September 1, 2023 | by: Michael Sanelli | 0 comments
As I write this, my heart is heavy. One of the families in our membership has lost a child due to a tragic accident. A toddler. Little Leannah with her sweet smiles and loud personality. Death is such a wicked, cruel, torturous enemy of humanity. With everything that I am, I long for death to be destroyed, damned to hell, never to subdue one of God’s people again.
In the resurrection of Jesus, we celebrate that death has been defeated. Yet every day human lives are lost to death’s heartless grip. How can God’s people grope for comfort in the darkness with such tragedy? How do we process death?
The Dawn of Death
Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin,
and so death spread to all men because all sinned.
When death strikes our hearts and households like this, it is natural for us to cry out from deep in our souls – it’s not supposed to be this way! That’s where my heart is right now. This little girl brought so much love and joy into this family and our community. But her vibrant life has been cut short. It’s not supposed to be this way.
It’s true. Not only when we have to bury a child, but it’s true for every single death from the beginning. It’s not supposed to be this way. God created man and woman and charged them to “fill the earth” and “have dominion over it” (Genesis 1:26-28). He had given them “the breath of life” in their lungs (Genesis 2:7) and gave them the “tree of life” for an eternal sustenance (v.9).
But that crafty beast, the deceiver of the saints, filled our first parents with doubts of God’s goodness to them (Genesis 3:1-5). Adam and Eve knew if they broke God’s command and ate from the one tree in the garden they were not to enjoy, that God had promised they would surely die. Death would burst into the human experience if they sinned against the abundantly gracious One.
Surely you will not die, hissed the serpent (v.4). And the rest is history. What God promised would happen, happened. “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). From that point on death would punctuate the lives of the living.
So it’s true. Death is an unnatural intruder for how things ought to be. It’s not supposed to be this way. That’s a good response to death. A right response. Every fiber in our being should cry out that there’s something wrong with death, as common as it is. Death is an awful consequence of evil, a dominating foe to life itself. We should hate its very existence, curse the day it was born, and celebrate the day of its impending doom.
I pray that as you face the sting of death, as you respond to this recent tragedy or face the death of a loved one, you will know that your tears are appropriate. Mourning and hatred for death is right. I pray that if you feel unsettled, as if something is wrong in this world, you would know that those feelings align with the truth. It’s not supposed to be this way.
I pray that you would know that your Shepherd, Jesus, understands death intimately. He is a true human being after all. He sympathizes with the pains death brings into a community and weeps along with you. The Son of God put on human flesh that he may walk amongst us, see death with human eyes and feel those eyes well up in tears as those dear to him came face to face with the enemy. And then he died. And in his death, death was defeated.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is,
the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
The coming of Jesus marked the beginning of the end of death’s reign. The coming King who appeared to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8) paved the road to victory straight through the cross. Absurd as it sounds, even foolish to many (1 Corinthians 1:18), the message of a crucified Savior King contains the power to spring life from death, defeat the devil and bring about the destruction of his enterprise.
If death is the consequence of sin (Romans 6:23), then to be freed from its tyranny, sin’s guilt must be eliminated. This is why Jesus went to the cross. His “one act of righteousness” has lead to our “justification and life” (5:18). Christ’s death has cut the cords of our bondage to death’s reign. We have passed from death to life (1 John 3:14), out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13), and can now count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11). Indeed, Jesus has delivered us from the oppression of the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).
On the cross, our Savior King rendered the critical blow to our enemies. But Jesus did not stay dead. No. It wasn’t possible for him to be held by death’s grip (Acts 2:24). Jesus rose from the dead, confirming that our faith in him wasn’t in vain and that he indeed released us from the guilt of our sin (1 Corinthians 15:17). His resurrection gives us a living hope (1 Peter 1:3) because we have a living Savior who has conquered death. He proved it by rising from the dead.
I pray that you will find hope in the resurrection of Jesus. We don’t follow a dead religious leader. We follow a living and conquering King. Know that your soul is secure because Jesus has been raised from the dead. The same Spirit that raised Jesus is in you (Romans 8:11). He has given you spiritual life and by this same power enables you to face the darkness of trials with hope. I pray you will find comfort in the fact that Jesus conquered our enemies in his death and resurrection and that one day–oh Lord may it be soon–he will vanquish them for good.
Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the Living One.
I died, and behold I am alive forevermore,
and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
When trials as dark as the one we face touches a home and a church, God’s people desperately need the light of hope that comes only from Christ. Because Jesus is alive forevermore, we can be assured that we too will have life after death. Because Jesus is alive forevermore, we can be certain that one day there will be an end to death’s existence. It’s something to long for.
Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20), that is to say his resurrection is the promise of a great harvest of resurrections to come. This is how Jesus frees us from the fear of death. We no longer need to perceive death as we once did. In Christ, death is but a doorway to a life face to face with Jesus (Philippians 1:21-23). When death takes hold of one of Christ’s sheep, the soul leaves its body only to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8) and one day will put on an incorruptible body (1 Corinthians 15:53) in the resurrection. Death is not final.
Death is swallowed up in victory!
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
(1 Corinthians 15:54c-55)
What hope this should bring us! As dark of a shadow death casts, it is but a shadow. Yes, we mourn. We mourn and grieve and groan and ask how long oh Lord, but not as those who do not have hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Jesus, our Jesus, has the keys to Death and Hades. Take comfort in the fact that when we die, we will be raised in newness of life where there is no more tears, no more sorrow, and yes, no more death.
Death, our last enemy, is not only to be annulled in our resurrection, but death itself will one day be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). In the judgement before the great white throne (Revelation 20:11), Death and Hades will give up all who had died to be judged (v. 13), and then Death itself will be thrown into the lake of fire (v. 14). It will be declared from the throne, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3–4). Death will be destroyed.
I pray that as you process this recent tragedy, the death of a loved one, or your own death to come, you will do so with the comfort that Jesus stands in victory over death. Death doesn’t have the last word. Death no longer reigns, though it bares its teeth. We don’t need to be afraid. Jesus has already delivered the critical blow to our enemy and one day will finish the job. Rest in the peace that Jesus offers you. Encourage one another with these things (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
Continue to pray for the Leflers. A death like this can leave a lifelong heartache. The devil would love for this death to crush their faith. Pray for them. In the weeks to come the darkness of this cloud will lift for many of us. Yet for them, there will still be someone missing at the table.
Michael Sanelli is the Worship Minister at Grace Bible Church
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