is hard and painful and sad. It destroys and consumes. It takes away the people we love. Paul even calls it “the last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26). To call any death “precious” sounds almost absurd.

But take a step back for a moment. Try your best to see what God sees. His people are under constant siege from the god of this present evil age. There are constant temptations to compromise, to give up, to throw in the towel. Wickedness is everywhere, and Christians must continually have their guards up against the wiles of Satan.

The fight is worth it, but it’s exhausting.

Through that whole process, throughout our lives, God is shaping us. Molding us. Bringing us to a place where we can be His children forever. And that entire time, our enemy is at our heels, actively scheming to undo every good thing God has done in our lives.

Then, at the appointed time, we die.

What then? What does it look like in God’s eyes when His people have finished the race, fought the fight, crossed the finish line, and claimed victory over the enemy? How can that moment be anything but precious in His sight?

Isaiah was inspired to write,

The righteous perishes,
And no man takes it to heart;
Merciful men are taken away,
While no one considers
That the righteous is taken away from evil.
He shall enter into peace;
They shall rest in their beds,
Each one walking in his uprightness.

(Isaiah 57:1-2)

When one of God’s saints goes to sleep, they’re safe. Protected. They’ve been refined into a shining gem for God’s crown, and now our adversary cannot touch them. They’re beyond his reach. They’ve entered into peace, and when God wakes them at the seventh trumpet, they will walk in righteousness.

That is beautiful.

We know, hard as it can be to remember sometimes, that this world isn’t our destination. We’re just passing through on our way to something better, being refined along the way. Peter wrote, “May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10).

That’s what it’s been about from the beginning. It’s what He’s been doing in our lives and the lives of those who came before us. God doesn’t see death the way we do—as an end, as a loss. It’s merely the closing of a chapter—and the pause before starting a much better one.

No, knowing the truth doesn’t take away the pain of being separated from a loved one. It doesn’t keep us from hurting and grieving. But there is comfort in the truth:

Satan is powerless to torment those who are waiting in the grave. He can’t do any more damage or cause any more pain to them, and when they rise, it will be in a much brighter future—either as a child of God or with the potential to become one.

“‘They shall be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘On the day that I make them My jewels'” (Malachi 3:17).

The death of the saints is precious in the sight of the Lord. We see the hole they’ve left behind, but God…

God sees the jewel they’re destined to become.

Until next time,
Jeremy

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