I had my first encounter with death when I was in the fifth grade.
My family had moved from South Dakota to Northern Virginia when I was in the fourth grade. This was difficult for me because most of my mother’s family lived in South Dakota. I had grown up very close to them – especially Grandma and Grandpa. It was especially difficult to leave them.
I’ll never forget the day my father came to pick me up early from school. I thought it must be some kind of surprise! But he hardly said a word on the ride home. As I walked into the kitchen, I saw my mother there crying. She pulled me over and then said the words: “Grandma fell asleep and didn’t wake up. She’s gone.”
I remember going up to my room and mourning. I remember accepting the reality of that loss.
But then something strange happened the next day. I woke up believing my grandmother wasn’t dead, but simply in a coma. I spent the remainder of the day in a delusion about the reality of death.
That evening the counselor of my after-school program approached me. “Oh Ben, I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother dying. This must be hard.” Oh Mr. Steve, I said. My grandmother isn’t dead. I would be devastated if she was dead. No, she’s simply in a coma. She’ll wake up soon. Mr. Steve’s faced showed uncertainty and confusion.
When my father picked me up again that evening, I told him about what Mr. Steve had said. Dad, can you believe Mr. Steve thought Grandma was dead?
“Ben, your grandmother is dead. She’s gone.”
Just as I had the day before, I grieved the loss of my grandmother all over again.
I’ve thought about this moment a lot as I’ve gotten older. What was happening there? I was a well-adjusted fifth grade kid. Was my mind just playing tricks on me?
I don’t think so. Far from a trick, my mind was processing an unnatural reality in a natural way.
There are very important questions we must ask about the reality of death. Where does death come from? Is death natural – simply a matter of fact, just the way it is, the saddest of all laws of nature? Or is death unnatural – not how it is supposed to be, a tragic consequence of some great disaster? If death is simply natural then you can try to outrun it for as long as you can, but in the end it’s coming for you. And that’s it.Far from a trick, my mind was processing an unnatural reality in a natural way. Click To Tweet
But if death is unnatural, isn’t it worth exploring whether or not is possible for death to be undone? What if there is hope for something that lies beyond death?
The Bible is clear that there is hope for something more – and not only that, but also certainty that death has been and will be defeated.
1 Corinthians 15 is a wonderful passage which lays our several arguments for and truths about the resurrection of Christ and his people. Toward the end of this passage, the Apostle Paul spoke of death’s final defeat using three different images. The repetition is meant to drill resurrection hope deep down into our hearts.
The first image is that death will be swallowed up (1 Corinthians 15:54). This is a quotation from Isaiah 25:8 which contains a prophecy about God’s final victory over death. Paul is making it clear to us that was once prophesied long ago by Isaiah will be fulfilled on the day of Christ’s return when we are resurrected with him.
Like the darkness of Mordor when the One Ring was finally destroyed, death will tremble and quake as it is completely consumed when Christ returns. Death is our last enemy, but it will not have the last word.The Bible is clear that there is hope for something more – and not only that, but also certainty that death has been and will be defeated. Click To Tweet
The second image is that death will lose its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-56). Paul connects the sting of death with the powers of sin and the law. This is a connection we must make in our own minds as well. The powers of death, sin and the curses of the law are so closely linked that it is impossible to speak of the defeat of one without mentioning the defeat of others. Those who are set free from death will also be set free from sin; once set free from sin, we will be set free from the law which sin uses to bring about shame in our lives.
All of this is a way of saying that death can’t really kill us. Like a scorpion whose stinger is removed, death has no venom. It may bite, it may try to sting us, but its power is gone now.
The third image is absolute and total victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, 57). During his earthly ministry, Jesus displayed his power over death when he raised people from the dead (Mark 5:25-43, Luke 7:11-17, John 11). He showed his victory over death when his Father raised him from the dead – death cannot hold him!
The promise of the resurrection is that death can no longer hold those who have faith in Christ. Our victory is guaranteed!
As we prepare our hearts for Easter, let us be reminded that death is an unnatural and alien intruder in this world. But Christ has won for us a victory so sure that death need not be faced with fear and trembling.
Take heart, saints!The promise of the resurrection is that death can no longer hold those who have faith in Christ. Our victory is guaranteed! Click To Tweet
Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18)