Sabbath September 29, 2007
The Funeral Service of our beloved brother in Christ, Walter Jeremiah Hester
Today we gather in this solemn assembly to honor our fallen brother in Christ, Walter Jeremiah Hester.
And to acknowledge the sorrow shared by all the members of his family, in particular Ginger and Tyehe.
I consider it a high privilege to speak on this dear brother’s behalf. It is a sacred trust, for which I do not feel worthy, but I cannot betray the confidence that his dear wife Ginger has in me, to fulfill that trust. Nor can I allow myself to preach an ordinary sermon that my brother Walter would not approve of.
There are rules that a minister of the gospel should follow in giving a sermon at a funeral service. 1. No long sermon; 2. No display of oratory, and 3. No preaching on Bible doctrines. And I would most certainly follow every rule, had Walter been an ordinary man. But this man was no ordinary man as each of you who truly knew him discovered; in fact nobody could hug you like Walter. Walter had told Ginger exactly what he wanted me to preach at his funeral.
I live in the South Hill, Virginia area and I first met Walter and Ginger almost 4 years ago and would go to their house every Friday night for Bible studies. As Walter and Ginger discovered many new truths from God’s word they made their decision to be re-baptized. They sealed their commitment and were baptized on a beautiful seventh day Lord’s Day Sabbath near the Kerr Lake dam on 9-11, 2004. Six weeks later on a cool, windy day, at the same location, I had the privilege of uniting Walter and Ginger in holy matrimony.
I’ll never forget the day they were baptized as our head elder and I had to leave the joyous occasion early to visit with one of our deacons, a Vincent Townes. Vincent was suffering with 4th stage pancreatic cancer and was in a Duke University hospital. His wife Hattie wanted me to come right away. Vincent lost his battle a little over three weeks later on October 4, 2004. His wife asked me to preach at his funeral. I had 27 funeral sermons to choose from, but I knew that Vincent would have rejected them all, for you see the sermons would have been mostly about him. If you knew Vincent, you would know why he didn’t want the sermon to be about him, for you see He knew his salvation was secure, it was those loved ones in attendance that he was most concerned about. He would have viewed his funeral service as his last opportunity that he would have to vicariously speak to those he loved the most. On that day Walter and Ginger were there and Walter turned to Ginger and told her that he wanted me to preach that same sermon at his funeral.
Oftentimes when a person becomes a Seventh-day Adventist, family members, friends and associates wonder what happened to them. Some think that person surely went off the deep end and became involved in a cult. It is all too often that people mistakenly associate Seventh-day Adventists with Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons. These have their own distinct beliefs and each religion has sincere believers who want to follow God as they understand such, to be within the will of God. Did you ever consider why is it that 1,980 years ago Jesus started one church, and today there are over 9,000 Christian denominations, each believing that they are the true church?
We read in the 24th chapter of Matthew how the disciples crowded around Jesus who had just told them about something that was going to happen to the temple at Jerusalem and they asked Him to tell them when these things shall be and what should be the sign of His coming and of the end of the world. The first thing in answer to their question Jesus said, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Not once but three more times in the same chapter Jesus warned this final generation on planet earth that deception would abound within the ranks of Christendom.
You see Satan knows full well that he has but a short time and having been a student of human nature for almost six thousand years, he wants every Christian to share his ignominious fate. In centuries past Satan tried to destroy the Christian church from without, by having the state kill this dreaded sect. But it was as if their blood was seed, for as one laid down their lives honoring their Master, many would rise up and take their place.
So in the 4th century after Christ Satan joined the church and felt he could better destroy the church from within. And armed with the tools of lust and pride and deception, his victims are in the countless millions.
If Walter were alive right now he would say to me, “You must tell them that Satan was the most intelligent of God’s created beings, and that we with such limited intelligence are no match for his cunning devices. Brother Vaughn, you must tell them that Satan hates God and that he hates God’s law and that he hates God’s Sabbath. You must tell them that Satan knows the Bible better then anyone here and that he knows that James wrote in his second chapter and verse 10 “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
Walter would say Brother Vaughn, you must tell them that Satan hates God’s 4th commandment and that is why he got man to change God’s seventh day Sabbath to Sunday in the 4th century after Christ.
