BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“In the grave wicked people stop their evil, and tired workers find rest at last. Even prisoners enjoy peace, free from shouts and harsh commands. Everyone is there, the famous and the unknown, and slaves at last are free” (Job 3:17-19 Good News Translation).
The mere mention of the word “grave”, “graveyard”, or “cemetery” scares some people. They are afraid of both death and the grave. Some people, including adults and children, are afraid to pass by a cemetery alone. They have some strange and uncomfortable feelings if they walk past a coffin or tomb. Some get goose pimples or bumps all over. Other words used in some Bible translations for the grave, a hole in the ground for the burial of a dead body, are “the tomb” or “the pit.”
The Bible talks about so many things, and we can learn lessons from them. These include death and the grave. They go together. When people die, they are buried in the grave. Jesus said in Matthew 12:40, “Jonah was in the stomach of the big fish for three days and three nights. In the same way, the Son of Man will be in the grave three days and three nights” (New Century Version). In this scripture, Jesus acknowledged that He would be buried in a grave after His death. He was buried but God raised Him from the dead on the third day. Thus, His grave became empty.
Other people in the Bible were also buried in the grave. For example, Judges 8:32 says, “Gideon died when he was very old, and he was buried in the grave of his father, Joash, at Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer” (New Living Translation). Gideon was buried in the grave of His father.
The bones of Saul and Jonathan were buried in the grave of Saul’s father, Kish, in Zela in the territory of Benjamin (2 Samuel 21:14a). Also, the head of Ishbosheth was buried in the grave of Abner in Hebron (2 Samuel 4:12b). Ishbosheth was Saul’s son who succeeded him as king but Rechab and Baanah, his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, assassinated him. They brought his head to David, thinking they were doing him a favour to help him become the king of the entire nation of Israel. But David got them executed for killing a righteous man.
Furthermore, Ahithophel, David’s counsellor who defected to Absalom’s camp to support his rebellion against his father, David, was buried in the grave of his father (2 Samuel 17:23).
Unfortunately, a man of God sent from Judah to Bethel who disobeyed God’s instruction to Him was denied the opportunity of being buried in the grave of his ancestors. An old prophet dwelling in Bethel whom Satan had used to deceive him said, “You came back to this place and ate and drank where he told you not to eat or drink. Because of this, your body will not be buried in the grave of your ancestors” (1 Kings 13:22 New Living Translation).
Later, a lion killed this man of God from Judah on the way and both his donkey and the lion stood by his corpse. The old prophet thereafter buried him. He said that when he was dead, he should be buried in the grave where the man of God from Judah was buried, and his bones should be laid beside his bones.
As I have said, death and the grave go together. All the people I have discussed were not the only people buried in graves in the Bible. However, our focus is on the lessons that the grave teaches us in the Bible. This teaching is consistent with what Ecclesiastes 7:2 says that it is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to his heart.
The seven lessons
1. We are dust and shall return to dust; we shall take nothing out of this world. As it is often said during Christian funerals, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” This phrase is not in the Bible but God says that man is dust and he shall return to dust. “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19 New King James Version). Also, Job 34:15 says all mankind would perish together and man would return to the dust.
Similarly, Ecclesiastes 12:7 says when a man dies, the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. Nobody will take anything out of this world. Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there” (Job 1:21a New King James Version). Psalm 49:17 says the rich will take nothing with them when they die; their wealth will not follow them into the grave. Therefore, Paul said we should embrace godliness and contentment. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:6-8 New King James Version).
Our final address here on earth is the grave whether we are rich or poor! Job said, “Everyone is there, the famous and the unknown” (Job 3:19a Good News Translation). Also, Ethan the Ezrahite said, “No one can escape the power of death and the grave” (Psalm 89:48 Contemporary English Version).
But the grave is not the end. There is judgment after death (Hebrews 9:27). This will determine where everyone spends his eternity – with God or the devil. And that choice is dependent on your relationship with Jesus while you’re alive. You must be born again to spend eternity with God (John 3:3, 7).
2. The grave is never satisfied. People die every day so the cemetery or graveyard regularly receives visitors. People come to bury their loved ones in their graves. As you read this, some corpses are being buried. The grave will swallow them! And it is never satisfied. Proverbs 27:20a says, “Death and the grave are never satisfied” (Contemporary English Version). Also, Proverbs 30:15-16 says the grave is one of the four things that are never satisfied or never say, “Enough”. One day, it will be your turn to be interred in your grave. Therefore, be mindful of how you live. Don’t live without Jesus in your life as Your Lord and Saviour. Also, show love to others. One day, you will no longer see them or they will no longer see you.
