Death, Easter and the Resurrection

It is hard for me to believe it has been so long since I posted. Well life gets busy doesn’t it. As I write this a friend from college, Rick Lindsay, sits at home dying from cancer. He may die before Easter. Rick and I have been fellow pastors in the PCA for over 30 years and his battle with cancer has been sobering for me. As I think of Rick’s battle and his approaching death I am reminded that too many Christians today take death in stride. We think that it is normal, it is just the way things are. That may be true in some sense but not in God’s original plan.

Our loving Father did not design us to experience the separation of body and soul. His enemy and our enemy brought that into the world. I think that Christians need to spend more time when death violently intrudes into life need to remind fellow Christians and the watching world that it should not be this way.

Many Christians at times of death are fond of pointing to I Corinthians 15:54-55 and saying:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting

As if to say that death has lost its sting already but here is what Paul actually says in that passage.

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ

Paul says that when Christ returns and brings about the final resurrection of all, some to glory some to shame, then death will no longer be an enemy but until then it is an enemy and we need to call it that.

I fully understand why people want to have “celebrations of life” when someone dies. We need to remember the wonderful things that those we loved brought into our lives and the lives of others. But we also need funerals. We need to reclaim funerals as a way of reminding people that this is not the way it should be. This is our enemy’s plan but it will not stand. One day the enemy will be conquered forever. But not yet.

Several years ago I did a funeral for a dearly loved Christian friend and fellow elder whose life was cut short by a drunk driver. I told the congregation (it was standing room only in this large church): “This hurts like hell and I am not swearing. Sometimes we have worship services that are so wonderful that it is as close to heaven as we can imagine. Well the same is true of death. If you want to know what hell is like this is it: separation, brokenness, loss of loved ones. The devil’s plan for everyone’s life is an eternity spent in complete isolation. Death is a great picture of what our enemy wants for us but do not despair! One has come and sailed into that undiscovered country and come back! By his death he has put the death blows to death but death still holds on but in the end death will die because he claimed the wrong person! The one death had no right to”.

So to shorten John Donne: “Death, be not proud … death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die”

In the meantime we wait, call death and enemy, weep with those who weep and wait for the resurrection.

Happy Easter!

Jesus really was raised from the dead, it is not some cleaver story made up by mislead followers.

He is risen indeed!