In Memory Of Those We Have Loved and Lost

In Memory Of Those We Have Loved and Lost

May 26th, 1996 @ 7:30 PM

Hebrews 11:40

God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
Related Topics: Eternity, Family, Heaven, Love, Memories, 1996, Hebrews
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IN MEMORY OF THOSE WE HAVE LOVED AND LOST FOR A LITTLE WHILE

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Hebrews 11:40

5-26-96     7:30 p.m.

 

 

I have been a pastor and a preacher very soon seventy full years.  And in all of that long ministry, I have never preached a sermon on death.  I have never delivered an address on Memorial Day.  And I thought at this hour I would do just so.  It is entitled In Memory of Those We Have Loved and Lost for Just a While.  And the background and the text is the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews.  Reading the last two verses:  "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, received not the promise:  God having provided some better thing for us."  And the text:  "God having provided some better thing for us."

The entire eleventh chapter of Hebrews is dedicated to a roll call of the saints, of the men and women of faith.  Starting at Abel, he names the great saints of the Old Testament.  He even adds to it the glorious witnesses of the inter-biblical period, and then finally makes this observation: all of them died in just hope, in just faith.  They never saw or realized the promises of God.  They never knew what God has revealed to us in Christ Jesus:  His death, His burial, His resurrection, and His glorious coming again.  Then he closes the chapter with that remarkable verse:  "God having provided some better thing for us."  And we shall tonight look at that "better thing," hidden away in the vague, dimly faith and hope of all of the saints before our Lord; but they are gloriously revealed to us in Christ Jesus.

"God having provided some better thing for us," a better body; in this we all grow old and die, the end of our death is the grave.  "God having provided some better thing for us," a better body:  we shall be in the promise like Him.  He died, then He was glorified, and transfigured, and transformed, and given a new and precious body.  This is God’s avowal for us.  We also shall have a better body, made like unto His body:  glorified, resurrected, transformed, and made like unto the glorious body of our Lord [Philippians 3:21].

It is a remarkable thing to me that the body you have is eternal:  you will have it forever.  There is no such thing as the dissolving and the destruction of matter.  It is eternal.  It may change form, such as the ocean water may be rain, such as the sunshine may turn into darkness, but the atomic structure of our atmosphere never changes.  It may be that in our pilgrimage we have stumbled and fallen, and finally are found dead; but the form may change, but the actuality will never change.  You will live forever.

In the Bible, there are those named and described who were martyred.  Stephen was stoned to death.  James the son of Zebedee, by Herod Agrippa was beheaded.  Paul the apostle lay in his own blood, martyred by Caesar Nero.  And I have visited some of the glorious places in this earth where the martyrs of Christ laid down their lives.  Balthazar Hubmaier, in Vienna I’ve stood where he was burned at the stake.  I have gone to the edge of the Danube River, where his wife was bound, and drowned.  Felix Manz, our great Baptist leader, at the lake of Lucerne was cast into the waters, and drowned.  I have stood there and sought to relive the life and witness of those two great Baptist preachers.  But their dust is in this earth.  And God knows where it is.  And some glorious day, He will speak to that dust, and these martyrs shall live.

This is you:  the dust of your decaying frame and body may be mingled with all of the earth, but God knows where it is, and He sees it; and some glorious day He will raise it from the dead.  You are eternal.

In my illness, and in the days and nights of my thinking and praying, I wrote a song.  I am going to try to sing it for you.  So you be patient with me as I try.  Talking about the griefs and sadnesses of this life that end in death, and the glorious coming again of our Lord, and the resurrection of His children:

When a woman gets blue, when a woman gets blue,

She sits right down and cries

When a woman gets blue, when a woman gets blue,

She sits right down and cries.

When a man gets blue, when a man gets blue,

He hops a plane and rides.

 

When a preacher gets blue, when a preacher gets blue,

He reads the Word and sighs.

When a preacher gets blue, when a preacher gets blue,

He reads the Word and sighs.

When a church gets blue, when a church gets blue,

They kneel and look up to the skies.

 

When God gets blue, when God gets blue,

He goes to the cross and dies.

When God gets blue, when God gets blue,

He goes to the cross and dies.

When God gets blue, when God gets blue,

He goes to the cross and dies.

 

When Jesus comes back, when Jesus comes back,

He will speak to the dead, and say, Arise!

When Jesus comes back, when Jesus comes back,

He will speak to the dead, and say, Arise!

When Jesus comes back, when Jesus comes back,

He will say to the dead, Arise!

 

This is our glorious triumph in Christ Jesus:  we shall be made like unto Him.  He died, and was resurrected, and was glorified and transfigured.  And the Bible says we shall be like Him; in the third chapter of Philippians, in the third chapter of 1 John, "We shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" [1 John 3:2].  "God having provided some better thing for us," a better body.

