Hope of the Resurrection - Part One

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Hope of the Resurrection - Part One

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{In loving memory of my dear wife}

Waiting anxiously in the small private counseling room, my wife and I valiantly tried to suppress the fear of what we were about to hear. Finally, the door opened and the doctor entered, appearing calm and somewhat aloof of our anxiety. As he began to discuss the results of the biopsy, I wondered how many patients he had had to console as he presented them with the hopeless prognosis of their condition.

Many have felt the fear and anguish of facing a crisis of impending death or of having a loved one consumed by the pain and anxiety of a hopelessly terminal condition—whether it is due to illness, accident or malicious act of violence. I felt utterly helpless when I realized there was nothing I could do to protect or free my wife from the cause of her pain and anxiety.

What can you do when your loving wife of 29 years is diagnosed with an advanced terminal condition and predicted to live only a few months? How do you tell your children?

I remembered all the good years and the wonderful intimate moments together. I thought of our plans to finish remodeling the house. Would she live to enjoy it? We had been looking forward to sharing our lives and many joys with our children and grandchildren; our first grandchild was to be born in four months. What more can a husband and father anticipate than to rejoice with the wife of his youthandsee his children's children(Proverbs 5:18, Psalm 127:3)?

Fear of suffering and death

We all have a natural fear of suffering and death (Hebrews 2:15), but how does one plan for tragedy or handle emotional trauma when it comes? As we become caught up in our trials, it may seem as if the whole world is coming to an end, but that is not the end of all hope. There is a greater purpose in this life than most of us see—a hope that can help us overcome the pain and helplessness of the moment.

My wife was a thoughtful, gentle person, always busy serving her family and others: cooking, gardening, sewing, making clothes for the family, and many other nice things. She was very creative in providing activities for the children in our neighborhood. Not only did she take care of the needs of the family, she was also a great help to me in my work, frequently cooking for, serving and entertaining the many college students and others we had over when I was teaching, and the many business associates we entertained when I went into business. Truly, “He who finds a wife [like her] finds a good thing” (Proverbs 18:22).

But as with most of us there are also tough times that test our mettle. When I developed a health problem, more of the burden of responsibility shifted to her. In addition to carrying out her responsibilities in the family and home, she went into part-time business with a good friend to help support the family.

Then, in the fall of 1993, just as we were preparing to leave on a trip to visit our oldest daughter and son-in-law, she began to notice a mild abdominal pain in the area of the appendix. A visit to a physician indicated intolerance to certain foods.

Despite occasional discomfort, my wife carried on with her part-time house cleaning business with the same level of energy and enthusiasm. She enjoyed getting out on her own earning shopping money and working with her special clients: one, a retired doctor and his wife; another, a spry ninety-year-old lady who lived near us. She also cleaned the offices of a small welding design and manufacturing company, which our youngest daughter helped with on weekends, and several others. All of these clients liked to do special things for her to show their appreciation for her friendly and faithful service.

By late November, however, she began to tire more easily and noticed some swelling of the abdomen. Another visit to a physician gave cause for some concern. This physician referred her to Oregon Health and Science University for more thorough diagnostic procedures.

My mother, 90 years old, had just died. Shortly after her funeral, we went in for diagnostic tests. During the first visit, X-rays were taken, as well as blood and other samples. No determinations could be made from those tests, so she was scheduled for a CAT scan of the abdominal area. Results indicated a serious enlargement of the liver of undetermined cause, possibly cancer, so a biopsy was taken. The lab reports came back two days later and showed the cause to be rapidly growing adenocarcinoma, probably metastasized (migrated) from the colon. The cancer specialist (oncologist) called us in to explain the outcome of the biopsy and the prognosis.

My wife, in her typical feisty manner, made it clear to the doctor before he spoke that she was not afraid to die; she just wanted to be at home with her family. I believe the doctor and nurse were more stunned by her spirit than we were by his hopeless prognosis. He explained the seriousness of the condition and the fact that there was nothing they could do for this type of cancer. At best they may be able to prolong her life three or four months with chemotherapy, but that would be a great risk as well as painful and expensive.

I asked the doctor if he knew of any alternative not-toxic therapies and what kind of a nutrition program we should put her on that might be beneficial. As a specialist in chemotherapy, he said he did not know of anything that would be helpful.

That was our last visit to the hospital. My dear wife did not want her last days to be confined to the cold, impersonal, intimidating surroundings of a strange hospital room being subjected to painful treatments with toxic chemicals to prolong a hopeless and miserable existence. Her faith was in God!

