Victory over Death
The Bible doesn't mince words about how we should view death: it is our "enemy." And we naturally fear our mortal enemy. Unless, of course, we know that we can defeat the enemy. And that is what resurrection promises.
I attended another funeral the other day. Slowly shaking his head, the husband told me, “She went so fast.” Several times. I walked up to the casket, and there her body lay, in her best dress, with makeup to help her look her best. The kids in the room didn’t know what to make of that body in the casket. How strange. She’s dead, and yet, there’s her body.
I don’t want to die. I nearly did so back in 2006, and I don’t want to go through that again. Sure, I think heaven will be awesome.
But death? Not so much. Do I really have to go through that to get to there?
Resurrection and the Defeat of Our Mortal Enemy
The Bible doesn’t mince words about how we should view death: it is our “enemy.” And we naturally fear our mortal enemy. Unless, of course, we know that we can defeat the enemy. And that is what resurrection promises.
The Apostle Paul wrote just that in the most marvelous part of the Bible on resurrection, the fifteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians. He makes it crystal clear that Jesus was raised from the dead. And because of that, we too are promised resurrection. Death will be defeated because we will arise again, physically, in bodies that will never die again. God’s reign puts all his enemies under his feet, and “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). When that happens, we will be able to sing, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
Jesus promises us victory over death because he had victory over death on Easter morning.
A Very Real, Very Physical Resurrection
In his wonderful book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, N.T. Wright says,
If after his death he (Jesus) had gone into some kind of non-bodily existence, death would not be defeated. It would remain intact; it would merely be redescribed… But this is precisely what Paul is denying. Death is the last enemy, not a good part of the good creation; and therefore death must be defeated if the life-giving God is to be honored as the true Lord of the world.
Back to that funeral, as I observed the grief of my friend and the uneasiness of the kids around that dead body in the casket, I got down on my knee and looked the kids in the eye.
“Death is bad, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” they replied, looking at me like I was a Martian.
“But Easter means that death will be defeated. Jesus died but he then arose from the dead on Easter, and because of that, death is defeated. She is with Jesus in heaven, but someday she’s going to return to that body and, just like Jesus, she will rise from the dead, too!”
“Cool!” one of the kids said, “Like The Walking Dead!”
Not exactly the response I was looking for.
But it does seem strange if we really think about it, doesn’t it? The dead will rise, alive and well. But they won’t be the “walking dead.” They will be made imperishable, pristine, sinless, and ready for eternity.
Suffering and the Hope of Easter
Suffering and death are very real things in our world, and we need resurrection hope to get us through. For those of us who are suffering, Scotty Smith at The Gospel Coalition blog offers a comforting prayer reflecting on our coming resurrection body.
Redemption follows suffering. Resurrection follows death. There’s no getting around it. Nate Pyle vents his frustration with how people say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” He writes, “It is easy to spout trite Christian platitudes designed to make people feel better with bumper-sticker theology. But insipid axioms do little in the face of the actual brokenness of the world.” In spite of all the suffering Nate experienced, he is able to find hope:
Not once have I danced around our house shouting, "Yeah suffering!" Instead, in the midst of pain and hurt, I am actively expecting God to do something. I don’t know what. I don’t know when. But I am expecting the God of resurrection to heal us.
So that future resurrection gives us strength in our present suffering. In a gripping story of emergency rooms and fires and Easter morning worship, Ann Voskamp reminds us:
We’re the Resurrection People and we won’t live like that stone’s been rolled back. We won’t live like it isn’t the truth: The sad things are all becoming undone now. There’s no turning that stone back now.
So we can look for glimpses of this hope in our everyday lives, what Laura Boggess calls, “resurrection moments.”
This week, be sure to check out the wonderful Easter resources that Christine Sine and Mustard Seed Associates have gathered at Godspace.
And Christina Fox at the Desiring God blog gives us four things to teach your children this Easter.
Need some poetry about living the resurrection in the present? Tim Suttle does us a favor by posting Wendell Berry’s “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage. Here are a few snippets:
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.