We are posting this as an article. However, it is written to be part of the "Introduction" to a book we hope to publish soon on the subject of "The Resurrection". We offer this in hope that it will help anyone who mourns any kind of loss.

For Those Who Mourn

for Loved Ones who have Departed

Gerry Phillips

"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope…." I Thessalonians 4:13 NIV

Grieving with hope

Over my lifetime in church and ministry I’ve learned a lot by youthful observation, and more by hard-earned experience. When I began serving in ministry well over four decades ago, I sought to expand my learning. I took seriously the command to“…study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly diving the word of truth…. God knows I tried so hard to do my best for Him. Following the Apostle Paul's model, I determined to spend and to be spent to fulfill my calling; and so I did both. I considered it an honor and a priviledge to have been called by God, and I loved serving Him in ministry. But of all the ministry functions, and all my ministry experiences the hardest facet of ministry for me was serving in funerals. When I began to empathize with those who grieved, bearing one another’s burden easily turned into personalized grief. I can’t seem to handle seeing others suffer. For as long as I can remember, my soul has been hard-wired to want to deliver nearly everyone from their suffering. Back in those early days, I would easily feel overwhelmed when I realized my utter inability to fix the grieving loved ones’ pain and loss. So it’s a statistical irony that for every wedding I have officiated, I have ministered in four funerals.

Desiring to provide relief, I studied harder, dug deeper, focusing on Thanatology and related doctrines. I mined deep into the scriptures searching for some nugget to help comfort those who mourn.

Of course there were many wonderful scriptural themes: …I am the resurrection and the life….”; “…If a man dies shall he live again….”; “…we do not grieve as those who have no hope….”; “…O death where is thy sting, O grave where is thy victory….”; “…blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted….”; “…God shall wipe away every tear….”; “…in My Father’s house there are many mansions….”, and so many other comforting passages.

But I wanted something contemporary that would offer more relief; absolute comfort. At last I realized what I knew all along; that such a level of relief can only be found through an intimate relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Death is a constant reminder of the sinful condition of mankind. Death is also a declaration that God's comandments cannot be ignored without consequence. Regardless of how pure and consecrated a life the deceased may have lived, their departure is a direct result of Adam's disregard for God's direct order of prohibition. It was as if the world was like a state of the art medical facility, and Eden its sterile operating theater. And one day one man's reckless behavior let in a deadly pathogen that infected the theater, spread throughout the entire facility, and thus infected every person who has passed through that facility called earth, since that day. As it is written, “…by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men…much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many….” 

While God is disposed to loving kindness and tender mercies; His grace and mercy does not come at the expense of His righteousness and justice. Since the beginning, mankind has made an occupation of ignoring God. But for those who long for deliverance from man's evil condition, as it is written, our Lord Jesus Christ has made "...a new and living way...."; for us to "...come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need...." Jesus declared of Himself, "...I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me...."   Contrary to popular belief, there is no other way but by the Lord Jesus Christ!

We do not grieve as those who have no hope

Years ago, I was preparing to conduct a memorial service for a family I knew well. To properly deliver a eulogy, I always want to learn details about the deceased’s personal life, habits, mannerisms, things they loved to do, stories, etc. But that always gets to me. With few exceptions, every funeral I’ve experienced  has memorialized a life that had been cut too short, and too young. That's always hard for me to bear.

Each time it was a feeling of utter helplessness. I wanted to grab every one of the mourners in my arms and hug them; and make their pain go away. But I didn’t have the power to do that. So I prayed for God to give me something that would strengthen those who grieve, and give them hope in the midst of such hopelessness. I wanted something I could use at every funeral in the future. I was seeking some universal truth. What He gave me was the following simple prayer.

"Lord, this is not the outcome we all prayed for,
and at last here we mourn.
But as it is written, we do not grieve as those who have no hope.
Yet today we are forced to move beyond asking ‘why’ and deal with ‘what is’.
Lord, I pray that one day You will bring us to such a place,
where You can show us why everything happened the way it did

Many years later when I lost my father, I had to walk out that prayer I had prayed for so many others. It couldn’t have relieved the great pain of my loss. But it did make me hope for a day when I could come to that same place. Maybe the Lord could help me understand; and maybe resolve those unanswered questions like “why”.

