Watch this video, especially the segment at 3.00 – 3.30 min.

Andy Lau is one of my favourite Hong Kong actors. I like many of his movies. In recent times, I have found myself drawn to the last scene from his movie Three Kingdoms — Resurrection of the Dragon (2008). In this scene the Andy Lau character, Zhao Zilong, in his 70s now, is about to ride out for his last mission and to death. Just before he rides off he gets a vision, a memory of the first time he rode into battle with two more senior partners, Guan Yu, played by Ti Lung, and Zhang Fei, played by Chen Zhihui. The two warriors had since passed away. In the memory/vision, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei ride ahead of him. Guan Yu looks back and nods at him. I believe he is saying “it is time, it is time to join us”. Then Zhang Fei looks back and we hear him say “When our missions are accomplished, we shall meet again”. Zilong slowly breaks into a smile and rides into battle, to death and, beyond, to his comrades. The background music is super powerful.

I am not here to discuss the worldview of the scene and the movie, which is a worthwhile exercise in its own right. I just want to reflect on the scene. I recall the night when Hee Ling, my first wife, died. A pastor friend, Don Miller, said “we are all not that far behind”. I found his words strangely comforting.

I guess I recall the scene from the movie because it is a time when more of my friends and family are passing on. Last year we lost John, a dear friend, Alan my cousin, and Soon Choy another friend and key Christian leader in Malaysia, among others. A few days ago, I got news that a brother that I used to hang around with in Youth Fellowship years back in Penang, had passed away. And, of course, I share in the grief of family and friends who have lost loved ones. So much loss and grief. I return to Paul’s teaching in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18:

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. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (NIV)

Here Paul comforts the grieving by remind them that loved ones who have died in Christ have preceded them into the presence of the Lord, and that one day, when Christ returns, we shall see them again. And it is John who tells us that we will meet again at the big reunion dinner of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).

Of course, unless we live during the generation when Christ returns, we will have to face the fact of our own death. And, of course, we will have concerns. But on that day, I imagine Jesus looking at me and giving me a nod. I will see His smile as He says, “yes it is time” (Psalm 139:16). I think I shall also see the many (the numbers grow by the day) whose missions have been accomplished and who have gone ahead, waiting as I finish my mission on earth. Then, the translation to the new heavens and the new earth, and my eternal mission.

And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thess 4:17b, 18)