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Archive for February 19th, 2010
Death – The Bible often seems to personify death. Perhaps that’s because the Bible doesn’t conceive of death as simply a biological phenomenon. Living things die. Their biological functions stop. But when it comes to human beings, that isn’t the end. In spite of all appearances to the contrary, we continue. Our lack of evidence for eternal existence must be supplied by faith, not sight. That’s why the resurrection is at the very center of God’s display. It is faith confirmed.
For this reason, death itself is deceitful. It presents a picture of the world that isn’t true. It deludes us into thinking that all that matters is what happens before my body expires. It seduces us into believing that the one who dies with the most toys wins. It traps us in temporary accumulation and provisional power. In this regard, death may be life’s greatest deception. If I don’t work my way past this great delusion, I will live fruitlessly.
Of course, death is still tragic. The other side of the biblical picture is that death is an aberration. It is not supposed to be part of God’s blessed creation. It doesn’t belong. That is another reason why it is deceitful. It paints the wrong picture of the good God who loves what He makes. It is a terrible reminder that the universe is out of alignment. But it is only a reminder for those who have stepped beyond the appearances of this horizon. If we stick with the “evidence” and reject the revelation, we will never see beyond the grave. In order to have the right perspective on life, we must rely on a message that comes from beyond life as it is. The only cure for the deceitfulness of death is faith in a loving God.
Paul “quotes” Hosea. But Paul changes a few things along the way. Hosea says, “O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your ruin?” Clearly, Paul modifies Hosea. But his modification is warranted. He does not intend to provide an exact citation. He intends his readers to reflect on the meaning of Hosea in the context of the resurrection. Go back to 1 Corinthians 15:51. Paul is revealing a “mystery.” What is that mystery? Death isn’t the end! Death does not triumph! The tragedy it wreaks is overcome through the victory of the Anointed One. Paul looks back at the prophets to discover the same theme. He finds Hosea and Isaiah.
Is the purpose of Paul’s declaration of victory simply consolation that “we will all be changed?” No. Why do we declare the defeat of death? Paul tells us. Death’s defeat means that we can “be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain.” Did you notice that there is not a word about getting to heaven? Paul’s focus is on the permanence of work here! What we do lasts because it is not swallowed up in death. So, keep at it! Your toil has eternal consequences.
Topical Index: death, Hosea 13:14, 1 Corinthians 13:55, victory