God pours life into death and death into life without a drop being spilled. ~Author Unknown
Nobody likes to think of the day when his or her life will come to an end. Our mortality is as inevitable as it is foreboding, so most people prefer to spend their days not thinking about it. But death comes for us all, and in the end, acts as that great equalizer for all of mankind. The rich, the poor, the great and small, famous and anonymous all have yet to escape deaths’ surly grip. In fact, the Bible speaks of only two men who have passed into the beyond without ever tasting death, that being Enoch and Elijah.
Man is mortal and the fear of losing our mortality has weighed heavily on man’s consciousness since the days of Adam and Eve. This fear has served as a powerful motivator for mankind to leave something behind for others to remember them by, some semblance of immortality if you will. The idea being that after they’re gone, the effects of them will still reverberate throughout the future generations. I thought about this today as I was driving around the military base and saw a name above the gym of a Soldier who had died in the war. The military does this frequently, as a token of paying respects to the fallen. There are streets, buildings, libraries, and ships named after the famous when they die. It is a simple gesture of man’s desire to live on in perpetuity…even if by name only.
In former times, the pharaoh’s and kings had grand monuments erected as symbols of their stature and power. The Pyramids, Sphinx, Ziggurats, Hanging Gardens, Taj Mahal, and even Stonehenge were left as monuments for future generations to serve as prideful reminders of their former greatness. Man’s mortality has served as a great catalyst for men who desire to achieve immortality. If man had eaten from the Tree of Life in our fallen state, I doubt that we would have progressed as a human race, nor would we find so many of these grand structures around because man would not need them. So man leaves behind a legacy, and it is in this legacy that they think they can be immortalized.
It reminds me of how the Nobel Prize came into being. Having been erroneously thought to have died in an explosion, a French newspaper prematurely published an obituary of Alfred Nobel, attributing his life to that of profiteering off of war and death by creating dynamite. This of course, deeply affected Alfred and he did not want to be remembered as such. In an effort to redeem his name, he…
…Set aside a bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prizes to honor men and women for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine and literature, and for working toward peace.
Of course, the natural world and all it’s trappings has a very skewed and pessimistic view of death. To them, death is curtains. Lights out. The end. But to Christians, at least those of us who are not in love with this world see death as only the beginning of the real world, the eternal world in which we’d been anticipating lo these many years.
One of my most favorite passages in the Bible is that of the repentant criminal who hung next to Jesus. A guilty criminal, deserving and receiving his just-desserts of the law, hung next to the ONLY innocent man who ever lived. The criminal knew he was guilty, and chastised his fellow criminal, who hung crucified opposite of Christ, for joining the mocking crowds in saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!!” The remorseful criminal looked to Jesus and said…
“Lord,b> remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42-43 ((NASB)
I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to hang there next to Jesus of Nazareth in sheer agony and open shame before the jeering crowds.span style=”mso-spacerun:yes”> Those mocking Christ saw Him as a failure, a fraud, a hoaxer who made grandiose claims of tearing the temple down and rebuilding it in three days. Only a handful of His followers faithfully stayed to watch their Messiah hang naked, bloodied, and humiliated that day. But the repentant thief during this process had a change of heart. AAt some point, he realized that the Man in the center was not like them because He truly was innocent.
I imagine that in hearing those words from Jesus, the world began to fade away for him as he began to cling to that promise of the One called the “King of the Jews”.span style=”mso-spacerun:yes”> I bet he was at peace with his fate upon hearing those words and at peace with that which would immediately transpire upon the closing moments of his life. Those of us who have placed our faith in Christ are the repentant criminals hanging next to Christ, when we realize our own inability to save ourselves. Our soul cries out to GOD “Remember me!” and we, as that repentant criminal must have heard, those same comforting words from Our Lord…that of personal and eternal redemption. Anyone who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ has heard them. So death no longer becomes the end but rather, as the Apostle Paul states, a new glorious beginning…because ‘to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord’ (2 Cor 5:8).
In our tri-natured state of being (Body/Soul/Spirit) we are reconciled to God instantly and we become at peace with Him, no longer subjects of God’s wrath, but of God’s infinite love. We may not be able to put our fingers on it exactly, but the reality of it makes our spirit at peace with God, as He deposits the Holy Spirit into us as a guarantee of redemption.
The power of Christianity is tied to the Gospel, whose message is of the victory wrought at the Cross of Calvary. It is the pivotal point in history where Jesus, as our Kinsman Redeemer redeemed the repentant man from eternal damnation in hell. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is central to the sole reason we can have hope in this world, and with great expectancy, the world to come. Without the Cross-, our hope can only be tied to the things we leave behind. With the Cross-, our hope is not tied to our own vain existence, but in what we expect to come once we cross from life into death through Jesus Christ.
There is coming a generation who will not see death. Our God revels in doing the insanely miraculous (because only He can), and will provide the world a demonstration of His power over death and the grave by sending His Son to come back for the redeemed Bride, those believers who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. The Rapture of the Church is not a man-made doctrine, nor is it even a new doctrine, but one Christ Himself said would transpire.
In God’s foreknowledge, He knew that man would sin and that through sin, death would enter the world. God knew that the only way He could redeem man, was to send Himself as a man to pay the ultimate sacrifice because man could never achieve salvation in his fallen state as we could never measure up to God’s ultimate standard of Righteousness. God knew those people who would believe before time began, before the world came into being, or before the hosts of heaven were even created. And in that foreknowledge, He also knew that He would exempt one generation from ever seeing death, so that He might be glorified.
To the Apostle John…
…He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Revelation 1:17-18
Those who reject the doctrine of the Rapture, forget Who holds the keys of death and Hades. They forget Who controls the power over death and the grave. They forget that Paul begins his chapter on the power of the resurrection with the Gospel:
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 1 Corinthians 15:1-5
And ends this powerful chapter with the Rapture of the Church…
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “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 15:51-57
The world builds memorials to keep alive the memory of those who came before us. They build their monuments hoping that it will stand as a testament to man’s greatness, not realizing they’re just castles in the sand. We work toward what is to come, which is imperishable, eternal, and far more glorious than anything this world can contain. The Christian may fear how he or she meets death, but does not fear the other side of death’s dark curtain. And to one generation, death will flee from us just as the darkness flees the rising of the morning sun.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:58