Thank God for ‘Reveille’
January 30, 1965, was a cloudy day in London. Silent crowds lined the streets to watch the gun carriage leave Westminster Hall, bearing a coffin. Millions more viewed the funeral at home and abroad by television. The procession traveled slowly through central London to St. Paul’s Cathedral for the state funeral for the only commoner of the 20th century to be accorded such an honor.
The queen and other members of the royal family, the prime minister, and representatives of 112 countries packed the cathedral. They were there to pay their final respects to Britain’s greatest wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill, who died at the age of 90.
Death always produces sadness. Everything a person has lived for, accomplished, or sought to achieve abruptly comes to a close (cf. Eccl. 2:1–11). Even pristinely manicured cemeteries and grand, marble mausoleums cannot erase the reality that they are filled with death and corruption.
I have officiated at a number of funerals. And I can tell you the only thing that makes the thought of death bearable is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
His resurrection is indisputable:
He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time (1 Cor. 15:5–8).
Throughout history, many have alleged the resurrection never happened. Yet no one has been able to conclusively refute it. Henry Morris (1918–2006), founder of the Institute for Creation Research, said it best when he wrote,
It is profoundly significant that two thousand years of the worldwide spread of Christianity have been accompanied by two thousand years of strident unbelief…and every conceivable form of anti-Christian thought. Even more deplorable has been the rationalism of so-called “Christian” modernists, liberals, and cultists of every variety of compromising pseudo-Christianity.
Yet with all this opposition, no scholar or anyone else has ever yet been satisfactorily able to explain away the empty tomb of Christ. The unbreakable historic record that Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried in a specific sepulchre, and was out of that tomb three days later, can be explained only by His Resurrection. Every other proffered theory has failed miserably.
His tomb is empty! The tombs of Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, Karl Marx, and every other religious founder and philosophical genius still hold and will hold the remains of their occupants until they go back to the dust.1
Only through Jesus Christ is eternal life in heaven a sure thing. As Jesus Himself said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn. 11:25–26).
Some years ago while visiting Israel, my wife and I attended a service at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. I found myself transfixed on the plaque attached to the door. It reads, “HE IS NOT HERE—FOR HE IS RISEN.” An angel spoke those words to the women who went to the tomb but could not find Jesus’ body (Mt. 28:5–6; Mk. 16:6; Lk. 24:1–6).
The human body is said to have 50 trillion to 75 trillion cells. Some estimates go as high as 100 trillion. As I looked around the tomb, I tried to imagine what type of power it would take to blast that many cells back to life after being dead for three days. Jesus was not resuscitated but made alive to a glorified body by the incredible power of the triune God of Scripture (Jn. 2:19; Rom. 8:11; Gal. 1:1).
I realized that as a true, born-again believer in Christ, I can anticipate the same power when death overtakes me (1 Cor. 6:14). The promise of certain resurrection does wonders to minimize the fear of the grave: “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (15:55).
Everything Jesus said and did hinged on the fact that He would rise from the dead. His resurrection guarantees all the promises associated with salvation. Perhaps that is why the apostles Paul and Peter stressed the fact of the resurrection. Paul wrote,
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3–4).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you (1 Pet. 1:3–4).
Winston Churchill planned his funeral in great detail. Curiously, he arranged that a bugler be positioned high in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral to sound “Taps” after the benediction. “Taps” is commonly known as the signal for “day is done.”
Then, as Churchill had instructed, as soon as “Taps” was finished, another bugler on the other side of the towering dome played “Reveille,” a signal for “Arise!” It seems Churchill testified that at the end of history, the last note will not be “Taps,” but “Reveille.”
I do despise death. But thank God, morning is coming. It is so because in Jerusalem today, there is an empty tomb that bears witness to that fact.
- Dr. Henry M. Morris, “Impact of the Empty Tomb,” Institute for Creation Research <icr.org/ChristEmptyTomb>.