Isaiah 25:7-8 On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
It is astounding that this clear prophecy of Christ’s victory over death appears in Isaiah, hundreds of years before Jesus was born. The terminology is very similar to that used by John in Revelation 7:17 and 21:4, and Paul quotes Isaiah in 1 Corinthians 15:54. The thing is, God had planned all this from Creation, as Paul points out repeatedly. God wasn’t going to allow the devil to destroy His children through death. As Hebrews 2:15 points out, the fear of death binds all mankind, but in Christ there is liberation from that. The fulfillment of this prophecy by Isaiah is present reality for those who will receive it by faith.
This is particularly important here in Japan. Even the Japanese sometimes describe Japanese society as a “death culture,” greatly encouraged by the extreme focus on death found in Japanese Buddhism. Japanese Buddhists go through a seemingly endless sequence of memorial ceremonies after someone dies, at 7 and 49 days and then annually. Buddhist temples don’t much care how many people show up for actual religious functions, because they make all their money from funerals and the ceremonies that follow. The Festival of the Dead (August 13-15) isn’t a legal holiday but it is still one of the two biggest holidays of the year (the other being New Years). Death is big business in Japan! A major event in confirming my calling to minister in Japan was listening to the sounds of that festival. The emptiness, the hopelessness of it all was overwhelming, and I knew I had to share the hope that is found in Christ alone. I think that Americans tend to ignore death, to pretend it doesn’t or won’t happen, but it is inevitable for all flesh. If it weren’t for Christ, the Japanese obsession with it would be quite understandable! I am to proclaim the hope of eternal life in Christ faithfully and consistently, letting the Holy Spirit take His words through me and use them to lead people into life. I am not to fear physical death myself, but rather rest, relax, and rejoice in my Lord, who has conquered death.
Father, right now we’re in an awkward situation about the ashes of a church member, whose Buddhist relatives want those ashes to be in a Buddhist mausoleum rather than in the church columbarium. I ask for Your wisdom and Your resolution to that, as the strongest possible witness to those family members. Help me navigate the minefield of Japanese society, not in fear but in close obedience to You, so that I may lead as many as possible out of the traps of the enemy, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!