And Brother Vaughn you must tell them that the Hell fire is future and is not burning now and that Satan is the one that has manipulated scripture and men’s minds into believing lies that have become Christian tradition. You must tell them that God loves all of his created beings and that no loving God would ever let anyone suffer in flames for eternity.
If Walter could, right now, he would plead with me to tell the truth regarding the second coming of Christ and that the secret rapture is not Biblical, and that there is no second chance, - that we must get it right now; and also that when Satan and his angels were kicked out of heaven, God had no intentions of bringing the virus of sin back to heaven. That it is now that sinners must overcome by getting the victory over all sin in their lives with the power from on High available to every child of God and with such enabling power they can be partakers of the Divine nature which creates a shield that Satan can not penetrate unless the sinner saved by grace chooses to let him in.
And on and on Walter would tell me to tell those he loves the truth about subject after subject. But alas, I would have to tell Walter that this is not the time or the place to give Bible studies. I would gladly give Bible studies to whoever asked, but this is your funeral my dear brother and shortly your body will be placed in the ground.
Even though Walter’s lifeless body lies in a casket, no doubt if he could, he would say at this point, “Then Brother Vaughn, you must tell them the truth from God’s Word about where I am. You see, Brother Vaughn, there are some here who think that I am in heaven, singing with the heavenly choirs and praising Jesus. Tell them the truth, Brother Vaughn, as this would be my last request. Show them from the Bible the real truth about where I am right now, and then Brother Vaughn, tell them, tell them about the blessed hope we have in Jesus.
So this, my dear brothers and sisters in Jesus, I know this would be Walter’s last request. It is not himself he was so concerned about. It was about you, you who he loved. And to honor Walter in the best way I know how, I am going to read a number of scriptures from God’s word, using the King James Version. I will be reading rather quickly, so you may want to write down the scripture references and you can study them later. Ecclesiastes 9: verses 5 & 6. God’s word reads, “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.”
Psalm 115:17 “The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.” On the authority of God’s word Walter wants you to know he is not in heaven praising the Lord. But one day very soon he will be, according to Job 14:12, that reads “So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.”
You see Walter knew, because he studied, that when the dead are buried they will not rise, but remain asleep, until the heavens be no more. He was aware when the heavens would be no more, for he read in 2 Peter 3:10 “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; (in other words when Jesus comes for the second time it will be sudden and unexpected) yes, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away…” So the Bible is clear that the dead sleep till Jesus comes, then the heavens will be no more as Job wrote.
Yes Walter knew that when he breathed his last breath, that he would be unconscious, because he read in Psalm 146:4 “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” Walter knew that man being mortal was subject to death. He knew that man does not have immortality until the resurrection. You see, like the noble Bereans, Walter and Ginger studied their Bibles and knew the truth on this subject. That is why they could tell what was truth and what was the deception that Jesus warned against.
It was also from the words of Jesus himself that the truth regarding the state of the dead was reinforced; for Jesus Himself called death a sleep, in John 11:11-14. I read, “These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.”
Walter knew that no one goes to their reward at death. How did He know? Because he read the words of Jesus in Revelation 22:12 “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” My brothers and sisters in Jesus, Walter knew that you could not get your reward until after the judgment. He knew that Jesus made it plain in the scripture I just read, that He gives the rewards at His second coming.
Walter further studied the fact that Jesus made crystal clear regarding two resurrections, in John 5:28, 29. I read Christ’s own words, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
It is not in heaven that the redeemed hear His voice, it is not in hell fire that the lost hear His voice. No, no, it is in the grave Jesus says that all shall hear His voice, and it is from the grave that they shall come forth.
When Jesus raised Lazarus who had been dead for 4 days, He did not say Lazarus come down, He did not say Lazarus come up. No, He said Lazarus come forth. He woke Lazarus from his 4 day sleep of death.
