Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Conquest of Death

How should we look at death? It is the universal fact. And it is a fact we continually deny. Why? There is a modern tendency to try to persuade ourselves that death is normal. Then why do we not feel like it? If death is natural, why do we see it as an intruder, an enemy? Why has the vast majority of the human race believed in some form or another of life beyond death? And why do we find, in culture after culture, the grand theme of the great god or hero who seeks to conquer death? Sometimes the hero succeeds. Sometimes the hero tries and looks back the last minute and fails. These are set in different times and different places. They have little in common but the basic theme. And they all are set long ago and far away and in some mythical country unconnected to the real world. Except one.

The Christian position is that death seems like an intruder because it is an intruder. That it is a result of our rebellion against our Creator (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:20-22). We are all sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9), and we are therefore under the sentence of death, with judgment to follow (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11-15). But God had promised from the beginning a Savior who would break the power of death (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53:4-12; Daniel 12:1-3). This was fulfilled when God became a man, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:9-18; John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11), and paid the price for sin (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). And He validated this by rising from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-20; Romans 4:25; 1:4). Based on this we are offered eternal life through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9).

This did not happen in some never-never land, but in the full light of history. Further, it is not an incidental part of the Christian faith, but the very heart of it. Without it there would have been no Christian faith. The original founders, who ought to have known if it was a scam, maintained the truth of the resurrection amidst persecution and criticism, and most are said to have died for it. Chuck Colson, based on his Watergate experience, points out how unlikely this is.  Did people have hallucinations or some sort of mystical experience? If so (and corporate hallucinations are extremely dubious), why did others believe them? People were being put to death for being Christians within about 30 years of the event. Something happened then that was so clear-cut and so convincing that people were willing to die for it. There were many critics who put out various theories, but the ones near the time did not deny the fact of the empty tomb. How is this to be explained? The best explanation is that death, the universal enemy, had finally been conquered. And we can conquer it, too, through faith in Christ.

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