There is no doubt that death is an enemy - the last enemy (I Cor. 15:26). We fear death, but not only because it is unknown. No one has ever returned to tell us what it is like to die, but our fear of death comes especially from the knowledge that death is wages of sin (Rom. 6:23), the judgment of God upon those who have rebelled against Him.
It is no wonder that every attempt is made to cover up the horror and corruption of death. Nor is it any wonder that the majority in the face of death try to drown their sorrows in reveling and drink. Even when dying they do not want to think or speak of death and in many cases simply deny that they are dying when it is clear that there is no remedy or help.
When the ungodly see death in the creation, then they speak of "the survival of the fittest" and of "nature red in tooth and claw" in order to cover up the fact that death is not natural and that the wrath of God is evident in it. The fact is, of course, that death is everywhere - the end of all hopes, the enemy that always comes too soon. In death, by God's judgment, all labors and aspirations are left unfulfilled and unsatisfied.
It is only by faith that one is able to face death, and even then it is not easy. In the face of death even faith must struggle and fight and overcome, though it always does have the victory. In the consciousness of his own sins, the believer must still seek by faith to trust in the sacrifice and victory of Christ over death and to believe with all his heart that death is swallowed up in victory.
Death is conquered! Death could not hold Him (Acts 2:24), for the sting (destroying power) of death is sin (I Cor. 15:56), and not only because He has no sins of His own. The sins that He had taken upon Himself as Mediator, He had paid for to the utmost farthing. He had willingly put Himself in the power of death and allowed it to do its worst to Him for the sins that He bore, but it could and did not conquer, for He was the Son of God, the Holy One. His death, as John Owen put it so beautifully, was the death of death for all those who the Father had given Him.
That raises the question, however, "Why must believers die, if death is swallowed up in victory?" or, as the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, "Since then Christ died for us, why must we also die?" (Q. 42). The answer of the Catechism is the answer of Scripture, "Our death is not a satisfaction for our sin, but only an abolishing of sin, and a passage into eternal life."
What a wonder! That dark door that only ever opened into hell and damnation, now opens for believers into glorious heavenly life. Perhaps, therefore, it is not wrong to say also that we must die in order to show how utterly Christ has conquered on our behalf. An end of all sin, to be sure, and a door to glory, but a testimony, too, to the fact that death is indeed swallowed up.
And so the believer says, "Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's" (Rom. 14:8). Is that your confession? Will it be when death comes?
- Volume: 8
- Issue: 7
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address13823 Clear Lake Rd.
State or ProvinceWA