In all our years together, she had never been in a hospital. Our three children were born at home and she had never had any serious illness that needed medical care. She took good care of the family health. Why was this happening to her now? Why did it seem that God had let her down?

God's perfect work

At home, she struggled to remain active, insisting on getting up and preparing breakfast for our youngest daughter before school every day, up until the last couple of weeks when her legs began to swell. She spent more time in Bible study. I brought her sermon tapes, which she would listen to, sometimes many times. In her illness, she expressed her joy of having lived a very fulfilling life with her family, for her many friends, and for the many opportunities we had to travel. As she began to focus more on God, her faith and love grew stronger and she grew closer to God. Her mind stayed clear to the very end. She bravely accepted her trial and was greatly encouraged by the many prayers, cards, helps and concerns of everyone. Her fear had turned to love—God's love in her. God had finished his perfect work in her.

We mourned our loss and miss her friendly, caring, giving and serving love and kindness. Now we take comfort in the hope of the resurrection, when we will be together again.

She knew and understood God's promise of the resurrections. That is what gave her the faith, hope and confidence to face death without fear.

What is the hope of the resurrection?

God inspired the apostle Paul to write for those who mourn, “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

It was about 9:50 p.m., the last Sunday in January, as I sat at her side holding her hand, that she fell asleep, just a whisper of her former self. “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it... For man goes to his eternal home [place of concealment], and the mourners go about the streets” (Ecclesiastes 12:7, 5).

Is she now in heaven looking down on us? Although this is a comforting thought taught by most of traditional Christianity and is the theme of many emotionally uplifting movies, it is not biblical. God's inspired Word clearly reveals that man does not have an immortal soul that departs from the body at death to go either to heaven to live forever in eternal bliss or to hell in eternal torture. “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man [Jesus Christ] who is in heaven”(John 3:13). David, a man after God's own heart, “did not ascend into the heavens” (Acts 2:34; 13:22). Instead, the Bible compares death with a sleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13). When Christ returns, He will awaken them with a resurrection (John 5:25).

False belief not from our loving God

The Holy Bible teaches that man is made of the dust and, at death, returns to the dust (Genesis 2:7; 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:19-21). It is the “spirit of man” that makes possible human life and human minds (Zechariah 12:1). At death, that spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 8:7-8; 12:7). “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.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6). The lie that man is an immortal soul began with Satan, the father of lies (Genesis 3:3-4; John 8:44).

If a lie gives false comfort to some, the truth gives real hope and comfort to all who understand it (John 8:32; 17:17). In the beginning, God instructed our first parents in the way to eternal life and gave them free access to the tree of life, symbolic of His Holy Spirit—the promised guarantee of eternal life, which He gives to those who obey Him (Genesis 2:9,16; Acts 5:32; Ephesians 1:13-14). God also warned them of the results of deciding for themselves what was good and evil—taking of the tree of the knowledge of  good and evil (Genesis 2:17). When Satan tempted them, however, they chose to believe Satan rather than God and were cut off from access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:6, 22-24).

As a result of their choice, “sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Sin is the breaking of God's holy and righteous law (1 John 3:4; Romans 7:12). The penalty of sin is death (Romans 6:23; Ezekiel 18:4, 20). Our sins cut us off from God (Isaiah 59:1-2).God works through and with those who diligently seek Him and rewards them.  (Hebrews 11:6)

But that is not the end of the story. God revealed to mankind that a Savior would come to deliver man from the bondage of sin and death. Jesus Christ is that Savior! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us... For...when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son...” (Romans 5:8,10).

Why does God allow those like my wife, and especially innocent little children, to suffer and die? Consider God's mercy as explained by the prophet Isaiah: “The righteous perishes, and no one 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” (Isaiah 57:1-2). The apostle John wrote, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord...that they may rest from their labors” (Revelation 14:13).

Clearly, we all suffer from the effects of sin: our own as well as the cumulative sins of the world since Adam's time. Broken physical and spiritual laws cause pollution, degeneration, disease, stress, mental anxiety, hate, murder, etc. God's purposes in allowing our suffering is that we should come to understand the effects of sin and learn to love and obey His truth and righteous laws (Deuteronomy 5:29).

Truly, the greatest hope that we human beings can have is the hope of the resurrection from the dead—the resurrection to eternal life! (Acts 24:15; Titus 1:2; 3:7).

For more information about the resurrection look for part two of this article in the next issue of Virtual Christian Magazine.

For more on the topic, request our free booklets Why Does God Allow Suffering? and What Happens After Death?