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Taking the Sting Out of Death

Arthritis, dementia, diabetes, COPD, cancer, atrial fibrillation, renal failure, lupus, congestive heart failure, hangnails, stubbed toes, presbyopia, the list could go on and on and on, and it does. Our little church has been touched by these and many more. Why? What is the cause for such an extensive list of ailments, weaknesses, and chronic diseases?

 

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate…. Cursed is the ground because of you… thorns and thistles it shall grow…. For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

 

These are the most depressing words in the history of mankind. Why do people get diabetes? Genesis 3. Why do people get cancer? Genesis 3. Why do people get the flu? Genesis 3. Just one chapter earlier, God promised Adam DEATH if he at from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. DEATH, that horrible enemy of all the descendants of Adam. We, the sons and daughters of Adam are born dying. Even before birth, death impacts us. Miscarriages happen, congenital diseases occur, and right here in our own region mothers hire hitmen to murder their preborn children. Death is a relentless enemy. Sin is why death entered the world. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sin is the cause of death, Adam’s sin. We don’t want to fall off into the ditch of the prosperity gospel, which is no gospel at all. The charlatans of that heretical movement would say that you have cerebral palsy because of your sin, or you have cancer because of your lack of faith. These liars pervert grace, and pervert the law of God. They would be right alongside the disciples in asking “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (John 9:2). Certainly, there are earthly consequences for sin for the Christian and the reprobate alike.  Being a Christian doesn’t mean decades of alcohol abuse won’t result in cirrhosis, or that drug abuse won’t result in hepatitis. Consequences do not equal punishment. Never let anyone tell you that your disease is because of sin in your life. That is an assurance-robbing lie from the father of lies, the devil. We live in a superstitious culture that is quick to believe these lies. Disease and death, however, are because of sin, Adam’s sin, and the curse that God placed on creation as a result.

 

We live in a world that does everything humanly possible to escape death. You may have heard urban legends that Walt Disney or Ted Williams had their heads cryogenically frozen, hoping for a day when science has cured death. I can neither confirm nor deny these urban legends, but what I can confirm is that science will never cure death. Cosmetics, Botox, hair dye, pharmaceuticals, these may all mask the dying process, they may delay death. Certainly, stents and bypass surgery extend the lives of those who have has blockages, and I say praise the Lord for science. Praise the Lord for exogenous insulin, antibiotics, C-sections, dialysis machines, and liver transplants. These are wonderful discoveries that have benefitted countless individuals. Just one hundred years ago, pneumonia was likely a death sentence. None will escape death. No amount of penicillin or Botox will enable you to evade that hateful enemy, DEATH.

 

This has been a rather depressing article thus far, but reading the title you know hope is coming. Just as Solomon repeatedly stated “vanity, vanity, all is vanity” in Ecclesiastes, we have stated the same when it comes to evading death. Solomon saw that all is not indeed vanity as he concludes Ecclesiastes by stating “fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Well, that’s terrible news as well, because you have not done your duty. You haven’t feared God as you ought. You haven’t kept His commandments perfectly as is required by the Law of God. That curse we received because of Adam’s failure was broken by the Last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ about to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:12-17)

 

Praise the Lord. The Last Adam removed the sting of death that came through the first Adam. The curse is broken, the penalty has been paid. We have One who has done His duty mentioned in Ecclesiastes 12, Jesus Christ the righteous. He has kept the commandments FOR YOU dear Christian.  He paid the penalty of death FOR YOU dear Christian. Not just that, but the resurrection confirms His victory. The empty tomb proves Jesus was VICTORIOUS over DEATH. Death is no longer to be feared by the Christian, as it is just the doorway to our faith becoming sight.

 

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power 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)

 

This hope is why we can endure to process of dying as Christians, we can endure the deterioration of our bodies and minds here on earth. We know that those of us who are in Christ have a great promise of glory with the glorious one, the Lord Jesus Christ. You can endure the aches, the medications, the surgeries, because you have a promise that all in Christ will one day join Him in heaven, and you will be reunited with a perfected resurrected body at the last day. As we began with a Genesis 3 world, that’s all we have ever known, a cursed world tainted by Adam’s fall; we might look longingly at a Genesis 2 world with no sin, no disease, no death. I argue that what we will experience as believers is better than a Genesis 2 world. We will see a Revelation 21 world where we have an appreciation for what our King has done. In Genesis 2, there was no need for forgiveness, no need for God to wrap on human flesh, no need for a propitiation, no need for a substitute. In Revelation 21, we see all that Genesis 2 was and more.

 

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are the temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. …and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it,…only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

 

Glory to the Lamb who removed the sting of death for all who trust in Him alone. We who are in Christ can look longingly toward Heaven while our residence is still here on this side of glory.  To quote Fanny Crosby…

 

Near the cross! I’ll watch and wait,

Hoping, trusting ever:

Till I reach the golden strand,

Just beyond the river.

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