Friends, Walter had it correct, and this is what he would have me show you today, that not only did he have it correct on the authority of God’s word, but that you would understand the truth on this subject, because He loves you.
Walter would want me to show you the blessed hope that awaits all those who sleep in Jesus. We have read that when Jesus comes for the second time that His reward is with Him, to give every man according as his work shall be. That means judgment would be over. Walter would have you know that there is no second chance. When Jesus comes we are either saved or lost. Also he would have you know that there is no secret rapture because he read in Revelation 1:7 “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him,” That means all that are living, both the saved and the lost, will see Jesus coming.
Walter knew that the second coming of Jesus was no secret event but a very visible, a very loud event. He knew that because he read in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 “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:” The voice of Jesus will raise the righteous dead all over this planet. The trumpet of God shall sound and will echo through the earth. Have you ever heard a silent trumpet? It is the most piercing of all the instruments. Walter knew the truth because he studied the scriptures. He was not going to trust his salvation to any man standing in a pulpit. We have only this life to get it right, and only with daily Bible study, will be able to discern truth from the deceptions Jesus warned about.
Yes, my brothers and sisters, Walter knew that when you die, you have no conscious awareness until you come out of the grave, at His coming. And he knew that only at His second coming, will the righteous receive their reward of immortality. How did he know? Because the apostle Paul made it clear. Although Paul said he would have preferred to have been absent from the body and present with the Lord, which is the experience of a true prophet of God in vision, Paul knew that when you died you entered the sleep of death and you did not receive immortality until the resurrection.
He said so in 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, I read in your hearing, “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, (Paul was saying there would be some righteous living when Jesus comes but the saints who died in Jesus would be in the sleep of death) I continue, “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
Paul had his theology correct and he knew that when you die you go to the grave and sleep in Jesus until the resurrection. He knew that when you die you are not absent from the body and present with the Lord, for this is only the experience of a living prophet. Paul knew that when he died that he would enter the sleep of death and know nothing until the appearing of Jesus at the second coming because he said so about his own life as he went to his execution stating the following in 2 Timothy 4:6-8, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” What day and what appearing did Paul mean that he would receive a crown of righteousness? The second coming where Jesus said in Revelation 22:12, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Paul had his theology correct and so did Walter.
Walter would have wanted me to make it clear that we should not be ignorant on this subject. His lifeless body lies in the casket. He is not aware of what we say today for he sleeps the sleep of death. But from that very moment death came one week ago, Walter fell asleep in Jesus.
When Jesus comes in the clouds of glory and calls the righteous dead from sleep to life, for Walter, it will seem to have been but one second in time. God does not want us ignorant to the fact as Paul so stated in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, I read Paul’s words now “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him (that is back to heaven). For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (that means go ahead of) them which are asleep. 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 and remain 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.” Then Paul adds this for those who are grieving, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
Last night my brother in Christ read John 14:1-3, the blessed hope promise of Jesus in which he gave comfort to his disciples and every follower of Jesus from that time to the day that probation ends for every man. “Let not your heart be troubled,” Jesus said. In other words, don’t worry, be anxious for nothing. He continued, “Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.” He wants us to know that we have a heavenly Father that loves us and watches over us and a precious Redeemer that held nothing back to save us. Triumphanty He declared, “In My Father’s house are many mansions…” You cannot do better than the King James Version as some versions today say “In My Father’s house is many rooms…” My God is a mansion God, not a room God, and as my sister in Christ said, she be looking for her mansion.
Then Jesus gave that precious promise that every true believer in Jesus can claim, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” If we were in heaven already He wouldn’t have to come back to get us. No, no when He comes for the second time with His rewards, He will raise the sleeping saints and translate the living redeemed and then and only then will He bring the redeemed of all the ages back to spend a thousand years in the third heaven wherein is God’s throne and New Jerusalem city.
That is the blessed hope, and praise God, Walter had it right. If faithful and living in the center of God’s revealed will, his salvation is secure. He, like every sincere Christian, wanted all his loved ones to know the real truth and be saved.
Because, he loved you, yes,
because, he loved you.
Shall we pray….