Death – the End, or a New Chapter?

Jesus Provides an Alternate Ending

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“My relationship with death remains the same,” he said. “I’m strongly against it.” – Woody Allen, Interview with Vanity Fair, May 15, 2010.

Amen to that, Woody! I share your sentiment, though there isn’t much either of us can do about it. We are all in the same boat (the Titanic, post iceberg) – we are all going down. Death, like the north Atlantic on that frigid night in April, 1912, is indiscriminate and unrelenting. The wisest man who ever lived (apart from Jesus) summed it up this way

9:2 Everyone shares the same fate—
the righteous and the wicked,
the good and the bad,
the ceremonially clean and unclean,
those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
What happens to the good person, also happens to the sinner;
what happens to those who make vows, also happens to those who are afraid to make vows.
9:3 This is the unfortunate fact about everything that happens on earth:
the same fate awaits everyone.
In addition to this, the hearts of all people are full of evil,
and there is folly in their hearts during their lives—then they die. – Ecclesiastes 9:2-3 (NET)

Even the Lord Jesus Christ bought in to this idea of the seemingly random visitation of what Shakespeare called “the lean, abhorred monster” (R&J, 5.3.104) upon young and old, weak and strong (Luke 13:1-5). Whether by the calculated hand of an evil man (Pilate’s slaughter of worshippers in the temple in Jerusalem; Luke 13:2) or via the agency of “fate” (the tower of Siloam falling on 18 hapless victims; Luke 13:4) – all people die. Why?

Ultimately, it’s because we are all infected with a spiritual disease, a consuming, wasting pestilence the Bible calls sin. Caveat: that’s not to say that death comes first to those who sin most. Jesus makes that clear in Luke 13.

Do you think these Galileans [the worshippers in the temple whom Pilate murdered] were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? No! I tell you. – Luke 13:2, 3a.

Natural disasters (e.g., the Siloam tower falling and killing 18, or Hurricane Katrina devastating New Orleans and leaving over 1,800 people in water-logged graves) happen. Not as a result of directed divine judgement, but because we live in a world that has been contaminated by sin.

So, does death close the book forever on life? Must we resign ourselves to Death as the end? No, we need not make the same adolescent, ill-informed mistake that Romeo made in Juliet’s tomb:

For fear of that, I still will stay with thee,
And never from this palace of dim night
Depart again. Here, here will I remain
With worms that are thy chambermaids; O, here
Will I set up my everlasting rest,.. (R&J, 5.3.106b-110)

Even though death comes to all, and, barring the return of Jesus to take us to heaven prior to our death, is inescapable, Jesus makes it clear in the same passage in Luke that Death need not be eternal:

But unless you repent, you will all perish as well. Luke 13:3b.

The antidote to the poison of sin is repentance – a turning, a change in our allegiance, to Jesus as the One who bears our sin for us, so that we don’t have to suffer the eternal death-consequences of sin, and away from our frustrated attempts to earn God’s forgiveness. Christians don’t fear death because we know that this life and its attendant suffering is not to be compared with the glorious life that is ours in Christ, both here and in heaven (Romans 8:18-21).

Death is a consequence of sin (Romans 3:23), but eternal life is a gift to be gratefully received by faith (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8, 9). We all are “strongly against death,” but that doesn’t matter. We are powerless to stop it. What does matter is that the Lord Jesus Christ is against death. He offers us the gift of life because death was powerless to stop Him.

 

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