Sabbath October 9, 2004
The Funeral Service of our beloved brother in Christ,
Today we gather in this solemn assembly to honor our fallen brother in Christ, Vincent Townes.
In my 65 years, no higher privilege has ever been given to me, then 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 and mother have in me, to fulfill that trust. Nor can I allow myself to preach an ordinary sermon that my brother Vincent would not approve of.
There are rules that a minister of the gospel must follow in giving a sermon at a funeral service. No long sermon, no display of oratory, no preaching on Bible doctrines, etc. And I would most certainly follow every rule, had Vincent been an ordinary man. But this man was no ordinary man as each of you who truly knew him discovered.
Vincent’s mother said to me not too long ago, “Thank you for caring about my son.” I said to her, “Mama Vincent, your son had a way of wrapping himself around your heart.” You who were really close to Vincent know exactly what I mean.
I first met Vincent and Hattie over 4 years ago at the Chase City Seventh Day Adventist Church. I sat down with them at a fellowship dinner and asked them if they would like to take some Bible studies and they agreed. Almost every week, for over 6 months we met in their home. Now there are rules in giving Bible studies. Ordinarily, you keep the Bible studies short, maybe half an hour or so. But Vincent and Hattie were no ordinary people. The studies were usually 2 to 3 hours in duration, and we could easily have gone on for several additional hours. Vincent loved to study and it was my privilege to watch him grow in God’s word.
As Vincent and Hattie discovered many new truths from God’s word they made the decision to be re-baptized. They sealed their commitment and were baptized on a beautiful seventh day Sabbath near the Kerr Lake dam.
He was a faithful deacon and Adult Sabbath school teacher. Now Vincent did not possess the gift of eloquence. But what came out of Vincent’s mouth was his love for Jesus expressed in the eloquence of a totally surrendered heart. I have heard some of the most brilliant oratories by many gifted men of God. But none thrilled me as did Vincent’s enthusiasm in telling me about an experience he just had in sharing Jesus with some one he had just met.
So now I had to decide what should be the proper funeral service sermon to preach at my dear brother’s funeral. I had 27 to choose from. But which sermon? Which one would be most appropriate?
On September 11th just past, the members of Vincent’s church were gathered at Kerr Lake in the very site where Vincent and Hattie were baptized. Three more were sealing their commitment to follow Jesus all the way. I got a call from Hattie. Vincent was in the hospital at Durham and wanted me to come right away. I wanted to leave that very moment but we still had the church service and baptism to do.
The head elder and I left immediately after the baptism. Evidently a medical professional had scared Vincent and Hattie into thinking he was going to die that day. But what a blessing was in store. You see, little do you all realize how much this man loved every one. The room was filled with those who loved Vincent dearly. I was seated by Vincent’s right hand and was about to read some comforting scriptures to this lovely man.
But you see Vincent was not thinking about himself. He knew he was dying. He was most concerned about the ones he loved so much. He does not want anyone in his family and circle of friends to be lost. He turned to me and said you must tell them why I keep God’s seventh day Sabbath. This was what he wanted. Not words of comfort for himself, but truth from God’s word for his loved ones. And for the next hour we studied God’s word regarding God’s seventh day Sabbath.
If Vincent and I were to sit down and review the 27 funeral sermons, I know that Vincent would reject them all. The sermons would have been mostly about him. But Vincent would view this service as his last opportunity to speak to those of you who he loved so much. He knew his salvation is sure, it was you who he is most concerned about. He wants you to spend eternity with him. So what I say today must be words that I know Vincent would approve.
Vincent 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 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.”
Vincent would say Brother Vaughn, you must tell them that Satan hates God’s 4th commandment and that is why he got man to change the God’s seventh day Sabbath to Sunday in the 4th century.
You must tell them that the Hell fire is future and is not burning now. That God loves all of his created beings and that no loving God would let anyone suffer in flames for eternity.
If Vincent 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 on and on Vincent would tell me to tell those he loves the truth about subject after subject. His enthusiasm when it comes to God’s word knew no bounds. But alas, I would have to tell Vincent 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.
So Vincent would say at this point, then Brother Vaughn, you must tell them the truth 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. 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, would be Vincent’s last request. It is not himself he was so concerned about. It was about you, you who he loved. And to honor Vincent in the best way I know how, I am going to read a number of scriptures from God’s word, the King James version. I will be reading rather quickly, so you may want to write the scriptures down 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 Vincent 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 Vincent 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 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.
Yes Vincent 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.” Vincent 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, Vincent and Hattie studied their Bibles daily. That is why they could tell what was truth and what was error.
But 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.”
Vincent 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, Vincent 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.
Vincent further studied the fact that Jesus made it crystal clear that there will be 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 death sleep.
Friends, Vincent had it correct. And this is what Vincent 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.
And now Vincent 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 is over. Vincent will have you know that there is no second chance. When Jesus comes we are either saved or lost. Vincent 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, saved and lost, will see Jesus coming.
Vincent knew that the second coming of Jesus was no secret event but a very visible, a very loud event. He knew 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? Vincent knew the truth because he studied daily. 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, we will be able to discern truth from error.
Yes, my brothers and sisters, Vincent knew that when you die you have no conscious awareness until you come out of the grave, at His coming. And Vincent 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?”
And Vincent 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 the moment death came at 10:50 pm Monday night, Vincent fell asleep in Jesus.
When Jesus comes in the clouds of glory and calls the righteous dead from sleep to life, for Vincent, it will seem to have been but one second in time. He does not want us ignorant to the fact as Paul so stated in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
The blessed hope. Vincent had it right. Vincent’s salvation is secure. He wants you all to be saved.
Because, he loved you.
Because, he loved you.
Shall we pray….