Comfort and encouragement are not easy to accept when a loved one dies. How often have we attended a funeral and listened to a sermon extolling the virtues of going to heaven? Yet in many cases the family doesn’t seem to be comforted by these remarks. Their anguish and sorrow is evident by the emotions on display. Choruses of grief, weeping and crying are expressed over the departure of a beloved parent, grandparent, husband, wife, child, relative or dear friend.
If a person goes directly to heaven when he dies, why isn’t a celebration or party thrown for the deceased? Supposedly he or she is in heaven with God. So why isn’t everybody happy? Is being with God bad?
Most ministers preach about the glories of heaven in trying to comfort and encourage the family and friends. Christian missionaries traverse the globe touting the merits and pleasure of heaven. Yet few people seem anxious to go there. People will do almost anything to extend their physical lives. They’ll spend everything they have on pills, vitamins and medical procedures that have as their aim extending people’s lives—in other words, keeping them from their ultimate reward.
Is there any hope for the dead? Do the dead simply cease to exist? Do they go to heaven, or, as Muslims believe, to paradise?
One of the fastest-growing trends in the Western world is the “New Age” movement. Under the New Age umbrella you’ll find a potpourri of religious ideas, many of them influenced by ancient Eastern religions. One of the cardinal beliefs held by many in this movement is the belief in reincarnation—that, after death, a person is reborn to live another life as a human being (or as something else).
But do the Holy Scriptures support any of these concepts? Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about the hope of the dead.
When the apostle Paul was on trial for his life before the Jewish Sanhedrin, he made the following declaration: “Concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” (Acts 23:6 Acts 23:6But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout). Later, when Paul defended himself before the Roman governor Felix, he boldly stated: “I have hope in God, … that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15 Acts 24:15And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
American King James Version×).
Paul was echoing Jesus Christ’s own words from John 5:28-29 John 5:28-29  Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
 And shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.
American King James Version×: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”
All who have died will be resurrected back to life, said Jesus. This is the hope of the dead.
Last August my 86-year-old mother died soon after she suffered a stroke. I miss my mother dearly—as do all of my sisters and brothers.
Yet even though we sorrow over her death because there is a great void in our lives, we have hope. When my mother was lying in a hospital bed facing her own mortality, she never deviated from the hope of the resurrection. Forty-four years ago my mother learned the fundamental truth of the Bible that the resurrection of the dead is the hope of all mankind. When she died, it was with the quiet confidence that she would live again—that God would not forget her.
Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 1 Thessalonians 4:13But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
American King James Version×, states that we all can have that same confidence: “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” He then describes the resurrection of the righteous at Christ’s second coming and finishes with this instruction: “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (verse 18).
Real comfort comes from understanding the truth of God—that He will not forget the dead, but will resurrect all who are in their graves. GN