A few years passed, and then the Lord brought me to that place. It didn’t stop the ache of the loss, or the regrets of things I failed to say, or the things I wish I’d never said. But understanding the reasons why God’s answers were “no” when I prayed for Daddy’s healing and deliverance; that revelation unleashed the healing process for me. Now, I’m whole again. I wish the same for all who mourn any kind of loss, tangible or intangible.

The last time I gave those words in faith, hope, and love were to a dear old friend and brother in Christ. He had lost his son unexpectedly. That boy was like a nephew to me. I probably wept as much over his death as I did when my father was taken from me. My dad died nine years ago at an old age. Yet seldom has a day passed that I don’t think of him and miss him. His passing deeply affected me, and still does. But this gifted young man was in the prime of his life, and his loss tore me up emotionally. When I sent the foregoing prayer to his father, I thought to myself, Lord, I don’t ever want to have to send that prayer to anyone again. I hate death! One day, my Lord Jesus Christ will destroy death! Oh what a day that will be!

My spiritual father in the faith, Brother William Branham, used to remind us how the devil can’t chase any believer farther than the grave. He can very often make this life hard for us. Sometimes our unbelief, or our disobedience may permit the power of darkness to wreak havoc. It may even permit him to strike our homes with disease or tragedy. But when we reach the grave, God makes him stop there! At last, he can never touch us again. And one day, the devil will reap his reward.  I remind the devil of this frequently. I remind him that on THAT DAY, when Jesus casts the devil, his angels, and all wicked souls into the Lake of Fire; we (my wife and I) will be the ones standing over there right next to our Lord Jesus Christ, observing the execution of the devil's judgment, and we will rejoice evermore.

He wanted to go back

The last funeral where I served as minister was shortly before we were poisoned, over twenty years ago. Like all the previous funerals, this one was unique. The deceased was a man we called “Pops”. Pops and his family had been my friends for years. He had lived out a full life, and had fought courageously in a protracted war for his health, and life.

Early on the day he passed away he slipped into what the doctors diagnosed as “comatose”. But after a while he spontaneously came out of it. As Pops opened his eyes, he looked around the room with a very puzzled countenance. Then like a judge polling his jurors, Pops asked all his family members “what are you doing here”.

Then he began to describe the place where he had just been. He told them it was the most beautiful peaceful place he’d ever seen. He told of departed loved ones. They said he became almost irritated, insisting he wanted to go back immediately. And so he did. Moments later he closed his eyes, the doctors called it, and then pulled a white sheet over the body. In Biblical terminology, Pops had put off his earthly tabernacle. Pops had finally made it home

The Heavenly Escort

Brother Branham told how he visited Brother Fred Bosworth when he lay dying. For those who may not know him, F.F. Bosworth was a pioneer in the healing ministry. The Bosworth Brothers began holding tent meetings in the early 20th century. He was like a father to Brother Branham, just as Paul was a spiritual father to Timothy. As stated, likewise, Brother Branham is my spiritual father in the faith.

Brother Branham said that a few hours before Brother Bosworth passed away; he rose up and stood by his bed. For three hours he stood there shaking hands and speaking with scores of departed souls that only his eyes could see. They were those who had been saved, healed, and delivered in his meetings. When he had greeted the last one, he lay back down on his bed, closed his eyes, and gently passed from this world into the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Brother Branham taught us that God often sends just such an heavenly escort to gloriously bring His souls home.

Brother Kenneth Hagin said he was told by the daughter of John G. Lake of a similar experience. Brother Lake was another powerful healing evangelist who arose out of the Azusa Revival.

She told how on the morning of his departure, Dr. Lake arose and said “I’m going home to be with Jesus today”. He repeated it throughout that morning. A few hours later, as he sat down in his chair he said, “well there’s Jesus, I’m going now”. He then leaned his head back, closed his eyes, and departed from this world.

These manifestations do not just occur among those who thunder the message of faith across the globe. It happens to anyone who dares to believe. Pops was not some spiritual giant engaged in a healing ministry. Just a few days ago, one of our dear friends lost her mother, who was in her 90s. This sweet little lady had lived out a full and rich Christian life by all Biblical standards. And at the end, they said she began greeting loved ones who had preceded her. 

