The apostle Paul says that unbelievers are without God and without hope in the world.
“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.”
Ephesians 2:12 (KJV)
But we are not in that hopeless situation. Christians experience grief when death brings separation, but it is a completely different sort of grief than what worldlings must suffer. The grief at a Christian funeral is the same kind of grief that you see at airports. Someone you love is departing for a time, and it is a longer time than you would wish, but you nevertheless know that you will see that person again. It is the grief that attends a temporary separation.
Mike and I were friends in the Navy, and we were friends right after the Navy when our church here in Moscow was just getting established. But Mike left for seminary, and after that had several pastorates and a chaplaincy, which meant that we did not see each other for years. But then we reconnected, and Mike moved back to Moscow to work with the church, and we worked shoulder to shoulder again, doing so for years. But now he is gone again, and for Christians it is the same kind of separation as the first time.
The resurrection from the dead is a resurrection to eternal life. Christ is that life, and so when we are raised, we will be raised to see Him face to face for the first time. That will be the central glory of our resurrection.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
1 John 3:2 (KJV)
But a peripheral glory will be found in the fact that it will be a resurrection of reunion. Those we knew in this life, and knew well, and who were separated from us by death, will be gathered together with us in a happy and very glad reunion. This is not the sort of reunion that excludes Christ because the Head and the body will all be part of the same glorious reality.
We have not yet begun to imagine how splendid the resurrection of the dead is going to be. But we are told how to encourage one another on the basis of it.
“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
1 Thessalonians 4:18 (KJV)
And so we do.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.