In a few days from this writing, September 10 this year will be celebrated by some remnants and former members of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) as their seventh annual festival called the “Last Great Day” (LGD). This day – which this year also happens to be both a weekly and an annual Sabbath – is equivalent, in the Hebrew calendar, to the 23rd day of their seventh month, Tishri. Jews call this day their Shemini Atzeret, meaning “Eighth-day assembly.” [See: God’s Feasts and the Jews – Part 3, especially the section titled “The Last Great Day and the Jews.”]
The former WCG had believed that, at Christ’s return, only the “elect” of God – the “saints” [those “sanctified” by God’s Holy Spirit] or those who are “in Christ” will be saved while all others will perish when He comes to “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18) – which will include most of the earth’s population (Isaiah 24:6). Those who have died “in Christ” will rise [be resurrected] to receive immortality ahead of those still alive “in Christ” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-55). [See: God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 2, and turn to the section on “The Feast of Trumpets and the Jews.”]
The key Scripture passage that supports the belief that there is yet hope for all those who have died without the saving knowledge of Christ is Revelation 20:5, 6, 11-12 –
“But the rest of the dead [who are not blessed to be among the “elect” who have part in the “first resurrection”] did not live again until the thousand years [of Christ’s reign on earth with His saints] are finished….Then I saw a great white throne and Him [Christ] who sat in it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books [from the Greek biblia] were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”
That vast number includes all who are yet “unsaved”of mankind since Adam and Eve, and perhaps even those after Christ sets up God’s kingdom here. [See: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation, The Book of Life, God’s “Book of Remembrance,” and Two Goats Together, the section on “A possible scenario.”]
So that I won’t be repeating myself here, I would like to share with my dear readers some words of hope for the dead – words which I have shared with bereaved folks during funeral services at chapels or gravesides. The following, then, are excerpts from such messages or “homilies,” with insertions of relevant website links, for the benefit of my present readers. I trust that this message brings comfort and consolation to you as it did to several who came to me after the service to express their appreciation for such an effect on them.
Why flowers at funerals?
It has been the custom or practice in the Philippines, as it is in other countries, to bring flowers to the casket of a dead family member or friend at funeral chapels and gravesides. Flowers express our love and tender feelings to those dear to us, as a young man offers flowers to a maiden he fancies. With their colors, shapes and fragrance, flowers somehow help blunt the pain, sorrow, and ugliness of the death of a loved one.
But perhaps one benefit to our souls that such flowers bring, which we should ponder with sobriety and hope, is that flowers should remind us of our fleeting status as mortals in God’s eyes. Quoting Isaiah 40:6-8, the apostle Peter declared in his epistle (1 Peter1:24) —
“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the LORD endures forever.”
Like grass or a flower, all of us human beings die sooner or later – we “dry up” and our “glory fades away.” Whatever glory or beauty, strength, position, place or possession – all these we will leave behind; we cannot carry them to our grave. Like dried grass or flowers, we end up as ashes burned in the fire, or soil (“humus,” from which we derive the word “human”) in a compost pile. The wise King Solomon observed: “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing. And they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6). [See: What Happens to Man After Death?]
In stark contrast to grass and flowers, the passage from Peter’s letter (latter part) declares: But “the word of the LORD endures forever.” Of that word, Jesus said: “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
Speaking of life, we all understand that we mortal creatures remain alive as long is as we have proper food to eat. But what most of us don’t realize is that there is food (“bread”) more important for our permanent survival. Quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, Jesus said: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Many fail to partake of that “bread” (Word), and so find themselves spiritually “malnourished,” dying, if not already dead!
That is why God invites everyone: “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; and you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your heart delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live” (Isaiah 55:1-3).
The “waters” that God speaks of represent His Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), which He will give to all who will repent of their sin, believe in Christ as their Savior, and are baptized in His name (Acts 2:39). These believers also constitute God’s and Christ’s spiritual “flock of sheep,” whom He, as their “Good Shepherd,” will feed with spiritual food from God’s word to sustain them to everlasting life (John 10:11; Isaiah 40:11). Jesus established His church and His ministry to help Him in this feeding (1 Peter 5:1-4).
The sad reality, however, is that today there are many churches and many preachers that claim to be Christ’s own, but are actually fakes (Matthew 24:23-24)! [See: Beware of False Prophets and Fake News.] It behooves every serious seeker to find the Biblical answer to the question Where Is God’s Church Today?– and be properly spiritually fed there with God’s enduring word through Christ’s faithful ministers. As 1 John 5:12 promises: “He who has the Son [Christ] has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
As we have Christ in us through His Spirit, we are assured that at His return we will receive everlasting life. [See: “I Never Knew You!” and God’s Spirit and Obedience.] We will no longer be like grass and flowers, which are here today and gone tomorrow.
We will become true children of God, and brothers and sisters of His Son Jesus, enjoying everlasting life and joy as He does, in the coming “new heavens and new earth,” where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away … Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:4-5). [See: Are We All God’s Children?]
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.