Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
In 1 Corinthians 15:25-26, we read about the enduring power of Christ’s reign. We find that “he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (ESV). We humans have plenty of enemies, and some of them are formidable. In our current culture in the United States, there is a lot of talk about criminal violence, especially shootings at or around school properties. And this is a serious issue. Last year about fifty people died in these incidents. That’s too many. In fact, anything that can reasonably be prevented or treated and that is life threatening is a serious issue. Without mininizing people who are shot going to school, we’ll observe that many more die in traffic accidents caused by someone being impaired or distracted. Even more die from influenza infections. One of the largest killers of humans in the United States is abortion, in which one person can legally give instructions to end the life of another person, all the way up to the point of birth. And yet there’s another cause of death which we really can’t do anything about. It’s called time. Given enough time, no matter our lifestyle or our genetics, every last person’s body will cease to function, every last human being now alive on the planet will die. Some sooner, some later.
The Bible calls death an enemy, and it is indeed an enemy. Normal, healthy people do not want to die. A desire for suicide is never considered a natural or healthy desire. It’s giving in to the enemy, death. We should rather expect that given normal circumstances, people want to and are probably able to live a relatively long and healthy life. But death remains the enemy.
What does God do about it? The context of 1 Corinthians 15 makes it very clear. He becomes human in the place of you and of me. He gives his life to an untimely death, and thanks to his divine ability, he proclaims that he has died in your place and in my place. Not that we won’t die, given time. But in his resurrection Jesus has defeated death itself. It no longer can reign over us, because, like Jesus, we also will rise from the dead. The enemy has been defeated.
Some day the Lord will show that defeat clearly by bringing this world in which people are born, live, and die to an end. He will bring in the new heavens and new earth where we will simply live. In the meantime, the Christian can face even the enemy of death unafraid. Jesus has passed through death into life, as will we.
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