(Jesus said) "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." Revelation 2:10
William Hahn, Jr. lived from 1905 to 1980. His tombstone reads, "I told you I was sick." The stone which sits over the deceased talk-show host, Merv Griffin, says, "I will not be back after this message," and the gravestone over Mohammed Said al-Sahal affirms, "I am not really dead. Do not believe those American lies."
Of course, the shortest obituary I have ever read was composed by Swedish native Stig Kernell. Before he died at the age of 92, Kernell had given strict instructions to his funeral home. They were to send his obituary to the papers without making any changes. When he died, the morticians made good on their promise and, sure enough, in the two local papers, under his name on the obituary page, it read, "I AM DEAD."
That's it, three words: "I AM DEAD."
Well, the media got hold of the unusual death notice and began contacting Kernell's two sons. Eventually, his boys got together and wrote a more traditional announcement. This they did because they didn't want anybody to think there had been bad blood between them and their dead dad.
One of them explained, "The short obituary is reflective of our father's sense of humor." He continued, "It has helped us to cope with the loss of him, in that he was not at all scared of death."
Scripture tells everyone who believes in Jesus as their Savior that they can share Kernell's lack of fear when it comes to dying. When an unbeliever has to regard death as a step into the "great unknown," Christians know their Savior has prepared a place for His forgiven followers in heaven. Believers of Islam must concede that Allah is not bound by any rules, and he will do what he is going to do. There's not much comfort there. Other major faiths tell their adherents that since they may not have done enough good in this life to balance the scales of justice, they may be repeating life until they get it right.
Only Christianity lays down the comforting truth: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved" (see Acts 16:31).
But there's more. Believers in the risen Redeemer can appreciate the words of Revelation that tell us not to be afraid of persecution or death because those who remain faithful will receive a "crown of life."
It's good to know. After all, the day is coming when a memorial stone will be put above each of us. When that day comes, may those who are left behind be comforted by the knowledge that, for us, death was only the gateway to eternal life with our Savior.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, as a sinful human being, I am unable to see what is going to happen in the future. Even so, as a forgiven follower of the Christ, I am sure the approach of death cannot fill me with fear and trembling. For this transformation brought about by Jesus, may I always give thanks. In the Savior's Name I ask it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries