Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gracious Death

For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying: “What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 02:05-09, NKJV).
Death is the last enemy. It is the inevitable result of sin's curse. All other evils in the world are trumped by this one thing, and all sin leads irrevocably to it. Most of the frenetic, irrational scrambling into sinful behavior is a direct result of either running from or denying death. 

Fear of death is inescapable bondage. It is a burden that plagues all men for all their life until, in helpless and hopeless defeat, the implacable enemy triumphs and death wins out.

Some hope with all their rebellious hearts that this death is the mere blinking out of consciousness, the door of sensation and thought slamming shut forever, whereby the end of earthly life is annihilation.

It is not. 

Vaporous temporal life on this planet is simply the precursor to another kind of consciousness. Rather than an ending, it is just the beginning. And the real curse of death is not the physical cessation of life, but the eternal separation of consciousness from God. Thought, feeling and existence do not end at death's threshold, but the opportunity for salvation does. 

Once we die in trespasses and sins, we are transported to a place as far removed from an omnipresent God as it is possible to go. Its is no accident that this place is described from ancient times as outer darkness, as a lake of fire, as where the worm never dies, as where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth… forever.

The real curse of death is not annihilation, but eternal torment.

Yet, it is so like our God to use the very means of implementing the curse to negate it.

If you know anything at all about the crucifixion of Christ you know that its purpose was to make propitiation for the sin of the world. By His sinless death, the debt of sin, payable only by a soul dying, was satisfied once and for all, for all who believe. By the Father forsaking the Son in His death on the Cross, Jesus suffered for us that eternal separation from the very Source of Life that is our due.

That is why the Bible tells us that He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we could become His righteousness in Him.

Christ's sojourn into death conquered death. It was the ultimate act of grace.

By His death we died to sin. By His resurrection, we live.

"Because I live, you will live also," He told His disciples.

His Incarnation as a Man a little lower than the angels was for the suffering of death, so that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.

No other Man could have died on behalf of another's sin, for every other man deserves death for his own sin. It was only by the Sinless One's sacrifice that sin, and the curse of sin, could be eliminated from Existence.

This is an equation that only God could devise.

It is an act that only His obedient Son could have carried out.

By dying in our place, He killed death, conquering it completely for those who accept His death on their behalf.

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57, NKJV).

This one death, immeasurably profound and gracious, freed the Universe from Death itself.

Therefore, to die physically in unbelief is a tragedy beyond comprehension, made infinitely more so by its utter senselessness.

Christ commuted our sentence of death by suffering it for us. He who declared the penalty for our sin, also paid it. 

All He requires of us is faith.