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A Funeral Message

(Selected Scriptures)
Copyright 2000 by

John F. MacArthur, Jr.


All rights reserved. Well, these are always such times of mixed emotion when we lose someone so precious as Don (Last name omitted). This is a wonderful testimony to his life to see such a congregation here on a Sunday afternoon; believe me. And all of us who knew him could do nothing but love him because of the character of the man and the warmth of his personality. And I have learned through the years to put a high grade on faithfulness, and his was "A plus" in terms of faithfulness. And right on down to the last that he could do would be to serve at Grace To You in the wonderful way that he did. And we're so greatly indebted to really all the family who have meant so much to this church and to me personally through these many years. And, of course, we all feel the loss. But on the other hand, nobody should have to endure life in this world for any longer than necessary, especially if we're headed to eternal glory, right? So we rejoice in the reality of the fact that Don is with the Lord. And that was the plan from before time began anyway; that he should be brought to eternal glory; that he might praise the Lord Jesus Christ forever. Just a few thoughts from the word of God. Those of you who have been a part of Grace Church know that for a long time I have been teaching in 2Corinthians. We have since completed that. But in going back to 2Corinthians, one of the things that comes through that letter is Paul continually refers to the fact that he was on the edge of death all the time; he knew that every day could be the last day that he would live. He said, "I die daily." What he meant by that was not anything mystical, but every morning when I wake up I realize that between the plots of the Gentiles and the plots of the Jews, this could be it. And so he lived with the imminent reality of death constantly in his life. And he refers to it repeatedly in 2Corinthians. But he sums up his perspective in the fourth chapter in Verse 16 by saying: "Therefore ... we do not lose heart." If there's anything that should cause you to become ultimately discouraged or to lose heart, it would be to face death every day; to realize that even though you may have been healthy, that this could be your last day; even though you had great plans and you felt like there were things to do and there was some measure of necessity for you being around, and there was the possibility of some pain and some suffering and the infliction of some -- some severe wounds, et cetera, that could cause your death -- to be able to look death in the face and say, "We do not lose heart," is to have ultimately conquered the greatest enemy. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 2 that Satan holds men bondage to the "fear of death" all their life long. It is the greatest fear. It is the ultimate fear. And when you come to the place where you have conquered that fear, you have conquered the ultimate enemy. And the apostle Paul could say that: "We do not lose heart."

And the reason he could say that is very important. It's important for us today. He said this: "We look not at the things which are seen; but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." Now, the way you ultimately conquer death, the way you ultimately triumph in the face of death, the way you ultimately do not lose heart in facing death is to see it not from a physical perspective, but from a spiritual one. Right? It's to see beyond what is visible to the eye and perceive the great spiritual reality. 1. Eternal Glory We do not lose heart in the death of Don because we do not look at what is temporal. We do not look at what can be obviously seen; age, illness, the progressive illness that finally takes a life. I went to the hospital to see Don. And, you know, [and] I know the family [was] there for many, many hours and many, many days [and] would probably comment often how he didn't look like the Don that we know. Progressively, that begins to change. But you can look at death from the physical side, as most people do. But all you see is what Paul says the "outer man decaying." So he says, "We do not lose heart," though our outer man is decaying. And the reason we don't lose heart is because we're really looking past that. And that is the great reality of the Christian faith, isn't it? We look death in the face, and we see right through its facade to the spiritual reality behind it. That is why his family could actually pray that he would die; that the Lord would just take him. Because death holds no fear, it holds no sting, when you see beyond it. And what causes us to not lose heart? And what do we see when we look behind the face of death? We see what is eternal. And Paul says the first thing we see is eternal glory, for momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. One of the great things that the Bible teaches us is that when you become a Christian, a process begins in your life, what we call the process of sanctification. In fact, Paul refers to it in the same passage as the: "Inner man being renewed day by day." It is a process that is guaranteed. It is a process that actually happens. We do contribute to the speed with which it occurs by our obedience or disobedience. But it's the promise of God that when you're saved, the sanctification process begins. There is a continual working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer that renews that believer from one level of glory to the next to the next to the next, ever more being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. And as that process goes on, concurrent with that process is an accumulative weight of eternal glory. The more you grow as a Christian, the more you honor the Lord with your life, the more Christ-like you become, the more you increase that eternal weight of glory which is proportionate to the process of sanctification. And also affliction in this life -difficulties, challenges, the onslaught of temptation, trials, struggles, disappointments and the triumph that you enjoy in the midst of those, contributes to that because all of that is a part of that sanctifying process. And it's safe to say, because it's Biblical to say, the tougher it is down here, the more your eternal glory is going to weigh up there. In fact, when James and John came to Jesus and asked whether they could sit on the right hand of the Father in the kingdom, you remember the answer was, Jesus said, it's "not mine to give," but the Father is going to give it, and He's going to give it to the ones who suffer the greatest.

