(August 1, 1990)
A coffin holds the attention of mourners. A mother sobs for her dead. A wife is now a widow, children fatherless. Entire families grieve. Death, the final enemy, wins again.
Even aside from the obituaries, death serves as a main ingredient in the news of the day. Violent death, accidental death, death as a result of a battle with disease -- the only joyful accounts are when someone “cheats death” and even then, it is a temporary victory.
Some refuse to think about it, as if neglect will make it go away; but the saddest grief is for those who pretend it will never happen and find themselves face to face with reality -- death has snatched someone they love. Others are so preoccupied with death they spend their entire lives trying to beat it -- with everything from anti-aging cream to youth elixirs, only to find themselves a victim of the prey they could not capture and cage.
We hear of heroes who “bravely face death” and cowards who run from it; but regardless of the attitude, death always wins; well, almost always...
The most exciting thing that ever happened to humanity involves the one person who met death on death’s terms, allowed death to win, and then turned the score and rose a winner, conquering the unconquerable enemy and changing forever the hopes of it’s victims. Jesus Christ defeated the last enemy.
There are many people who don’t believe that. They say He didn’t really die, or He didn’t really rise; His disciples imagined or invented it. Scripture answers, “...if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen: And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain. Yes, and we are false witnesses of God because we have testified that He raised up Christ... For if the dead rise not, then Christ is not raised and if Christ is not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins. Then they also which have died believing in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (I Corinthians 15:14-19).
Unthinking Christians sometimes say, “Well, if we are wrong, at least we have lived well...” Scripture says if we are wrong, we are fools. We have given our lives to follow a lie. The joys of belonging to Christ aside, we have turned our backs on the pleasures of sin, even given up all this world has to offer, and if there is nothing beyond this life, what do we have?
Jesus says this life is fleeting but what we do with it makes a difference – in it, and in the next life: “There is no man that hath left (all) for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting” (Luke 18:29,30).
Spending a life ignoring death ill prepares one for its eventuality. Preoccupation with it also ignores its power; we can’t win the battle. Looking at it as a foe, but a conquered foe gives us hope, yet that hope must be placed in the One who won the victory. We can’t conquer death because we can’t conquer the cause of death (sin); only Jesus did that. Only faith in Him gives us the same victory – over sin and over death.
The Bible triumphantly shouts to the enemy: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin [is] the law. But thanks to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Jesus hated death. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus, He felt compassion for the widow of Nain who lost her only Son; He wouldn’t let death claim either one of them. Nor did He enter it joyfully Himself. In Gethsemane His sweat dropped as blood and He cried, “Father, let this pass from me... nevertheless, not as I will but Your will be done...”
And because God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.