“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” If you have been with us the past several weeks, this has been a truth that we have been living in as we journey through the 15th chapter of the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Church. It is this same turning-on-it’s-head reality that God desires to deliver to us time and time again through His Word. All throughout Scripture, God declares that He will make things right and set things straight even when things appear to be hopeless, that He is the Beginning and End, that He brings freedom to those in captivity, that He can work in a hard situation and use it for His Ultimate Good, that He comes to restore what has been lost and tarnished, that He will literally bring people from death to life.
We have spent the past two weeks talking about resurrection and how that sets the stage and lays the foundation for the hope that believers in Christ can have and claim. It is through the resurrection of Christ that affirms and seals the assurance that we can have new life through Him. His resurrection is a foreshadowing of our own resurrection that we will one day have when He comes again to take His people home.
But there is an elephant in the room and that elephant is death. What do we do with death? How do we view death? What does this word of resurrection have to say about the reality and seeming finality of death?
So, let’s talk about death for a moment, but not in a heavy, burdensome way. I can, at times, enjoy and appreciate satire…when I can understand and get the point behind what the author(s) are saying. Reading the headlines from satirical websites like The Onion or Babylon Bee can usually bring a chuckle even when talking about grim topics like death.
In one such article, The Onion ran a humorous, and fictional, article with a biting truth. The article was titled “World Death Rate Holding Steady at 100 Percent.” Here is an excerpt from the article:
World Health Organization officials expressed disappointment Monday at the group's finding that, despite the enormous efforts of doctors, rescue workers and other medical professionals worldwide, the global death rate remains constant at 100 percent. Death, a metabolic affliction causing total shutdown of all life functions, has long been considered humanity's number one health concern. Responsible for 100 percent of all recorded fatalities worldwide, the condition has no cure. "I was really hoping, what with all those new radiology treatments, rescue helicopters, aerobics TV shows and what have you, that we might at least make a dent in it this year," WHO Director General Dr. Gernst Bladt said. "Unfortunately, it would appear that the death rate remains constant and total, as it has inviolably since the dawn of time."
Death has been the age-old enemy of humanity. It has been an impenetrable foe that many have tried to beat and fight against as long as possible but, in the end, time and death seem to win out. Since the beginning of time when sin entered the world, and death with sin, we have had to deal with the fear, terror, sting, pain, and hardship of death. Many of us have experienced the death of a friend, family member, or loved one. The reality of death can be devastating, despairing, and difficult. On our own, we are hopeless against this waiting enemy that is a direct result of our own rebellion against God.
And yet, God does not stand idly by and leave us in our despair and hopelessness. He steps in and He enters the scene on our behalf to deliver us a promise…to give us victory over that which we could not defeat on our own. To turn something as ugly and painful as death into a glorious gateway to something new and perfect that He gives us. To reverse the curse of sin and death into the gift of new and abundant life.
That is why the Apostle Paul begins this chapter with the resurrection. It is now through the resurrection that we view death. It is now because of the resurrection that our perspective on death and dying can be reshaped. As Paul writes regarding this same topic to the churches in Thessalonica he says: “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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NIV)
And so, it is with this hope and this assurance and this victory that Paul can write to the Christians in Corinth and to us today as Oak Hill Church: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Living in Victory,
Pastor Ben Bigaouette