Death: The Inevitable Enemy or the Door to Life?
“You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God,
knowing good and evil.” [Gen 3:4b&5]
From the beginning of time in the Garden of Eden, mankind has functioned under the premise that he is responsible to know good from evil, and to choose as God unto himself. We have all quoted the old axiom ‘to thine own self be true’, and ‘you are the captain of your ship, the pilot of your own destiny’. Every child born into this world, in the image of Adam [Gen 5:3], is born under the domination of the lie, and begins a quest of determination: determined to be as God, and determined to discover ‘truth’ so that he may choose ‘good’ and avoid ‘evil’, determined to secure success, i.e., live life to the fullest and live forever.
“There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” [Pro 14:12]
What is the problem with this noble determination? What is the error in calculation that will reach the wrong conclusion? The original lie has tainted and flawed the entire process, start – trip – destination.
As the lie begins, ‘You surely shall not die!’, we basically begin with the illusion that life as we know it will continue indefinitely. With that foundational precept all other decisions and actions lose one of the most important factors that keep us aligned with reality; this life is temporal and passing, and there is more to life than this temporary state. Many of us live our lives with a reckless abandon, thinking that there are no permanent consequences to foolish choices, truly believing that we are immortal in this original form. When confronted with this faulty reasoning, the response maybe a flat denial, but in the depth of our own individual belief system, we think ‘that will never happen to me, it always happens to the other guy’.
Again, we have believed the lie: ‘You surely shall not die.’ This lie begins to prove its true nature as we experience different degrees of death through the journey of life: death of desires, death of dreams, death of determinations, and death of life as we know it. With each death experience the individual notes an immediate response within of fear and anxiety, which serves as a catalyst to action. I must discover and do something to correct my condition…to prevent failure.
Again the second proponent of the lie comes into operation with each presenting death experience. The constant awareness of mortality leaves a haunting acknowledgement that ‘this is not the way it is supposed to be’, but with that awareness, also, comes the reality that there is nothing I can do to prevent it. As Ben Franklin said, ‘there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes’. The eternal motivator behind the lie is the fear of death. I must do whatever is necessary to postpone this inevitability, or I must escape the constant reminder by living for the moment…’eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’. With the inevitable end hanging, draping over the mind like a heavy wet garment, the pursuit of acquiring possessions and position become the diverting focus, or the anesthesia of addictions, numbs temporarily the constant reminder of failure and pain through the diversion pleasure and fading relief. However, again the ever increasing awareness seems to creep in like dawning sunlight, that time is running out and the directions chosen are not meeting the aching need for permanence with acceptance, meaning and purpose of life, until an hour in the journey, when the Son blazes through, lighting every imperfection and flaw of character, illuminating the error of direction in the half finished trip. What a rude awakening to discover that the hard climb was up the wrong side, and all is vain effort with exhaustion the only payment.
With the white hot glare of judgment, and the inevitable condemnation of imperfection, hopeless and helpless despair become the escorts to destruction. Whether manifested as a deadness of soul, or the actual working of death consequences in relationships, endeavors and the physical body, the individual comes to the stark reality that ‘as the captain of my ship, the pilot of my destiny, I am shipwrecked! There is no hope in myself.’
To some this becomes the unwritten epitaph of a wasted life.
To others this becomes the pivot point to LIFE, the meaning and purpose of existence. Life eternal, God Life…Zoë.
“Except a grain of wheat goes in the ground and die, it remains alone, but if it dies it brings forth much grain.” [John 12:24]
Although to the temporal minded, this appears to be wasted, weak-willed surrender to circumstance, the eternally minded recognizes the pangs of labor, and eagerly awaits the promised, chosen new birth. Resurrection from death only occurs after crucifixion. The process is extreme, because the condition was fatal. Remember God said, “you shall surely die.”
Die we did and die we must! But death could not swallow up LIFE (Zoë)! Our enemy had not realized that the plans of the LORD will not be thwarted. His purpose for all eternity was to bring forth a new race, the race of the Last Adam, Jesus Christ. Sons of God who would not taste of eternal death, but would feast to the fullest as the Tree of Eternal Life! [Rev 2:9] Children that resemble the very heart of the Father, agape’ lovers, containers of the Life of God. Children that would remain dependent upon the Father, obedient to His will and walk in His ways, as exampled on this earth by their Elder Brother, even to the point of death on the shameful cross.
“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he
who loses his life for My sake will find it.” [Mt 10:38-39]
As we take a step of terrifying faith into the abyss of abandonment to the only ‘…True God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent’ [John 17:3b], One whom we can only see dimly through the fog of lies and pain, we turn the corner of death into the blazing light of a new kingdom, Life, Zoë. Location unchanged but view drastically altered, we begin the process of discovery, similar to a newborn painfully squinting in harsh light and suddenly aware of the cold reception of the unknown. Familiar faces, yet altered acquaintances we once called friends and family begin to question, ‘who are you?’ They may not have changed, but we have and we know what we once concurred as truth and pleasure and acceptance from them, we now see it for what it truly is, deception and we feel withdrawal or outright rejection from those we thought to be comrades.
“Do not marvel, brethren if the world hates you. We know we have passed out of death into life (Zoë), because we love
the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.” [1 John 3:13-14]
Vulnerable and confused, trusted hands begin to care and nurture this new Life, but once again we look back to love ones, once hearty companions find us repulsive and peculiar. And once more, death presents itself:
“For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her
mother-in-law , and a man’s enemies will be of his own household.” [Mt 10:35-36]
“For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life…”
[II Cor. 2:15-16]
The sudden realization of the New Creation in Christ’s Kingdom is that we really have changed … internally, as well as, externally. The things we once bragged about, or now shameful, and the things we never dreamed we would ‘be caught dead doing’ are the very desires of our hearts.
I suppose the most startling revelation is that after many years of maturing and molding into the image of Christ, we discover again and again that our lives are not our own:
“…that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” [1 Cor. 6:19b-20]
In fact we discover not only are we God’s possession, His peculiar people, but our lives are meshed into His, and His into ours to the point that “Christ is our Life!” Though, not fully understood, nor arrived to the perfection prepared for us, we joyously enter into the rest of God [Heb. 4:3], and be who God created us to be in the first place as we enjoy the process of the final legs of the trip.
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” [1 Cor. 15:55]
“…for mortality may be swallowed up by life.” [2 Cor. 5:4]