Our site centers on the writing of eulogies. Eulogy writing is who we are and what we do, but all of it is wrapped up in the fact that people die – good people, bad people, young and old. We all die. One day someone will eulogize us and say words of comfort and hope to those who mourn our passing. But what is death and what is it all about? That is, perhaps, the biggest question in the universe and one we, as eulogy writers, often ask ourselves. Following are some personal insights – not ultimate truth, perhaps, but ideas that satisfy us and might you or, maybe, questions that will stimulate more questions – some of which cannot be answered. We hope you enjoy (sic.) and are inspired to think deeper about death and dying and, ultimately, what someone will say at your funeral about you in the eulogy they compose. We have used the blog “The Truth About Death” as a starting point for our thinking and extend to the author of that blog our most sincere appreciation. Interestingly, we did not agree with their conclusions so significantly changed their ending to reflect our own position on death. -----------------------------
Any study of the nature of death begs an important and fundamental question: Why must things die in the first place?
Death is the grand mystery. Throughout time, every major religion, philosophy, and spiritual train of thought has sought to explain the mystery of death. And why not? Ultimately, all things die. Death is the one constant among all living things. Plant or animal, we are all mortal and will, one day die.
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, scientific research into single-celled organisms reveals that the nature of life, on a cellular level, does not automatically include a self-destruct mechanism for death. In other words, it appears that death is an unnatural part of life. Yet despite this, everything on earth eventually dies.
Many lines of religious thought simply accept the inevitability of death and instead try to offer better alternatives that await the faithful in the afterlife. Death happens – but there’s more to come – better, brighter, without death… These ideas bring comfort to many people who have lost loved ones or are facing death themselves, but they leave others wondering, “Why must death exist? Wouldn’t an all-powerful God eradicate death? Shouldn’t all life live forever?” These, of course, are not questions posed in a eulogy because a eulogy is a review of a life story and tends to stay away from profound questions about human existence.
The question of the nature of death brings profound implications about the nature of God. Maybe, some reason, God is not as powerful as He says, since the problem of death remains. Or maybe God isn’t as loving and good as we like to imagine. Or maybe there is no such thing as death, but instead a continual rebirth through reincarnation. Maybe, according to a train of thought that has grown in popularity since the 19th century, life is nothing more than a biochemical accident, and death brings with it a never-ending state of nothingness. Maybe there is no God at all. Or, if there is, maybe that God is totally impersonal and unknowable.
The mystery of death is so profound that, despite the millennia of religious doctrine, mythology, scientific research, and the many theories and explanations that exist on the subject, people today are more confused than ever about it. Even within individual religious groups there is often a stark difference of opinion on the nature of death. To see this, walk around a cemetery and note the different inscriptions on the tombstones. Epitaphs range from the hopeful to the macabre. You can find the same confusion in the eulogies family members present at the deaths of their loved ones. People might believe in God and the doctrines of the church but when their loved one dies, the eulogy invariably ushers that person into the throne room of God in a hopeful way.
The subjects of death and religion are inherently linked. If something does await us after we die, a supernatural being like a god must be involved. It stands to reason, then, that we should look to religious texts to find information about death.
There are many religious texts available today but they do not all say the same thing about death. In fact, one of the reasons there are so many opinions about death is the diverse array of religious doctrines on the subject. So how do we know which text, if any, will guide our search correctly?
First, we must look for a text that claims to be directly from God. After all, if God holds the answers to death, then any real answer must come from Him/Her/It. This singular principle narrows the selection of texts considerably. For example, the Buddhist texts contain many spiritual insights, but Buddha himself never claimed to be God, or to speak on God’s behalf. Thus, the insights contained there are Buddha’s, not God’s.
In reality, there is only one collection of texts in existence that makes the bold claim to contain direct communications from God: the collection we call the Bible. Over and over again, it records God speaking directly to mankind; in fact, the Bible itself claims that the Holy Spirit of God communicated the contents of the Scriptures to God’s prophets on earth, who wrote them down. Thus, if that is to be believed, the true author of the Bible is God.
Though some other religious texts also claim to be from God, such as the Koran and the Book of Mormon, they do not claim to supersede or replace the Bible. The Muslim faith claims its prophet, Mohammed, was a descendant of Abraham’s son Ishmael, a character found in the book of Genesis; the Book of Mormon claims that it is “another” testament of Jesus Christ. Thus, both texts and the faiths that view them as authoritative ultimately acknowledge the Bible as a communication from God. We should look to the Bible, then, for answers about death.
The Bible contains a record of the entire history of mankind, from the moment man was created on the earth until the close of earth’s history and beyond. It describes a world where death did not exist, explains how death came to exist here, and reveals the steps God took to eventually eliminate death and restore that planet to its originally intended state.
The Bible also claims that God is the source and originator of all life. It makes this claim many times. Therefore, we have a detailed description of the nature of life and death from the One who is responsible for life in the first place. In our view, this makes the Bible the authoritative source to learn about issues relating to death. We understand that this is not a universally accepted position to take, but the Bible has been the standard for our understanding of death for millennia, so it is, at the very minimum, an excellent place to begin.