So light affliction and the process of sanctification in this life is consistently day by day, contributing to an eternal weight of glory. And I'm not sure that I can explain exactly what that means. But what it does mean is that the more faithful you are, and the more you endure triumphantly in the cause of Christ, and the more the Spirit of God conforms you into the image of Christ, the greater will be your eternal glory. So we look at the death of Don. And we see on the temporal side the flesh decaying; on the eternal side, we see an increasing weight of eternal glory into which he has now entered. 2. Eternal Body We also "do not lose heart" because we not only see eternal glory, but we see an eternal body. He says in the next verses beginning in Chapter 5: "We know that If the earthly tent which is our house," this body, "...is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands," that is, not in the normal human way, "...eternal in the heavens." "In this house," this body, "... we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven." And, folks, I can look across and see a lot of gray hair here. And the longer we live, the more we groan. Is this not true? This is true. We groan more frequently now than we have ever groaned. In fact, we hardly make a move in any direction without groaning. And we are all experiencing the increased groanings of life in this body. And they're not just physical -- we chuckle at that -- and there is a physical groaning. But there is that weight of sin, that weight of living in a fallen world for a long time. It's the many burdens that you carry. You know, you thought when you got married all your problems had ended, and then you found they didn't. And you -- you just married somebody else with a whole pile of problems, and you inherited two sets. And then you thought your life would be complete bliss when you had your children. And then you realized that you had to worry about your kids and pray for your kids. And then you thought: Wouldn't it be wonderful when they got married and went away? Then they came back with grandchildren, and your prayer list got multiplied in increments of five, or whatever. And as you grow older, the weight of all of this is also, I think, part of the groaning that goes on in life. And you look at a world ahead, and you wonder what kind of world is left for your children, don't you, and what kind of world is going to be there for your grandchildren. And you wonder about what it's going to be like in the future even for the purposes of God and the kingdom and the church. And there's a groaning in this life, and a longing to be delivered from sin and the debilitating power of temptation and fallenness. And so, Paul says: "We groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven." But we -- as long as we're in this tent, "groaned" being burdened. And there are all kinds of burdens; the physical burdens, the burdens of age, the burdens of illness, the burdens of disappointment and unfulfillment and unconverted children and grandchildren, and all the issues of life. There are all those burdens. And it's not that we want to be unclothed, Paul says, but we want to be "clothed" in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. We want that immortality. We want that glorified body, that glorified environment. And that's the second reason we can look at the passing of Don and not lose heart. Because what we see is not the end of life, but the beginning of life as we would really like to live it, right? And what awaits Don, of course, at the great resurrection awaits all of us who know Christ. And that is a glorious body like unto the body of Christ, the same as his resurrection body; a body free from sin, a body that can eternally live and traverse the glories of the eternal heavens and earth as they will be recreated in the

future. So we -- we see the decay of one body. Body goes into the ground; dust to dust, as scripture says. But at the same time, we see a glorious new body; without illness, without sorrow, without sadness, without tears, without crying, without sin, without temptation; a body suited to praise and honor God forever and ever. And that has been prepared for all those who love Christ. 3. Eternal Purpose There's a third element in looking at the death of an individual eternally, and that comes in Verse 5 of 2nd Corinthians 5. He says: "Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge." Sometimes people -- and I think typically in the world -- they think that when you die, that's the end of any meaning in your life; that you've got to cram this temporal life with everything 'cause this is all there is, right? That is the typical humanistic perspective. Well, we know better than that. Frankly, the human part of our life, life in this world for a believer, is incidental. It really is incidental. It isn't the purpose of God. And that's what Paul is saying. "He who prepared us" for this immortality, for this new body, for this eternal glory, "...is God." He prepared us for this very purpose. So that we can say that when a believer dies, they have achieved the end for which they were originally created. We can even go back further than that. We can say that they have reached the goal for which they were originally chosen by God before time began, and had their names written in the Lamb's book of life. When God wrote Don (last name omitted) in the Lamb's book of life before the foundation of the world, he wrote not that Don would live 70 -- how many -- 76 years on earth, but he wrote that Don would live eternally in the presence of Christ, didn't he? And that this was only incidental, this was only the moment in time when God would call him and grant him that eternal life. So when we look at the death of a believer, we don't see the end of His purpose. We see the beginning of Him fulfilling that eternal purpose for which God chose him at the very start. That's the eternal perspective. From the vantage point of the world, it looks like the end. But from our vantage point, it's just the beginning; eternal glory and eternal body and eternal purpose. 4. Eternal Fellowship There's another eternal perspective here, and it's eternal fellowship. It says in Verse 6: "Therefore, being always of good courage, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord." And further, he kinds of turns it around and says he prefers, rather "to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." Now, there is the perspective of a Christian. We're not at home here. We're really absent from home here. We make a home here. We have a family; we have marriage; we have children and grandchildren, and friends and associates, and we enjoy a certain measure, particularly Christian people, a certain measure of what heavenly fellowship will be like. But we are absent from the Lord. We are absent from His presence, and from our eternal home which, as you heard John read a little bit ago, is being prepared for us even now. John 14. So this is not where our home is. We are just passing through, as the old psalm said. Our home is there; our Father is there; our Savior is there. Our name is there; our inheritance is there. Everything that is ours eternally in the purposes of God is there.

