As Debbie and I approached the airport gate we were to fly out of, we noticed that outside there were several squad cars and other emergency vehicles gathering. Debbie asked a nearby attendant and we learned that an incoming flight was bearing a fallen soldier. As we moved closer to our gate we observed soldiers in dress uniforms practicing the part they would play in the drama. The plane arrived (the one we would soon fly out on) and a flag draped casket was unloaded. Family members came to the casket and expressed their grief in various ways. When the family was ready, a military escort moved the casket to a waiting vehicle as soldiers, polices officers, fire fighters, and others saluted. The atmosphere inside the terminal was somber and respectful. It was a moving and impressive ceremony.
Luke 16:22 records the ceremonial welcome home of the soul of a fallen Christian soldier. This being prior to the resurrection of Christ, the believing beggar was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. Certain of the parables and Paul’s epistles give us other glimpses of the welcome believers receive. Because of the resurrection we can look forward to being car-ried directly into the Lord’s presence (II Cor. 5:8) and long to hear His “Well done” (Matt. 25:21,23). Of course, we all hope to be among those caught alive into the air at the rapture (I Thess. 4:17).
The experience at the California airport was a first for me. I prayed silently for the family and hoped that there was a gospel witness among them. I was thankful for the experience and felt honored just to be an observer. As a believer it also caused me to reflect on how the Lord receives His fallen soldiers home.
Psalm 116:15 declares “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” Although there is a celebratory atmosphere I am sure, I also have to believe that the Lord has an established protocol that even our military cannot approach to. I am sure it is an impressive ceremony indeed!