3. The journey to the grave is a journey of no return. Anyone who goes on this journey will be forgotten. Job said, “I will disappear in the grave or vanish from sight like a passing cloud. Never will I return home; soon I will be forgotten” (Job 7:9-10 Contemporary English Version).
The journey to the grave is a journey of no return. Those who are buried don’t return home. Family members, sympathizers, and mourners cannot do more than give their loved ones a befitting burial. They won’t follow them into the grave no matter how much they love them. They will all leave the graveside once the ceremony is over and gradually move on with their lives. Some close family members may remember the dead occasionally and after some time, they may forget about them.
Before you proceed on this journey of no return, prepare for your future home – eternity. Let what will matter in eternity, matter to you now. Don’t let your relationships with people, who will ultimately forget you after you die, keep you from giving your life to Jesus whom you will face one day as your judge. Jesus said, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22 New King James Version).
4. The dead can’t praise God in the grave. Only the living can praise God. Therefore, praise God while you’re alive. When you die and you are buried in the grave, it will be impossible to praise Him. David said in Psalm 6:5, “For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks?” (New King James Version). David also said, “What good will it do you if I am in the grave? Once I have turned to dust, how can I praise you or tell how loyal you are?” (Psalm 30:9 Contemporary English Version).
Also, the writer of Psalm 88 asked similar questions: “Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love? Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction?” (Verse 11 New Living Translation). A buried corpse cannot glorify God. Psalm 115:17-18 says, “The dead don’t praise him. Those in the grave don’t praise the Lord. But we will praise the Lord now and forever!” (Easy-to-Read Version). Praise God while you’re still alive. If you don’t, it will be too late when you’re in the grave.
5. Everyone in the grave will resurrect one day. Christians will resurrect unto eternal life but sinners unto eternal judgment. The choice is yours to make before you die, and you’re interred in the grave. Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29 New King James Version).
6. The grave is a leveller. There is no class in the grave! It is classless. Everybody is equal even if some people are buried in gold caskets or coffins. In the grave, wicked people stop their evil, tired workers find rest, prisoners enjoy peace and freedom, and slaves are free. In the grave, every evil or good work will cease. You can’t do anything in the grave. Everyone has the same status; nobody has an advantage over another until the resurrection when each person will face his eternity- eternal life or eternal punishment.
Job 3:17-19 says, “In the grave wicked people stop their evil, and tired workers find rest at last. Even prisoners enjoy peace, free from shouts and harsh commands. Everyone is there, the famous and the unknown, and slaves at last are free” (Good News Translation).
The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:9 that we should not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we would reap if we did not lose heart. Also, in 2 Thessalonians 3:13, he said we should not grow weary in doing good. Those doing evil should also stop it because, in the grave, they wouldn’t have the power to continue their evil.
They should remember that on Judgment Day everyone will receive a just reward after death for whatever he did on earth (Romans 2:6-9). Jesus said in Revelation 22:12, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (New King James Version). What reward will you receive? Do good when you’re alive; stop evil.
Also, those who are being persecuted, troubled, oppressed, cheated, etc. should be encouraged that everything will stop at death. These will not continue in the grave. Their enemies lack the power to continue their evil work in the grave. They will be silenced forever. David prayed: “Lord, I called to you, so do not let me be disgraced. Let the wicked be disgraced and lie silent in the grave” (Psalm 31:17 New Century Version).
7. There is no work in the grave. The dead don’t engage in any activity in the grave. There is no work, thinking, knowledge, or wisdom in the grave. This is related to the last lesson. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (New King James Version).
Whatever you can do, do it well; after death, the ability is useless in the grave. It has been said that the wealthiest place on the planet is the cemetery because there you find potential that was never realized, dreams that were not accomplished, books that were never written, companies that were never established, and so on. There is no work in the grave. No dream can be fulfilled, book written, goal achieved, etc. in the grave.
Jesus said in John 9:4, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (New King James Version). Do whatever God has called you to do or pursue the dream God has given you before night comes. In other words, do what God has called you to do before you die and are buried in the grave. You don’t have all the time in the world. Don’t be lazy but don’t also be a workaholic.
Conclusion: Pay attention to these lessons that the grave teaches us. I believe that they will help you to live a more purposeful life and fulfil God’s plan for your life. Paul wrote in Colossians 4:17, “And say to Archippus, ‘Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it’” (New King James Version). I say the same thing to you. Fulfil your ministry or life’s assignment before the season of death and the grave comes. You won’t die before your time in Jesus’ name. The Holy Spirit shall teach you to number your days, so that you may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). He will teach you to realize the brevity of life, so that you may grow in wisdom.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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