The Christian is called to be a soldier of Jesus Christ here on the earth. As soldiers are mustered out of the army one by one and sent home when their tour of duty is over, so we Christians are one by one mustered out of Christ’s army here on earth and taken home to heaven. As there is sadness over being parted from one’s companions in arms, so there is sadness over the death of a Christian; but as the soldier’s joy over laying down his duties and going home overcomes his sadness, and as the joy of his buddies for him overcomes their sadness, so our Christian hope and joy overcomes our sadness at the time of death. Thus, St. Paul writes: We “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 KJV)
If the soldier did not know where he was going, or if he knew he was being transferred to an even worse battlefield, then he and his buddies would be sad indeed. Then he would much rather stay in the Viet Nam jungles, disagreeable as they are. If we did not have hope, if death were some dark unknown abyss, then death would have to be a fearful thing. Then our departure out of this life would be most sad, both for us and for our fellows. That is what death would mean for us if our Lord Jesus Christ had not come to this earth to redeem us. Because of our sins, death would mean departing this life to begin the far worse hardships and sufferings of hell. Then, the fear of death would fill us. We would certainly rather stay in this life.
But God did not leave us in that helpless state. He so loved us that He sent His only begotten Son to be born of a virgin, to take our place under the Law; in our place He lived a holy God-pleasing life here on earth and in our place He suffered all the pains of hell.
Because He took our place we are now free from having to go to hell. Because He rose again from the dead we now have hope that we will also be raised up again. God, the righteous Judge, Who cannot lie, has declared that all who believe in Jesus for life and salvation shall have it. Thus, our future is bright and secure. Through death we go home to Paradise, as St. Paul says: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8 KJV)
Where then is the fear of death? Where then is sadness over death? The Christ-Child, Whose birth we have just celebrated, takes away all our fear and sadness. By faith in Him we overcome our fear of death. By faith in Him we even overcome our sadness and learn to rejoice in death as the battle-weary soldier rejoices in being mustered out of the army to go home. By faith we say with St. Paul: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:55-57 KJV) By faith in Him we learn to regard life and death as St. Paul did when he wrote: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . . . For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” (Phil. 1:21, 23-24 KJV)
In this series we are reprinting Spokesman articles by early leaders in the CLC. Pastor James Albrecht is the curator of the series. Pastor Ruben Ude (1923-1970) was a naval aviator in WWII and a graduate of Bethany Lutheran Seminary. He was involved in the formation of the CLC, and for the last four years of his life served as chairman of the synod’s Board of Missions. This article is from the Lutheran Spokesman of January, 1966.