You might also say: “I don’t believe in God.” If this is true, then you certainly don’t believe that the Bible is inspired or written by God. That is your choice, and we respect it. However, ask yourself what it is you do believe and why you believe it … and we encourage you to learn a different perspective about life and death than you’ve likely heard before.
Death is an abnormality. Death is nearly as old as life itself on this planet, and its roots are from even earlier. The Bible records the origin of death on earth and also the events that happened elsewhere that allowed for death to exist in the first place. The Scriptures are perfectly clear that death is an abnormality and was never meant to exist at all.
To understand why everyone on this planet is subject to the strange mystery of death, we must first travel elsewhere in the universe, to a place the Bible calls heaven. Heaven is not, of course, a geographical nor even a physical place. It is a spiritual dimension, the location of which is unknowable and irrelevant.
Heaven is where God dwells. It is the headquarters of the universe. Long before there was life on earth, there was life in heaven. The Bible tells us that creatures we know as angels existed there. There were many angels, “ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands and thousands” of them, a number so high they are essentially “innumerable” (Revelation 5:11; Hebrews 12:22). These beings lived in perfect harmony with each other. They served God and each other. There was no death. God’s perfect creatures were made to live forever, living ever more abundantly as time went on. I know this is getting rather theological, but bear with me, this background is important and that will be revealed momentarily…
Something went wrong in this heavenly paradise. The Bible tells us of one of these angels who was “perfect in [his] ways from the day [he was] created, till iniquity was found in [him]” (Ezekiel 28:15). In other words, the seed of sin festered in this angel’s heart until it finally erupted into a full rebellion.
Because Lucifer (that was the angel’s name) could not declare open rebellion against God without help, he gathered the support of many of the other angels and, eventually, a “war broke out in heaven” (Revelation 12:7). Lucifer, now renamed Satan (the accuser) because of his rebellion, lost this war, and he and his followers were banished.
This sinful angel came to earth and was the author of rebellion (sin) within the human race.
Let’s stop for a moment to consider something important: Why did God not destroy this Lucifer (renamed Satan) in the beginning? That would have prevented him from coming to Earth and spared all of us from sin and death. Why did God permit Satan to live when the rest of us must die? This question is of the greatest significance, and it gets right to the heart of who God is and why we should learn about Him.
The Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). The Bible also says that love is not provoked but rejoices in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). Just as we are free to make our own decisions each day, so too are the angels. Satan accused God of being unfair, of hoarding to Himself power and worship that rightly belonged to others including Satan himself. If God destroyed Satan immediately as a result of his rebellion, the remaining angels would see that God was easily provoked and might be afraid of Him. They might serve Him out of fear and not love. In order for God to demonstrate the truth about His character of love, He must allow Satan’s rebellion to reveal its own results. God wants His angels and people to serve Him because His way is righteous, just, and leads to life, happiness, and prosperity—not out of fear of destruction if they rebel. Satan’s rebellion in heaven and on earth ultimately reveals that its results are death, disease, destruction, heartache, divorce, starvation, torture, war, homicide, suicide, genocide, and “all kinds of evil.”
This sad tale has affected everyone who has ever lived. Through no fault of our own, we were born into a world that is separated from the God who created it, and as such we all must face the day we must eventually die. But there is hope! The same God who made mankind “in His own image” cares too much to allow us to die in despair (Genesis 1:27). Through Jesus Christ, we have the hope of immortality restored to us. This is the hope held out in most eulogies for mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers… the hope of life with God after death. Not all eulogies suggest this as a possibility but many do and, if the deceased was a believer, such a statement in the eulogy is appropriate.
So that is where death comes from. Now on to the next big question: What, exactly, happens when we die? Heaven? Hell? Reincarnation? Nothing? Once again we turn to the primary source for these kinds of answers for the last several thousand years…
We acknowledge that there is an invisible, intangible part of human life that exists apart from the body. However, the Bible tells us that it is not an immortal human soul, but rather a spirit from God. God lends us a part of Himself while we are alive, but that part returns to God when we die because it was always on loan from God to begin with.
This concept is easy to understand when we consider the elements of artificial light. We create light by starting with a light bulb and adding an electric current to it. The product of those two elements is light. When we break the bulb or stop the electricity, the light ceases to exist. The light, like our lives, cannot exist in the absence of either of the two components that make it up.
No one really knows what death is like because no one has come back from it. It is universally final. But there is hope. There is hope that those who continue to shine that light of God in their lives will shine on with God in heaven.
We urge you to find a church to continue seeking answers that satisfy you about death. It is important to understand that all teachings (and even interpretations of the Bible) are subject to human error and bias. Read, study, think, pray. God will reward you with peace.
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The Eulogy Writers 4100 Old Dominion Dr. West Bloomfield, MI 48323
Writers: Steve Schafer, Ralph DiBiasio-Snyder, Abi Galeas, Miriam Hill Steve's Personal Cell Phone: (734) 846-3072 Our email address is: Write4Me@TheEulogyWriters.com