"God having provided some better thing for us," a better home.  However the mansion you may possess and live in in this world, it is a shabby cottage compared to the glorious mansion the Lord is preparing for us in heaven.  When I turn to the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, I read what is possibly the most precious of all the verses in the Bible:  "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God," and we do, "believe also in Me," and we shall:

In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also

[John 14:1-3]

 

I suppose, in all of my years of study, I have never seen such difference of interpretation as these theologians make in reading that glorious promise.  It says here, "In My Father’s oikos," that’s a house; and it says, that, "I go to prepare a tópos, a place for you," a place."  So some of the commentators and exegetes and expositors say the oikos, and that refers to the entire creation of God; it refers to this world, it refers to all the starry spheres, it refers to the entire universe.  Then there are others who say that oikos, that tópos, refers to a beautiful extensive house, palace, of an Oriental king.  Then others say that oikos and that tópos refers to the creation of God, called a monai.  And that word monai is so differently translated by these learned theologians who place the words of God in our English language.  Some of them say that monai means "an abode."  Some say it means "an abiding place."  Some say it means "an arresting place."  Goodspeed translated it "rooms."  Not any of them, I think, seize the meaning of our Lord in saying to us, "There are many mansions."

In the King James Version they translate monai, "mansion."  And in this New King James Version out of which we read, it is written "mansions."  And I love to think that that is the true meaning of that beautiful promise:  "In My Father’s house are many mansions"; glorious homes for our people.

I think of Robert Louis Stevenson, great English poet, who fell into illness in his native land, in England.  In despair, he left his country and went down to a little island in the South Pacific, hoping to regain his health.  He failed; and he died, and was buried there in that little island in the South Pacific.  And just before he died, he wrote this beautiful tribute:

Under the wide and starry sky,

Dig the grave and let me [lie]:

Glad did I live and gladly die,

And I lay me down with a will.

 

This be the verse ye ‘grave for me:

Here he lies where he long’d to be;

Home, home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.

["Requiem"]

 

"God having provided some better thing for us," a better home.

"God having provided some better thing for us," a better family, fellowship, and communion.  There is not one of you here but who belongs to a dissolving family circle.  There’s no exception – mother’s gone, father’s gone, maybe wife or husband is gone, maybe the children are gone – no one of us but lives in that dying, dissolving family fellowship; and how beautiful and wonderful it is to think of our rendezvous, our gathering, our being together up there with Jesus in heaven.

I one time heard the testimony of an old, old, old man.  He said, "When I was a boy, I thought of heaven as a place of gates of pearl, streets of gold, and a great throng of people, not one of whom I knew."  Then he said, "The years brought sorrow to our family in the death of my little brother.  I changed my heart about heaven:  I then thought of it as a place of the gates of pearl, of the streets of gold, of a vast throng I didn’t know, and one little speck of a face."  Then the old man continued, saying, "And the years have multiplied and passed, and now I am alone in this pilgrimage.  My wife is gone, my children are gone, my mother and father are gone, all of my family are gone; and now I think of heaven.  I never consider, remember, think of gates of pearl or streets of gold; but now I think of heaven as the home of my family whom I love, and soon I will be with them in glory."

I’ll sing you a song of that beautiful land,

The far away home of the soul,

Where no storms ever beat on the glittering strand,

As the years of eternity roll.

 

Oh, how sweet it will be in that beautiful home,

So free from all sorrow and pain,

With songs in our hearts, and with harps in our hands,

To greet one another again.

["Home of the Soul"; Ellen M. H. Gates]

 

"God having provided some better thing for us," a better home, a better family, a better communion, a better fellowship.

"God having provided some better thing for us," a better tomorrow.  What do I face in my life?  I’ll be eighty-seven years old this year.  What do I face as the ultimate in my life?  If ever you were in the marble, beautiful mausoleum in the Hillcrest Cemetery, inside that mausoleum – as an astonishment to me – Mattie Caruth Byrd created a beautiful, marble crypt for me.  And the many times I have had services in that mausoleum, I walk by that marble crypt and read my name.  That is the ultimate in my life; as I progress, I have moved more and more to that tomorrow.

How different it is to believe in Christ, that He has provided some glorious tomorrow for us.  In the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation, "There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for these things are all passed away."  What a glorious tomorrow we face in our Lord!  Think of it:  to be together, and to be with our precious Lord Jesus.  Oh, what a beautiful faith, and hope, and promise, and coming reality!

I think of that marvelous poem – beautiful – by Alfred Lord Tennyson, the poet laureate of England.  In his age he wrote a poem, and asked that it always be published at the end of his works.  Do you remember it?

Sunset and evening star,

And one clear call for me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar,

When I put out to sea,

 

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

Too full for sound or foam,

When that which drew out of the boundless deep

Turns again home.

 

Twilight and evening bell,

And after that the dark!

But may there be no sadness of farewell

When I embark;

 

For tho’ from out this borne of time and place

The tide may bear me far,

I hope to see my Pilot face to face,

When I have crossed the bar.

["Crossing the Bar"]

 

I would just love to change one little half of a sentence:

When I shall see my Savior face to face,

When I have crossed the bar.

 

"God having provided some better thing for us," a better tomorrow.