NOTE:  I interject this hoping the Holy Spirit can use it to prompt someone to save, or extend the life of a loved one; the way He did for me in the following example. Many years ago, my father suffered a stroke. In the chaos that ensued, his home caught fire and was destroyed. When I came to see him at the hospital, I began to question him to assess his mental state. He told me his sister (called her by name) had come to see him earlier that day. That sister had passed away more than a decade earlier. I knew a spirit of death had come intending to take him. He was a Pentecostal, and understood the deliverance ministry. Later on, in one of his brief lucid moments, I got him into a wheel chair, and shuttled him into an unoccupied conference room. I told him we were there, just the two of us, to pray for his deliverance. He nodded his head and mumbled, "OK". Standing behind him, I laid my hands on his shoulders and asked the Lord to have mercy on him, touch him, and heal him. Then I addressed the power of darkness generally, and then specifically the spirit of death. Within a few days he was bouncing back. He went on to regain much of his independence, was able to drive again, and went on to live with family members for four more years before the Lord took him. I thank God I obeyed the Holy Spirit that afternoon, and that He granted Daddy four more years on earth.  

The doctors can diagnose these things as merely the patient talking out of their heads, but I believe it is real. I believe that it is God sending an heavenly escort to bring them home to prepare for a glorious wedding feast; and to receive that " of righteousness...for all those who have loved His appearing...."

When a man dies will he live again?

Job asked that question in the midst of untold calamity. But Job also said “…for I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth…and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God….” Look at what Job actually said: God shall stand on "this earth" at the latter day, and even after Job’s body is decayed and consumed by worms, still "IN HIS FLESH BODY HE WILL SEE GOD!" That’s the resurrection! Job’s testimony was so powerful that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and countless others acted on that resurrection faith; solely on the basis of Job’s testimony. Throughout scriptural history, most of them had no Bible, and most had no prophets to scream out those prophetic promises. Most biblical figures who believed in the resurrection only had the testimonial evidence of Job’s life; what I call “'Exhibit A' of The Resurrection. Job’s testimony still preaches to us some four millennia later.

Hebrews chapter 11 is known to Christians as the Hall of Faith chapter of the Bible. Four times the writer makes direct reference to ancient witnesses who acted upon their faith in the resurrection. These witnesses staked their lives on it. More than any other specific subject in Hebrews 11, the writer infers The Resurrection. Their testimonies will preach to us until The Rapture

Today many believers eagerly await The Rapture as the next prophetic event on God's calendar. Others are anticipating "The Great Falling Away" as the next event. But some of us who believe in The Rapture, know that a Great Resurrection must precede them all. We will fully develop this thesis in the chapters following.

The evidence is so overwhelming that I too devote my life by faith to awaiting The Resurrection that Jesus promised us. Jesus promised that whoever believes in Him will never die but have eternal life. We will see our loved ones again! All who have believed will never be separated again! We will never again experience the pain of such loss! Our existence is more than just these physical bodies. Our bodies are merely vehicles. And like an old car, our bodies may wear out in this world. But one day we will trade them in for new models that will never wear out. As it is written, “…mortality will put on immortality….”, and “…we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens….” So when the time comes for us, or for those we love to “…put off this earthly tabernacle….” those of us who believe and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ will still be alive and never die. The Apostle wrote, “…we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord….” When we get over there, in that beautiful place, we’ll be restored to our prime; for as it is written, “…thy youth is renewed like The Eagle’s....” and “…we will forever be with Him….”

So, when a man or woman dies, will they live again? You'd better believe they will! If they are a believer in Jesus Christ they never really die; they just move out of one house and into another. Over the decades, I have said countless times in sermons and in conversations, that I am certain if we could ask any departed believer if they'd want to come back here, they'd answer a resounding "NO!"  So for those of us who are left here on earth, we do not grieve as those who have no hope

"...For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words...."

The best way we can honor our departed loved ones is by proclaiming our faith in, bearing witness to, and diligently awaiting with anticipation, for that Great Resurrection. Jesus said, “…I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live….”



- GERRY PHILLIPS - 1955-2015