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Death, the Last Enemy

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” (Gen. 3:4)

Yes, it’s Easter season, and Christians are supposed to be focused now on the Resurrection, not on Good Friday. But we’ve been stuck in Good Friday for going on 3 years now. Too many lost loved ones during the pandemic: to Covid, to the unexpected side effects of the various vaccines, and to the collateral physical, psychological and economic effects of the lockdowns; and just as we are rounding a corner on the plague, we’ve encountered the uncertainties of economic instability, social unrest and war.

In early 2022, the life insurance industry announced its shock that in the United States, they’d discovered a 40% increase in non-Covid deaths among people aged 18-64. For scale, the industry considers 12% to be a “catastrophic” increase. Forty percent is a high expected to occur once in 200 years. Thus far, there is no obvious explanation for this dramatic increase.

Death is inevitable and normal, the expected outcome for all living things. Even though we know that everyone will die of something, we pursue health through diet and exercise, and we get screened and vaccinated, thinking that by doing so we will live longer. While quality of the life we have is important, and no one should live recklessly, none of those things can add a single day to our lives (Ps. 139:16b).

Yet death also remains abnormal. We know this in a visceral way, even without the Bible telling us that “death is the last enemy” (I Cor. 15:26). Jesus convulsed with grief at the death of His friend, Lazarus (John 11:38), and was overwhelmed in anticipation of His own impending death (Luke 22:44). We try to control the normal, all while knowing the abnormal is outside our control. The psalmist describes our journey through this life as “the valley shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4). Yet the sheep eat and drink as they follow the Shepherd, resting in peace, even in the presence of their enemy, Death.

As Believers, we are born into this life, we are born anew into life in Christ, and in death we are born to eternal life. But it seems that in the crucible of the past two years many Believers have lost their focus on eternal life with Christ, instead allowing a fear of death to overtake them, robbing them of their joy and silencing their gospel witness.

Life in the Kingdom of God is risky, but we have certain hope in the Lord!

Jesus has taken the Serpent’s lie to our parents in the Garden of Eden – the lie that introduced Sin and Death and separation from God into the world - and turned it into the truth of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, the truth that vanquished Sin and Death and opened the gate to eternal life in the presence of God for those who believe. If this life is all there is, then death is an enemy; but for Christ-followers, the best is yet to come.

Brothers and sisters, this is both our goal and our message to the world – that Death is not normal, that Jesus has overcome that enemy, and that without a fear of death, a hope-filled life is not only possible, it’s the real “new normal.”

Let us remember what it is to “die well” by first refocusing our vision on the certain hope of life after death, recalibrating our lives in Christ, and then taking every opportunity presented to us to proclaim, “He is risen indeed!”

“And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die…” (John 11:26).

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