DEATH AND THE DIVINE
In the Bible, “Death” means separation, not cessation. Did you catch that? The biblical writers didn’t believe your life “ended”—neither your consciousness, nor your existence—but that through death you were taken away from your people.
Of course, there are many kinds of death: physical death, vocational death, psychological death, etc. But in all circumstances, Death is an enemy.
This is the chronicle of Death and the Divine; of Christ and Corruption.
Death entered the world through the sin of one man, Adam. Death enjoyed the sting of her power. Romans 5.12 says, “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.”
Death became a monster, never defeated.
Death is personified in scripture:
- as a woman (death has a womb, Jonah 2.3)
- with hands (Psalm 49.15; Hosea 13.14)
- with a mouth (Psalm 141.7; Isaiah 5.14)
- that holds souls captive (Psalm 49.15, implied)
- and eats them (Proverbs 27.20, implied)
- and looks like a gargantuan monster (Isaiah 5.14)
Christ put Death on notice.
Matthew 16.18: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
But Death claimed Christ.
John 19.33-34: “When they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.”
Yet Christ was playing possum, and by dying he robbed Death of her prisoners and stole the keys to the “sting of Death.”
Jesus died and descended into the depths of Hell (Ephesians 4.8-10). He did not suffer, for his suffering was completed on the cross (John 19.30). He preached to those tormented because of their sin (1 Peter 3.18, 20; 4.4), spreading the fragrance of himself even into Hell (2 Corinthians 2.14-16). He departed (Acts 2.27, 31), bearing the keys of Hades (Revelation 1.18) and destroying death itself (Hebrews 2.14).
Death has been defanged, though her power to end life remained.
1 Corinthians 15.55: “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
Death will mount a final offensive, with a beast from the earth and a beast from the sea; a dragon, and a witch.
Revelation 6.8: “So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.”
But Death will lose and be utterly destroyed.
Revelation 20.13: “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.”
For Christ will no longer play possum. He too, will arrive at the Final Battle astride a horse, at the head of an army, and armed with a sword.
Revelation 19.11-16: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.”
Death will be cast away forever.
Revelation 20.14: “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
Jesus conquered death. He didn’t stay dead, showing that death has no power over him. He resurrected several people:
- Lazarus (John 11.43-44)
- Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9.25)
- the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7.13-15)
- the host of saints at the crucifixion (Matthew 27.52-53)
- then Peter raises Tabitha (Acts 9.36-42)
- Paul raises Eutychus (Acts 20.9-12)
- Paul is resurrected himself (likely, Acts 14.19-20).
So death no longer had power to keep hold of Jesus, his friends, his patients, or his followers. And the clear promise of scripture is that death will have no dominion at the end, since we will all be resurrected into new bodies (1 Corinthians 15.35-58) to govern a new creation (2 Timothy 2.12, 1 Corinthians 6.2-3, Revelation 2.26-27, Revelation 20.6) alongside Christ himself.
But that doesn’t exhaust what Jesus can do against death. He also removes the sting of death among those who remain alive; meaning, we take comfort as we grieve for the loss of our friends, because we know that death is not the end, and that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5.8). Of course we are sad when we lose those we love, but that sadness has a short shelf life because we know they are with Christ. Their suffering has ended. Their struggles are over. They are caught up in wonder, awash in grace, living in paradise with the Creator and Sustainer of worlds.
Jesus defeated figurative death by giving us hope that, even if the worst should occur, he has something better in store for us. In Christ, we believe that triumph can be born out of tragedy; that if death can be figurative, then so can resurrection; that new life springs from the old.
All that to say, if death has a body—a monstrous form that stretches over the world—so does Christ. We are Christ’s body.
1 Corinthians 12.13, 27: “For the body is not one member, but many … Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”
Our faces have become his face, showing sympathy and tenderness to the world.
Our lips have become his lips, speaking words of hope and encouragement.
Our ears have become his ears, sensitive to every cry.
Our hands act with his impulse; our feet march upon his mission to heal the world.
Our minds and hearts and spirits belong to Christ, for he lives in us and he has conquered every death.
And we are not just “out there” combatting the sting of Death in the world—we are carriers of Christ’s vaccine against the sting of Death ourselves. Christ lives in us.
Galatians 2.20: “I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”
So when you feel like dying, find Christ instead. Let him win once more; he’s defeated death, and Christ is in you, defeating death once more. There’s Christ in you, stomping through the weeds of depression, loneliness, anxiety, heartbreak, exhaustion, mowing down the opposition, setting fire to evil, reminding the enemy that even Death can Die.
- Victors and Victims November 6, 2018
- 3 Hacks for Happiness October 29, 2018
- Hope Against Death September 20, 2018
- The Shape Of The Cross September 19, 2018
Leave a Reply