Lord of the Dead: Unexpected Comfort for the Dying
“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”
Recently while I was re-memorizing and meditating upon these words, a phrase jumped out at me. Surely you have had this experience when reading the Bible. Something that was always there that you have read, perhaps even memorized, takes on new meaning or importance for you as if it were never there before. In Romans 14, Paul is addressing an important feature of the righteous man’s way of life: Tolerance of the conscience of others. He tells us that we have to recognize that the other person is serving his Lord – that’s what we all do as Christians. We seek to honor the Lord in what we do. And then he adds the words written above from Romans 14:7-9. In those verses, Paul gives us a reason why Jesus died and lives again. The purpose was this: that He might be Lord of the dead and the living. We might have said Lord of the living and have left it as that, but Paul says, “Lord of the dead” as well. Almost every dying person I have known in the last days wants to know, “Now what?” Perhaps one wonders, “Will I be received by the Lord?”, “Can I really be forgiven?” Some may ask “What will Heaven be like?” Others may say, “How will I know if I will be with the Lord?” The Bible says very little about Heaven. Indeed, the Bible does not say much about the experience of those who die or who are dead. But soon we will all be dead. What then?
The word that Jesus is Lord both of the dead and the living raises in my mind the thought that even as Jesus has risen, our Savior, our keeper, our friend, and the one we serve in life as we are united to Him by faith, -- so He will be our Savior, our Keeper, our friend, and the one we serve when our bodies are put to rest in the grave. He is Lord of the dead. This is not a macabre expression, rather, as we live with direct reference with all that we do to Jesus as our Lord, so we go into death and serve the Lord in our dying. In it we seek to die in a manner pleasing to the Lord. And as we recognize we will soon no longer be serving the Lord in this life, we offer ourselves to Him as the Lord who will keep us beyond our dying and when we are dead. This gives us the comfort that we need in order to go into death confident that we may entrust ourselves to the Lord who kept us in life and who will also keep us in death as Lord of the dead.