“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Christianity’s Answer to The Problem of Death

…What this means is that death has lost its sting not only in the exchange that took place on the cross, but because of that exchange, death is changed and transformed throughout God’s creation, and in particular, in each person’s life. Death is an evil, but it has been so thoroughly knitted into God’s design for eternal life for his people that we ought not fear it, but rather embrace it, rejoicing in victory. This is Christianity’s answer to death: look forward to it. Eagerly anticipate the moment when you will pass through that dark veil.

Christ has removed death’s sting and eucatastrophically overturned it from something evil, something to be feared, even dreaded, to a defeated thing, an instrument of victory, even a blessed thing, blessed because it is the path to God for the redeemed, the climax of our transformation into Christ’s image (2 Corinthians 3:18), the threshold from which we will enter into the presence of the Trinity. The mystery and the miracle of Christianity is that death, which humans dread, is now the key to victory over sin and suffering and the door to eternal life. It is the path to God himself – the road to ultimate reality.

So have no fear of death, but look forward to it. If we follow Christ we die spiritually to ourselves in life. Rejoice in the chance to take up your cross and follow him to the end, to resurrection and victory. And when loved ones who followed Christ die, rejoice that they have followed Christ to the end and are like him more fully in death than they ever were in life.

A professor of mine said something like this: fleeing from the difficulties of life is like running away from the coming night and towards the setting sun. What we need to do instead is to run into the night and towards the dawn. The knowledge and hope of the coming dawn will be a light in the darkest places. It is the same with death itself. When it comes, confront it with the fact of victory and resurrection and rejoice in death as the door to this victory.

Death is the path, and we must face it, submit to it, and thereby pass through death, pass on to what lies beyond. The road continues. Death is not the end. So do not fear death. Do not fear it! There is no reason to fear it – its sting is gone. Death is not the termination of your life, but the climax, the goal, the great event through which we are resurrected to a higher and better life. It is not the wall at the end of the journey, but the peak at the end of the climb, and as the final destination of our journey in life, our understanding of death ought to define the way we live.* This is the answer that Christianity gives to the terrible fact of death, “philosophy’s greatest problem.”

*See Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God, p. 53.

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