It is very hard for me to write this. On May 20, 2015, my husband, John, died unexpectedly.
We knew the surgery for an aortic valve replacement was serious and would be tedious and long; we expected a long rehab, but he never regained consciousness after the surgery. I am still in shock, but thankfully, I do not grieve without hope because of I Corinthians 15 and because of the doctrine and practice of warm-hearted Calvinism.
John and I fell in love at first sight. What risky business that is!! But, for us, with the LORD’s blessings, it worked out with joy. We loved being together. Earning a living (and his church, professional service and raising children) kept getting in the way but we always managed to snatch some time to enjoy each other. There has never been anyone I’d rather be with than John. I never took “girl trips or girl nights out” because he was a lot more fun!
One of the songs from America’s songbook says, “Love is a many splendored thing.” Christian love within the restrictions of marriage between one woman and one man includes it all–romance, friendship, partnership. And the children raised in this home benefit immensely. One of my daughter’s friends commented, “I wonder what it would be like to live in a family where the parents loved each other. My parents never did.” Our children never knew any other way.
THE HOPE OF LIVING FOREVER
I used to teach a course which contrasted American democracy with communism. Karl Marx wrote, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” He meant that any hope of eternal life just deaden people to the reality of their living conditions and made them less likely to rise up and throw off the shackles property owners had put on them. The New Testament doesn’t look at hope of eternal life that way at all.
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied (I Corinthians 15:16-19).
“Meet me at the gates,” I jokingly said as we entered the hospital. It was a light moment because we didn’t think his risk of death was very high but the comment was a foundational truth we both believed. Now that is hope, not a drug. As I grieve my great loss with many tears, I am thankful for this hope,
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:56 ).
Eternal life is not only a New Testament doctrine. Isaiah was written for the comfort of believers,
He will swallow up death forever; and the LORD GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken (Isaiah 25:8).
As an old man, John (Jesus’s beloved disciple) was allowed a glimpse into heaven,
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass (Revelation 21:21).
The first gift my John gave me was a pearl and gold bracelet. It was stolen, but pearls always remained a symbol of our first love. My hope amidst this grief is that John will be standing by these gates watching for his friends–especially me. “Meet me at the gates. See you later.” —our last words.
But, this hope of resurrection is not all about us. It is about our Savior and King, the LORD Jesus Christ. One of the hymns we sang at John’s funeral says it best,
The bride eyes not her garment, but her dear bridegroom’s face; I will not gaze at glory, but on my King of grace; not at the crown he giveth, but on his pierced hand; the Lamb is all the glory of Emmanuel’s land. (“The Sands of Time Are Sinking,” by Anne Cousin, 1857).
Won’t you turn from demanding your own pleasures and desires and wholeheartedly believe in the LORD Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord? There is no other way to make up for the times you have broken God’s Moral Law in thought, word, or action. The rich young ruler had kept the Ten Commandments outwardly, but his heart was still untouched because of his love of money and its pleasures. Remember, if there is a heaven with angels and crowns for reward, then there must be a place of torment and punishment. Let the fear of going there motivate you to flee to Christ Jesus as your great Rescuer. Then, we will all meet at those beautiful gates.