Please disregard Part One.  It was prematurely published by my misbehaving computer.1-Corinthians_15-55

My wife, Anita, and our daughters, Sally and Kelly, went on a road trip in July.  We live and work at a home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico, which is about 300 miles south of Mexico City.  We drove to visit my parents who live in northeastern Colorado.  It was a long trip, but worth it, as Sally and Kelly, 7 and 8 years old, got to see a lot of the two countries of which they are citizens.

We stopped at a lot of museums along the way, both in the U.S. and in Mexico.  One thing they all seemed to have in common – DEATH!  We hit three museums our first day after crossing the border into Texas.  Judge Roy Bean museum featured the actual building where the famous judge lived and died.  We stood in the billiard room where he breathed his last breath.  Next stop was the Fort Stockton museum where we learned the Indians, or Native Americans, if you prefer, where killing a lot of people bound for the western U.S.  The government build Fort Stockton and started killing the Indians.  The final museum was in Pecos, Texas.  There an old hotel and saloon had been turned into a historical museum of sorts.  The saloon featured an animated bartender who told the story of the death of two cowboys at the hands of a third.  The places where they fell and died were indicated by a marker on the floor.  That was the loss of life we encountered on our way north.

On our way home we took a different route and ended up at Dodge City, Kansas.  The museum there was a recreation of the famous/infamous wild west town.  It was at the end of a long cattle drive, back in the day.  The cowboys, after being on the trail for weeks at a time, finished their trek in Dodge City, got paid.  Pockets full of cash, they headed to the saloons, and with heads full of booze and there was lots of gunfights, knife fights and death.  We visited the cemetery there called Boot Hill and then watched as this museum staged a gunfight between the sheriff with his deputies against a gang of desperadoes.

Back in Mexico we spent a day in Guanajuato.  The ultimate place of death. Four locations, four places of death.  The first was a torture chamber.  Here part of the Mexican Inquisition took place.  Heretics and infidels were tortured and killed.  The second museum was an old mine.  Dozens of miners died extracting gold and silver.  The third was the “Calle de beso” or “Kissing street” where two young lovers shared their last kiss before an enraged father killed his own daughter.  The fourth and final place was the worst.  The mummy museum.  A building with over a hundred dead bodies that had been exhumed from the local cemetery and put on display. This was by far the most popular museum in town.  Hundreds of people stand in line for over an hour everyday to buy a ticket and see the “mummies”.

Visiting all these museums made me think about death and what the Bible says about death.  More specifically, what attitude should those of us who live in the Happy Kingdom have about death?

For me, the first thing to remember is that everyone starts life dead.  We begin our existence existing, but not really living.  The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”  The way to move from death to Life, from merely existing to truly living is through Jesus.  Paul goes on to say in verses five and six, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”  In the words of Jesus in John 3:16, “… that whoever believes (in the Son) shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Once we believe we immediately become citizens of God’s Happy Kingdom.  We should no longer worry about physical death.  Physical death for the Christian is not the end, but the beginning.  The beginning of eternal joy and peace and perfect righteousness.  NO MORE SIN!  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where O death is your sting?”  No longer does death have any victory or sting over the believer.

Paul also writes to the Philippians, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.  Yet what shall I choose?  I do not know!  I am torn between the two:  I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (1:21-23).

On our vacation we were often reminded of death in various ways in a lot of different places.  I wonder about all those people who died.  Did they die with confidence, knowing they would soon be in the immediate presence of a loving and gracious Father?  Or did they die in fear, feeling the sting of death, not knowing what eternity would hold for them?

Thank God for Jesus, for forgiveness, for the washing away of guilt, the new life and sure hope for eternity.  We can no longer fear death, but embrace it, knowing our Lord and Savior waits for us behind deaths door.