“For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
— 1 Corinthians 15:25-26
Notice in the Bible passage above how the apostle calls “death” an “enemy.”
By contrast, I clipped an article from a magazine a few months ago. It said: “Once college students flocked to courses on social and political concerns; today, courses on death and dying are among the most popular.” The article goes on to tell how a “new doctrine” is emerging about death, “emphasizing that death is a natural part of life. We should not fear death (the new doctrine says), but accept it as the last ‘passage,’ the natural culmination of our lives. Some even urge that we welcome death as a friend….”
Interesting approach. But a sad one and a wrong one. The Bible hardly speaks about death as a friend. It speaks of it as unnatural — as the consequence of sin. “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” God told Adam after he sinned (Gen. 3:19). “…By the one man’s offense death reigned…” (Rom. 5:17) and “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), writes Paul. Job did not mask death when he said: “…though after my skin, worms destroy this body…” (Job 19:26). When our Lord Jesus faced death, He did not welcome it as “a natural part of life,” but rather prayed that, if His Father was willing, He might be spared.
The answer to death is not to euphemize it. Our American funeral customs bend over backwards to give death a pretty face with cosmetics, gleaming caskets, and bouquets of flowers. Yet the finality, the ugliness, of death remains.
What then is the answer? The Christian religion teaches that this ugly thing called death has been defeated, destroyed, abolished! The testimony of the empty tomb is visible and concrete evidence that “our Savior Jesus Christ . . . has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).
God is the creator and author of life. Satan is the architect of sin and death. By Christ’s innocent death on the cross for us, and triumphant resurrection from the dead, Satan has been defeated and destroyed. Since death’s architect has been destroyed, so has death, the fruit of his work: “For this purpose the Son of God was mani- fested, that He might destroyed the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8). “That through death (Christ) might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14f).
Dear readers, there is no need to euphemize death as a friend, to paint a pretty face upon it, or to call it natural. Rather, learn to know Jesus Christ and what He has done to defeat, destroy, abolish that ugly enemy.
Jesus promises His believers: “Because I live, you will live also” (Jn. 14:19). Because Jesus’ grave is empty, death is but a “sleep” for us. As Jesus conquered death, so shall we!
Convinced by Spirit-given faith of His victory, we are enabled to say with Job: “. . .After my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:27). And with St. Paul: “I am persuaded that. . .death. . . shall (not) be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38).
In the 16th century the great Lutheran Reformer, Dr. Martin Luther, took chalk and wrote in huge letters on his desk: VIVIT — Latin for “He lives!” Imprint those words as a motto over the mantel of your door and over the bed where you repose.
And then sing your “alleluias” in death’s face!
–Pastor Paul Fleischer