Revival and Reformation

The good thing about death

Sam Neves, MA, is the associate director of Communication, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

Imagine informing someone about the death of Queen Elizabeth II only to be questioned about who that might be. While the French king Louis XIV remains the longest-serving monarch in world history, Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning monarch in British history. Her death is a wake-up call for each of us who refuses to face the eternal consequences of our own mortality. We have a future hope as we long for Jesus’ second coming, when life after death becomes a reality, and we have a present hope as we strive for God’s will to be done “ ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ ” (Matt. 6:10, NKJV).

Dying as certainty

Many of us seldom confront death face to face. The more adept at postmodernism a society is, the less contact with death people experience. In many Western societies, death is a taboo subject, and people bottle up their grief. In African societies, death, though tragic, is recognized as part of the life cycle with extended and public periods of mourning, allowing for grief to be expressed.

Pastors will never be able to prepare people for the second coming of Christ unless they confront congregations and communities with the cold certainty of death. Theologian Paul Tillich said, “Do not deceive yourself about the seriousness of death—not death in general, not the death of somebody else, but your own death—by nice arguments for the immortality of the soul. The Christian message is more realistic than those arguments. It knows that we, really we, have to die; it is not just a part of us that has to die.”1 This fundamental truth of our mortality might be the beginning of our journey to freedom and, ultimately, hope.

Living as royalty

No one is perfect, regardless of position, function, or power. All fall short, all have sinned, and all die. Regardless of how many good deeds, regardless of what anyone would do, no one deserves eternal life. Nothing Queen Elizabeth II possessed and nothing she ever did, good or bad, through action or inaction, made her deserving of heaven. Her perceived devotion to Christ was perhaps her acknowledgment of that reality.

God considered the late queen and any one of us as equals, but perhaps not in the way you think. The book of Revelation describes the new earth as having only one social class—and it is not the working class. To God, we are all royalty, each furnished with our very own crown.

However, our royal status is not something that will happen only in the future. From the first story of the earth, as author N. T. Wright points out, God had created us as “kings and priests.”2 We serve as royalty in reflecting God’s character as we rule the earth.

Judging as equality

For everyone who has passed, their destinies are sealed, but if you are reading this, your choices are not. “ ‘The hour of His judgment has come’ ” (Rev. 14:7, NKJV), the hour when even the late queen will be judged. Our destinies are entwined with our care for the oppressed.

Ellen G. White declares, “Christ on the Mount of Olives pictured to His disciples the scene of the great judgment day. And He represented its decision as turning upon one point. When the nations are gathered before Him, there will be but two classes, and their eternal destiny will be determined by what they have done or have neglected to do for Him in the person of the poor and the suffering.”3 Perhaps the inevitable death of the queen may awaken in you the reality of how your choices may define your eternal destiny and the destiny of your congregation and community.

Former British prime minister Theresa May ended her tribute to the late queen in line with biblical theology: “May she rest in peace and rise in glory.” This is the hope of every Seventh-day Adventist in the world, as we believe death will not have the last word because everyone who sleeps in Jesus will also rise in glory (1 Thess. 4:13–18).

  1. Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1948), 172; emphasis in the original.
  2. Mike Bird, “N. T. Wright: The Church Continues the Revolution Jesus Started,” Christianity Today, October 13, 2016, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/october-web-only/n-t-wright-jesus-death-does-more-than-just-get-us-into-heav.html.
  3. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), 637.

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Sam Neves, MA, is the associate director of Communication, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

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