And so when a believer leaves this world to go into glory, they enter into an eternal fellowship. And that fellowship is marked particularly by the presence of the Lord, "at home with the Lord." Often, I have been asked: When we get to heaven, are we going to know our spouse? Are we going to know our family? Are we going to know our friends? Of course. You're going to know everybody. And people sometimes get focused on reunions in heaven. But the greatest fellowship of heaven isn't going to be with believers. The greatest fellowship in heaven is going to be with the Savior, right? That's the great hope of heaven: That we'll commune with Him; we'll sit down and have our eternal fellowship with Him. So that experience Don has entered into, an experience which all of us should cherish and long for and hope for in Christ. 5. Eternal Fulfillment There's another eternal element as you look at the death of a believer. Eternal glory, an eternal body, eternal purpose being fulfilled, eternal fellowship being entered into, there is also eternal fulfillment. In Verse 9 Paul says: "We have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him." I don't know how -- if you've thought about that other and that applies to you. But it's a very profound statement to me. My ambition as a Christian is to please the Lord. That's a pretty simple, straightforward statement, right? That would define any of us; that our ambition would be to please the Lord. The real struggle comes when you recognize that you can't do that. I am the greatest disappointment in my own life, because I had much higher hopes for myself than I am able to deliver. If you asked me what's my purpose in life, I will tell you: To glorify God is my purpose. If you ask me what is your objective, what do you want to do, I could say with the apostle Paul, my "ambition, whether at home or absent, is to be pleasing to Him." My ambition is not to be successful in the world, or to build a reputation, or to build a great institution or whatever. My goal in life is to be pleasing to Him. That is a goal that is always out there and never is achieved, because you always fall short. And one, of course, of the great realities of death and entrance into heaven is now you can achieve that goal. You have achieved that goal. So we can say that there is eternal fulfillment. That which was in the heart of Don and any true believer is a desire to please the Lord. And now, forever and ever, he will do nothing but please the Lord. That means there's no more guilt; there's no more disappointment; there's no more anxiety; there's no more fear; there's no more sense of failure. Because he will do what it is in his heart to do forever, and that is to fully and completely please the Lord. 6. Eternal Reward And then there's one final thing that Paul talks about in the eternal scale. He says, Verse 10: "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether it is good" or worthless. Then he goes on to describe those kinds of things. There are things we've done in this life that are worthless. He's not talking about sin; sin's been dealt with. But there are things that don't have any eternal value. Now, you know what those things are. I mean they don't make any difference in the kingdom ultimately. They're not wrong; they're are just there. But there are some things that have eternal value. They have a direct impact on the kingdom. They have an indirect impact on the kingdom. And in the end, those things are going to be evaluated. And whatever we did throughout our life that was sinful has already been paid for. Whatever we did that's sort of in the gray category of not having any real impact on eternal things just goes way away and

disappears. And what is left is what directly impacted the kingdom. And on the merit and basis of that work wrought in our lives by the power of the Spirit of God, we will receive an eternal reward. And I dare say that only God knows the reality of that. Because praise is part of that; faithful prayer is part of that; a pure heart in terms of motivation is part of that. And who knows that but God? That's why Paul said in the prior chapter you can't really know how you're going to be evaluated, because only God knows the "secrets of the heart." So when we look at someone's death, we don't feel like we have to -- you noticed that, I am sure, this morning -- we don't feel like we have to muster up some great, long parade of every achievement they ever did. Have you ever noticed that at a Christian funeral? Very little is said about a litany of achievement. Compare that, when you look at the funeral of a non-believer, and watch people almost frantically trying to put meaning into that life by picking out all the myriad of milestones, and giving somebody some kind of accolade for everything they achieved in this life. The only real reward that matters is that which we did for the King in his kingdom. And He's the one who knows that, and eternity will reveal that, and that's the reward that believers look for. It's enough, really, it's all that ever would need to be said about Don to say he was faithful. Right? Because it's: "Required of stewards, that a man be found faithful." And we'll leave the eternal reward to God, who knew his motives and knew his heart far better than even we do. We have a pretty good inkling. We are certainly on the right track, because we know the sweetness of his soul and the faithfulness of his life. That God will give him his reward. So we come to an occasion like this and we don't lose heart, because we see what is eternal. We see what can't be seen with the eye, but it can only be perceived through an understanding of the word of God. We see eternal glory, an eternal body, eternal purpose, eternal fellowship, eternal fulfillment and an eternal reward. And we do not lose heart. In fact, just the opposite. We rejoice and we thank God for this wonderful life, and for God bringing this life to its great coronation, because that is what has happened in heaven. This has been the coronation of Don. Obviously, there is loss, and nobody lives that long and that well without capturing a huge part of the hearts of the people around him. And we feel that loss greatly. But we are not without hope, right? We have great hope. And we know there is reunion yet to come. And at the pace life is going during these years, it doesn't seem far away for any of us, does it? Father, we thank you for your word. We pray that you would you press to our hearts these great truths that give us joy in the midst of sadness. We pray in Christ's name. Amen. Copyright John MacArthur 2000, All Rights Reserved. Transcribed by Bonnie Frankfurt of Grace Community Church and added to Bible Bulletin Board's "MacArthur's Collection" by: