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I got the call a little after noon this last Monday. It was the Monroe County Medical Examiner. My cousin Beverly had been found in her apartment – dead. Apparently from a heart attack.
Beverly never married, and never had children. After her parents passed some years ago, she lived alone in a small, 1 bedroom apartment. She was what we would refer to now as “mentally challenged.” “Simple” in my day. She really was more like a little girl though over 70. She had worked for many years on the assembly line at Kodak, and retired. Though almost illiterate, she nevertheless owned a car, paid her own bills meticulously and had a fierce loyalty to her family and small cadre of friends.
She was a big gal, and gave crushing hugs.
One cousin told me he will miss that the most about her.
And she loved Jesus.
She would often text me to say she was watching Billy Graham on TV, or the Gaithers. She LOVED Gospel music. When the quartet was together she was absolutely our most devoted and avid fan. And as I have been going through her effects, I have found page after page of Scripture references she had been reading. Though in all reality, she probably understood quite little of what she read. But she gave herself to it nonetheless.
She was horribly afraid of thunderstorms. Frightened she would lose power. And after selling her car sometime back, seldom left the apartment for over a year. And never recovered from the grief of losing her last cat and companion – Baby – 9 months ago.
And I could not help but think of her as I entered into today’s readings in Micah 6:1-Nahum 1:1, John 18:12-18, and especially Revelation 14:6-20 where we read: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
I’m Reid Ferguson, and you are listening to Through the Word in 2020.
It comforted me once again this morning to see this first: Blessed are those in the Lord, even in death.
Something the lost haven’t even the slightest glimmer of. But Bev knows in all of its fullness right now. All die, but all are not blessed in their dying. Only those who are “in the Lord” know such a thing.
Such blessedness is connected entirely with being “in the Lord.” Not with dying peacefully, painlessly, swiftly, comfortably or unaware – but by virtue of being “In the Lord.” By having trusted in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary alone for the forgiveness of their sins, and reconciliation to God.
What a hope Believers have. That dying “in the Lord” makes a mockery of the death that our sin brought into the World. And because it is being “in the Lord” that makes this true, I am reminded of the words of old John Flavel when he wrote: “the most eagle-eyed philosophers were but children in knowledge, compared with the most illiterate Christians.” And I could not help of think of Bev in that regard. Blessed is she indeed.
Even in her death.
Secondly, note how the text says Blessed ARE those, not WERE.
This is in the present tense.
Those who are “In the Lord” are blessed even now – for their lives are still in Him and they have entered into their eternal reward. They are blessed right now. They have passed through the dark waters and the valley of death’s shadow, and have emerged into the sunlight of the face of Jesus Christ on the other side. More blessed is the meanest and most humble saint who has died, than the most blessed and prosperous in every way in this present life. For each gift and privilege here, is but the very darkest of shadows compared to the glory of being in the presence of our Redeemer.
And thirdly, as Andrew Fuller wrote: “It has been a common observation on this passage, and for aught I know a just one, that their works are not said to go before them as a ground of justification, but to follow them as witnesses in their favour.”
The Believer’s good works do not go before us, so as to qualify us for blessedness. They follow us. To confirm that we are already blessed in Christ by faith.
My dear, simple, child-like cousin Beverly, stands now before the throne of her Savior, with every impediment she inherited in this fallen world removed – and perfected in her Christ forever more.
How glorious to be able to say today: Blessed is Bev, for she died in the Lord. Blessed indeed. She is at rest from her life of labor just to fit in and be “normal.” And her works, her simple trust in Jesus follow her.
How grateful I am today.
God willing, we’ll be back tomorrow.