Very likely you have heard it at a funeral. it is the poem by Henry Scott Holland; “Death is Nothing at all”. You can see it here. I heard it again recently and am increasingly incensed by its contents. Why is this?
Death is a terrible thing. The poem seeks to minimize the gravity of death. “I have only slipped away to the next room” and similar sentiments lead us to conclude that death is of no real consequence. But death is a terrible thing. In God’s original creation there was no death because there was no sin. But with the entrance of sin came the entrance of death. In Romans 5:12 we read just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned. Death is an enemy. It is a thing that all should hate.
We live in a world which increasingly trivializes death. But death is a terrible thing. It is a real thing. it is about separation. It is the separation from life. It is the separation from the beautiful harmonious dwelling in the presence of God. For that is what happened at the beginning when sin came in. Through their rebellion and the entrance of death, Adam and Eve were banished from the enjoyment of all of the fullness of what God in His goodness gives.
Christ has conquered death. When we minimize death, we minimize the mighty work which our LORD achieved at the cross. Through dying for our sins, Jesus took away the cause of death. So now he has rendered death powerless. In Hebrews 2:14-15 we read Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Our Lord has broken the power of death. the mighty foe has been vanquished.
It is for the Christian and the Christian alone to say “all is well”. Death is not a little hurdle to step over. Rather it is a mighty barrier barring us from the blessings of God. Christ has conquered sin and thereby smashed down that barrier of death. So now for the Christian, death is no barrier at all and this is all because of what Christ has done. So we say with Paul:
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.